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If you could add any amenities to Amtrak, what would they be?

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I'd suggest that the Name "Metroliner" be taken out of mothballs and used on the new Acela II when they arrive.

 

Also changing Business Class to Club Class or Parlor Service,at least on the NEC, wouldn't be a bad Marketing idea as long as the amenities and service were such that the Name fit!

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I'd suggest that the Name "Metroliner" be taken out of mothballs and used on the new Acela II when they arrive.

Hooray for this!

 

The name "Acela" vaguely sounds like a part of the body I can't mention here. Or maybe the part of a house where you find a furnace? In any case, it is a nonsense word that never should have been taken as a name for our nation's premier trains. But then, come to think of it, the trainsets themselves are nothing great... It would be fitting for new trainsets to have a revived name.

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I'd suggest that the Name "Metroliner" be taken out of mothballs and used on the new Acela II when they arrive.

Hooray for this!

 

The name "Acela" vaguely sounds like a part of the body I can't mention here. Or maybe the part of a house where you find a furnace? In any case, it is a nonsense word that never should have been taken as a name for our nation's premier trains. But then, come to think of it, the trainsets themselves are nothing great... It would be fitting for new trainsets to have a revived name.

 

If "Acela" sounds like it, "Avelia" does even moreso (it sounds like part of either the lungs or like it should be part of some other bodily system). If Amtrak doesn't shake out a decent new name or bring back a solid older one (e.g. Metroliner) then I'll just be sticking to Acela IIs and I think a lot of folks will as well.

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I'd suggest that the Name "Metroliner" be taken out of mothballs and used on the new Acela II when they arrive.

Hooray for this!

 

The name "Acela" vaguely sounds like a part of the body I can't mention here. Or maybe the part of a house where you find a furnace? In any case, it is a nonsense word that never should have been taken as a name for our nation's premier trains. But then, come to think of it, the trainsets themselves are nothing great... It would be fitting for new trainsets to have a revived name.

 

If "Acela" sounds like it, "Avelia" does even moreso (it sounds like part of either the lungs or like it should be part of some other bodily system). If Amtrak doesn't shake out a decent new name or bring back a solid older one (e.g. Metroliner) then I'll just be sticking to Acela IIs and I think a lot of folks will as well.

 

 

Acela (acceleration + excellence) did have its origins as a "nonsense" word, but since has become a respected and recognized brand in the Northeast (the "Acela" corridor phrase has been used even outside transportation circles); It would be foolish to drop it for a product line (Metroliner) with far less public recognition and generally remembered (if at all) as lacking the status and service standards of Acela. For a train which has been very much a mechanical abomination, it has resonated with the public.

 

Indeed, the name "Amtrak" is also a nonsense term; Should we also advocate to resurrect Railpax?

Edited by A Voice

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Back on the "economy basic" service:

 

I think the idea of having a separate fleet of cars just for a cheaper economy product is terrible unless you're going to start having that service everywhere. The idea of having to procure new separate cars, keep a separate stock/extras/etc. just for one service seems like a lot of capital expense for what's supposed to be an economy product. The money might not be there to make sense to have it.

 

Amtrak would be better off finding ways to sell NER seats with restrictions to try and grab the bus market, in my opinion, at least when there's lots of open seats. Even when adding frequencies or stops, I'd rather have that service have full amenities and offer more expensive seats for those that will pay than to try and restrict revenue on an economy-style train car. Better to add restrictions to it that make the ticket less desirable to business passengers and reduce expenses for Amtrak rather than try to offer yet another product on the NEC.

 

As ideas on what an economy basic fare could have for restrictions:

  • Online only availability - it would not be sold in person or through phone agents.
  • No checked baggage allowed. Alternatively, allow checked baggage but only for a fee (maybe in the $20-$30 range per bag.)
  • No agent interaction "for free" at the station - tickets must be printed online, shown through a phone, or printed at a kiosk. Tickets printed by an agent would be subject to a fee (perhaps waived if all QuikTrip machines are down.)
  • No refunds or exchanges allowed, much like the SmartFares.
  • No upgrades or companion fares allowed.
  • 50% AGR points earned.

The idea is that the product is a tradeoff - in exchange for a deeply discounted fare you're using only self-service options (or fees if you wish to use options with agent assistance,) removing your ability to further discount/upgrade the fare, limiting points earning ability, and essentially guaranteeing revenue for that specific train. These restrictions may seem somewhat draconian, but for a decent discount it would offer an option to compete with the bus lines for the budget traveler (many of who don't expect to be able to refund/exchange tickets and are willing to go self-service already) while hopefully making the fare restrictive enough that people who are paying higher fares today won't generally switch to the cheaper option.

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Ah, yes, StupidSeats [1]...

 

I'd allow the use of the station agent, if only because (as hinted) sometimes the QT machines either go down or don't "play nice" (e.g. I find myself unable to search via my AGR number) and because in a lot of cases there's not much being saved. There's also the fact that at a number of smaller stations, the attitude is "let the conductor figure out if you're properly ticketed", so you'd almost invariably get situations where someone would board expecting to just pull their ticket up on their [insert device here] following boarding and get a rather rude awakening at a more "controlled" station. I also think that trying to collect a $5-10 fee at the counter is going to cause a problem when things do go haywire with other options.

I'd be tempted to allow phone bookings as well, if just because the website is not famous for its reliability (leading to far too many cases where folks could legitimately claim the website is down), though web-only status was slapped onto Student Advantage sometime back. Unfortunately for Student Advantage, this was at the same time as the discount dropped to 10% and it was made not applicable to non-coach fares, so there quickly became no reason not to just use AAA (or NARP as the case might be) instead and any practical "nudge" probably died a quick-and-painless death as a result along with the use of that discount. Hard-barring station purchases doesn't seem to be an issue for an advance purchase, however.

The other options, though, I like. I'd allow checked baggage for a fee (I see no compelling reason to pass up this as a possible revenue stream).

 

 

[1] This was the name which I started using for the then-branded "SmartSeats" back when Amtrak.com wasn't set up to offer the three fare categories like it is now...so I was always wary of booking an advance fare lest there be hidden T&C. This actually gave me something of an allergy to advance booking, period, since I was worried about getting slapped somehow when I'd wind up rebooking because the website had decided to jam me with a restricted fare...and it sure didn't help my reticence to book coach, either, for similar reasons.

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Yeah, with the agent you'd probably need an override just-in-case, although the instances where it'd truly matter would be quite small (staffed station where the person doesn't have a mobile device that can pull up the PDF or Amtrak app with the ticket and all QuikTrak machines are down.) I would at least make it stated policy to dissuade people from doing so, while internally allowing agents to override it as needed. Simply stating that a charge would apply would likely dissuade people from unnecessarily going to an agent to have a ticket printed.

 

As for booking over a phone: while the website occasionally has issues, I haven't heard of outages longer than a day or two for the website, and even extended outages are few and far between. Considering such a fare would likely only be available far in advance (two weeks would be my personal though, just like Saver fares) I wouldn't see the need to have it available via phone on the off chance there's outages and it's in the exact two week window where the fare may not be there tomorrow.

 

While neither of these are, on an individual interaction, particularly costly, in the aggregate it adds up. The more people use self-service the fewer phone agents and station agents have to be replaced or hired to handle demand. The terms also need to be restrictive enough to prevent too many people that already travel Amtrak and are willing to pay the higher price from buying down to a lower fare. The restrictions also generally match restrictions on low-cost bus lines or ULCCs, the market that such a product would be aimed at.

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On trains where the Business Class seating is essentially the same as coach, I think there should be a guarantee of two seats per passenger in Business Class.

 

The only trains that meet that definition are the Pennsylvanian and the Palmetto. (I'm not sure about the Coast Starlight or the Crescent.)

And not all the coach cars on the Pennsylvanian are Amfleet IIs, as I found out one time, having to ride an Amfleet I when I didn't expect to. I've always taken business class on the Palmetto, despite of the Amfleet IIs in coach because Business class is less crowded, which is also why I take it sometimes when I ride the Northeast Regionals.

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I would add dining car service to the Pennsylvanian, the Palmetto, the Vermonter, the Adirondack, and maybe the Lynchburgers.

(Hey, this is fantasyland, right?)

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Yeah, with the agent you'd probably need an override just-in-case, although the instances where it'd truly matter would be quite small (staffed station where the person doesn't have a mobile device that can pull up the PDF or Amtrak app with the ticket and all QuikTrak machines are down.) I would at least make it stated policy to dissuade people from doing so, while internally allowing agents to override it as needed. Simply stating that a charge would apply would likely dissuade people from unnecessarily going to an agent to have a ticket printed.

 

As for booking over a phone: while the website occasionally has issues, I haven't heard of outages longer than a day or two for the website, and even extended outages are few and far between. Considering such a fare would likely only be available far in advance (two weeks would be my personal though, just like Saver fares) I wouldn't see the need to have it available via phone on the off chance there's outages and it's in the exact two week window where the fare may not be there tomorrow.

 

While neither of these are, on an individual interaction, particularly costly, in the aggregate it adds up. The more people use self-service the fewer phone agents and station agents have to be replaced or hired to handle demand. The terms also need to be restrictive enough to prevent too many people that already travel Amtrak and are willing to pay the higher price from buying down to a lower fare. The restrictions also generally match restrictions on low-cost bus lines or ULCCs, the market that such a product would be aimed at.

If the website is down intermittently (which has occasionally been the case for a few days), there's a risk of space selling out. In a sense, I've got a problem with "This fare is available...but only when the website decides it wants to let you have it" situations. Remember, not all seats tend to be eligible for the fare.

 

Probably a compromise would be to have the fare nominally be "web-only" but have instructions that if someone calls in claiming web issues, the agents can override to get it, particularly if you're close in to the window. NB a number of airlines have rules wherein if X cannot be done due to an IT problem/limitation you can call in and the charges are waived.

 

(Mind you, the change/cancel restriction is enough to get me to walk the other way already...but I also miss the days before e-ticketing when you could just pull a refund if you hadn't printed the tickets.)

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I would add dining car service to the Pennsylvanian, the Palmetto, the Vermonter, the Adirondack, and maybe the Lynchburgers.

 

... which would promptly become known informally as the Lunchburgers. ^_^

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I would add dining car service to the Pennsylvanian, the Palmetto, the Vermonter, the Adirondack, and maybe the Lynchburgers.

(Hey, this is fantasyland, right?)

Realistically, I'd like to see Amtrak work up some sort of hot meal service that can be run out of the cafe (like the heated meals...the beef stroganoff was actually quite good, and I remember a sausage pasta I liked as well). This would probably require Amtrak to bother, you know, advertising the meals as an option as well...

 

Another thing would be (1) stocking the bar a bit better and (2) trying to get to a point, on certain trains, that the OBS can actually mix a drink. I remember being able to request a Bailey's, Courvoisier, and hot chocolate...it was a drink recommended to me by an attendant on the Coast Starlight that was both a brilliant upsell on her part (two shots=$15) and an amazing winter drink. I can't get that anymore (heck, I can't get a Bailey's and coffee anymore outside of the Acela now). I have to compare this (horridly unfavorably) to what I can get up on VIA (either on the Canadian or on their corridor trains in Business).

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I have never understood Amtraks unwillingness to properly stick their bars. There is no higher markup item on earth than alcohol in a captive audience environment.

 

I am a heavy drinker, as I have mentioned. At $7.50 a shot, sleeper fares become much more appealing. I need to be pretty drunk to get to sleep (I have suffered severe insomnia my whole life, and alcohol is the only one that works reliably- plus at this point I am actually substance dependent) let alone on a train. Bringing a pint of Seagrams for $7 vs 8 drinks at $7.50 ($60) is a substantial offset of the room upgrade.

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Great idea Cliff!

 

Once Amtrak starts running the Metroliners ( ne Acela II)with Parlor Car Service on the Regular Regionals and theLD Trains, the Hot Meals and Top Shelf Liquor,Cordials and Beer will become an additional source of revenue!😍

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What we miss most is the ice and availability of coffee during the day in the sleepers. The main ingredient in both of these is water so how much will it really cost? Would also like better housekeeping and more fresh cooked food in the diner including adding the diners back on the LSL, Silver Star and Cardinal. Sleeper passengers pay a lot of money to travel and its not fair that on some trains you feed them the equivalent of fodder.

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... You could fill the CAF options with BC only cars. Add one to each single level car train. That way capacity is actually increased.

YES! More capacity of every type of Viewliner -- business class, sleepers, bag dorms, baggage, probably even diners.

 

A Business Class Viewliner-2 could be a nice upgrade just by being newer, with higher windows and ceilings, better HVAC, more outlets, better WiFi..

 

Make them all 2-1 seating and offer First Class standards. Not to call it "First Class" because bean counters don't like to see those words on your expense account. But Business Class is fine, or Business Premium or Business Plus. Perhaps put the upscale car in the front of the train, behind the baggage car but ahead of the sleepers (to put more distance between the train whistle and those trying to sleep).

 

Of course, coach class capacity would be increased a bit as the existing Business Class cars reverted to the coach fleet.

 

Yeah, I know Amtrak is trying to reduce the number of different types of cars. Good luck with that. When it offers sleepers you might get a Viewliner or a Viewliner--2, with or without the potty in the roomette, until the original type are all upgraded? But I digress.

 

A "Business Plus" car with 2-1 seating could create a kind of 'Coach Plus' sleeper, a more spacious and comfortable place to overnight than coach, but much cheaper than a roomette. It might draw customers from sleeping class (looking to save money) and from coach class (looking for better but affordable space), thereby creating more capacity in both roomettes and coach seating.

 

CAF could handle the job. The delays with the diners have been so stressful because the heritage diners are done and their replacement is urgent. And CAF seems to be doing better lately. In two or three years, when the last of the diners and the bag-dorms and sleepers are finished, adding another 25 Business Class cars should be quite doable.

 

Some will say, get the business class cars out of the coming order for hundreds of coaches and lounge cars. And that multi-Billion order will be funded when? Delivered when? I think the order is at least one election away, maybe two, then time from order to delivery. We could get more cars from CAF around the same time, or sooner.

Edited by WoodyinNYC

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... add dining car service to the Pennsylvanian, the Palmetto, the Vermonter, the Adirondack, and maybe the Lynchburgers.

This deserves serious experimentation, cuz I doubt if anybody knows.

 

A good time for a tryout is coming up. When the full 25 diners are in hand, or almost so, before putting diners back on the Star, continue the Star's money-saving diner-less experiment. Instead, use a handful of diners on two or three of the mid-range routes as you have here. (Not sure the Palmetto needs a diner, if the Star doesn't ...)

 

Seems like three to five years from now, the border hassles that afflict the Adirondack should be alleviated, and faster, more reliable service will boost ridership. And the Vermonter will extend to Montreal. (It will become, btw, in effect a second frequency for the big chunk of the riders on the Adirondack going end to end, and vice versa, probably bringing the usual ridership gains from a second frequency.) I'm hoping to see enuff new riders on the Vermonter/Montrealer and the Adirondack that these trains will need at least one more coach car on each, and perhaps a business class car as well. These additional riders will mean additional customers for any a dining car.

 

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvanian, with the transfer to/from the Capitol Ltd at Pittsburgh, is already like the Eastern half of a LD train to/from CHI. A diner could offer lunch and dinner WB, and lunch for sure and maybe breakfast EB.

Edited by WoodyinNYC

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Our proposal to make the whole 70 car CAF option BC was so most of the NEC trains could have an upgraded BC for sale. That would be approximately 45 seats for each car . 18 LD train sets = 810 seats and SD NEC trains with 2-3 turnovers, 45 train sets = ~ ~4500 available seats per day total of almost 5000 seats maybe sold per day ? ? ?

 

That should bring in new clientele ? ?

 

2 & seating probably 45 seats with fares 33% higher would make new cars revenue neutral with LD AM-2s 60 seats.

Edited by west point

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My analysis still says that if the CAF option can be exercised the best thing to do is to just get more sleepers. There simply aren't enough to meet demand, and they'd be profitable, but there aren't enough single-level trains to plausibly make a new large order for *sleepers*. Business class and even cafes can be attached to a coach order, they're not that different.

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The only Siemens Viaggio sleeper shipment I can find a record of is to Russian Railways. I'm betting they'd have more trouble making a US sleeper than CAF. The 8-compartment, 4-bed-per-compartment layout isn't going to work in the US anyway -- our market demands "Pullman sections", not "Pullman compartments".

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I'd suggest that the Name "Metroliner" be taken out of mothballs and used on the new Acela II when they arrive.

Hooray for this!

 

The name "Acela" vaguely sounds like a part of the body I can't mention here. Or maybe the part of a house where you find a furnace? In any case, it is a nonsense word that never should have been taken as a name for our nation's premier trains. But then, come to think of it, the trainsets themselves are nothing great... It would be fitting for new trainsets to have a revived name.

 

If "Acela" sounds like it, "Avelia" does even moreso (it sounds like part of either the lungs or like it should be part of some other bodily system). If Amtrak doesn't shake out a decent new name or bring back a solid older one (e.g. Metroliner) then I'll just be sticking to Acela IIs and I think a lot of folks will as well.

 

 

Acela (acceleration + excellence) did have its origins as a "nonsense" word, but since has become a respected and recognized brand in the Northeast (the "Acela" corridor phrase has been used even outside transportation circles); It would be foolish to drop it for a product line (Metroliner) with far less public recognition and generally remembered (if at all) as lacking the status and service standards of Acela. For a train which has been very much a mechanical abomination, it has resonated with the public.

 

Indeed, the name "Amtrak" is also a nonsense term; Should we also advocate to resurrect Railpax?

 

Being from a different generation, "Metroliner" makes me think of an airplane, actually. Makes me think of those red US Airways Metrojets and the Fairchild Metroliner (which used to be a fairly common turboprop airliner).

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The only Siemens Viaggio sleeper shipment I can find a record of is to Russian Railways. I'm betting they'd have more trouble making a US sleeper than CAF. The 8-compartment, 4-bed-per-compartment layout isn't going to work in the US anyway -- our market demands "Pullman sections", not "Pullman compartments".

That theyd have trouble with such a thing is patently absurd.

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