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AAA Discontinued Effective 2/18/18

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The student discount should have been a youth discount IMHO with a cutoff at age 25 or so. Too many grad students have student IDs which they have kept continuously. Overall I think they are just keeping the senior discount to avoid more political backlash - if Amtrak was an airline they would be offering no discounts as well, and Richard Anderson is an airline guy.

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Wow. This is tough. I find myself in the unenviable position of publicly disagree with two people that I normally wouldn't. But I feel this is too important to leave unmentioned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book more than two weeks out and get the Saver Fare. Its better than any other discounts. The cleaning up of this and all of the other excessive discounting is long over due. Sure, the lack of discounts may stop some from traveling, but its nothing compared to the millions of dollars left on the table over the years that was discounted when it didnt have to be. These moves are smart business as they will substantially increase revenue without increasing costs.

 

Knightrider,

 

Not everyone can make firm plans 2 weeks in advance. Amtrak used to have an extremely strong "walk up" market. It was one of the advantages of train travel. Someone passed away and the flights are full? We'll take Amtrak! The airlines are grounded? We'll take Amtrak! The Phillies won the playoffs? We'll take an Amtrak to Baltimore for the world series. It was a cash and carry operation. Delivery upon demand. No seats? No problem! We'll stand! We'd introduce riders of other forms of transportation by making it easy and affordable for them to ride. We were able to retain disaffected riders.

 

How much revenue have we left on the table by eliminating the convenience of travel? How many riders and future riders have we chased away by overpricing ourselves and making it inconvenient....and now expensive to ride?

Dont disagree with you, although what incentive do people have to book early and tie up their money, giving an interest free loan, for up to 11 months out if they can get the same low price all the time last minute. A caveat of making a price conscious reservation last minute is the need to be flexible. The price conscious traveler is competing with the business traveler who is willing to swipe that corporate card like its hot. These business travelers are often willing to travel at the full fare as time is money to them, and they are not spending their own money. A walk-up one-way Acela fare of ~$200 or Regional fare of ~$150 to or from NYP and they dont think twice about doing it. Not getting every last dollar out of corporate travel is leaving easy money on the table. Corporates willingness to pay high prices has unfortunately caused fares to become extremely overpriced for non-business travel. These prices most certainly drive away riders. The way for the non-business traveler to avoid the corporate surge is to travel when the business travelers do not. The low D bucket is often available for walk-up next train sales on off-peak trains. On the North end this means trains like 177, 178, 179, 67, Saturdays, etc. Of course this is only in regards to On-Corridor as Off-Corridor is a totally different animal. There is no reason that long distance trains are so short and demand is so weak other than extreme overpricing compared to the competition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With AAA, student, senior, etc discounts, it seemed to me that Amtrak was giving away too much revenue. I used to work for Five Guys, and it was a corporate principle that we never gave coupons or discounts because they implied that the food wasn't worth the price on the menu. It seems the discounts went away because Amtrak was losing money on them. Painful as this is, hopefully this brings Amtrak a step closer to financial viability.

Exactly. If you have a quality product, you shouldnt have to be discounting it all the time. Successful restaurants dont have to nor want to ever discount. Its a sign of being weak and desperate. We all end up paying for those discounts anyways. Have seen some signs in businesses over the years to the effect of Want a discount?, just give us a moment to raise our prices.

 

There is nothing wrong with offering flash sales and things like the Track Friday Sale to boost ridership during slower periods, but offering long term permanent disconts has to be stopped. Theres no reason to be discounting high demand trains.

 

*IF* you have a quality product and competition isn't everywhere, you can get away without discounting all the time. However, when you have a product that is typically slower that other forms of transportation, typically more expensive than driving and less convenient, you may want to give yourself EVERY advantage you can.

 

Amtrak is not cheap in some markets. If you're going to make it expensive and inconvenient as a plane, why not just hop on an actual plane to save time? If you're going to make it expensive an airlines are not available, there are fleets of cheap buses that arrive and depart right to the next the Amtrak station. The train may be a little faster, but it triples the cost of a bus.

 

You can practically take a limo from NYP-PHL for what you'll fork out for a train. There are also shared car services like Uber and Lyft, nipping away at Amtrak's heels....and if all else fails, I can drive myself.

 

There is a LOT of competition (that isn't getting the bad press that Amtrak is receiving as of late) for limited budgets. Is this the time to beat down walk up travel?

 

Many, many years ago, I worked as a salesperson. You have to sell the product. I'm in a rush, something just occurred and I have money in my hand. I need to travel! What can you say to me to lure me to your expensive, maybe once a day product, KnightRider? I save 20 minutes?

 

 

As for discounting "high demand" trains, if they are so high demand, why is the Capitol down to two coaches? Why is the Crescent down to two coaches? The Late for Sure? Even the Palmetto is down...and that was prior to losing another set on the Star...and I've always wondered how much of this "record ridership" is based upon people traveling back and forth on *discounted* vouchers.

 

Which brings me to a story that I wasn't going to tell but this is the perfect set up.

 

I was on a train, There was a fatality so nothing was moving. Announcement were made and the crew kept the passengers informed. As things were beginning to clear, a young lady (probably in her early twenties) approaches the crew. I was standing next to them (with my ID on). She asks if we think we'll move soon. The crew states we'll probably be on the move in a few minutes.

 

She says and this is direct quote (which I won't forget) "you are all doing a great job...but every time I write Amtrak and complain, they send me *liiiike* 60 dollars for future travel. I don't want to get you in any trouble so I wanted to ask if you minded if I write in an complain?"

 

The crew all looked at each other and said as long as you leave us out of it, we don't care. Then, the young looks at me and asked if I minded. I looked down at my ID (which I was sorry I was wearing) and said "if that is what you feel is necessary, by all means." She thanke dthe crew, told them they were doing a great job and walked away...presumably to complain to customer service.

 

I suspect she's not alone. :)

 

The point is, I remember when the Crescent used be 18 cars long. It had coach seating for 300 passengers. It is currently running around with seating for 120 coach passengers. I remember when a train like 95 on the NEC had 12 coaches (with two cafes)....and the coaches seated 85 passengers...and that train had standees!!!

 

That is high demand. Filling two coaches is not high demand. If anything, we should be finding more ways to put butts in the seats!

 

AmtrakBlue, I'm forced to disagree with you. Consider what is said below:

 

As a semi-retired person on a fixed income, I agree with diagrua on this.

 

I use coupons,discounts,sales etc. whenever I can since that $5 or $10 I save adds up and enables me to have a little more disposable income to spend on things that are not essential such as Amtrak travel.

 

I agree that Amtrak needs to enhance its revenue, but think doing away with Student and Senior discounts is penny wise and pound foolish. YMMV

 

You might be able to do so....but not everyone is you! Consider that 23.50 on a corridor train. Then, multiply by your family of four. You are now approaching a savings of $100....each way. That may be the difference between taking the trip or not taking the trip. That maybe the difference between taking Amtrak and driving. Every little bit counts.

The question is where to set prices. Do you use the retail strategy like the department store Kohls where everything is 50% or more off all the time. Exaggerated example, say a full rail fare is $400. Then market it at 75% OFF! so the consumer is thinking they are getting a great deal saving $300 but in reality the fare is never sold at the full fare, its always on sale. Its a deceitful mind game but it works for Kohls. Another retailer is Bed Bath & Beyond. They totally flood the market with 20% off coupons, but their prices are all artificially inflated by about 20% expecting them to be couponed. CVS is the same. Their regular prices are sky high because they flood customers with Extracare coupons. Even after sales and couponing they still are charging higher prices than the big box retailers. Years back JC Penny tried the strategy of no sales, no coupons, same price everyday for everyone. It was a complete failure. Its all about the perception of getting a deal. Should high rail fares be maintained and discounting be expanded? Conventional retail strategy would say yes.

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The general public believes in their minds that an items, no matter what quality they are purchasing, they expect the price to be the lowest and be a special deal. I have a neighbor who only buys the cheapest price he can find then complains and complains when he has problems. I pay more for better quality, have fewer issues, but he demands that even the cheapest should be the same as the most expensive. This mental attitude prevails in the travel industry, so somehow Amtrak has to get the highest fare they think passengers will pay, while at the same time giving passengers a good feeling they got a deal, whether it is over cost, or getting a good price making Sleeper affordable. Eliminate the discounts, which are minimal on some trips, and maybe put that budget into Sales to fill more seats. Airlines have had sales for certain routes at certain times for years.

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My suggestion for boosting Amtrak ridership is to have Amtrak fares come up as a flight when someone searches for a domestic US flight on expedia or other search engine.

 

First, it will put Amtrak on more people's radar. About a year ago, I saw an Amtrak advertisement of facebook claiming you could travel coast to coast for a certain amount, obviously coach seats and the lowest bucket. But a lot of people commented as if traveling across the continent on Amtrak had just been put on their bucket list. Amtrak isn't a mode of transportation that many US residents even think to consider when they plan to travel somewhere.

 

Second, it makes air travel Amtrak's "competition." For those looking at cost just as much if not more than at convenience, Amtrak is usually the better deal. There is another thread about the trip I am planning from SOB to WAS. Roomettes for two adults and two kids cost about the same as airfare.

 

As far as discounts, I wish that "child" was still defined as "person under age 15" instead of "person 12 and under." But I am used to German trains where kids 14 and under can ride almost any train for free if their parent or grandparent travels with them.

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As they did with the Amtrak changes with the senior discount, student discount and the change in child fares, California will be reinstating the AAA discount for state-supported Amtrak services. Amtrak California is targeting having their AAA discount in place by the end of March.

 

Capitol Corridor

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@Thirdrail7:
So, I have a few thoughts here:
(1) I feel what you're saying on limiting discounts, though to be honest I've found the mounting pricing differences in the airline industry to be dizzying almost to the point that I get nauseous. My concern would be that Amtrak would be more likely to clumsily price itself out of the last-minute business entirely. Also, having at least some sense of what the price range is going to be (e.g. that a last-minute roomette isn't going to randomly run $1000 to Florida because the computer got possessed) is advantageous. The problem is that when you refer to the problem of limiting discounts, if you /don't/ limit them then you de facto squeeze out last-minute flexibility. Then again, I've avoided "saver" fares and their previous incarnations because they are frequently not upgradable (and I've often got more upgrade cards than I know what to do with).

(2) I suspect that a lot of the "record ridership" is due to increasing short-to-mid-haul rider counts (and, of course, to packing a number of less-utilized state and corridor trains more crowded). The fact that several states /did/ get slugs of new cars in the late 1990s/early 2000s (and that the Acelas allowed some equipment to cascade elsewhere) didn't hurt...and of course, you've had VA extending several Regionals from WAS to Roanoke, Norfolk, and Richmond, which has packed a few hundred thousand more riders into the mix.

(3) On the NEC in particular, I really have to come back around and wonder if it wouldn't make sense to add some sort of "commuter class" service with a semi-fixed fare (probably a peak and an off-peak fare, or something similar). You could easily find a fare level that's modestly above what the commuter services charge but also below non-discounted standard coach fares. I also know that a few of us have mused about whether it would make sense for Amtrak to grab a few sets of NJT/MARC-style bilevels or other commuter equipment, add on a "standing buffet" in UK terms (e.g. it would sell food but you'd have to go back to your car) and run some "all the stops" trains with tickets at a discount. An extra 15-30 minutes' travel time for an unreserved seat on a high-density train for a guaranteed end-to-end $49/69 fare (note that covering the relevant portions of the Corridor on commuter tickets would run $38 and still leave you with a gap between somewhere in Delaware and Perryville, MD).

#3 is rather painful to me to think about, but I have to wonder if the trade in at least some class of service wouldn't be worth it in terms of adding ridership at more affordable prices without setting Congress's blasters to "whine". Going to a 34-inch seat pitch (still better than most of the airlines) would probably see Regional Coach cars go from 72 seats at present to somewhere in the ballpark of 80-86 seats (depending on precisely what the situation is with luggage racks and ADA seating requirements). Ramming that pitch down to 32 inches could get you a bit more density...but at that point you might also be looking at needing multiple business class cars or going to a de facto three-class model (e.g. Coach, Premium Coach, and Business).

 

Finally, (4): I'd like to see Amtrak keep the student discount, but it really shouldn't be tied to an independent membership card. I also remember being told a few years ago that the Student Advantage discount transitioned to online-only at the same time as they dropped it from 15% to 10% (something of a mild annoyance) and was no longer usable in conjunction with upgraded fares (which rendered it useless for me). I'd say that Amtrak should, if anything, look to make the discount a bit more aggressive (perhaps effectively putting it in line with saver fares) but also aggressively promote it and not make it online-only.

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