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This is a topic that came up in the Amfleet replacement tab, but I think it is something that should get talked about on its own. One idea that I brought up is that some the existing Amfleets should be refurbished into a mix of open sections and an adapted version of intercontinental business class from airlines. I say this because everyone is wanting a lower tier sleeper back. As much as some people would want slumber coaches back, I am not sure if it would even be possible given that punching windows into an existing car body might not be advised. So something else would have to be adapted to fit the bill. 

As for the "business roomette", its dimensions could work as follows. Based on the width of the seats on Amfleet cars, you have 4 feet per side of the train. So there is 4 feet of room to play with. So the size of roomette beds is 6'6" and ~2 ft wide. Based on a rough drawing I did, you can fit 17 per side if they are staggered(or 34 per care compared to a 24-8 slumber coach) . Based on how airlines design their seats, the part where people's legs would sit would be storage for the person sitting at one. This would give people the option of having a lie flat seat for hopefully not the full price of a sleeper or at least shouldn't. I am also assuming a 1 class configuration.

I also think bringing back open section is an idea merits an experiment. Based on the same dimensions, I did another sketch that showed that an Amfleet car could fit 36 seats if it was all one seat type. As far as running both goes, since neither option has been seen on Amtrak, it would be worth experimenting with. So as the Amfleet replacements come in, take 36 of them and convert them into 1 car with larger bedrooms and accessible rooms, 2 of the "business roomettes", and 3 of the open sections. Then find at least 3 city pairs that can be traveled between in 12 hours and run them as experiments to see if they could work and if people take to the new seat design. 

As for running overnight trains, one thing that Amtrak doesn't have consistently besides a decent number of day trains is that a lot of the long distance trains don't run between city pairs at hours that would make sense for an easy overnight trip. Just along the California Zephyr; it runs between Chicago and Omaha in 9 hours, same thing with Omaha and Denver, 15 hours from Denver to Salt Lake, and a similar amount of time from Salt Lake to Sacramento.  Only the Denver-Salt Lake and Salt Lake-Sacramento portions are timed where you could get on at night and arrive the next day in the following city. Adding extra, better timed night trains with affordable accommodations that could attract people. I

know this would cost money and take time to plan, but its best to start planning before the Amfleet replacements come in and the Amfleets start heading to the scrap heap. I am not up on every detail of the replacement, but given the current political climate, I don't see an Amfleet 1 replacement order being much larger than 500 cars. Relocating the Amfleets to other, potentially new corridors would make sense given that Amtrak is in an equipment shortage and that is likely to get worse over time. Trying to get another 15 years out of the Amfleets even if for experimental purposes would be a wise thing to do. And piloting a budget sleeper and a few better timed overnight routes would be a wise thing to push for. 

EDITED: I added in what 1 side of the diagram I sketched in Paint. The Paint adaptations isn't to scale. Its Paint after all, it has limited features. Blue would be the compartment space and the brown is not the compartments. 

delta one demo.png

budget sleeper 1 side.png

Edited by sttom

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I've never seen these in person.  If there are two seats per side, how does one get to their personal pod if they have the window seat?  Do they have direct access or do they have to walk through the aisle seat pod. Or do I just completely misunderstand this?  I do like the idea though.  it would be nice for those trips that are just too long for a regular coach but not long enough to justify the cost of a roomette. 

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Viewliner roomette berths are 2 ft, 4 inches wide; not 2 ft wide. So are superliner roomette lower berths. Only the superliner upper bert is 2 ft wide. And the berths in original roomettes (such as found on the Canadian) are at least 3 ft wide, as are the beds in open sections.

I do not believe that a carload of 2 ft wide berths would sell well, except perhaps for the “hostel crowd”.

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1 hour ago, chakk said:

I do not believe that a carload of 2 ft wide berths would sell well, except perhaps for the “hostel crowd”.

Even if they were priced at 25% over Coach? I think everyone is free to believe whatever they like, and I don't believe you. :D

1 hour ago, mlanoue said:

I've never seen these in person.  If there are two seats per side, how does one get to their personal pod if they have the window seat?  Do they have direct access or do they have to walk through the aisle seat pod. Or do I just completely misunderstand this?  I do like the idea though.  it would be nice for those trips that are just too long for a regular coach but not long enough to justify the cost of a roomette. 

I don't know how it would work on a train, because I am not sure how the windows line up with the pods (or not) on trains, but on a 777-300ER with Polaris pods, the window seat pod gets three windows (adjacent to the seat), while the aisle seat pod gets one window over its side work space. The window seat pod's side work space is on the aisle side. This is in addition to the slide out works surface used also for food space in the front which is double the width of regular ones in the current Business Class configurations. But in any case, an aisle seat should not have a huge expectation for a window, so any window they get is a bonus.

Edited by jis

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40 minutes ago, chakk said:

Viewliner roomette berths are 2 ft, 4 inches wide; not 2 ft wide. So are superliner roomette lower berths. Only the superliner upper bert is 2 ft wide. And the berths in original roomettes (such as found on the Canadian) are at least 3 ft wide, as are the beds in open sections.

I do not believe that a carload of 2 ft wide berths would sell well, except perhaps for the “hostel crowd”.

I know people who ride coach overnight on Amtrak but refuse to go to hostels, so I think the market is a lot larger than the "hostel crowd".

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1 hour ago, jis said:

Even if they were priced at 25% over Coach? I think everyone is free to believe whatever they like, and I don't believe you. :D

The question is whether Amtrak could get the same amount of revenue per car by only pricing it 25% above standard coach. Assuming this would be on routes that use Amfleet IIs, if load percentage was similar you'd need to charge a 67% premium over coach to make it revenue-neutral. That'd assume no additional services over coach. However, you'd likely need to pay for linens of some sort no matter what, which costs a few bucks. If it was marketed as business class on Amtrak, that'd involve adding the cost for soft drinks and lounge access at stations that admit business class passengers. Those benefits likely wouldn't cost much, but you'd probably need a 75% premium over coach to justify it. It's possible to make that work, but I'm wondering how many passengers would fit that mold, especially if there's no shower facilities on the train for them to use. (If we added those, that'd take up space and drive that premium up higher.)

To put a real-world price comparison on it, WAS - ATL on 4/16/19 is $102 in saver, and $129 in value. A roomette is $354, which would include supper and breakfast. A 1.75x factor for "overnight business" would put this route between $179 and $226, which is a decent savings over a roomette but still a jump over coach. There's also a competitive air market here, with flights around $84 this far out on the legacy carriers. Once you get to two people, you'd probably be close enough to the cost to just spring for a roomette and get full privacy. It does have the luxury of serving some intermediate markets, but I'm guessing most business travelers and leisure travelers who aren't looking for the rail experience would just opt to fly. The $100-$150 savings could be put to a decent hotel room for the night, which most people would opt for (a hotel bed and room would beat a lie-flat seat almost any day of the week!)

It may still work as an add-on to existing trains, especially for intermediate markets. That said, the market is extremely limited currently in the US for this to become something that could drive new train frequencies; I think the air market is still too strong in the US for that to work.

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You don’t have to include linen. There could be an additional charge. You could provide exactly what you provide in LD coach. Remember. This is not Sleeper. This is Coach that reclines fully. It is targeted towards people who travel by coach but would like to recline a bit more. Nothing more. If you can somehow fit 40 such seats you would break even with coach for a 50% higher price.

These are targeted for single travelers as were the Slumbercoaches. The relevant question is are there enough single travelers today? If not then this sort of thing is unnecessary and all that is needed is a Roomette minus board fare.

If you want to compete against air between pairs of cities where there is competitive you have no chance of winning even in plain Coach.

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6 hours ago, mlanoue said:

I've never seen these in person.  If there are two seats per side, how does one get to their personal pod if they have the window seat?  Do they have direct access or do they have to walk through the aisle seat pod. Or do I just completely misunderstand this?  I do like the idea though.  it would be nice for those trips that are just too long for a regular coach but not long enough to justify the cost of a roomette. 

That is an oversight. I missed that, thank you for pointing it out. So to make it work, one of the outer would have to get eliminated to make room for a walk way, beyond the 8 extra feet assuming super efficient use of space. 

As for the cost, Business Class from Chicago to Detroit costs $90 over the cost of coach. Which is far more than just being 25%-30% over coach which the space of a 2+1 business class. the base fare was $31. If Amtrak can charge triple for standard business class, it can get away with twice the base fare as an surcharge for a lie down seat in its lowest bucket. I would also figure that the first trains to try this on would be the overnight Northeast Regionals and seeing if the Spirit of California would work and maybe a few other pairs. I am assuming the 60 seat long distance coach for the sake of comparison.

As for there not being a market, this is why they should be piloted on lines that already run over night that lack beds, like overnight NE Regionals or reviving old overnight routes. They lack this type of seat and it would be best to try a budget sleeper on a line that does exist, has existed or adding a run at a different time to see if this type of 2nd class sleeper can work again before adding it to the first class trains. I know someone will think if there are 36 open sections beds for a business class surcharge, that the roomettes would empty, I don't see why that would be the case. 

As for having open sections, the idea would be to get more revenue out of people in coach on longer haul trains. Not only this, but it would pull what people who ride in roomettes just for the sake of a bed out of them (in theory) and allow Amtrak to focus existing sleepers towards tourists rather than trying to split the difference between tourists and frequent/business travelers. From what I have read, some people complain that the beds in the new equipment isn't what it was in the Heritage Equipment and the food is lacking. If the people (like me and people who constantly bring up the Slumber Coach) are placated, sleepers and dining can be upgraded overtime to being first class like it was in the old days. Since tourists would be riding trains more for the experience than the transportation. 

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7 hours ago, mlanoue said:

I've never seen these in person.  If there are two seats per side, how does one get to their personal pod if they have the window seat?  Do they have direct access or do they have to walk through the aisle seat pod. Or do I just completely misunderstand this?  I do like the idea though.  it would be nice for those trips that are just too long for a regular coach but not long enough to justify the cost of a roomette. 

Like this: This was my seat in 2014. The two seats are staggered. My side table is where the leg and feet of the person behind me would go into when fully reclined.

15749360312_72aa218697_b.jpg

Edited by seat38a

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They already do something like this in Australia on the Spirit of Queensland. They even have a single shower in each car. Personally, I don't think the open berth will work but both sides with airline style staggered fully flat business class seats might do it. I say even for those 5+ hour routes it might work.

https://www.queenslandrailtravel.com.au/railexperiences/ourtrains/spiritofqueensland

https://www.queenslandrailtravel.com.au/travelwithus/onboardexperiences/carriagelayout

Edited by seat38a

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25 minutes ago, seat38a said:

They already do something like this in Australia on the Spirit of Queensland. They even have a single shower in each car. Personally, I don't think the open berth will work but both sides with airline style staggered fully flat business class seats might do it. I say even for those 5+ hour routes it might work.

https://www.queenslandrailtravel.com.au/railexperiences/ourtrains/spiritofqueensland

https://www.queenslandrailtravel.com.au/travelwithus/onboardexperiences/carriagelayout

But we have to have compartments because of travel tastes from the 1950s! I personally would be fine with those or a bed in an open section. 

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12 hours ago, sttom said:

But we have to have compartments because of travel tastes from the 1950s! I personally would be fine with those or a bed in an open section. 

Privacy is a luxury many people value highly, and it's one reason why people pay more for roomettes. This isn't something that was either invented or left behind in the 1950s.

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13 hours ago, sttom said:

As for the cost, Business Class from Chicago to Detroit costs $90 over the cost of coach. Which is far more than just being 25%-30% over coach which the space of a 2+1 business class. the base fare was $31.

Low bucket Business Class on the Wolverine from Chicago to Detroit is $67, while low bucket coach is indeed $31. So it's only $36 more, not $90.

 

13 hours ago, sttom said:

From what I have read, some people complain that the beds in the new equipment isn't what it was in the Heritage Equipment and the food is lacking. If the people (like me and people who constantly bring up the Slumber Coach) are placated, sleepers and dining can be upgraded overtime to being first class like it was in the old days. Since tourists would be riding trains more for the experience than the transportation. 

I really don't see any way at all in which rolling out some sort of budget sleeper or lie flat seat would at all result in improved "first class" dining service. I mean, you're suggesting this for the overnight Regionals, which don't have a dining car. If a budget sleeper service succeeds on a train with no dining car, why add one? And if it doesn't succeed, clearly this service doesn't work anyway. Point is, I don't see how dining service gets better by offering cheaper sleeping accommodations.

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Yes, Dining Service is an entirely separate matter from the design of the hard product for seat/berth.

The same lie flat seats in airlines operate in domestic service with no linen and typical Domestic dining product which is a notch or two below the Intercontinental one, which also has elaborate bedding provided for the same seat. One can design different soft products for the same hard product for different service segments.

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1 hour ago, cpotisch said:

I really don't see any way at all in which rolling out some sort of budget sleeper or lie flat seat would at all result in improved "first class" dining service. I mean, you're suggesting this for the overnight Regionals, which don't have a dining car. If a budget sleeper service succeeds on a train with no dining car, why add one? And if it doesn't succeed, clearly this service doesn't work anyway. Point is, I don't see how dining service gets better by offering cheaper sleeping accommodations.

My point is that if there was a budget offering and it was rolled out system wide, (assuming it was successful) that it would take away the excuse of cheaping out on sleeper amenities since an open section or slumber coach would be there to satisfy those of us using Amtrak as transportation rather than an experience. Sorry if that wasn't clear. I am not sure how many price sensitive people are riding Amtrak, but if we're talking people who ride for the experience, I doubt they would mind paying a bit more if the experience got better.  

Just for the sake of numbers, a ticket from Emeryville, CA to Portland for 11-4-19 costs $74 in coach, $118 in Business and $318 in a roomette. For reference, a Business class seat is a 2+2 seat with "leather" upholstery and looks more padded than a normal coach seat. Your perks are a $6 voucher for the lounge and 2 bottles of water. For the record I have no idea which bucket the tickets are in as I don't know how to check. But Sac to Salt Lake is $256 on the same day for the roomette as a reference. If Amtrak had a budget sleeper, it can get away with charging at least $118 for it on the Starlight. To compensate for the lost potential on coach tickets, I could see them raising the cost of roomettes to at least $256 over that distance. I know some people will complain that roomette prices would go up, but if the people who just want a bed are satisfied, there is less incentive to split the difference quality wise so Amtrak can at least say its trying to keep roomette prices low. 

2 hours ago, tricia said:

Privacy is a luxury many people value highly, and it's one reason why people pay more for roomettes. This isn't something that was either invented or left behind in the 1950s.

And First class on airlines are rarely enclosed and Business class is never (as far as I have seen) fully enclosed. I am talking about adding an option, not taking away roomettes for a cheaper option. 

 

Edited by sttom
grammar

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6 minutes ago, sttom said:

Just for the sake of numbers, a ticket from Emeryville, CA to Portland for 11-4-19 costs $74 in coach, $118 in Business and $318 in a roomette. For reference, a Business class seat is a 2+2 seat with "leather" upholstery and looks more padded than a normal coach seat. Your perks are a $6 voucher for the lounge and 2 bottles of water. For the record I have no idea which bucket the tickets are in as I don't know how to check. But Sac to Salt Lake is $256 on the same day for the roomette as a reference. If Amtrak had a budget sleeper, it can get away with charging at least $118 for it on the Starlight. To compensate for the lost potential on coach tickets, I could see them raising the cost of roomettes to at least $256 over that distance. I know some people will complain that roomette prices would go up, but if the people who just want a bed are satisfied, there is less incentive to split the difference quality wise so Amtrak can at least say its trying to keep roomette prices low. 

For that segment, low bucket coach and Business Class actually are $74 and $118 respectively, but for a Roomette it's $264. I don't get why it would make sense to raise the price of Roomettes, though. The whole point is to have a cheaper intermediate class, not to make proper sleepers a more expensive fancier option.

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We have discussed this idea on other threads and sites and I think the Delta One setup would be perfect on the rebirth of a "Night Owl" sleeper service.

BTW - The FAA would not allow full height walls.  Even allowing doors was a major accomplishment.  Amtrak would have full height doors and walls for complete privacy and noise reduction. 

 

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4 minutes ago, cpotisch said:

For that segment, low bucket coach and Business Class actually are $74 and $118 respectively, but for a Roomette it's $264. I don't get why it would make sense to raise the price of Roomettes, though. The whole point is to have a cheaper intermediate class, not to make proper sleepers a more expensive fancier option.

I suppose different people could have different opinions on "what the whole point" is. A cogent argument can be made to provide a true First Class experience in the full fledged Sleepers like it used to be in the past for a somewhat higher price point than today, which would allow hiring of more personnel to provide such true First Class service, while providing for a low cost fully reclining seat option for those like  me who don't care that much for the full court "experience" but would like a relatively flat surface to sleep on. Different strokes for different folks.

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2 minutes ago, cpotisch said:

For that segment, low bucket coach and Business Class actually are $74 and $118 respectively, but for a Roomette it's $264. I don't get why it would make sense to raise the price of Roomettes, though. The whole point is to have a cheaper intermediate class, not to make proper sleepers a more expensive fancier option.

Better beds, maybe bringing back actual beds, better food in the Dining Cars since the food is included in Sleeper fare. As someone who is never traveled in anything better than Premium Economy, I am not sure what a tourist would want, but if sleepers are being geared more towards them, Amtrak could find out. 

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20 minutes ago, sttom said:
27 minutes ago, cpotisch said:

For that segment, low bucket coach and Business Class actually are $74 and $118 respectively, but for a Roomette it's $264. I don't get why it would make sense to raise the price of Roomettes, though. The whole point is to have a cheaper intermediate class, not to make proper sleepers a more expensive fancier option.

Better beds, maybe bringing back actual beds, better food in the Dining Cars since the food is included in Sleeper fare.

I really think that this sort of "sleeper lite" option shouldn't have meals included, like the original slumber coaches. That helps to distinguish it from actual sleepers, and will lower the ticket price.

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2 minutes ago, cpotisch said:

I really think that this sort of "sleeper lite" option shouldn't have meals included, like the original slumber coaches. That helps to distinguish it from actual sleepers, and will lower the ticket price.

I kind of figured a bed wouldn't come with meals included. Business class only gets you $6 towards food on the Starlight. I am talking about better food over time for those in sleepers or willing to pay ala cart. 

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After looking at the layout of slumbercoaches, it looks like the current airline business class products are pretty much the same thing without the door of course. Airlines stagger them side by side vs top and bottom on the slubercoaches. Instead of actual physical walls, I'm sure heavy curtains could be provided.

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From what I have seen of travel vloggers, a open section berth has more privacy. Someone mentioned that FAA regulations require the business and first class seats be semi open for safety reason. 

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