A Couple of Observations (from a Canadian)

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by KwikEddie, Sep 2, 2018.

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  1. Sep 2, 2018 #1

    KwikEddie

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    KwikEddie

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    As a Canadian I have no right to comment on your internal politics, however as an Amtrak customer I feel I have the ability to write about my current feelings regarding Amtrak.

    I have been using Amtrak since the 70's starting with trips to San Diego and Seattle. I have made it a point to take at least one trip to Portland every year for the last eight years and at least one transcontinental trip for the last 7 years. Last year we did a 4 week tour through the US with the South East the only area we missed. I am an Amtrak select member and have a considerable balance.

    My first observation is the drop in service regarding sleeper service. The removal of the welcome amenities, silverware and plates from the LD trains was just the start. Other degradations in the service are well detailed in many posts over the last 6 years. I don't know how much was 'saved' but I doubt it was more than 1% of my fares over the last 7 years. I travel by train because I enjoy it. I am enjoying it less and less and for travel in the US and it has passed south of the enjoyment/cost ratio.

    A further major hit to the ratio has occured due to your current administrationon's attitude towards visitors (foreigners) and their counties, particularly Canada. I will leave it at that but will mention my last vacation was to the UK and Europe and that my next will be to South Africa. Although I enjoy both Seattle and Portland I have no plans to visit either in the near future.

    I cannot vote with a ballot but I can with my pocket book. Maybe I'll catch you again in a couple of years.
     
  2. Sep 2, 2018 #2

    gswager

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    You're not alone with others about declining quality of services. The Amtrak president and its board of members are mainly responsible for making business decisions, and from the government, too. I hope it doesn't go too far down to the bottomless pit before turning back or gone forever.
     
  3. Sep 2, 2018 #3

    Bob Dylan

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    Always good to hear from the Great White North, home of the only North American Trains that still have Class!
     
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  4. Sep 2, 2018 #4

    FrensicPic

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    Regardless of your nationality, as an Amtrak customer, you certainly have the right to complain to Amtrak about the decline in service.
     
  5. Sep 3, 2018 #5

    anumberone

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    Even though I'm an American I will have to admit you as correct in you judgement. Although, getting on a Amtrak train is far more enjoyable than clearing customs at a Canadian border station.
     
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  6. Sep 3, 2018 #6

    NativeSon5859

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    I don’t plan on taking the Canadian again (though it was a beautiful ride to remember) based on being hassled at immigration at the Toronto airport for maybe the third consecutive time.

    I’ll stick to my long haul Superliners.
     
  7. Sep 3, 2018 #7

    Bob Dylan

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    I'm surprised, although you're not the first to report this.

    I've lived in and visited Canada hundreds of times via Planes,Trains and Automobiles ( American Citize with Passport) and have never been hassled by Canadian Officials.

    It's just the opposite when returning to the US, whether by Air or Ground.Some of the rudest,nastiest people I've encountered anywhere in the world have been the American officials in Customs and Immigration that handle those entering the US from Canada..

    I guess YMMV.
     
  8. Sep 3, 2018 #8

    Cho Cho Charlie

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    While true, a lot of where Amtrak service is heading, is being driven by the US Congress, and if you aren't a US Citizen, the US Congress can care less if you are happy with your Amtrak service. Hay, I vote and the US Congress would care only very slightly more if I am happy.

    Though, to be fair, I doubt if the Canadian Parliament considers my happiness very often. [​IMG]
     
  9. Sep 3, 2018 #9

    RSG

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    The US Congress may not care, but the National Passenger Railroad Corporation [dba Amtrak] should, as a profit-seeking enterprise. To that end, I would encourage the OP to write a letter (snail mail, via Canada Post) to executive management of Amtrak detailing his patronage and concerns (while omitting any political viewpoints). Too often, I think US corporate executives have a myopic view of who their customers are. It's easy to eliminate service and say "oh well, they'll find another way to get there" or "that service won't be missed that much", but if you have a customer base which in turn drives other services and spending, the impact is greater.

    We all know that the best way to see the USA (outside of a Chevrolet) is via passenger rail. Many international visitors who want to do the same--and are aware that you can't just rent a car and drive from New York to California in a day--plan their vacations around an Amtrak trip and of course spend additional dollars on hotels, attractions, and dining either during or on each end of their trip. That's revenue that would be most likely lost without a national system. Having someone who isn't a 'local' train nut clarify that can help illuminate the situation.
     
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  10. Sep 3, 2018 #10

    RichieRich

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    You wanna talk about the massive cut in amenities and service...I have one word: AutoTrain!
     
  11. Sep 3, 2018 #11

    AmtrakPDX

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    I'm happy to see the responses you're receiving. For the most part they seem to be supportive of your position. I too agree with your well laid out essay. I've traveled both the Via and the Rocky Mountaineer and loved the experiences. I hope the Amtrak can look north someday for examples to improve its service.

    Again, thank you...
     
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  12. Sep 3, 2018 #12

    RSG

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    Regarding the decline in amenities and service, the airlines figured out--starting in the late 90s and definitely after September 2001--that little things add up quickly and thus one of the easiest ways to save (and make) money is to eliminate them. That has worked in the airline world because flyers have been conditioned like Pavlovian dogs to look for the cheapest ticket price when booking a flight, to the extent that base ticket prices are in some cases lower than they were 20 years ago. That is unheard of in practically every other consumer good or service area. Of course they make up for the low ticket prices by charging extra for everything else which used to be included in the ticket price (if now available at all). That has also worked for them, since ancillary fees are the biggest revenue producer for the airline industry. People whine and moan about the lack of amenities and animal-like treatment, yet they still drool when they find the lowest ticket price for their flight.

    The current Amtrak CEO is a former airline guy, not a rail guy. As such, he would almost be negligent in his fiduciary duty not to implement what he learned in his previous professional life. Ergo, one of the first changes was to cut out the very things that most customers had been accustomed to.

    Those of us who are dedicated rail passengers know that rail travel is like air travel, but very different. What may work well for the airlines--if not for their passengers--won't work for Amtrak at all in the long run. (Does anyone really want coach and sleeper attendants hawking food items and amenity kits like stadium vendors, complete with change belts?) Many believe it's all part of the master plan, but either way it doesn't matter if the end result is the same.
     
  13. Sep 3, 2018 #13

    ehbowen

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    As long as we have corporate travel offices fixated like lampreys on the Absolute Lowest Cost, I don't see how we can expect the unwashed masses to cast any wider of a net.

    "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil...."
     
  14. Sep 3, 2018 #14

    seat38a

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    As someone who lives right in the heart of the tourism hotspot state, I really wish tourists would STOP COMING! 48.3 MILLION shoved into LA County alone last year. Thats more than the whole population of Canada or California making the lives of us who actually live here miserable. People talk about over tourism in Venice Italy, Barcelona Spain and Dubrovnik Croatia but many of us is SoCal live it daily in terns of traffic, housing etc.
     
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  15. Sep 4, 2018 #15

    Devil's Advocate

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    What US airlines have figured out is that limiting competition through consolidation, reducing the number of available seats relative to demand, and homogenizing service standards leaves their captive audience with few meaningful options other than shell game semantics.

    Well, except for televisions, stereos, music, movies, computers, monitors, microwaves, coffee pots, shaving supplies, irons, vacuums, intracity vehicular rides, domestic parcel shipping, etc.

    This is an oft-repeated claim on AU but it never seems to be substantiated by anything other than hypocrisy begging. Where is the control in this experiment? If the airlines in our supply side economy move in near lock step how did you determine the customers are to blame? Time and again I saw flyers furious with one airline or another but before they could vote with their wallets the rest of the industry jumped on the same bandwagon.
     
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  16. Sep 4, 2018 #16

    bms

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    All of the legacy airlines in the United States filed for bankruptcy during the decade of 2002-2011, including Northwest Airlines the year after Anderson left Northwest's CEO position. From a business standpoint, I'd rather emulate virtually any industry other than airlines.
     
  17. Sep 4, 2018 #17

    tommylicious

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    I had simple passage thru Canadian customs as well. The Canadian is the best train trip I've taken and I hope to do it again someday!
     
  18. Sep 4, 2018 #18

    Triley

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    And at up to 10x the fare, they better.
     
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  19. Sep 4, 2018 #19

    Triley

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    Traffic would certainly get better. Keep in mind all the money going in to the economy that would evaporate.
    http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-tourism-2015-20160502-story.html
     
  20. Sep 4, 2018 #20

    seat38a

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    But as a resident, its a total contradiction. They tell us to save water, use less, drive less, pay higher taxes to help the homeless (Air BnB is a problem), higher taxes to fix the roads, housing crisis, etc etc and yet those 48.3 million extra bodies are totally contradiction to what our government preaches to the ones who actually live here. Its gotten to the point that many of us who actually live here choose to go out of State for a vacation.

    I wish I can find the newspaper article again, but essentially what it said was we Californian's are using less water than we did during the drought in the 90's. I remember that drought in which we were taught in elementary school to put bricks in the toilet water tanks to save water. The difference between then and now is the shear number of people between then and now added to the State competing for the same resources.

    Don't underestimate the damage that AirBnB is doing to many renters out here. Corporations and even just regular individuals are renting out apartments just for the sake for turning a profit on AirBnB to tourists. Even in my own apartment complex, we have this issue. Its not supposed to happen but the landlords turn a blind eye to the practice.
     
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  21. Sep 4, 2018 #21

    Devil's Advocate

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    Services such as AirBnB are by no means unique to California and in many ways they are merely a symptom of an economy that does little if anything to protect fundamental needs from opportunistic repurposing and speculative investing.
     
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  22. Sep 5, 2018 #22

    seat38a

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  23. Sep 5, 2018 #23

    railiner

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    I think I understand the problem, but that fine seems a bit excessive...unless they tried a lower fine previously with no result.

    So there is a lesson to be learned from this...when traveling, do your research of local custom's, and be respectful of them. IMHO, I think that in general, tourist's are respectful, and it may be more likely that "local's" are the ones violating the rules, but I can't say that with certainty....
     
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  24. Sep 5, 2018 #24

    cpotisch

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    Firstly, Auto Train is two words. Secondly, what especially bad cuts has the Auto Train gone through lately that especially stand out compared to what the other LD routes have gone through? Last I checked they haven't cut or changed meal service lately (and it's still the only train in the Amtrak system where coach passengers get complimentary meals). I'm just asking, what massive cuts in amenities and service has the AT gone through lately that are especially of note?
     
  25. Sep 6, 2018 #25

    Paul CHI

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    Only 48 million tourists to California??? Chicago alone gets 55 million/year. Add a 20" tax on hotels and rental cars; helps pay our bills, but summers here can be a pain with pedestrian gridlock.

    Comparing Amtrak to either VIA or RM isn't much of a comparison considering the price differential. However, it's stupid of Amtrak to remove amenities from the highest paying clients.
     
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