Cost of a roomette - are they kidding?

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Teamfour, Oct 13, 2008.

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  1. Oct 13, 2008 #1

    Teamfour

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    I am looking at traveling from WAS to SDL in a couple of weeks via the Crescent. I know I am booking the trip late, but I am a little shocked at the price of a roomette. The coach fare is $125 but Amtrak then wants an extra $383 for the roomette. That's a lot of $$ for a place to sleep and a couple of meals. Is this the norm?
     
  2. Oct 13, 2008 #2

    darien-l

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    Amtrak sells their tickets on a bucket system, which basically means that the more roomettes are sold on a given train, the more expensive the remaining roomettes are. To get the best price, it's best to book as far ahead as possible. The lowest bucket price for a roomette WAS to SDL is $180 (and $244 for a bedroom), which you might be able to get if you play around with your travel dates a bit.
     
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  3. Oct 14, 2008 #3

    Tony

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    When I had to go to FL at the last minute when my mother died, I had to pay almost twice what I usually pay ($1300 vs. $700).
     
  4. Oct 14, 2008 #4

    Teamfour

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    Thanks. I am starting to understand the bucket system. I can't play with the dates as I am moving my daughter up to DC for a new job. I had planned on flying back, but I really want to explore travel by train. I guess coach wouldn't be bad for a single overnighter.
     
  5. Oct 14, 2008 #5

    ALC Rail Writer

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    Book ahead.

    And remember, the roomette is for two people, you don't have to pay 300 twice if you got two people.
     
  6. Oct 14, 2008 #6

    Larry H.

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    This kind of problem is exactly what I have a tendency to complain about with bucket fares. In the old days you could go any day the trains ran for one price as long as rooms were available and due to running much larger consist they usually were.. If amtrak is going to provide the masses decent service they need to price for those who are not in the "bucks" and can plunk down lots of cash for the sake of a room.. that is not the way the old pullman company operated as I have often pointed out. When your faced with a quick decision or really any reason the sleepers should be affordable by most people. I pointed out not long ago that the actual cost of a room on amtrak is now running 18 times what it did in the late forties compared to coach. That is a unrealistic charge which many for some reason defend.
     
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  7. Oct 14, 2008 #7

    Joel N. Weber II

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    If you want things to change, write to your Congresspeople asking them to fund more sleeper cars for Amtrak. Until Amtrak has enough rolling stock, sleeping compartments either have to be expensive, or sold based on some sort of lottery system (and the rules Amtrak has been operating under where they're supposed to try to make a profit seems to favor the former).
     
  8. Oct 14, 2008 #8

    sky12065

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    I get it... If you and I were in the same accomodation type on the same train and I paid $500 and you paid $350 that wouldn't be fair. However, I would say that if you paid $500 and I paid $350 that would be fair! :lol:

    Seriously, I can see your point. It's like going into a grocery store to buy a half gallon of milk and I was charged one dollar whereas you were charged three dollars. That's certainly not fair to you!

    To some extent however, I can see the bucket system (no milk joke there) because I've seen problems where people procrastinate and don't make decisions until the last minute. In doing so they make planning and procuring very difficult for the host or managing entity when there's only a few days left to react!

    So which is right and which is wrong? I don't know but I do know that they probably should have called the bucket system the TEBGTW System. TEBGTW? The Early Bird Gets the Worm! I can just imagine someone like Gilbert Gottfried walking into an Amtrak Station and inquiring as to the whereabouts of the worm!
     
  9. Oct 14, 2008 #9

    PetalumaLoco

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    I think you may have something there. Amtrak needs a mascot, so how about Gilbert Gottfried? He can even keep the duck character, but this time run around saying "Amtrak!" [​IMG]
     
  10. Oct 14, 2008 #10

    ralfp

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    It's like a sale where quantities are limited. The first X customers get the low price, the rest pay more.

    It may suck sometimes, but it's a fair way of pricing fares. It's certainly better than a flat price. People who can/want to pay less than average can do so if they're flexible with travel dates/times and advance booking.

    Honestly, looking at availability in the next few days, I can say that WAS-SDL is too cheap, it's not available at any price. The next open room is on the 20th, almost a week away. If anything this indicates that Amtrak really needs to increase fares (or increase capacity). In the short term a capacity increase is basically impossible.
     
  11. Oct 14, 2008 #11

    amtrakmichigan

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    If your tickets are not printed yet, you can always recheck room prices for your trip and have them adjusted. Last month we took a trip from Toledo, Oh to Sebring, Fl via the Capital Limited / Silver Meteor and returned via the Silver Meteor / Lake Shore Ltd. I purchesed the tickets in June for travel in September. The inital purchase price was $16xx.00. A few times a week I would go on Amtrak's site and recheck the sleeper charges. The room prices decreased on 3 of the 4 trains. I ended up paying $12xx.00 for this trip. I saved over $400.00 by doing this. If you do find that the price decreased, just call Amtrak with your reservation #. Tell them you noticed that the sleeper fare decreased on your train(s) on your date of travel and you would like to rebook your reservation with the lower fare. They will credit your charge card for the full amount (within a week of travel) and then charge the card for the new reservation.
     
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  12. Oct 14, 2008 #12

    Larry H.

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    That is an interesting thought process. But if rail is to become a major part of our travel one again, then the idea that every person who would choose rail is going to know when he needs a trip would have to book six months out is nuts.. People travel in many instances due to reasons the poster of this thread mentioned. A funeral, a sickness, quick business trip, spur of the moment changes in plans, on and on.. I suppose if Amtrak were only to cater to those of us who are simply rail fans an basically touring around the country for the fun of it, then planning way out is ok. But if your in the real world and things come up quickly, then this price system is totally unfair.

    On the amount of spaces, yes they indeed are limited, way too much.. But does anyone really think under the current congressional mandates for wringing every possible cent out of rail passengers who want a place to sleep in a bit of comfort would change if they had 10 sleepers running? I seriously doubt it. It might be that some more reasonable difference would be acceptable, like saving 50.00 by booking early.. But charging up to three times and even more the price of a room, it really puts all the hurt on people that this system is running for. Those who need to travel by rail often at short notice.

    And none of that addresses the underlying problem that due to trying to cover all expenses, ( which rail worldwide is not expected to do), then we are pricing sleepers at prices that are much out of line with traditional charges for pullman services. The government was supposed to maintain the rail, not price it out of existence.

    Maybe a compromise might be to take that total that Amtrak is trying to produce from a sleeper and instead of gouging a few would divide it by total space, allowing the normal higher comparative price for a room as opposed to a roomette. Then even it out to a realistic everyday price and sell it for that with perhaps the 50.00 savings for early booking idea. Even with that in place, the overall price range as now being used is still one that is too high for many and is used mainly by those who are easily able to afford it.. So on a trip where now the prices may show from 250 to 750 for the same roomette they could charge an everyday fare of 400. no matter when your going. It might be higher for some, but more reasonable for those who need the service quickly or at peak times. Lets recall also that at one point Amtrak basically doubled the price of a Bedroom by charging one person two fares which was not the case previous to Amtrak and congress getting there noses into it.
     
  13. Oct 14, 2008 #13

    Teamfour

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    Wow! I didn't intend to start such a lively discussion regarding fares, but the reading has been informative.

    I sure am glad the bucket concept doesn't apply to movie theaters! ^_^
     
  14. Oct 14, 2008 #14

    Ispolkom

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    I always check my wallet when someone starts talking about fair prices. I don't think the word "fair price" has much meaning.

    The way I see it, sleeper travel is luxury travel, and Amtrak should run its sleepers so that a ) they are full, and b ) Amtrak got the highest price possible for each sleeper compartment. The bucket system is certainly a rough-and-ready way of achieving this goal. If you're a last-minute traveler you have to expect to pay a higher price, and if Amtrak can find buyers for its highest-bucket roomettes, good for them.

    Of course, this is easy for me to write, since I am able to plan my travel far ahead, and am able to pay for my tickets far ahead of travel. I'm one of those people who buy tickets far out, and change as necessary. Maybe Amtrak should make it more expensive for people like me to change reservations to discourage this behavior, or perhaps they'd rather have my money for 11 months.

    I think the answer to high sleeper prices is more sleeper cars. It's simple supply and demand. If there were more compartments available in each bucket, the average price would go down.

    Here's evidence that supports my view. I notice that coach prices seem to fluctuate far less (probably because there are so many more coach seats on each train). For example, the roomette I purchased for a trip to Washington D.C. next May has gone up about 50%, while the coach price hasn't budged.

    Heck, advance Amtrak tickets have been my best-performing investments this year.

    FWIW, Amtrak is hardly the only company using bucket pricing. Megabus sells tickets from Minneapolis to Chicago starting at a dollar. I'd prefer to take the train, but I'm not made of stone, and can't pass up that price.
     
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  15. Oct 14, 2008 #15

    ralfp

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    Why not? I'm not willing to pay $10 ($20 with Mrs. ralfp) for the privilege of seeing a movie with noisy kids, no pause feature, etc. I might be willing to occupy an empty seat for $3. I'm sure there are people willing to pay $15.

    A fair price is one that's offered and that you're willing to pay. It's one of the wonders of capitalism (which actually applies for LD Amtrak trips, as there is real competition).

    If the sleepers are consistently full it means that Amtrak has not charged the highest possible price (ie. needs to raise prices).

    ....

    The problem that Amtrak has is that adding capacity and lowering the average sleeper fare both increase losses.
     
  16. Oct 14, 2008 #16

    Larry H.

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    The previous two writers prove that the situation is out of control.. Were supposed to be running a national rail system, not trying to see how much we can fleece out of the riders! Sure you can keep jacking the prices up. With 5 bedrooms per train the way amtrak has run many lately, you can no doubt find some rail fans with big wallets willing to plunk anything down to ride.. But as gasoline has finally proved, there comes a point where prices begin to be out of the reach of many and people will refuse to use it. That isn't going to happen with amtrak because so few rooms do seem on many trains to find a willing buyer..

    It may be that the overall price structure may be a bit of of whack. If you consider that that 1949 NY to Chicago showed coach at about 34.00 or so, then you see where today it cost about 80.00 depending on the buckets again, you see that a sleeper that cost half the price of a coach for a bedroom, 18.00 was quite a bargain. Today it cost 18 times that price in comparison to coach.. Maybe the coach fares are unreasonably low for some reason? Maybe not, just thinking.. I am not either saying that the price of a bedroom today would make any sense at 40.00 either.. But in comparison and considering how much quality and service Pullman put into there sleepers, lounges ect, then the price is indeed cheap by todays standards. Its kind of like cars.. Yes some can afford a $200,000 luxury car. But the average person is lucky to be able to pay for a $15,000 car. By the above suggestions because some could afford a high end car, then the rest of the public be dammed and you can walk.. I don't buy the idea that any price is fine as long as someone can afford it. We don't all live in 30 million dollar condos either. Should all houses cost that much because some can afford it.. Lets remember this is a national rail passenger system expected to provide the average traveler a seat or a room.. That is how those fares were set until the Government got involved. What ever happened to Family fares? On top of the higher fares we all pay, all the discounted fares have gone out the window too.. I don't buy that more cars will drop the price of rooms either.. In fact the suggested any thing goes fare structure is exactly the opposite.. you want it you pay for it.. Even if its too much..

    As too the idea that adding cars and dropping fares adds to loses.. Then you could say eliminate the highway system. Its no money maker! But I don't see any in congress saying we can't build or maintain that. The idea wasn't to make money, it was to provide a service which is what Amtrak should be doing.
     
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  17. Oct 14, 2008 #17

    Ispolkom

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    Would increasing sleeper capacity increase operating losses? I certainly can see that, if you add the cost of building the sleeping cars. If you separate out the capital budget (say the cost of the car, but not the cost of its maintenance), though, I'd think that the cost of running an extra sleeper on the Cardinal would be less than the potential sales. Or am I completely off base?

    Larry H., I can't agree with you in your comparisions to 1949, when fares were set by the ICC, and bucket pricing was probably not technically possible. How was it fair that coach prices in 1949 (adjusted for inflation) were much higher then than they are today? Why should sleeping car customers get a break and the coach customers get taken? Who can afford the higher prices more?

    "Lets remember this is a national rail passenger system expected to provide the average traveler a seat or a room.." And it does. It provides lots of inexpensive seats, and a few expensive rooms. You might not like the mix, but unless Amtrak gets a large capital infusion, that's the way it is.

    Twenty-five years ago I had a lot less money and a greater fondness for the company of strangers. I happily traveled in coach long distances. Today I have more money and a greater aversion to people, and I am happy to pay for the comfort and privacy of a sleeping compartment. YMMV.
     
  18. Oct 14, 2008 #18

    AlanB

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    Larry,

    The problem/issue is that there are those in Congress who believe that the American people should not be subsidizing land cruises as they like to call them. Therefore all they want to vote money for, if any money, is for coach services. In their minds that's all that this country should be subsidizing. I'm not saying that I agree with that logic, but that is how many in Congress feel. So to prevent the loss of the sleeping car, as well as the dining car, Amtrak has had no choice but to try to maximize revenue from the sleeping cars so that they can say that the average citizen isn't subsidizing a land cruise.

    And it is indeed true, that sleepers cover their above the rails cost. If you travel in a sleeper, only the railfare portion of your ticket receives any subsidy, and it receives a bit less than someone traveling in coach.
     
  19. Oct 14, 2008 #19

    printman2000

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    It has been my belief that Amtrak should charge what the market is willing to pay. If they are selling out at high prices, they would be foolish not to charge it.

    Going to the Gathering, I went coach because I could not pay the sleeper fare. I hated it, wanted to be in sleeper the whole time, but I do not blame Amtrak for charging that high price.

    By the way, there was ONE room open on the day of travel on #4 according to the website. Had the prices been lower, that room along with ALL the rooms would have been sold out. So in your case, if rooms were a lot cheaper, there probably would not be any left for you to even have the option. Supply and demand.
     
  20. Oct 14, 2008 #20

    ralfp

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    A rail system is worthless if you cannot buy tickets. Any price is better than no availability. A $500 roomette is a lot more useful to me than a sold out train. I'd rather have Amtrak raise fares such that one can actually buy coach seats or rooms the day before. Given how often the LD trains are sold out (even in coach), I think that Amtrak would be making the right choice in raising prices on trains that typically sell out.
     
  21. Oct 14, 2008 #21

    Karl

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    Just a quick calculation based on Amtraks numbers. Amtrak 2007 had 1.7B in "passenger" revenue, 1.1B in "loss". Assuming for the sake of argument (and i do remember disecting ass_u_me) the sleeper portion and meal portion of revenue is about break even and accounts for .6B doubling the coach fare (AND magically not loosing any passengers) would have Amtrak breaking even! One and a half would allow room for capital replacement and addition of rolling stock, routes, etc. This 1.5 increase is kinda close to the numbers quoted by other posters for 1948 coach fares adjusted for inflation. Mean while we have to allow Amtrak to struggle on as best it can, and "bucket" fares seem to be a reasonable means for management to be financally responsible.
     
  22. Oct 14, 2008 #22

    Larry H.

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    Isn't it a bit ironic that the airline system that basically did in rail travel as we knew it, ended up being a total bargain due to the amount of passengers that could use it.. does anyone think that if airlines had only offered extremely high rates that the business would have grown as it did until the oil price finally crimped the ability of airlines to offer cheap seats.

    As to the coach, verses bedroom fare issue, the bedroom was a charge above the going coach rate as it is today.. Obviously someone thought the traveling public would like to step up to a sleeping accommodation without mortgaging the house. That held true until as Allen says the congress decided that running sleepers was a true luxury that should only be available to a few who would pay much increased rates. Even as the things that went with the sleepers such as first class lounges, personal service, and first class dining disappeared.

    I am saddened to see the support for the anything goes pricing as shown in this site.. There should somehow be a reasonable price at which the general public can use the services of a Government Subsidies System.. To price it out of the reach of a large percentage of travelers is wrong and unfair. The fact that small amounts of rooms sell out proves nothing. What might be of real interest is how many people that might have liked to upgrade too a room for a more reasonable fare couldn't. That would be the real test of the value of the rooms.. A few shop at Saks, most shop at Walmart. Obviously everyone can not afford Saks.
     
  23. Oct 14, 2008 #23

    MrFSS

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    Two questions.

    I'm not a numbers person, but what would happen if Amtrak tried something like this:

    Assume a route from A to B and the low bucket coach is $100 and the high bucket coach is $300.

    What if they sold EVERY coach seat for $200 with no bucket system involved. everyone would pay $200 today or 11 months in advance. You would always know what it would be, no surprises.

    Is there any logic to a system like that? Could they find the magic number that would be what the price should be as compared to using the bucket system?

    I did work in retail many years ago and I know we would buy a widget for $1 each. 1000 widgets cost $1000.

    We sold them for $10 each. When we had sold 100 of them we had our $1000 back. The cost of doing business could be met by selling another 200 widgets, leaving us with 700 widgets to sell that became profit, so to speak. We might or might not sell them all in a season, but they would start lowering the price of widgets into the season to help that process along as it was all profit, anyway.

    The point is, there must be formulas for all this to figure out how to sell train tickets. Is that what the bucket system is all about?
     
  24. Oct 14, 2008 #24

    printman2000

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    Airlines are subsidized, should they make first class seats affordable? Even coach seats last minute on airlines are going to be WAY more than booking in advance. At least Amtrak coach is extremely affordable almost always.

    Sleepers, in my opinion, are affordable if booked far enough in advance. The later you purchase, the higher the price will be (typically). At least with Amtrak, the price is solely based on sales and not time. If no one has booked a sleeper, it does not matter if you are 11 months out or the day of, you will get the lowest bucket.

    By the way, I shop at Walmart. :rolleyes:
     
  25. Oct 14, 2008 #25

    ALC Rail Writer

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    The word is INFLATION. By using inflation calculators from 1949 to 2007 (2008 data isn't done yet) that $34 in 1949 would be worth $292.80 today.

    That's $300 dollar roomette still sound bad? Sounds about right to me... And, on the LSL mid December rail fare from NYP to CHI is around $80 and the Viewliner Roomette is $297 for a grand total of $377. That is in the middle buckets.

    And I know its not much, but no need to snarf at the free meals- and, if you brought a second person the deal is even sweeter.

    Still not a bad deal... inflation adjusted.
     
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