Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by SanDiegan, Jul 13, 2019.
Well written letter Coby. It is good to "see you."
Coby, If you do decide to write to your Congressional folks, Edit, edit, edit that letter. Much too long winded. Keep short and to the point, please.
Great letter. And welcome back.
As a relative newcomer here I have enjoyed reading your past posts - especially the trip reports. Your letter is well-written and covers a wide range of topics. That having been said, the person who suggested an edit or two (unless already sent) is not wrong. The problem with any letter to a corporation is that it is first read by someone it was not addressed to. That person decides how much further it goes. Rare is the corporate executive who actually reads his/her own mail. Also, consider if some of your points were deserving of their own individual letters. For example, the comments about Guest Rewards might make it to a separate department rather than the CEO. Often it is better to make short, specific comments to have the most impact, rather than cover all your grievances/suggestions in one package. Finally, never include too much information about yourself - the railfan reference comes to mind. Something like that near the beginning can get the whole rest of the letter dismissed before it is read. It is important to you, but not to them. They have to simply realize you are a disgruntled paying customer - nothing more. Your wallet talks volumes.
Don't let me discourage you however. Keep up the good fight and please continue to contribute. You remind me of me many years ago.
Southwest is fast and dependable with drinks and snacks included and numerous meal options available at departure and arrival locations. Amtrak is slow and undependable with most stations having little or nothing to eat or drink on site. You can't charge Southwest Airlines prices for the speed and dependability of a fly-by-night autobus company.
I honestly don't see the point of keeping up the dining car charade anymore. It probably would be just as well to place a crate of boxed meals near the entrance for passengers to collect on the way to their seat.
Interesting theory. Maybe Richard Anderson took this job for one last chance to fight with yet another union.
You have received some very good advice here. Your letter is obviously very passionate. That’s a good thing. But you need to focus that passion. You want to make the letter “punch”. Whoever reads this letter is going to give it, at best, a few seconds of their full attention. Two paragraphs is really all that you should need to convey your point powerfully.
It’s a great start that will really shine with some editing.
Ah, the infamous American Airlines Bistro Bag. Been there, done that...
The funny thing is looking back and compared to how things are now I actually enjoyed the bistro bag. A bagged lunch on a 2:00 flight works, a boxed lunch for a couple paying upwards of $1000 for a 30 hour train ride isn’t.
Exactly. And when was the last time Amtrak Guest Rewards sent anyone a free drink coupon? I got 4 in the mail and I'm not even A-List.
I'm sure the letter above written by young Cody about the reduction in amenities for Amtrak long-distance trains is one I whole heartily agree with but I'll admit I didn't read the entire letter. And perhaps it can be made even more effective and to the point.
Now, I will admit my bias for brevity. And I know Cody put a lot of thought and effort into wriitng what he wanted to say. I'm also sure a background in writing for radio, and in writing news releases that I wanted published, encouraged me to always edit for length.
So, just based on my experience, my thoughts are that if Cody would take his main thoughts in the above letter he wrote to Amtrak, and edit them down to, say, 300 words (the maximum length some newspapers allow for letters to the editor) from the current 1500 words or so, and send them to his Senators,
Representative, New York area daily and weekly newspapers, and others, he would maximize the chances of his letter being thoroughly read, and maybe even published.
Anyway, just a thought. Oh - and I'll admit to another bias. I want the message in opposition to the downgrading of Amtrak's long-distance to be heard loud and clear everywhere possible. Cody's certainly started to do his part.
Yes, Coby, glad you’re back. You’ve been missed and I hope you stick around!
As I clearly remember from when I rode the EB #8 east from East Glacier Park to Chicago and asking my sleeping car attendant, no the sleeper fare does not include the cost of any cafe car food items. Which btw, you have to buy separately. A la how if you get a beer in the dining car, you have to pay for that separately vs. your meal and non-alcoholic drinks being free.
Doubt this has changed on Capitol and Lake Shore since contemporary dining was implemented on those 2 trains, but correct me if I'm wrong.
Finally Coby, that was a heck of a letter you wrote! I should probably write a letter like that at some point to the higher ups at Amtrak, and also to Congress(wo)men and Senators. I doubt this'll move the needle in stopping those upcoming dining car cuts, but never hurts to express my displeasure about contemporary dining expanding further.
Permit me to play Devil's advocate here.
We know that Anderson used the Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited as tests for Contemporary Dining. It has now been several months. We also know (or at least strongly believe) that Anderson has decided to expand Contemporary Dining to all overnight trains east of the Mississippi. It is reasonable to infer from this that, despite all of the protestations on this forum, Contemporary Dining has not had an appreciable impact on overall ridership. If this is indeed the case, it's hard to fault Anderson for its expansion to similar trains.
It is perfectly understandable to be upset over this change. But if you are no longer going to ride a one-night train because of this change, let’s be honest. You were likely never a railfan in the first place. If you think that flying is going to now magically be preferable you are setting yourself up for disappointment. My suspicion is that for all of those people who say that they aren't going to ride the train, the overwhelming majority are going to ride the train. No doubt Anderson has seen this in the airline world. Think about how many people complained vociforously over baggage fees, removal of meals, etc. And yet they still traveled by air. But Amtrak is all about the experience, no? Well... maybe it is. But Anderson now has data to show that the "experience" of Contemporary Dining for one night has not negatively impacted ridership on one-night trains. Or at least that the negative impact on ridership is justified by the savings in the dining car.
I suppose that this could really just be some part of a big conspiracy to remove long distance trains from the schedule. But if that was the case Anderson would have launched Contemporary Dining system-wide. This has all of the hallmarks of a controlled test and a broader roll out based on the results of that test.
Am I happy with the decision? No. Will I still travel by train? Yes. No doubt Anderson knows that most people think like me.
Let's see the data on ridership.
Let's look at operating costs. Specifically, let's look at the operating profit and losses.
Year to date, as of May, here is what we see for 2018 and 2019.
Lake Shore Limited:
2018 operating losses: 26.9
2019 operating losses: 23.5
2018 operating losses: 19.8
2019 operating losses: 17.3
So this tells us that both trains have had lower losses since the introduction of Contemporary Dining. In other words, it has not had the catastrophic impact that many suggested it would have.
Mind you, other eastern long distance trains lost less money as well. But that's the point. Contemporary Dining doesn't reverse that overall trend. I freely admit that this is a very shallow look into the overall issue - and that I am probably in over my head here, but it is safe to say that rumors of the demise of these trains were greatly exaggerated.
I guess I should be honest and come clean. I was never a railfan, just a foodie who enjoyed dining cars.
Egads. The diner car food was never THAT good. If it was the atmosphere of a dining car that you were after, Contemporary Dining doesn't change things except for the level of service.
I have been riding trains with dining cars since the 1960s. They have run the gamut. You call it your way and I will call it mine.
Dammit, I guess I have to close my 4 train watching webcams I have going on my 3rd monitor here at work now, because I guess I was never a railfan in the first place.
Now, where did I put that Emoji... it IS, after all, Emoji day.
Ah yes, here it is.
I'm not sure what you are saying here. Are you saying that you are going to stop riding any trains with Contemporary Dining?
Cody, what a fantastic writer you are! As a university professor, I can tell you that you are already a far better writer than most college students are when they finish their degrees!
The advice you are getting about writing a shorter version of the letter for purposes of affecting policy is good, however. I've also been told that a hard copy letter tends to get more attention than an email does.
It's great to see you back here; your contributions and your unique voice have certainly been missed.
No, I'm saying I've even stopped booking trains (I.E. Crescent, that I have frequently taken in the past) that DIDN'T have contemporary dining yet, in anticipation of the virus spreading to them before my trip and in light of the new, more draconian, airline-style cancellations policy.
Gotcha. All I can say is that Anderson does not believe that there are enough people like you out there. To be fair to Anderson, from a revenue perspective he appears to be correct. You also may want to consider at least trying contemporary dining. My experience is that, while not exactly what I would want to see on a train, I still am happy that I chose the train over other options. Many others have shared the same opinion.
Contemporary dining is not that bad! It was when it was first introduced, but they have improved the quality of the food and increased the variety. I'm sure this will continue to evolve and improve. For a one night train, I think this is adequate. I do not think it would be adequate for any train of two or more nights. People now days are more used to bag meals from fast food outlets than fancy meals from a high end restaurant. It would be great to go back to the dinning cars of the 50's & 60's, but those days are gone.
Separate names with a comma.