Skift Global Forum interview of Anderson

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by jis, Sep 7, 2019.

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  1. Sep 9, 2019 #26

    Devil's Advocate

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    Isn't that another way of saying it's Anderson's job? I mean who else are we expecting to sell the country on Amtrak?
     
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  2. Sep 9, 2019 #27

    jis

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    Indeed, that is so. I am happy that he is pitching to them, even though I may not be completely happy with some of the details of what he is pitching.
     
  3. Sep 10, 2019 #28

    Mystic River Dragon

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    jis, I agree with you completely. I didn't mean that such travel companies shouldn't be involved with rail--just the opposite--that they don't know much but need to learn and make rail an integral part of their travel media.

    I do wish it was someone other than Anderson addressing them, but you can't have everything.
     
  4. Sep 10, 2019 #29

    Devil's Advocate

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    The problem is that instead of selling expansion or defending current service Anderson is pitching voluntary contraction. Anderson's own words make it clear that long distance services continue to exist because Congress has tied his hands and that even with such demands he still wishes to abandon between five and ten current routes. Supposedly he wants to offset these losses with additional corridor service, but he never bothers to explain how he intends to work around the 750mi rule, which likely implies he doesn't really intend to work around it at all. Addition through subtraction, slashing our way to profitability, damn the torpedoes, etc. When someone shows you who they are, believe them.
     
  5. Sep 10, 2019 #30

    jis

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    Well, in some sense all of Amtrak continues to exist because everyone's hands are tied to its existence. That is what government is there for, to tie people's hands to do things that are for the greater good, that they may otherwise not want to do left to themselves. The real problem is that there is no clear mandate across the board from the people of the USA when it really matters to express such mandate. Individually a lot of people like their neck of the woods, but refuse to address it as an across the board issue. This phenomenon shows up primarily as a crisis in LD trains because those are the ones that most require the across the board strategic support rather than point by point local tactical support.

    I bet his attitude about the 750 miles thing is he does not plan to work around it, but intends to work within it. IOW there will be corridor service only where the relevant local body funds it. Otherwise not. As it turns out, there will be plenty of places where there will continue to be regional corridor service even if the national entity is wiped out. NEC for example will continue to exist Amtrak or not, as will most of California and Midwest regional service, and the weirdly evolving service in Florida and Texas, and pretty much everything from North Carolina to Maine. There will be very significant changes in who funds such using what means. And whatever the Congress chooses to tie people's hand to relative to intercity service will also carry on. I know. Scary! But unless the politics of this changes significantly, that is where we are headed, Anderson or not.

    Am I happy about it? No! But as you said when someone, and beyond that, a nation, shows who we collectively are, I completely believe them. Am I elated? Not exactly about all of it, though I agree with many of the subtitles in it. But Am I going to go into a depressive funk over this, No to that too. You win some you lose some. Do I make any sense? Maybe to some, may not be to others. But that is life.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
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  6. Sep 10, 2019 #31

    TiBike

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    Anderson is pitching services that he wants to redesign to offer to separate market segments. Amtrak's biggest market segment is customers who want to be transported between points A and B (usually involving a trip of a few hours or less) and want to arrive on time, in one piece and for the lowest cost possible. That's what the move toward more corridor service is all about. Basic service, basic pricing, basic performance metrics – that's what makes Southwest Airlines successful (and why I'm an A-list flyer with them).

    The 750 mile rule isn't such a huge barrier. It can be changed, but even if it isn't the solution is to add corridor service in states that value it enough to help pay for it. The rumor is that another train – San Diego to SLO – will be added to the Surfliner, and it'll be single level. Those axle count diners would be used as revenue cars, and provide a greater public policy benefit, basic transportation service.

    A smaller segment is leisure travellers who want the experience of riding on a long distance train – that's the experiential service he talks about and that hasn't been rolled out, or even defined, yet. I think he's going to chop that segment into two. One segment will be customers who are willing to pay the cost (including a reasonable profit) of a premium (however it's defined) travel experience lasting, maybe, three days and two nights. Service level and cost will be determined by the value the customer places on the experience, not by Greyhound routes and fares. The other segment will be leisure travellers who want a premium train travel experience at discounted (i.e. subsidised) prices, which is what Amtrak offers now and what railfans confuse with basic transportation service. Those travellers will still be served, but not on an on-demand basis – they'll have to watch for special offers.

    A diminishingly small segment is travellers who need to get from point A to point B, and have no other option than Amtrak long distance service. They can be accommodated either by bus service that's more conveniently scheduled and more likely to be on time, or via basic coach service added to experiential trains.
     
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  7. Sep 10, 2019 #32

    Anderson

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    I've heard about additional LA-San Diego trains (there are three planned over the next few year, probably worth about 400k riders per year to Amtrak) but hadn't heard about another train to SLO.

    That said, I do think it is only a matter of time before CA adds at least one additional LA-Bay Area train (probably to Oakland for logistical reasons).
     
  8. Sep 12, 2019 #33

    neroden

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    Incorrect. It's an increasing segment. I think this is a common error of analysis. Among people who can't drive long distances -- an increasing number of people.

    Spotting where this is an increasing segment is worthwhile and has not been done professionally, but it's happening along the Lake Shore Limited route quite clearly.

    Bus service is a bad alternative which is more likely to be late.
     
  9. Sep 12, 2019 #34

    Lonestar648

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    I agree bus service is a poor alternative and there is no guaranty that bus service will be running in a few years. Without bus service or Amtrak long distance, many citizens of this country would be forced to not travel. Unfortunately, communicating this to Senators and Representatives falls on deaf ears, at least my representation, it does.
     
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  10. Sep 13, 2019 #35

    Willbridge

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    Both the Denver and Portland Greyhound properties are for sale as Greyhound transitions to curbside loading. When the Clinton administration axed the Pioneer and Desert Wind there were three Greyhound trips each way between Salt Lake City and Portland. Now there is one. Ditto between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.

    In November 2015 there were two and I took the one that imitated the UP Portland Rose (two nights, one business day from Portland to Denver). The heat failed in a snowstorm in the Blues. Passengers applauded the driver after we negotiated several wreck scenes. At Boise a local mechanic tried to restore the heat, but decided a specialized part was needed. (My father, who has followed this subject since the 1930's was flabbergasted to think of Greyhound having crumbled so far that they had no spare bus in Boise.) Finally they obtained a good bus from Northwestern Stage Lines and the Greyhound driver piloted the Northwestern driver to Salt Lake City where the six-hour late trip was annulled. The schedule had left on-time from SLC to DEN with "the" spare bus. We were invited to sleep on the wire benches until the following morning. In the time since I've seen evidence that this anecdote is not unusually.

    Yes, some state and provincial governments are picking up the ball in various ways, but they are not as coordination-minded as Oregon and Washington are. It happens that long-distance trains can serve a variety of purposes more smoothly than a low-class bus line winding on and off the Interstate paired with air and new-mode bus lines that only serve larger city-pairs. It's fine to ask the states and provincial governments to assure regional service, but it's reasonable to ask the federal governments to tie the countries together.
     
  11. Sep 13, 2019 #36

    Amtrakfflyer

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  12. Sep 13, 2019 #37

    jebr

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  13. Sep 16, 2019 #38

    Devil's Advocate

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    What evidence brought you to this conclusion?
     
  14. Sep 17, 2019 #39

    Barb Stout

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    With regard to this line in the above article, "Regardless of your class of service, you’ll want to heed announcements regarding dining car service. The speaker in the sleeper car wasn’t functional during most of our Empire Builder journey, so we almost missed meal service a few times — even though we arrived well within the time we’d been told the dining car would be open."...

    During our last trip we discovered why I didn't hear the announcement for breakfast in our roomette. When the upper berth is down, it blocks the sound from the PA which is up high where the upper berth is. My sister who was in the upper berth heard the announcements, but I did not, although I did hear what sounded like vague whisperings. She ignored the announcements because we had a bad night sleep due to the passenger in the roomette next to us having a noisy and disturbing mental breakdown of some kind right around bedtime the night before.

    Another reason I missed breakfast was because we had gone from Central Daylight time zone to Mountain Daylight during the night, but the dining car was still operating on CDT even though we had been in MDT for quite some time. I was relying on my smart phone for the correct time and it updates the time zones. This was on the Southwest Chief.

    So those 2 things might be helpful to know.
     
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  15. Sep 18, 2019 #40

    Willbridge

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    One of the reasons Goldman Sachs cites for the "best economy ever" is that "on the policy side, trade, fiscal, and monetary policies have been excellent, working in ways that have facilitated growth without inflation. The Clinton Administration has worked to liberalize trade and has used any revenue windfalls to reduce the federal budget deficit."
    Goldman Sachs, March 1998

    One of the ways that savings were achieved was by delaying needed purchases of rolling stock. Amtrak should have purchased enough Viewliners to cover the Capitol Limited and AutoTrain. By discontinuing the two Western trains, the equipment crunch for long-distance trains was deferred till now.

    Postponement of capital projects was used in other budgets; I'm not surprised when it happens. The problem that this cutback confronts is that local governments all along the route were asked to upgrade stations and many did. And, the way things work, when a state or regional government wants to sponsor a regional service, they can't count on the national network for connections or shared facilities.
     
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  16. Sep 20, 2019 #41

    jis

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  17. Sep 20, 2019 #42

    jebr

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    Outside of the general complaints about Anderson, one thing that really stuck out to me (in a bad way) with the article is his strong resistance to using the OTAs. A lot of people start their research on travel with the OTAs, even if that's not where they finally book. If Amtrak's not on that list of options for intercity transportation, they won't be considered by a large portion of the population. There's a cost to be listed on the OTAs, but the increased ridership would likely be worth it.
     
  18. Sep 20, 2019 #43

    Devil's Advocate

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    This vaguely worded contextless statement of opinion does not provide any evidence supporting your implication that the Clinton administration was the sole or primary factor in the loss of the Pioneer and Desert Wind.

    The executive branch does not create actionable budgets or directly dictate which routes will be maintained or which cars will be available for which trains.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2019
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  19. Sep 21, 2019 #44

    IndyLions

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    Guess the rail fans here will have to stop complaining about Trump then :)
     
  20. Sep 21, 2019 #45

    Mystic River Dragon

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    This is the line from the interview that bothered me the most (I added the bold):

    The former Delta Air Lines head honcho credited his team, which has been filled recently with airline executives experienced in revenue management and marketing, for creating the financial turnaround.

    I have noticed something that many of Anderson's cuts and attempted cuts have in common, and I don't know if comes from the airline personality, his own personality, or just the financial cuts at all costs mentality. He has uniformly cut things--from good senior and student discounts, to dining car meals and good conversations in a nice setting, to even the French toast, and perhaps even double days (haven't heard a thing about that)--that give people joy and make a train trip pleasant.

    Essentially, he seems to want to turn Amtrak into a no-frills but high-priced commuter rail, but I think this will backfire.

    I would think that people who want a real "experiential" train trip would save up their travel money and go to Canada for the Canadian or the Ocean, where the passengers apparently get treated nicely, and there is still some class in how things are done.

    And I will be taking "real" commuter rail when possible instead of Amtrak when the timing makes sense--for example, I will make sure now that, if I want to go from ALX to FBG, I will travel on a weekday so I can take VRE instead of Amtrak. I would think that, if Amtrak keeps getting rid of discounts and services, that other people might do this, too, when possible.

    Remember history--that the first Amtrak CEO was an airline man, hired to oversee Amtrak's self-destruction, but failed. I think we have come full-circle, and this is the second attempt.
     
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  21. Sep 21, 2019 #46

    neroden

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    What BS. The "financial turnaround" took place under the Boardman and Moorman administrations and everyone who's been following Amtrak history knows it. All Anderson has done so far in his short tenure is hurt Amtrak's finances by cutting demand, and that's actually documented.

    I'm sure Anderson's trying to make his team feel better, but they haven't done one good thing yet. I wouldn't have *expected* them to have accomplished anything yet because he hasn't been there very long -- and they haven't, which is fine -- but taking credit for his predecessors' work is... scummy, shady behavior.
     
  22. Sep 21, 2019 #47

    ScouseAndy

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    You can't blame the bad stuff on Anderson and say he is taking credit for his predecessors work but in the sake breath say he hasn't been in post long enough to accomplish anything.
     
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  23. Sep 21, 2019 #48

    neroden

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    It doesn't take very long to make a mess. It takes longer to fix things.

    The financial performance of Amtrak is very clearly on an upswing since the 1990s; Anderson can't take credit for that, since it's a long term trend.

    Stupid stuff like yelling at US Senators and proposing idiotic bustitutions, that he can do very quickly.
     
  24. Sep 21, 2019 #49

    Devil's Advocate

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    Nothing I wrote absolves Mr. Post Reality from zeroing Amtrak's budget, engaging in high speed rail hypocrisy, or nominating anti-rail stooges to positions of power.
     
  25. Sep 22, 2019 #50

    Willbridge

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    In an ideal world all of that would be true.
     

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