Sunset losing Diner?

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by SanDiegan, May 13, 2019.

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  1. May 18, 2019 #26

    Willbridge

    Willbridge

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    I rode the SP Cascade in 1964 when it had an Automat car and it had a two-man crew that could not keep the vending machines working (vibration and power surges that conventional vending machines could not deal with). Shortly after, the NP introduced a buffet - cafeteria car for the Portland - Seattle Pool and it was well-received by customers. It also had a two-man crew (plus a third for clean-up on peak days). It was a lesson that helped me in my transport career: even a service cutback can be ameliorated by doing some new things well.
     
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  2. May 18, 2019 #27

    Anthony V

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    They should consider bringing back the 24-hour diner on the SL (which worked much better than it does now) and expand it to other trains.
     
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  3. May 19, 2019 #28

    Twin Star Rocket

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    The first time I rode the Sunset Limited in the Amtrak era it had an Automat car in the consist in addition to a dining car. That was in April 1972.
     
  4. May 19, 2019 #29

    bretton88

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    I could get behind this. It would be a good train to try it on.
     
  5. May 19, 2019 #30

    Amtrakfflyer

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    The V2 dinner would be a better set up especially late night being single level. One employee could do a very basic menu off peak hours. Burger, Veggie Burger, entree salad, chips, fruit as sides. The Superliner diner needs to have at least 2 people at all times with the griddle downstairs.

    Be a great experiment on the Capital/Lakeshore. Even the limited menu above would be an improvement over Contemporary dining. 2 employees (cook and LSA) for standard meal periods when most people would eat and then cut back to one employee 8pm-11pm. You’d have to have the LSA flip burgers off peak hours but the “cook” would do all prep work during the day. As far as I know even the burgers and veggie burgers are just reheated anyway. We’ve all seen snack bars with semi fresh fast food where one person runs the show it’s doable off peak hours.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2019
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  6. Jun 23, 2019 #31

    lordsigma

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    Nothing would surprise me on the SL. If my intuition about the current management is correct from hearing the full collection of statements made, I think they’d like to see the SL and SWC go away and replaced by some sort of limited corridors and focus on the CZ (and maybe the EB too) as land cruise routes with amenities superior to what is offered now. I think they see corridors as the future with SOME long distance routes that focus on the railfan traveler. Not saying I agree with that approach but I think that’s what they see. I think they see reducing the True LD trains to the markets that have the most ridership that actually rides long distances and focus the LD resources like sleepers and diners on those routes.
     
  7. Jun 23, 2019 #32

    lordsigma

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    After all in the most recent 5 year plans they directly mention that from their analysis the true market for the LD trains is people looking for the rail travel experience and people that don’t like to fly as opposed to people riding for essential transportation purposes (which is the reason those trains receive funding.) thus I think they see providing minimal services on most routes to fulfill the essential transport and operate true long distance trains with sleepers and diners only on routes that have the most revenue potential to get “experiential” travelers. Again.... not saying I agree just saying I think that’s what Anderson/Gardner and company are thinking.
     
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  8. Jun 24, 2019 #33

    dogbert617

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    Deep down, I always worry Richard Anderson and other Amtrak higher ups, would want to eliminate the Sunset and SW Chief. I greatly hope that doesn't occur, and to me eliminating those 2 trains would be a huge mistake!

    And on the note of Sunset experimentation, I often worry about the future of the Cardinal too. As like SL, it only runs 3 days a week. Recently I rode the Cardinal, and it really disappointed me how much food the staff had ran out of in the cafe car. Also it didn't have a full service dining car, which really disappointed me! If the former 24 hour diner on Sunset had cooked and freshly grilled items, I wouldn't mind Amtrak trying such an experiment on the Cardinal. Since I was really disappointed, with the food options on Cardinal myself. Maybe a few years ago the pdf still up on Amtrak's website was accurate about Cardinal menu options, but that is no longer the case today. :(
     
  9. Jun 24, 2019 #34

    MARC Rider

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    I'd like to see these "market analyses." According to the RPA, (https://www.railpassengers.org/site/assets/files/3435/ld.pdf) 70% of the passengers riding long-distance trains are going 700 miles or less, in other words, day trips, or maybe partial overnight trips. Average trip length is 500 miles. At 50 mph average speed, that means the maximum trip time of 70 of long distance riders is 14 hours. Intercontinental airlines have no trouble attracting passengers for 10-14 hour trips flying in cramped airline coach! Why should Amtrak be any different? At least the seats are more roomy, and you can get up and walk around, and you're not trapped in your seat when you're flying over a thunderstorm and the "fasten seat belt" sign is on.

    There were 360,000 sleeper passengers in 2018 as compared to 3.6 million coach passengers. (And I wonder how many of those sleeper passengers are redeeming points, as opposed to paying cash.) Seems to me whatever sort of "rail travel experience" Amtrak long distance riders are looking for, it's not some sort of fancy-schmantzy first class service. The vast majority of them are quite satisfied to ride coach, and I suspect most of them don't need gourmet food or white glove service, either. Amtrak is subsidized by taxpayer dollars, and in today's political environment it's a bit hard to get Congress to subsidize a "rail travel experience" that would meet the standards of Lucius Beebe. If they're going to do something like that, they're going to have to find a private contractor who can provide something like VIA's "prestige class." And to do it profitably to the desires of your typical American business, the fare would probably be something like VIA's $7,000 for a transcon ride or possibly more. I think most riders would be satisfied with airline-style tray meals and fares that are usually below $1,000.
     
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  10. Jun 24, 2019 #35

    lordsigma

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    I don't disagree with you (and apologize if I am taking this thread further off topic.) I'm just saying I think that's the way they're looking at it. They also talk about in the plan the fact that most riders are under 700 miles which is why I suspect they see going to corridor like service on many of the routes and focusing diners and sleepers on the routes that have the biggest market for usage of such amenities - the point of their analysis statement seems to be that from their perspective they get very few riders who take the train as their only available option - most (whether in sleeper or coach) are taking the train because they choose to (experience, preference over other modes, fear of flying, etc.) I'd rather see them not tinker with the network myself, this is just what I think THEY are thinking.
     
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  11. Jun 24, 2019 #36

    dogbert617

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    I'd suspect the higher ups like Anderson, etc. are probably all thinking along the lines of this. That like you said most ride in coach, and that there only are so many who upgrade to sleeper for those longer trips. And of course like you said, who knows how many people use AGR points to upgrade to a sleeper, or pay with those with a card/cash. Like you were saying lord, I REALLY hope Amtrak doesn't eliminate the full service diner car or do any crap like 'contemporary dining'(a la what occurred on Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited), on Sunset. Also, I'd like to ACTUALLY see Amtrak restore the dining car, to the Cardinal.
     
  12. Jun 24, 2019 #37

    Larry H.

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    This is partly deceptive. How many times have you tried to get a sleeper but no rooms were available. Routes that used to carry five sleepers now often have one or maybe two. So the amount of sleeping car passengers is reduced due to lack of equipment being run. A "rail travel experience" is not an airplane ride. A few hours with a boxed lunch may be fine for that, but spending thousands of dollars and perhaps three or four nights depending a diner shouldn't be considered as fancy schmantzy. I have been reading the "Dining by Rail" book which is very telling about how the companies felt about the diner. Yes it only covered about half the cost of operation. And that was with 9 people working in the diner in many cases. But they knew that the customer would be encouraged to travel on their line if the food service and other things like lounges were first rate. That has long since been forgotten, but people are people and still many expect to purchase a meal they can enjoy, not something just enough to keep you from starving.
     
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  13. Jun 24, 2019 #38

    Amtrakfflyer

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    With the devaluation of Guest Rewards points a few years ago I don’t think that many non sleeper passengers are redeeming points for sleeper travel.

    In other words you have to normally travel in sleepers to have enough points to redeem for a trip in a sleeper. Sure there’s one off’s like the 20,000 credit card bonus but the fact of the matter is sleepers can be expensive and or require a lot of points.

    The numbers can be skewed however one wants. 10 times more people rode in coach than sleepers in 2018. Some coach travelers only are going 50 miles and paying a fare of $12 and most coach tickets are under $100. It’s the revenue each brings in that should be looked at.

    An A-320 has 150 coach seats and 12 first class. More than 10 times as many seats are coach in an airliner, does that mean there’s no demand or revenue to be gained from the 12 first class seats? It’s about revenue for the most part.

    Anderson knows all this as an airline guy. Everyday it looks more and more like he’s an ideologue that just wants the national network gone.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2019
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  14. Jun 24, 2019 #39

    ehbowen

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    Well, if 70% of your passengers are traveling 700 miles or less, then the obvious choice is to axe all the routes over 1000 miles. Oops, now 70% of your passengers are traveling 500 miles or less. So axe all the routes over 700 miles. Oops, now 70% of your passengers are traveling 350 miles or less; axe all the routes over 500 miles. Repeat as required until you operate no passenger trains at all!
     
  15. Jun 24, 2019 #40

    tricia

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    Exactly. The relatively low proportion of longer-distance passengers just MIGHT have something to do with Amtrak's skeletal route map, lack of daily service for some trains, dismal calling times at many stations that have only one train a day, lack of same-day connections between trains in New Orleans, unreliable OTP, and thus poor connectivity for longer distance travel.
     
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  16. Jun 24, 2019 #41

    Devil's Advocate

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    Where I come from a "day trip" is a visit you can complete from start to finish in a single day. I other words, outbound travel and visiting and returning home again. Day trips typically start sometime in the morning and end before bedtime, but many locations only see Amtrak depart at night and/or arrive early in the morning. The Sunset Limited, which is the focus on this thread, only runs every few days regardless of the calling times in any given area. A duration of 10+ hours on the Sunset is not uncommon and it's more than enough time for me to sleep a full 8 hours plus have an hour of awake time before and after my rest, at which point I've only just reached my destination. After that I'll have no option to return by Amtrak for another day or two. I'm not aware of any place in the English speaking world that calls 3 or more days of absence a "day trip."


    In the context of intercontinental travel Amtrak would be the slow no frills cargo ship still trying to catch up to a 10+ hour airline flight that already landed weeks ago.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2019
  17. Jun 24, 2019 #42

    ehbowen

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    But, on the other hand, I've written of my May 2017 trip with a friend from Houston to St. Louis for a convention. This is a man who regularly jets around the world for a series of international space design competitions, but it was his first overnight train ride. He was very positively impressed with the trip...steak and shrimp for dinner in the diner, served by a conscientious crew (his comment, and this is an exact quote, "The airlines don't feed you that well, even in first class!"), a decent night's sleep, the opportunity to take a shower on board, a hot breakfast served as the sun rose along the Mississippi, an on-time arrival in St. Louis within walking distance of our hotel...

    If Amtrak could do that consistently, or at least 90% of the time (when I was in school 90% was considered a B-plus), they could count on repeat business from him and quite a few more like him (Edit To Add: Even with that horrid bus connection from Houston to Longview!). But I had to be honest and tell him, "We lucked out!"
     
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  18. Jun 25, 2019 #43

    dogbert617

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    It's really too bad Sunset, only runs thrice a week. Otherwise, maybe I would look into the Longview to Houston thruway bus, after taking the Texas Eagle south from Chicago. Ditto with the arrival time going southbound, into Little Rock(3:30am). Though I've considered the workaround of taking the CONO to Memphis, then Greyhound west to Little Rock to get around the issue of an odd arrival time into Little Rock from Chicago.
     

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