Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak service’

Amtrak Looking Toward Post Pandemic World

April 25, 2020

Amtrak management is studying a number of scenarios for ramping service back up once the COVID-19 pandemic has passed.

In the meantime, though, the passenger carrier expects to lose $700 million in adjusted operating earnings as a result of the pandemic.

Amtrak Chairman Anthony Coscia along with new CEO William Flynn and Executive Vice President Stephen Gardner gave those assessments during a conference call with news reporters.

Amtrak ridership across its system has fallen by 95 percent and it has suspended 57 percent of its services.

Amtrak is receiving $1 billion in emergency federal aid and Coscia said that assistance will enable Amtrak to avoid having to tap its capital reserves and avoid employee layoffs.

He said that before the pandemic began Amtrak was “on track” to break even in operating earnings by Fiscal Year 2021 for the first time in the railroad’s history.

That figure counts as revenue funding that Amtrak receives from various state governments to operate corridor service.

Flynn said the carrier has been taking advantage of the lower ridership period to perform track work and other “critical” projects.

In looking to the future, Flynn said Amtrak officials are studying touchless technology at fare gates and changing some food service.

One idea being explored is enabling passengers to pre-order food and beverages from café cars.

Flynn said Amtrak expects it will take three months or more for ridership to return to pre-pandemic levels.

It is not clear when that clock would start. Some governors have been talking in recent days about easing social distancing restrictions on or after May 1, although some forms of social distancing are expected to remain in place either by mandate or recommendation.

Flynn said Amtrak has been researching various ideas of what the pandemic recovery will look like and have created several service plans based on “surveys of customer sentiment.”

In some instances, Flynn indicated, Amtrak will “introduce product ahead of demand.”

“We have to demonstrate to our customers that we have an attractive product that they will value when they come back,” Flynn said.

Gardner said Amtrak is looking at implementing new ticketing kiosks and text messaging to inform passengers where to head once they arrive at their station.

The downloadable schedules that have been removed from the Amtrak website will be reintroduced once services are restored.

Flynn said none of Amtrak’s unions have thus far shown an interest in delaying or giving up negotiated wage increases.

“But we continue to work with union leadership so they understand where we are in this crisis and how we are going to move forward,” he said.

Trains magazine reported that Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said 58 percent of onboard service employees are on an extra board that guarantees them 150 hours per month of work.

Regularly assigned employees are guaranteed a 180-hour month, so their pay cut works out to about 16 percent.

“Engineers and conductors have a 40-hour-a-week guarantee, but many of them previously worked assignments that included overtime, which has been reduced,” Magliari said.

Those Lost Little Touches

January 18, 2018

There was a time when Amtrak offered a number of small touches for passengers holding sleeping car tickets.

Notice this display inside my room in a Viewliner sleeper on the Lake Shore Limited out of Chicago in June 2010. The car attendant has left a printed greeting with his name.

Another touch was the artificial flowers and the chocolate mint. You could also expect to get a newspaper delivered to your room in the morning and a route schedule to be there as well. Back in the day, as they say, Amtrak even provided route guides.

Now all of these things are gone, victims of cost cutting and changes in service philosophies.

This Was Once a Big Deal

October 13, 2017

The image above is a newspaper advertisement from 1971. Amtrak was a mere seven months old and just finding its footing.

Now it had something it felt was worth talking about. It was the era when the company’s slogan was “we’re making the trains worth traveling again.”

That, of course, suggests that until Amtrak came along train travel wasn’t something you  wanted to do. That was true in some places, particularly on Penn Central, but not everywhere. Nonetheless, Amtrak recognized the public perception of train travel at the time and that it had to overcome that.

Although not obvious, the timetable that the customer service representative is holding was a major milestone in Amtrak history.

The first two timetables that Amtrak issued were cut and paste jobs with a Spartan design. The Amtrak logo was featured on the covers and nothing else.

But the November 14, 1971, timetable was the first that Amtrak actually designed.

Among other things, the timetable featured airline style city listings. Airlines in the early 1970s were held in high esteem.

If you read the text of this advertisement carefully, you’ll note the effort of Amtrak to market itself like an airline.

Note how the schedule change for the Chicago-New Orleans train is pitched in airline marketing language, e.g., leave after the end of the business day, arrive in the morning in time for appointments.

The claim that some trains were receiving “new” equipment is borderline deceptive. There was nothing “new” about any equipment that Amtrak was using in November 1971.

It might have been refurbished and the type of equipment might have been “new” to that route or train, but the equipment itself was far from new.

But this was where Amtrak was in 1971. It was trying to get attention, trying to build patronage and trying to reframe how the public thought about rail travel.

Sometimes it is helpful to see where you’ve been to understand where you are at today. When was the last time that Amtrak touted giving Chicago better train service? Yup, it’s been a while.

Anderson Discusses Amtrak’s Priorities

September 6, 2017

Amtrak has dropped the idea of reducing the distance between its seats.

Appearing on the CBS program This Morning, Amtrak’s co-CEO Richard Anderson said that the spacing between seats, known in the industry as pitch, will remain unchanged.

“One of our great advantages is that there are no middle seats,” Anderson said. “Our coach on Amtrak is much, much better than first class on airlines.”

Anderson is a former president of Delta Air Lines. The airline industry is notorious for its efforts over the years to reduce seat pitch in order to cram more passengers aboard its planes.

During the interview, Anderson said that infrastructure repair is the passengers carriers “first imperative.”

The next priority is better service. “We’ve got to clean up our trains, run our trains on time, fix the interiors of our trains, and grow our services in the regions that provide the highest level of service to the communities around the country,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the new equipment that Amtrak has ordered for its Acela Express service will increase capacity in the Northeast Corridor by 40 percent.

He did not, though, say anything about buying new equipment to replace cars used on long-distance trains. Some of that equipment dates to the 1970s. Instead, Amtrak plans to refurbish that equipment.

Increasing service frequency on some routes is an Amtrak goal, but that appears to be limited to densely populated regions.

“If we could get our train speeds up and operate more densely-populated urban corridors, it would be a great service to the traveling public in America,” Anderson said.

Boston LSL Passengers Riding the Bus

August 16, 2016

Amtrak is substituting a bus for the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited on Aug. 21-24 due to CSX track work.

Buses also are replacing the Boston section this week through Wednesday.

Amtrak Lake Shore LimitedPassengers bound for Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, Framingham and Boston (South Station) will board a bus at the Albany-Rensselaer station to continue their journey or board at their intermediate station if originating east of Albany.

The bus will not stop at Boston Back Bay station.

Westbound passengers will also board a bus at their boarding station except at Boston Back Bay, which is not being served during the time when Nos. 448 and 449 are not operating.

Back Bay passengers are advised to contact MBTA for travel information to or from that station.

Passengers boarding at Boston South Station  should go to the Amtrak Information Desk for instructions on boarding the buses.

Those boarding at Framingham will board their bus at the drop-off/pick-up area for the Track 2 platform (at Waverly Street).

Worcester passengers should go downstairs to the intercity bus area and board the bus marked Premier Bus.

Emporia Eyes Getting Back on Amtrak Map

July 25, 2014

Residents of Emporia, Kan., are pushing to get Amtrak service restored to their community. They’ve formed the Emporia Amtrak Task Force is study how to raise money to conduct for an impact study to replace a former Santa Fe station that was destroyed by fire in 1999.

The organization is discussing its goals with Amtrak, BNSF Railway, Emporia State University, and community leaders.

The group’s  member say that having a train station would improve the city’s economic development efforts by offering rail service to the elderly and students at nearby Emporia State University.

Additionally, supporters believe the passenger service would entice people to visit the city’s attractions and attend business meeting. Located on the route of the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief, Emporia has not been an Amtrak station for 15 years. The closest station today is located 60 miles away in Topeka.