White Paper: How Amtrak Can Best-Serve the Nation’s Mobility Needs.

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, July 26, 2019 7:24 AM

alphas
I think Dave should be pushing hard to change the law that granted Amtrak a monopoly on Interstate train service.

About the last thing in the world he should do!  Only the threat of Government consequences makes most freight railroads tolerant of LD passenger trains at all ... let alone one run by and for 'elite rich folks'.  I cannot imagine the fun involved in trying to compel for-profit freight railroads, now thoroughly intoxicated on PSR Fla-Vor-Aid, prioritizing ever-faster flagship passenger trains in the ways DPM used to write about.

About the best that could be achieved is an operation like that Ed Ellis tried, inserting a 'mini-block' of special cars at the beginning or end of an Amtrak service (whether existing or 'new') and operating it within whatever political conditions that might impose.  (And we've seen, now several times, where that sort of operation goes long-term... but that's not necessarily the fate of such an operational model.)

I wouldn't expect Amtrak itself to embrace a CZ or Rocky-Mountaineer model of luxury train so long as it clings to that pathetic 'we're providing transportation' mission model.  And even if it were, expect a full (and probably somewhat creative) assignation of costs to it, and an assumption of full above-the-rail profitability -- I'm not going to say extending the 'soak-the-rich' mentality to that area of Government hegemony, but it might find some currently powerful supporters.  From what I understand, though, very few of the current cohort of Amtrak 'attendants' really know how to run such a train, and it would be necessary first to inspire and then carefully train them to have the esprit and attitude necessary to make the thing work as needed.

It's less quixotic to seek a return of the bar cars on Long Island commuter service.  (Or the building, supported subscription 'maintenance', and operation of some dedicated 'subscription' car for particular trains ... there are oligarchs enough in New York to make such a thing financially possible, and perhaps politically-well-connected enough to get the agencies involved to produce it.)  Forgive me if I don't hold my breath, or your beer.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, July 26, 2019 8:19 AM

If it were a business trip,  I'd leave a little early from the office in the Loop, say 4:00 pm, a typical event.  Get to airport in 60 minutes.  Catch a 6:00 pm flight.  If I  fly business class,  I'd eat their grub and some wine.  Hotel by 10:00. Depending on the in flight  food,  I might grab a light, late supper close by maybe in the Manhattan equivalent of your former sandwich shop.   In bed by midnight. No biggie.  Ideally I would try to leave the office by 3:00. 

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Posted by CMStPnP on Friday, July 26, 2019 9:47 AM

charlie hebdo
If it were a business trip,  I'd leave a little early from the office in the Loop, say 4:00 pm, a typical event.  Get to airport in 60 minutes.  Catch a 6:00 pm flight.  If I  fly business class,  I'd eat their grub and some wine.  Hotel by 10:00. Depending on the in flight  food,  I might grab a light, late supper close by maybe in the Manhattan equivalent of your former sandwich shop.   In bed by midnight. No biggie.  Ideally I would try to leave the office by 3:00. 

OK, so that is leaving the office early in my book as well as my boss's book.  My employer gives me a 2.5 to 3 hour travel allowance so they will let me cut that chunk out of my work day to travel where I am out of reach of the office and incommunicado.

As far as I know, there isn't any domestic "official" business class anymore.  Midwest Express was the last to offer it.    You can snag a International flight on a domestic ferry route like Dallas to O'Hare, Chicago to Dallas, Chicago to Miami on American Airlines and end up in Business Class seats on a 777 or 757 for the domestic leg but the airline calls it an upgrade and you do not get the service until officially the International Service starts.    Also the times are ridiculous and during the mid morning or early afternoon so really hard to fit that into a business trip.   My employer allows Early Bird Check-In and upgraded Economy but beyond that will not pay for frills.   Getting a 6:00 p.m. flight I didn't check but if the airlines offer one to NYC then fine.

Basically though your traveling from 3 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and lugging a small suitcase with you plus a laptop where ever you go.   Now some people on here say they would use SuperShuttle but being an experienced traveler I would throw the BS flag on that as well as a City Bus (they both take too long and it is the difference between frequently using them or once in a while).   Airport car is probably the most likely unless the specific city offers a direct van shuttle service for one passenger.    Your going to pay at least $60-70 for that in smaller cities,  have no idea what the charge is in NYC.     When I went to NYC they had nice Greyhound type bus service from the Airport to a drop off point downtown.   It was fairly cheap but then you had to transfer into a cab from the drop off point and combined it was not cheap.

On the NYC Dinner which I see you downgraded above.   Most NYC Per Diems will just cover a NYC Dinner.......then your on your own wallet for lunch and breakfest.  So unless your on a expanded sales tab NYC restaurant dinners are affordable but at a cost of your second meal for the day......and you'll need reservations to get into the restaurant.

At any rate, if there was a train with sleeper that got into NYC or DC at say 7:00 a.m. from a late afternoon or early evening Chicago Departure I would definitely take it over air.   Especially, if I was an independent billing consultant.    I could spread out a lot more on the train as well as be stationary a lot more vs other modes of travel and do billable work on the train.   The fare might be higher on the train but the income opportunity and rest time would be far superior than travel by air.    I would not need Wi-Fi either as most business cellphones offer a hot spot now and the coverage between Chicago and East Coast is pretty solid plus the cell phone is paid for by the employer in part and can multi-task (take phone calls while it is acting as a hotspot).   Many at work wonder how I can take the Dallas to Chicago Amtrak LD train.    Very easy, a large chunk of the travel time counts as work time via my hotspot (IT Mobility) and since I am a remote work at home worker anyway.....nobody in the office even knows or cares I am on a train vs working at home.   So I get a travel or vacation day but I can charge as work day.    OK with my boss if I do this, he does not care as long as I am working and available.   I could be on the beach at Hilton Head for all he cares.

It's not the same work environment or work world as it was in the 1990's.  Remote work at home arrangements and IT mobility arrangements have increased substantially and continue to do so with the current tight labor markets.   Which in turn will open even the slower trains to some business travel.    I don't see train use much beyond corridor and overnight though for business travel.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Friday, July 26, 2019 10:00 AM

Overmod
About the best that could be achieved is an operation like that Ed Ellis tried

For a time Randy Gardner or whatever his name was at WSOR (he was CEO) was courting the state to subsidize passenger train services on WSOR.    He bought the former C&NW cars in an attempt to make that sale.   He could have pulled it off he had the state contacts.    His girlfriend blew it for him though in a domestic dispute it leaked to the press of some of his...........shall we say illegal work arounds to land business and taxpayer paid for MOW work for the railroad.   

He used to be a former highway contractor and I am pretty confident that was OK while he was a highway contractor but I think he found out the hard way, railroad companies can't get away with that kind of political relationship.

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, July 26, 2019 11:05 AM

CMStPnP
When I went to NYC they had nice Greyhound type bus service from the Airport to a drop off point downtown.   It was fairly cheap but then you had to transfer into a cab from the drop off point and combined it was not cheap.

Carey bus from LGA; New Jersey Transit (was relatively cheap, but only relatively) from EWR.  Carey goes, or used to, right to GCT where the tunnel is; NJT to the Port Authority bus terminal.  Wise New Yorkers, of course, travel with minimal luggage and use the subway.  That's not something an average business traveler probably cares to do.  But you minimize your cab expense if you go straight from the 'nearest subway stop' to where you're going instead of in Manhattan (or Brooklyn, or other) traffic.  We're presuming you don't give a crap if you actually get there fast either by limo or other service because you're heading for a hotel, not the meeting, and even helicopter shuttle to the Pan Am building (I still call it that, and probably always will) or one of the heliports on Manhattan wouldn't be "that" much quicker and now impossible for expense account management...

Best way I know from LGA, whether you own a car or not, used to be to catch the Q10 and then transfer to the subway.  

 

On the NYC Dinner which I see you downgraded above.   Most NYC Per Diems will just cover a NYC Dinner.......then you're on your own wallet for lunch and breakfast.

Plenty of cheap, good places to eat in NYC for less money ... not everything is the domain of the overpriced.  We're presuming a little that, since you didn't mind waiting to get to your hotel, you have the time to leave it to go someplace with less cognizance of hapless 'captive demand'.  I suggest considering the University Food Market shrimp-salad sandwich (across the street from Columbia a bit south of the #1 116th stop) which is one of the best in the world.  (They no longer do the best hot-pastrami sandwich in the world, but there is a place a couple of blocks down that comes reasonably 'close enough' for me to go there when I can.)

So unless you're on a expanded sales tab NYC restaurant dinners are affordable but at a cost of your second meal for the day ... and you'll need reservations to get into the restaurant.

Surely if you're important enough to send to New York, you're important enough to have had someone make the reservations for you 'sufficiently in advance' if that's any real concern.  But the point's valid if you absotively, posilutely have to eat in a luxury facility overnight.  

The points to remember involve an expansion of mere 'train service' into more of a concierge "experience" -- the point being that many of the details don't involve all that much actual work even when multiple passengers need them.  If you have an actual good dinner on the train (not an Anderson special or commissary nightmare) that's one hassle you were spared; we're presuming there are enough alternatives at different price points, with implicit prequalification for expense-account submission, that your budget for dinner and breakfast will be met.  We're presuming that on arrival you can be met at the right time, with high assurance, by someone that will get you precisely where you need to be, on time, without a bunch of fribbling and waiting in a hotel lobby somewhere -- you go straight from platform or Amtrak Lounge to your transportation.  Same with coordinating your return.  This is far from being rocket science (if you're responsible enough to keep 'dispatch' aware of your position or any delays).  The competition could do this sort of thing, but they don't, usually, and on fine margins couldn't afford to keep the necessary QC attention on the execution.  Relatively easier, too, to coordinate one trip from a Red Cap-assisted point directly to your destination than to get transportation from airport to hotel to restaurant to hotel and then to destination based on what your hotel can find or the street provides. 

That most of this is counterfactual for current Amtrak service doesn't rule out that it could be done, and done fairly well, by the right kind of service provider, provided Amtrak gets the train as a whole where it's expected to be at a known time. 

And yes, the considerations of wireless access and room to work 'from home' are significant advantages to all the breaks in journey and accommodation involved in travel by air.  Provided confidence is high that you'll be at your meeting when you need to be.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, July 26, 2019 11:38 AM

CMStPnP

 

 
charlie hebdo
If it were a business trip,  I'd leave a little early from the office in the Loop, say 4:00 pm, a typical event.  Get to airport in 60 minutes.  Catch a 6:00 pm flight.  If I  fly business class,  I'd eat their grub and some wine.  Hotel by 10:00. Depending on the in flight  food,  I might grab a light, late supper close by maybe in the Manhattan equivalent of your former sandwich shop.   In bed by midnight. No biggie.  Ideally I would try to leave the office by 3:00. 

 

OK, so that is leaving the office early in my book as well as my boss's book.  My employer gives me a 2.5 to 3 hour travel allowance so they will let me cut that chunk out of my work day to travel where I am out of reach of the office and incommunicado.

As far as I know, there isn't any domestic "official" business class anymore.  Midwest Express was the last to offer it.    You can snag a International flight on a domestic ferry route like Dallas to O'Hare, Chicago to Dallas, Chicago to Miami on American Airlines and end up in Business Class seats on a 777 or 757 for the domestic leg but the airline calls it an upgrade and you do not get the service until officially the International Service starts.    Also the times are ridiculous and during the mid morning or early afternoon so really hard to fit that into a business trip.   My employer allows Early Bird Check-In and upgraded Economy but beyond that will not pay for frills.   Getting a 6:00 p.m. flight I didn't check but if the airlines offer one to NYC then fine.

Basically though your traveling from 3 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and lugging a small suitcase with you plus a laptop where ever you go.   Now some people on here say they would use SuperShuttle but being an experienced traveler I would throw the BS flag on that as well as a City Bus (they both take too long and it is the difference between frequently using them or once in a while).   Airport car is probably the most likely unless the specific city offers a direct van shuttle service for one passenger.    Your going to pay at least $60-70 for that in smaller cities,  have no idea what the charge is in NYC.     When I went to NYC they had nice Greyhound type bus service from the Airport to a drop off point downtown.   It was fairly cheap but then you had to transfer into a cab from the drop off point and combined it was not cheap.

On the NYC Dinner which I see you downgraded above.   Most NYC Per Diems will just cover a NYC Dinner.......then your on your own wallet for lunch and breakfest.  So unless your on a expanded sales tab NYC restaurant dinners are affordable but at a cost of your second meal for the day......and you'll need reservations to get into the restaurant.

At any rate, if there was a train with sleeper that got into NYC or DC at say 7:00 a.m. from a late afternoon or early evening Chicago Departure I would definitely take it over air.   Especially, if I was an independent billing consultant.    I could spread out a lot more on the train as well as be stationary a lot more vs other modes of travel and do billable work on the train.   The fare might be higher on the train but the income opportunity and rest time would be far superior than travel by air.    I would not need Wi-Fi either as most business cellphones offer a hot spot now and the coverage between Chicago and East Coast is pretty solid plus the cell phone is paid for by the employer in part and can multi-task (take phone calls while it is acting as a hotspot).   Many at work wonder how I can take the Dallas to Chicago Amtrak LD train.    Very easy, a large chunk of the travel time counts as work time via my hotspot (IT Mobility) and since I am a remote work at home worker anyway.....nobody in the office even knows or cares I am on a train vs working at home.   So I get a travel or vacation day but I can charge as work day.    OK with my boss if I do this, he does not care as long as I am working and available.   I could be on the beach at Hilton Head for all he cares.

It's not the same work environment or work world as it was in the 1990's.  Remote work at home arrangements and IT mobility arrangements have increased substantially and continue to do so with the current tight labor markets.   Which in turn will open even the slower trains to some business travel.    I don't see train use much beyond corridor and overnight though for business travel.

 

Everyone's employer is different.  So premium economy, I travel light,  and travel allowances give me flexibility on airport transportation. And I  know my way around NY.  My primary desire is comfortable sleeping  and for me that won't happen on a train or airplane. So a good night's sleep is what matters.  And I'm not "on the clock" in my work ever. 

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Posted by CMStPnP on Friday, July 26, 2019 12:33 PM

[quote user="Overmod"]

1. I think it is the Met Life Building now and that is behind Grand Central Terminal I believe which is Mid-Town Manhatten.

2. Not all the train stations are as dumpy as Chicago Union Station for nice eating places.   Kansas City Union Station has a real nice formal sit down restaurant called Pierpoints inside with a great steak entree and a Harvey lunch counter.

3.   Not sure I need a full service diner on an overnight train, snack bar or Bistro is enough.    I would rather the train depart well after dinner and arrive around 7 a.m.    As I stated earlier the Amtrak North Star to the Twin Cities from Milwaukee had an excellent overnight schedule from both Chicago 10:30 p.m. departure and Milwaukee Midnight departure.    Arrived at 8 to 8:30 a.m.? (my guess.....don't have a timetable).   Consultants usually expected to be in by 9:30 to 10 a.m. 

Too young at the time to take advantage of it and that timetable lasted only I think 2-3 years due to Minnesota funding being cut back.   The train had sleepers and a AmCafe from what I remember.   The locomotive was new, the Amfleet cars were new except for the sleeper on the tail end.   It would have been perfect for me for any business I had in the Twin Cities.   Too bad Amtrak does not keep decent stats on trains I would have loved to see what the ridership was for the short 2-3 year unmarketed span of the train.    Was probably pretty light as few knew it existed but I could be surprised.

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, July 26, 2019 3:28 PM

CMStPnP
I think it is the Met Life Building now and that is behind Grand Central Terminal I believe which is Mid-Town Manhattan

Met Life owns it now, but I still call it after the company that had it built.  There was a famous helipad on the roof with fairly large shuttle helicopters that was intended to wipe NYC's eye a bit at the time, by making the effective 'terminal' of long-distance flights into LGA (and I think Idlewild) plus no more than 20 minutes additional flight time to be ... immediately adjacent to GCT.

One building further back from the Pan Am building was the New York Central office building.  This was sold to an insurance company which very cleverly changed the carved name on the building by whittling some new grooves into the "C" and the "T" to make it read "New York General".  Then Harry and Leona bought it and slapped their name in big shiny brass over the top.  But it's still the Central office building underneath...

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, July 26, 2019 4:16 PM

In this era of renaming buildings and selling naming rights,  historic structures tend to be called by their original names.  Hence we still call it Sears Tower,  not Willis.  Ditto with Pan Am and many others. 

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