The March issue of TRAINS had an interesting article entitled, "Reinventing the California Zephyr". The article included interviews with Brad Swartzwelter, an Amtrak conductor on the Calif. Zephyr, and Brian Rosenwald, who was involved with enhancing the passenger experience on the Coast Starlight and the Empire Builder.
Among things suggested are revamping dining car menus to include lower priced options and to include local food choices such as Rocky Mountain trout on the Zephyr. Lower sleeping car costs but eliminate "gratuity" meals as part of sleeping car fares. Introduce a train manager responsible for revenue, costs, and services. Add greater Sightseer Lounge space and add Cross Country Cafes for coach passengers. Rosenwald mentioned that, with the EB, the idea was that you could absorb cost increases, for example a cost increase of 4%, if you could improve revenue by 8%. The Empire Builder, before Rosenwald left, had a revenue increase of 12%.
The article points out that a passenger willing to pay over $1000 for a bedroom on the Starlight, LA to Seattle, represents a potential that could be tapped for the gratification of both the passenger and Amtrak. Even if that passenger might be "experiential".
It will be interesting to see William Flynn's opinion of the 3 "experiential" trains, when Flynn takes the helm. Will he continue to see them only as touristy, cruise trains? Even so, I have to think he would be in an upgrade frame of mind. If the trains continue in their present state, I think, then, that the survey at the end of the passenger journey will only have the "never again" box checked.
If the CS, EB, and CZ remain the same as far as amenities, food, and services are concerned, maybe it would be better if they all fell into the abyss. However, concerning the marketing potential and scenery along the 3 train routes, I think it might be just a matter of time before Marriott Hotels and Bill Gates would get into the train excursion business.
Richard, you close noting a pertinent thought. Why isn't the private sector in the experiential train business?
I think we all know they have been - and with NO degree of success. How could Amtrak ever expect "massah" to fund such? True, they do in Canada, but, with tourism being much greater chunk of the GNP than here, the travel industry finds the door in Ottawa opens a might bit faster than it does in Wash.
But I think The Canadian is not long for this world. The "two a week" frequency, and "it shows up when it shows up" means it is useless for anyone needing to get from, say, Portage la Prairie to Saskatoon. The tour business will also dry up when the operators realize they had best not schedule anything, like a cruise or a flight home, based on its timekeeping.
And the equipment, there are museum pieces newer than The Canadian.
Bottom line; don't expect a change in attitude towards the Amtrak LD's. At such time they're re-equipped, don't expect Lounges or bi-level equipment, but rather cars that can easily be converted to Corridor use (two vestibules, case in point). For if the opportunity presents itself to whack one, One Mass will be quick to call Tony Soprano.
Posts: 9448 | From: Clarendon Hills, IL USA (BNSF Chicago Sub MP 18.71) | Registered: Apr 2002
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