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(The New York Times)   Not content to lose money just selling train tickets, Amtrak manages to lose almost a billion dollars selling food. Fark: they lose 8 million a year to employee theft   (nytimes.com) divider line 92
    More: Asinine, Amtrak, Amtrak Losing, Northeast Corridor, Florida Republican  
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2515 clicks; posted to Business » on 05 Aug 2012 at 4:40 AM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-08-04 11:52:25 PM
Representative Nick J. Rahall II, Democrat of West Virginia and the ranking member on the committee, said the hearing was a not-so-veiled attempt by Republicans to get rid of Amtrak food service workers, who number about 1,200.

"It's a whopper of an idea, trading good-paying jobs for cheaper hamburgers," Mr. Rahall said.


For fark's sake, it's not Amtrak's mission to just give people jobs. If it was, they could just throw money out the window at whoever passed by. It's supposed to be a passenger railroad company.

And how do you lose a billion dollars selling food on a goddamn train? It's not like you can step off and go to McDonald's if you don't like what they're offering.
 
2012-08-05 12:05:22 AM
Unless they've hiked up the prices around here in the last year or so, aren't the cheeseburgers only $5.50? I don't know about the sodas because I usually bring my own.
 
2012-08-05 12:12:55 AM
Well they need better security if someone is stealing the employees!
 
2012-08-05 12:25:24 AM
Your numbers are a bit off there, subby. $834 million might be "almost a billion" but "$4 million to $7 million annually" lost to theft is not 8 million.
 
2012-08-05 01:34:02 AM
Well, we've vilified firefighters and teachers, so minimum wage railroad workers had to be next.
 
2012-08-05 01:43:32 AM

Bladel: Well, we've vilified firefighters and teachers, so minimum wage railroad workers had to be next.


No one who works at Amtrak makes minimum wage, including the food service people.
 
2012-08-05 04:53:45 AM
Republicans, do not fark with the best way to travel between cities. It is the only civilized form of mass transit left to us.
 
2012-08-05 05:24:53 AM
Is there any business where involving the gov't doesn't fark up everything and guarantee failure ?
 
2012-08-05 05:34:47 AM
While no one condones employee theft. The amount of the losses are the least of Congress's problem. The food is probably overpaid for to start with from some corrupt private contract to some constituent's company who is no now looking to privatize the whole business.

Fake outrage is fake.
 
2012-08-05 06:24:47 AM
Why is it always that years must go by before something is done?

It has also set up a three-person loss-prevention unit

That many? Gee, that's like the IRS employing another 5 persons to investigate billions of lost revenue. And then scrapping the program to save costs.
 
2012-08-05 06:54:02 AM
Offer McDonalds (or whoever) the opportunity to modify and operate their own railroad car then charge them a small amount to pay for the fuel to haul them around (linked to profits at first). Start it as a pilot program with one prototype car as a trial run. Make it a goal for it to be cost neutral to Amtrak in the long run and let the people running the car take on the risk and hassle of running it and reap the rewards if it works out. They already have brand recognition so people will know what to expect and there shouldn't be a supply issue.

Either that or just put in vending machines and microwaves.
 
2012-08-05 07:09:27 AM

Bladel: Well, we've vilified firefighters and teachers, so minimum wage railroad workers had to be next.


You forgot postal workers.

/But then, everyone forgets postal workers.
 
2012-08-05 07:22:47 AM
The same kind of people who buy gold from guys who are willing to exchange it for "wothless" paper money, vote for politicians who say government is useless for anything - so please put them in charge of it.
No critical thinking skills whatsoever.
And we wonder why the public sefvic sector (and consequently, the middle class) is collapsing.
 
2012-08-05 07:25:01 AM

insertsnarkyusername: Republicans, do not fark with the best way to travel between cities. It is the only civilized form of mass transit left to us.


It's the best way to travel between cities if the only cities you care about are New York, Boston, Washington, and Philadelphia. And it's hard to fark with something that's already so thoroughly farked. At some point it becomes "fixing."
 
2012-08-05 07:39:36 AM
The three bits that, taken together, made me do the Jackie Chan WTF face:

"The railroad's food and beverage service has never broken even since it was required by Congress to do so in 1981."

"Seven years later, Mr. Alves said, part of the problem with the food service is that supervision of the business is split between two different Amtrak departments and carried out in an uncoordinated manner. Neither has established goals to reduce costs."

"Democrats questioned the need for the hearing, saying the railroad was dealing with the losses."

Really, Democrats? Really? No need at all?
 
2012-08-05 08:16:58 AM
Plus they don't put needles in their sandwiches like the private boot strappy airlines
 
2012-08-05 08:20:52 AM
Amtrak's problem, I think, isn't the food service. It's that it doesn't have an extensive enough network to compete against both the private auto and planes.

If you could get from (say) NYC to Orlando in about a day more, for about the same cost of a flight, in far more comfortable conditions, I bet you could get a lot more riders. Add ability to get between the coasts in a reasonable amount of time, and you'd be golden.
 
2012-08-05 08:30:06 AM

Krieghund: Your numbers are a bit off there, subby. $834 million might be "almost a billion" but "$4 million to $7 million annually" lost to theft is not 8 million.


More than a little bit off. The $834 is over 10 years but the headline leads one to believe it's per year.

Bad subby! No cookie for you.
 
2012-08-05 08:32:56 AM

Cato: The three bits that, taken together, made me do the Jackie Chan WTF face:


If you can't make money from food and drink on transport, you're doing something horribly, horribly wrong. It's like running a brothel in a port and not getting any customers.
 
2012-08-05 08:51:18 AM

farkeruk: Cato: The three bits that, taken together, made me do the Jackie Chan WTF face:

If you can't make money from food and drink on transport, you're doing something horribly, horribly wrong. It's like running a brothel in a port and not getting any customers.


The problem, according to he article, is labor costs - so like anything with federal bureaucracy. It says a hamburger costs them $16 to make. Sixteen bucks. McDonald's can sell a burger for $1 and make money, but Amtrak can't make them for less than $16. And nobody is going to pay $16 for a burger of the kind of quality you can make on a train. That's just dumb. Their costs are inflated by a factor of 10.

Hard to make money that way.
 
2012-08-05 08:52:28 AM
farkeruk: If you can't make money from food and drink on transport, you're doing something horribly, horribly wrong.

A few years ago I took Amtrack from Detroit to Chicago, and the "dining car" consisted of a guy wearing a wadded up uniform that looked like he'd found it outside somewhere, and he was only open for about an hour. He set up a tray of outrageously expensive candy, sold microwaved sandwiches at a premium, and instead of using a register for cash transactions he had a cardboard box that he held the cash in and made change from. Seemed legit to me.
 
2012-08-05 08:57:35 AM
I see the Republican talking points are out early this week. Did someone take Monday off?
 
2012-08-05 09:02:19 AM
A billion a year to subsidize Amtrak is nothing compared to what we spend on everything else.

In a federal budget of $3.7 trillion, that is only 1 of every 3,700 dollars the government spends.

It's really quite an amazingly low subsidy. I had occasion to ride Amtrak a couple of months ago from Providence to New York. What a nice way to travel and stay off the highways.

// Amazingly low.
 
2012-08-05 09:04:27 AM
I'm as liberal as they come, and I agree that this should be fixed. It's pretty obvious that the people in charge of the food service didn't give a shiat about efficiency, quality, or cost containment. They should all be fired and a new team brought in.
 
2012-08-05 09:10:41 AM

Firethorn: Amtrak's problem, I think, isn't the food service. It's that it doesn't have an extensive enough network to compete against both the private auto and planes.

If you could get from (say) NYC to Orlando in about a day more, for about the same cost of a flight, in far more comfortable conditions, I bet you could get a lot more riders. Add ability to get between the coasts in a reasonable amount of time, and you'd be golden.


As someone who actually rides amtrak a ton, No. I have better things to do with a full day of time than sit on a train.

It works between NYC\BOS\DC\Philly because it is competitive with planes in terms of time. Occasionaly I take the train from NYC to Rochester (in fact I'm doing so this week). Price wise it is usually a few bucks cheaper than a plane, but not any kind of meaningful difference. say, 60 dollars for the train, 80 bucks for the flight.

By train it takes about 7 hours to get there. By plane it takes an hour of flight time. It also takes me about 30 minutes longer to get to the airport, another 30 to clear secuity, and then another 30 or so of planeing\de-planeing, etc.

So the plane still wins out. However, what I like about taking the train is even though it is longer, I can get work done on it, which is why it appeals to business folk.

The idea of someone taking a train between NYC and chicago or something is just silly. A plane will always crush it on time and cost, and you will have a choice of more than one or two a day.

As for the food, its surprisingly good, for what is basically cafeteria food. If they really wanted to make money, they would just put in a true bar car on most trains. There is something sad about sitting in the snack car drinking a Budweiser. If it was sitting in a real bar car having a nice drink though, I'd be throwing money at them my whole trip.
 
2012-08-05 09:13:06 AM

notmtwain: A billion a year to subsidize Amtrak is nothing compared to what we spend on everything else.

In a federal budget of $3.7 trillion, that is only 1 of every 3,700 dollars the government spends.

It's really quite an amazingly low subsidy. I had occasion to ride Amtrak a couple of months ago from Providence to New York. What a nice way to travel and stay off the highways.

// Amazingly low.


A billion here. A billion there. Eventually it does add up. There is absolutely no reason that train service in this country should be this farked up. Why does Amtrak sell food. Contract that out for chrissakes and join every hospital, ballpark, etc. in the country that has done so.
 
2012-08-05 09:14:47 AM
I've eaten on Amtrak. They don't sell food.
 
2012-08-05 09:19:21 AM

t3knomanser: I've eaten on Amtrak. They don't sell food.


The burger is on par with something from burger king, which considering it is just a microwaveable burger, isn't bad. Sure, I wouldn't take a date there, but it is edible.

The two reasons food service doesn't work on the shorter trains is that people can get better food before and after they board. If I'm going to be on a train for a couple of hours, why would I wait to eat until on the train?

On longer runs, sure, you have a captive audience, but I suspect those are the profitable portions. The person running the snackbar on the northeast corridor or empire lines basically stands around, moves a couple bags of chips, and sells a few beers on most runs. No reason you couldn't replace him with a vending machine.
 
2012-08-05 09:19:29 AM

Close2TheEdge: notmtwain: A billion a year to subsidize Amtrak is nothing compared to what we spend on everything else.

In a federal budget of $3.7 trillion, that is only 1 of every 3,700 dollars the government spends.

It's really quite an amazingly low subsidy. I had occasion to ride Amtrak a couple of months ago from Providence to New York. What a nice way to travel and stay off the highways.

// Amazingly low.

A billion here. A billion there. Eventually it does add up. There is absolutely no reason that train service in this country should be this farked up. Why does Amtrak sell food. Contract that out for chrissakes and join every hospital, ballpark, etc. in the country that has done so.


A billion dollars to help alleviate some of the congestion in the Northeast is money well spent.

Firing the union workers and charging $12 for a hot dog would not fix anything.

And ballparks and hospitals are good examples. Most of them lose money. Society loses billions supporting those boondoggles. Let's close them all down.
 
2012-08-05 09:24:06 AM
Fark: they lose 8 million a year to employee theft

If people are stealing employees, it's time to implement some better management controls.
 
2012-08-05 09:24:22 AM

LineNoise: empire lines


I do miss riding the Empire. It's a nice route, and a nice way to get into the city. Not as cheap as Metro North, and I still wish they'd figure out how to extent that up to the capital region.
 
2012-08-05 09:26:17 AM
If Amtrack still needs subsidys after all these years close down all the unprofitable lines. If there are no profitable lines close the whole thing down.

You can always take a bus.
 
2012-08-05 09:30:58 AM
That's nothing.

Just wait till California's new high low-speed rail system gets built.
 
2012-08-05 09:39:13 AM
Bladel:
Well, we've vilified firefighters and teachers, so minimum wage railroad workers had to be next.

The teachers have been self-vilifying - the complaint by the GOP has been against teacher's UNIONS for the most part. I've never heard a politician of any sort "vilifying" firefighters. Amtrak workers on trains are not - by any stretch of the imagination - "minimum wage."

It's also funny that the Republicans talk about cutting budgets in all sorts of unrelated parts of the government, while the Democrats start off with police, fire, and education cuts (because they know those are sacred cows for most Americans), to protect the huge amount of money spent on thousands of completely wasteful government programs - that tend to employ Democrats.
 
2012-08-05 09:43:27 AM

cirby: Bladel:
Well, we've vilified firefighters and teachers, so minimum wage railroad workers had to be next.

The teachers have been self-vilifying - the complaint by the GOP has been against teacher's UNIONS for the most part. I've never heard a politician of any sort "vilifying" firefighters. Amtrak workers on trains are not - by any stretch of the imagination - "minimum wage."

It's also funny that the Republicans talk about cutting budgets in all sorts of unrelated parts of the government, while the Democrats start off with police, fire, and education cuts (because they know those are sacred cows for most Americans), to protect the huge amount of money spent on thousands of completely wasteful government programs - that tend to employ Democrats.


It is amazing that, especially in California, the first and only place the Democrats look for budget cuts is teachers and firefighters. Every election, same thing "give us what we want or we got to cut those budgets first".
 
2012-08-05 09:44:08 AM
I hate Amtraks pricing.. In order to make an affordable Amtrak journey you have to schedule a week, to sometimes a month ahead of time because they less tickets that are available for the trains, the more Amtrak charges for the tickets. It's the stupidest pricing scheme ever and highway robbery.

Let's say I want to take a nice cross country journey from Philly to Los Angels...

Booked this week: $415.00 (one way)
Next week: $$266-312.00 (one way)
Three weeks out: $212-$266 (one way)
 
2012-08-05 09:45:56 AM

Close2TheEdge: notmtwain: A billion a year to subsidize Amtrak is nothing compared to what we spend on everything else.

In a federal budget of $3.7 trillion, that is only 1 of every 3,700 dollars the government spends.

It's really quite an amazingly low subsidy. I had occasion to ride Amtrak a couple of months ago from Providence to New York. What a nice way to travel and stay off the highways.

// Amazingly low.

A billion here. A billion there. Eventually it does add up. There is absolutely no reason that train service in this country should be this farked up. Why does Amtrak sell food. Contract that out for chrissakes and join every hospital, ballpark, etc. in the country that has done so.


Well we can tell these folks didn't read the article. It not a billion, its 800 million and THAT'S OVER 10 YEARS.
 
2012-08-05 09:55:07 AM

Barricaded Gunman: A few years ago I took Amtrack from Detroit to Chicago, and the "dining car" consisted of a guy wearing a wadded up uniform that looked like he'd found it outside somewhere, and he was only open for about an hour. He set up a tray of outrageously expensive candy, sold microwaved sandwiches at a premium, and instead of using a register for cash transactions he had a cardboard box that he held the cash in and made change from. Seemed legit to me.


Indian trains just have people who get on at a station with food and sell stuff to passengers and get off again. According to a friend, it's pretty decent fresh food.
 
2012-08-05 09:56:01 AM

insertsnarkyusername: Republicans, do not fark with the best way to travel between cities. It is the only civilized form of mass transit left to us.


Seconded. I really like the Amtrak Cascades line. Much less stressful than driving, IMHO.

/ wi-fi was broken when I rode it, however
// minor nitpick..
 
2012-08-05 10:02:53 AM
How does a $2 soda cost $3.40 to produce? Soda is freaking cheap. Do they sell cans or bottles or is it from a fountain? Either way unless you're selling liters at a time, there should be plenty of markup in that $2 to break even. Unless it is a quantity of sales issue. Then you've gotta come up with a solution to increase the amount of sales.
 
2012-08-05 10:13:33 AM

tenpoundsofcheese: cirby: Bladel:
Well, we've vilified firefighters and teachers, so minimum wage railroad workers had to be next.

The teachers have been self-vilifying - the complaint by the GOP has been against teacher's UNIONS for the most part. I've never heard a politician of any sort "vilifying" firefighters. Amtrak workers on trains are not - by any stretch of the imagination - "minimum wage."

It's also funny that the Republicans talk about cutting budgets in all sorts of unrelated parts of the government, while the Democrats start off with police, fire, and education cuts (because they know those are sacred cows for most Americans), to protect the huge amount of money spent on thousands of completely wasteful government programs - that tend to employ Democrats.

It is amazing that, especially in California, the first and only place the Democrats look for budget cuts is teachers and firefighters. Every election, same thing "give us what we want or we got to cut those budgets first".


Furthering the GOP Myth that there is a huge pile of "wasted" money just sitting somewhere in a closet. But local governments, like most businesses have their budgets tied up in healthcare, pensions and people.
 
2012-08-05 10:16:54 AM

Barricaded Gunman: farkeruk: If you can't make money from food and drink on transport, you're doing something horribly, horribly wrong.

A few years ago I took Amtrack from Detroit to Chicago, and the "dining car" consisted of a guy wearing a wadded up uniform that looked like he'd found it outside somewhere, and he was only open for about an hour. He set up a tray of outrageously expensive candy, sold microwaved sandwiches at a premium, and instead of using a register for cash transactions he had a cardboard box that he held the cash in and made change from. Seemed legit to me.


I was on that train 10 years ago... when that same guy was working the dining car.
 
2012-08-05 10:17:42 AM
Well when you factor in you are probably paying the guy who sells it to you 15 bucks an hour, plus benefits and a pension, it starts adding up.
 
2012-08-05 10:19:13 AM

insertsnarkyusername: Republicans, do not fark with the best way to travel between cities. It is the only civilized form of mass transit left to us.


That's exactly why they're trying to destroy it.
 
2012-08-05 10:23:05 AM

Firethorn: Amtrak's problem, I think, isn't the food service. It's that it doesn't have an extensive enough network to compete against both the private auto and planes.

If you could get from (say) NYC to Orlando in about a day more, for about the same cost of a flight, in far more comfortable conditions, I bet you could get a lot more riders. Add ability to get between the coasts in a reasonable amount of time, and you'd be golden.


I just went to CheapTickets.com & Amtrak.com & from New York to Orlando Amtrak is about $74 less & takes about 23 hours.
 
rpm
2012-08-05 10:23:21 AM

Radioactive Ass: Either that or just put in vending machines and microwaves.


Their "food service" isn't much more than that, with the staff being the vending machines. Take hot dog out of fridge. Nuke. give it to you.
 
2012-08-05 10:32:49 AM

farkeruk: Barricaded Gunman: A few years ago I took Amtrack from Detroit to Chicago, and the "dining car" consisted of a guy wearing a wadded up uniform that looked like he'd found it outside somewhere, and he was only open for about an hour. He set up a tray of outrageously expensive candy, sold microwaved sandwiches at a premium, and instead of using a register for cash transactions he had a cardboard box that he held the cash in and made change from. Seemed legit to me.

Indian trains just have people who get on at a station with food and sell stuff to passengers and get off again. According to a friend, it's pretty decent fresh food.


Yes, but it would be a huge security issue here in the US. But the stuff on Indian trains is pretty good- someone comes around with hot chai every hour or so, and then there's bagged chips and candy.


BizarreMan: How does a $2 soda cost $3.40 to produce? Soda is freaking cheap. Do they sell cans or bottles or is it from a fountain? Either way unless you're selling liters at a time, there should be plenty of markup in that $2 to break even. Unless it is a quantity of sales issue. Then you've gotta come up with a solution to increase the amount of sales.


That's what I'm not getting- buy sodas from Sams Club: like $.25 a soda, so hopefully the gov't is getting at least that price. Put sodas on train. Sell over ice. How can that cost $3.40??

LineNoise: On longer runs, sure, you have a captive audience, but I suspect those are the profitable portions. The person running the snackbar on the northeast corridor or empire lines basically stands around, moves a couple bags of chips, and sells a few beers on most runs. No reason you couldn't replace him with a vending machine.


actually, the article says specifically its the western long-hauls that are unprofitable.
 
2012-08-05 10:46:15 AM
It's like some of you aren't aware that being a Democrat doesn't mean that you have to defend every single federal government program.

/and not being a Democrat doesn't mean every single one is evil
 
2012-08-05 11:13:32 AM
What they could do is reduce the number of food service workers until the loss due to theft was balanced out by the reduction in staff costs. Lose 8 million in food? Cut 8 million in staff expenses. Eventually there might be a fractional staff but the theft would stop.

This is why we can't have nice things, farking thieving americans.
 
2012-08-05 11:17:37 AM
/Better get Chef Ramsey all up in that joint.
 
2012-08-05 11:40:41 AM

LineNoise: On longer runs, sure, you have a captive audience, but I suspect those are the profitable portions. The person running the snackbar on the northeast corridor or empire lines basically stands around, moves a couple bags of chips, and sells a few beers on most runs. No reason you couldn't replace him with a vending machine.


I don't think his 40,000 a year or whatever he makes is going to be what makes or breaks Amtrak, and it sure isn't going to put a dent in a 1 billion dollar loss.

For anybody that wants to know Amtrak's pricing, here is the menu for the Northeast Regional, which I've ridden 4 times: Link to PDF

The Acela express has all of this plus some additional items, similarly overpriced. I can't speak for the western long-haul trains, but I cannot imagine how they lose money when they charge out the nose for these items.
 
2012-08-05 11:51:52 AM

jack21221: For anybody that wants to know Amtrak's pricing, here is the menu for the Northeast Regional, which I've ridden 4 times: Link to PDF

The Acela express has all of this plus some additional items, similarly overpriced. I can't speak for the western long-haul trains, but I cannot imagine how they lose money when they charge out the nose for these items.



Similar pricing to airport food. About what I expected. I'm thinking if they're losing money it's do to shrinkage and the 4-7million per year is an understatement.
 
2012-08-05 12:04:24 PM

dofus: Close2TheEdge: notmtwain: A billion a year to subsidize Amtrak is nothing compared to what we spend on everything else.

In a federal budget of $3.7 trillion, that is only 1 of every 3,700 dollars the government spends.

It's really quite an amazingly low subsidy. I had occasion to ride Amtrak a couple of months ago from Providence to New York. What a nice way to travel and stay off the highways.

// Amazingly low.

A billion here. A billion there. Eventually it does add up. There is absolutely no reason that train service in this country should be this farked up. Why does Amtrak sell food. Contract that out for chrissakes and join every hospital, ballpark, etc. in the country that has done so.

Well we can tell these folks didn't read the article. It not a billion, its 800 million and THAT'S OVER 10 YEARS.


Sorry, but it is still too much. And I was responding more to the flip comment that a billion is nothing compared to the entire Federal budget. This is true. It still doesn't erase the problem of Amtrak losing lots of money on FOOD SALES.

Contract it out, or put in vending machines. Problem solved. The only thing that makes the decision difficult is politics and a misguided attempt to hold on to low wage jobs. I'm all for that, if it's warranted. In this case, sorry, but it ain't.
 
2012-08-05 12:12:36 PM
My problem with Amtrak is twofold. It's time, as well as cost.

Let's take a trip from Detroit to Orlando, for example. Starting with one-way:

Amtrak- 3 trains, stops in Toledo and DC, 39 hours and 30 minutes, cost $294.
Greyhound- 1 transfer, 28 hours and 14 minutes, cost $552 (includes return trip).
Flight- nonstop flight, 2 hours 26 minutes, cost $515 (includes return trip)
Driving- 19 hours, 33 minutes if I went straight, cost $170.

Now to get back:

Amtrak- 3 trains, stops in Toledo and DC, 42 hours, cost $294.
Greyhound- 1 transfer, 33 hours and 4 minutes.
Flight- nonstop flight, 2 hours 40 minutes.
Driving- 19 hours 14 minutes, cost $170.

On this trip I've created, Amtrak would take essentially 4 days out of my vacation traveling. I'd rather fly and actually be there.
 
2012-08-05 12:16:36 PM

LineNoise: Firethorn: Amtrak's problem, I think, isn't the food service. It's that it doesn't have an extensive enough network to compete against both the private auto and planes.

If you could get from (say) NYC to Orlando in about a day more, for about the same cost of a flight, in far more comfortable conditions, I bet you could get a lot more riders. Add ability to get between the coasts in a reasonable amount of time, and you'd be golden.

As someone who actually rides amtrak a ton, No. I have better things to do with a full day of time than sit on a train.

It works between NYC\BOS\DC\Philly because it is competitive with planes in terms of time. Occasionaly I take the train from NYC to Rochester (in fact I'm doing so this week). Price wise it is usually a few bucks cheaper than a plane, but not any kind of meaningful difference. say, 60 dollars for the train, 80 bucks for the flight.

By train it takes about 7 hours to get there. By plane it takes an hour of flight time. It also takes me about 30 minutes longer to get to the airport, another 30 to clear secuity, and then another 30 or so of planeing\de-planeing, etc.

So the plane still wins out. However, what I like about taking the train is even though it is longer, I can get work done on it, which is why it appeals to business folk.

The idea of someone taking a train between NYC and chicago or something is just silly. A plane will always crush it on time and cost, and you will have a choice of more than one or two a day.

As for the food, its surprisingly good, for what is basically cafeteria food. If they really wanted to make money, they would just put in a true bar car on most trains. There is something sad about sitting in the snack car drinking a Budweiser. If it was sitting in a real bar car having a nice drink though, I'd be throwing money at them my whole trip.


It is competitive with Greyhound in both time and cost. One of my occupations right now is truck driver and the industry LOVES Greyhound. I get them to reimburse me for Amtrak instead because the ticket prices are comparable.

Also, it costs $16 for a cheeseburger because they don't sell many of them. You can bring on your own food and many people do. I went from Indy to Salt Lake City and back again, maybe 10% of the passangers actually visited the snack bar. I sat down there most of the time playing games on my laptop and I was surprised at how light traffic was. McDonalds is cheap because of volume. High expenses are spread across thousands of purchases a day. When you serve maybe 200 a day similar fixed expenses drive up the cost per serving tremendously.

The formal dining car seemed full for dinner though.
 
2012-08-05 12:18:47 PM
MegaBus
 
2012-08-05 12:23:00 PM

Bladel: tenpoundsofcheese: cirby: Bladel:
Well, we've vilified firefighters and teachers, so minimum wage railroad workers had to be next.

The teachers have been self-vilifying - the complaint by the GOP has been against teacher's UNIONS for the most part. I've never heard a politician of any sort "vilifying" firefighters. Amtrak workers on trains are not - by any stretch of the imagination - "minimum wage."

It's also funny that the Republicans talk about cutting budgets in all sorts of unrelated parts of the government, while the Democrats start off with police, fire, and education cuts (because they know those are sacred cows for most Americans), to protect the huge amount of money spent on thousands of completely wasteful government programs - that tend to employ Democrats.

It is amazing that, especially in California, the first and only place the Democrats look for budget cuts is teachers and firefighters. Every election, same thing "give us what we want or we got to cut those budgets first".

Furthering the GOP Myth that there is a huge pile of "wasted" money just sitting somewhere in a closet. But local governments, like most businesses have their budgets tied up in healthcare, pensions and people.


uhhh, so why does the State government keep threatening cuts as if there is no other place to possibly save money?
 
2012-08-05 12:25:42 PM

insertsnarkyusername: Republicans, do not fark with the best way to travel between cities. It is the only civilized form of mass transit left to us.


Too late. That's one of many stories. The TSA is increasingly making sudden appearances at train stations.

That will only become more and more common.... right up until it's standard for rail traffic too. Mark my words. Then it will be on to searching highway traffic. Oh wait, too late! They're already dipping their toe in to searching highway traffic in Tennessee.

Relax your sphincters. It's for safety!!
 
2012-08-05 12:59:26 PM

Sword and Shield: My problem with Amtrak is twofold. It's time, as well as cost.

Let's take a trip from Detroit to Orlando, for example. Starting with one-way:

Amtrak- 3 trains, stops in Toledo and DC, 39 hours and 30 minutes, cost $294.
Greyhound- 1 transfer, 28 hours and 14 minutes, cost $552 (includes return trip).
Flight- nonstop flight, 2 hours 26 minutes, cost $515 (includes return trip)
Driving- 19 hours, 33 minutes if I went straight, cost $170.

Now to get back:

Amtrak- 3 trains, stops in Toledo and DC, 42 hours, cost $294.
Greyhound- 1 transfer, 33 hours and 4 minutes.
Flight- nonstop flight, 2 hours 40 minutes.
Driving- 19 hours 14 minutes, cost $170.

On this trip I've created, Amtrak would take essentially 4 days out of my vacation traveling. I'd rather fly and actually be there.


Why would you take a train from Detroit to Orlando?

I've taken it back and forth between Baltimore and Boston a few times. It's a 7 hour train ride on the Northeast Regional and a 6 hour ride on the Acela Express. A plane ride is only 1.5 hours. However, you have to arrive two hours before your plane departs from the airport, where at a train station, you can arrive 5 minutes before the train leaves. So, that ups the trip to 3.5 hours. Plus, you have to deal with the security screening process at an airport, plus the tickets are marginally more expensive. Lastly, I prefer the more laid-back atmosphere on a train. I don't need to worry about buckling seat belts or turning off electronic devices, etc.

So for me, I prefer the train to the plane to travel from Baltimore to Boston, and would for any points in between. However, if I was going further than that, I'd prefer the plane.

So, if Amtrak's main problem is the long western trains, I can't comment about those. But I can attest that for the northeast corridor, Amtrak is great.
 
2012-08-05 01:01:28 PM

mongbiohazard: insertsnarkyusername: Republicans, do not fark with the best way to travel between cities. It is the only civilized form of mass transit left to us.

Too late. That's one of many stories. The TSA is increasingly making sudden appearances at train stations.

That will only become more and more common.... right up until it's standard for rail traffic too. Mark my words. Then it will be on to searching highway traffic. Oh wait, too late! They're already dipping their toe in to searching highway traffic in Tennessee.

Relax your sphincters. It's for safety!!


I remember reading about TSA trying to get involved with Amtrack and the head of Amtrack's police force basically tossed them out from what I can remember. Amrack has their own methods and the TSA doesn't exactly have jurisdiction.
 
2012-08-05 01:02:11 PM

styckx: I hate Amtraks pricing.. In order to make an affordable Amtrak journey you have to schedule a week, to sometimes a month ahead of time because they less tickets that are available for the trains, the more Amtrak charges for the tickets. It's the stupidest pricing scheme ever and highway robbery.

Let's say I want to take a nice cross country journey from Philly to Los Angels...

Booked this week: $415.00 (one way)
Next week: $$266-312.00 (one way)
Three weeks out: $212-$266 (one way)


Compared to US Airways from PHL to LAX

Booked this week: $204.00 (one way)
Next week: $210.00 (one way)
Three weeks out: $140 (one way)

Train ride PHL to DC to CHI to LAX=75 hours (or PHL to CHI to LAX=69 hours) including layovers
Flight=6 hours, no stops

Always thought it would be interesting to take the train from Philly to LA. I think I'm over that now.
 
2012-08-05 01:38:03 PM

jack21221: So, if Amtrak's main problem is the long western trains, I can't comment about those. But I can attest that for the northeast corridor, Amtrak is great.


I wonder what would happen if Amtrak split itself into two separate financial entities- the northeast corridor and the rest of the trains. I wonder what the derp would be when the northeast corridor makes money/breaks even/loses only a little (it might take them awhile to get the pricing right), and the trains out to bumfark, indiana lose massive amounts of money.
 
2012-08-05 02:08:14 PM

jack21221: I don't think his 40,000 a year or whatever he makes is going to be what makes or breaks Amtrak, and it sure isn't going to put a dent in a 1 billion dollar loss


I'm pretty sure there's more than one guy on one train who holds that job.
 
2012-08-05 02:56:26 PM
jack21221:
I don't think his 40,000 a year or whatever he makes is going to be what makes or breaks Amtrak, and it sure isn't going to put a dent in a 1 billion dollar loss.

...except that the 40,000 a year (probably much more than that), time how many people who get paid for doing that job, results in an 80 million loss. The 80 million a year food service loss versus 1 billion overall is eight percent of that loss - and that's certainly a "dent."

Not to mention that the loss on food service only counts the food service cost itself - it doesn't count the loss caused by having to haul around an extra car just for food service. Most Amtrak trains are short - six to twelve cars - so removing the dining cars would cut service costs by at least ten percent without hurting revenues (the long-distance routes are almost never full).

They could put a couple of nice vending systems (like those multi-drink dispensers mentioned in another thread today), have a decent sandwich selection, and make a profit on the food for a change.

Set the space aside for the machines, contract out the service, and see what happens.
 
2012-08-05 02:58:48 PM

LineNoise: As for the food, its surprisingly good, for what is basically cafeteria food. If they really wanted to make money, they would just put in a true bar car on most trains. There is something sad about sitting in the snack car drinking a Budweiser. If it was sitting in a real bar car having a nice drink though, I'd be throwing money at them my whole trip.


My wife and I went from around DC to Milwaukee (via Chicago) earlier this year. We ate two meals in the dining car during the trip, dinner on the way there and breakfast on the way back. Both were excellent. Dinner was steak (actual, nicely cooked, high quality steak) and breakfast was crepes with ricotta and peach preserves. They were excellent. Also, free refills in the dining car, so we spent most of the last two hours relaxing on the dining car drinking coffee and watching the scenery.

The trip was awesome. It look longer than flying, but flying is like a living hell vs. a very nice experience on a train if you've got the extra time.

Also, most people take their own food and drink, which is probably one of the major reasons that Amtrak loses money on the dining stuff. They could easily make money if they were absolute dicks and liked screwing poor people by banning outside food and drink.

/Pro tip: take a hip flask; they won't care if you're boozing as long as you're not being a dick
 
2012-08-05 03:02:11 PM

jack21221: LineNoise: On longer runs, sure, you have a captive audience, but I suspect those are the profitable portions. The person running the snackbar on the northeast corridor or empire lines basically stands around, moves a couple bags of chips, and sells a few beers on most runs. No reason you couldn't replace him with a vending machine.

I don't think his 40,000 a year or whatever he makes is going to be what makes or breaks Amtrak, and it sure isn't going to put a dent in a 1 billion dollar loss.

For anybody that wants to know Amtrak's pricing, here is the menu for the Northeast Regional, which I've ridden 4 times: Link to PDF

The Acela express has all of this plus some additional items, similarly overpriced. I can't speak for the western long-haul trains, but I cannot imagine how they lose money when they charge out the nose for these items.


I don't understand this logic at all. The entire food service program is losing money hand over fist. That guy at the counter only taking money in cash and stealing half of it? He should be fired. The purchasers who don't have an inventory system to keep track of how much food they need to order? They should be fired. The management who haven't done shiat for 30 years about it? They should be fired. The whole system is broken, right down to your precious food counter worker. Fire them all (or at least put them on notice) and you put a "dent in a billion dollar loss."

If you worked at a company and stole money year after year along with your colleagues, or even if you weren't stealing but knew your colleagues were stealing money and didn't report it - you'd get fired. At no point would someone say "well, we're only paying him X a year, so let's not bother with it."

It's reasoning like that that let's Amtrak keep losing money on farking food sales.
 
2012-08-05 03:04:48 PM

Sid_6.7: /Pro tip: take a hip flask; they won't care if you're boozing as long as you're not being a dick


I had a terrible ride from NY to Richmond sitting on a packed train behind some 50 year old drunken idiot who was sharing two full bottles of vodka with a gaggle of underage college girls. They don't seem to care even if you are acting like a dick.

Don't try to light up a smoke at the back of the train, though. I watched them kick a guy off for doing that.
 
2012-08-05 03:05:08 PM

cirby: Most Amtrak trains are short - six to twelve cars - so removing the dining cars would cut service costs by at least ten percent without hurting revenues (the long-distance routes are almost never full).


You really don't know the difference between fixed costs and variable costs, do you? Does the term "economies of scale" meaning anything to you?

Maintenance costs do not scale in a direct line with the number of cars.

Also, are you suggesting that there be no source of food for purchase on trips that can last days?

jack21221: Lastly, I prefer the more laid-back atmosphere on a train. I don't need to worry about buckling seat belts or turning off electronic devices, etc.


It's been a while since I've flown, so I don't know if this is true for planes currently, but the train also has electrical sockets galore.
 
X15
2012-08-05 03:38:37 PM

Lsherm: jack21221: LineNoise: On longer runs, sure, you have a captive audience, but I suspect those are the profitable portions. The person running the snackbar on the northeast corridor or empire lines basically stands around, moves a couple bags of chips, and sells a few beers on most runs. No reason you couldn't replace him with a vending machine.

I don't think his 40,000 a year or whatever he makes is going to be what makes or breaks Amtrak, and it sure isn't going to put a dent in a 1 billion dollar loss.

For anybody that wants to know Amtrak's pricing, here is the menu for the Northeast Regional, which I've ridden 4 times: Link to PDF

The Acela express has all of this plus some additional items, similarly overpriced. I can't speak for the western long-haul trains, but I cannot imagine how they lose money when they charge out the nose for these items.

I don't understand this logic at all. The entire food service program is losing money hand over fist. That guy at the counter only taking money in cash and stealing half of it? He should be fired. The purchasers who don't have an inventory system to keep track of how much food they need to order? They should be fired. The management who haven't done shiat for 30 years about it? They should be fired. The whole system is broken, right down to your precious food counter worker. Fire them all (or at least put them on notice) and you put a "dent in a billion dollar loss."

If you worked at a company and stole money year after year along with your colleagues, or even if you weren't stealing but knew your colleagues were stealing money and didn't report it - you'd get fired. At no point would someone say "well, we're only paying him X a year, so let's not bother with it."

It's reasoning like that that let's Amtrak keep losing money on farking food sales.


TFA completley fails.

Amtrak had 49% cost recovery on food service in 2006.

That they've managed to get to 59% last year.
 
2012-08-05 03:58:55 PM
Good job, Joe Biden! Clearly more money thrown out the window will fix this!
 
2012-08-05 04:05:05 PM
Next thing you know, you're going to tell me that freeways aren't directly profitable.
 
2012-08-05 04:38:05 PM
Radioactive Ass: Offer McDonalds (or whoever) the opportunity to modify and operate their own railroad car then charge them a small amount to pay for the fuel to haul them around (linked to profits at first). Start it as a pilot program with one prototype car as a trial run. Make it a goal for it to be cost neutral to Amtrak in the long run and let the people running the car take on the risk and hassle of running it and reap the rewards if it works out. They already have brand recognition so people will know what to expect and there shouldn't be a supply issue.

Either that or just put in vending machines and microwaves.


I'm not paying for a sleeper car to eat McDonald's hamburgers.
 
2012-08-05 04:54:03 PM
I think the idea of letting some fast-food chain subcontract out food service on the Amtrak line is a solid one. But is there any discussion of the food in first-class in all of this?

I don't fly, so I took a sleeper cabin from Boston to Los Angeles one year. A sleeper cabin is an automatic upgrade to first-class, which meant I got to use the first-class dining car...which was free. (Or, at least, included in the cost of the ticket.) The food was pretty good, too.

When I visited the dining car for coach for some sodas later, it was like visiting a third-world lunch counter - a tiny fridge with drinks, a tiny rack with chips, a cooler containing some plastic-wrapped sandwiches that looked like they'd been bleached, and a cash register from the 1970s, facing five tables in Howard Johnson's orange, none of them bolted down properly. I can see why someone making a day trip might just pack a lunch.

Usually I'm not a huge fan of knee-jerk privatization, but I do know that it's possible to put a Subway sandwich shop or a Dunkin Donuts pretty much anywhere, as builders on One WTC have long known. Might be a solution worth looking into.

/DRTA
 
2012-08-05 05:01:29 PM
styckx
I hate Amtraks pricing.. In order to make an affordable Amtrak journey you have to schedule a week, to sometimes a month ahead of time because they less tickets that are available for the trains, the more Amtrak charges for the tickets. It's the stupidest pricing scheme ever and highway robbery.

Let's say I want to take a nice cross country journey from Philly to Los Angels...

Booked this week: $415.00 (one way)
Next week: $$266-312.00 (one way)
Three weeks out: $212-$266 (one way)

THIS!!! Went home for a family reunion 2 weeks ago, Phoenix to Appleton WI.
Amtrak wanted $850 round trip. 3 days. Bus to flagstaff, train to Chicago, train to Milwaukee, then Bus to Appleton.
Flying out of Sky Harbor-$900
Flew out of Mesa-Gateway on Aligeant for $420-booked 5 days in advance round trip right into Appleton.

They are way overpriced, and inconvenient for a lot of people-come on, bus up to flag then bus the last 100 miles too?
 
2012-08-05 05:46:31 PM
Sid_6.7:
You really don't know the difference between fixed costs and variable costs, do you? Does the term "economies of scale" meaning anything to you?

Maintenance costs do not scale in a direct line with the number of cars.


Not maintenance - but the entire cost of the train. Since the food service car counts for a higher percentage of the man-hours worked, it's probably MORE than the percentage of the size of the train.

For a train, the cost of the salaries of the workers is one of the largest expenses. Cut out the two people on that car, and the "sunk cost" of a train trip will go down a LOT.

It'll also help the scheduling - a high percentage of the times I've been on late Amtrak trains, the whole thing was held up by... waiting on the food to show up. Then, of course, there's the fairly linear fuel consumption savings and other little things - like not having to pay for the costs of supporting a whole different model of train car, having to add the cars to the trains (costs money for each one you couple in), et cetera.

You really don't know anything about economies of scale when it comes to actually operating a business, do you? You must work for the government, right?
 
2012-08-05 06:44:20 PM

MrEricSir: Next thing you know, you're going to tell me that freeways aren't directly profitable.


Not to worry, they lose money selling train tickets, too, which is a fair comparison to a highway. This is additional money they're losing.

Do liberals know how stupid they sound when they defend pissing away taxpayer money just for the hell of it?
 
2012-08-05 06:55:18 PM
On the AmTrak trains I have been on, the food service station is at one end of the car where the other end is the only bathrooms big enough to fit two consenting adults.
 
2012-08-05 07:34:07 PM

Lsherm: And how do you lose a billion dollars selling food on a goddamn train? It's not like you can step off and go to McDonald's if you don't like what they're offering.

Answer: You actually pay your employees.

Labor costs. They're a biatch.

Republican answer: privatize! Void all of those fat gubmint labor unionized contracts and replace with wage slaves. Like you just said...not like you can step off if you don't like what's being offered, so what do they care if the new employees are incompetent or surly due to being underpaid?
 
2012-08-05 08:04:33 PM

CreamFilling: It's the best way to travel between cities if the only cities you care about are New York, Boston, Washington, and Philadelphia. And it's hard to fark with something that's already so thoroughly farked. At some point it becomes "fixing."


You've obviously never been to Portland or Seattle.
 
2012-08-06 12:41:40 AM

Lsherm: I don't understand this logic at all.


That's obvious, because you completely ignored my post and inserted what you wished I had said.
 
2012-08-06 12:41:57 AM
The Acela serves alcohol.
/well there's your problem
//actually, just keep the employees from stealing it. I like having a beer on the train sometimes.
 
2012-08-06 01:58:51 AM

downpaymentblues: Well they need better security if someone is stealing the employees!


It's ok, they're insured - at 3/5s of replacement cost.
 
2012-08-06 08:44:39 AM

Ishidan: Lsherm: And how do you lose a billion dollars selling food on a goddamn train? It's not like you can step off and go to McDonald's if you don't like what they're offering.
Answer: You actually pay your employees.

Labor costs. They're a biatch.

Republican answer: privatize! Void all of those fat gubmint labor unionized contracts and replace with wage slaves. Like you just said...not like you can step off if you don't like what's being offered, so what do they care if the new employees are incompetent or surly due to being underpaid?


What this country needs is more Japanese vending machines.
 
2012-08-06 10:08:16 AM

notmtwain: A billion a year to subsidize Amtrak is nothing compared to what we spend on everything else.

In a federal budget of $3.7 trillion, that is only 1 of every 3,700 dollars the government spends.

It's really quite an amazingly low subsidy. I had occasion to ride Amtrak a couple of months ago from Providence to New York. What a nice way to travel and stay off the highways.

// Amazingly low.


whether it's high or low isn't the only issue, it's whether the subsidy serves its purpose. I'm assuming that the subsidy is to guarantee economical rail travel by not requiring that amtrak run at a real profit. However, food service is not a necessary part of the travel. Privatize it, I say. If someone else can run it at a profit, then that's great. If not, then maybe no more food service. subsidizing one thousand jobs to maintain an inefficient industry is not a good long term strategy. Plus, if someone else ran a profitable food service on the trains, then they would have to hire people too, so it might be close to a wash unemployment wise, all while increasing the efficiency of some arena of commerce and decreasing some taxpayer spending. Though the amount is small, that's why we have things like government accountability (it just sucks at its job and only wants to take on politically sensitive things to get media coverage). Scratch off the several millions lost to inefficiency from everything, and then maybe it will make a difference.
 
2012-08-06 10:08:49 AM
Seems obvious that Amtrak is just another example of how government has no skills when it comes to operating a business. The Post Office is another. If anything is obvious it's that government operated businesses are rarely, if ever profitable. The bigger the enterprise, the more money it hemorrhages. If Amtrak or the Post Office were privately owned, they would have to make a profit to survive. Even if they got some kind of government bailout, voters would never tolerate it annual bailouts for 30 or 40 yrs - which is about how long these stories about Amtrak and the Post Office's deficits have been reported. Yet year after year, they are handed more tax dollars to waste under the guise of being a vital service that can only be provided by government. And year after year, someone says something like "well it's ONLY a BILLION Dollars - which is infinitesimal as a portion of the national budget" as if that makes it ok.

The question is, with the mountains of evidence out there,proving they can't do it, why would anyone continue to defend government operation of business - or want to give them more control over private enterprise?
 
2012-08-06 10:25:07 AM

Cato: supervision of the business is split between two different Amtrak departments


So each one can blame the other for lack of supervision? Brilliant!
 
2012-08-06 10:31:44 AM

BlameBush: The question is, with the mountains of evidence out there,proving they can't do it, why would anyone continue to defend government operation of business - or want to give them more control over private enterprise?


the argument is that sometimes the service is more valuable to the country than the profitability of the service.

For example, the post office is in the constitution. The founders thought an affordable postal service was so important that they put it in the constitution. it doesn't matter if it's profitable, it matters that people can afford to use it. These is because it serves a public interest. the delivery of information is critical. It is thought that cheap postal service, provided below cost, will ultimately help commerce on a national level that raises more overall taxable revenue than would be raised running the USPS as commercial carrier service. Keep in mind, the government gets all profits, not just one industry's, so it doesn't mind losing some change over here to pick up bigger returns over there.

likewise, rail service is critical to the mobility of our citizens. if it was required to run at a profit, the fear is that the ticket prices would increase or service would decrease. the public good of mobility is arguably more important than the profitability of rail service.

however, food service seems exceptionally ancillary, and serves no public good. So, it should be private. or, at least profitable, to offset the subsidy to the rail service provider.

not everything is for immediate profits. these government services exist to help interstate commerce overall. the real problem is that there is no political motivation to be efficient. But, there is no private motivation to undercharge for services. So, both directions have problems. with careful scrutiny, maybe the appropriate solution can be found... but that's not going to happen in this country. we don't like anything that's non-polarizing.
 
2012-08-06 11:47:20 AM
pute kisses like a man

BlameBush:
The question is, with the mountains of evidence out there,proving they can't do it, why would anyone continue to defend government operation of business - or want to give them more control over private enterprise?

The argument is that sometimes the service is more valuable to the country than the profitability of the service.

For example, the post office is in the constitution. The founders thought an affordable postal service was so important that they put it in the constitution. it doesn't matter if it's profitable, it matters that people can afford to use it. These is because it serves a public interest. the delivery of information is critical. It is thought that cheap postal service, provided below cost, will ultimately help commerce on a national level that raises more overall taxable revenue than would be raised running the USPS as commercial carrier service. Keep in mind, the government gets all profits, not just one industry's, so it doesn't mind losing some change over here to pick up bigger returns over there


One could argue that the postal service's role in national commerce is shrinking, so the added value of increased tax revenues generated is commensurately smaller. In fact, overall demand for Postal Service is dwindling -across the entire spectrum postal customers, As time goes on, they will become less and less necessary. With reduced demand, it would seem they need to look at their model and find ways to rein in costs - whether it is with less employees, less postal stations, more efficient ways of moving the mail or reduced services - none of which are going to be palatable to the electorate. As a private business, there is no obligation to anything but your customers and your bottom line. So while I see your point, they are in a very unsustainable long term position if things continue on their current track. At what point does the benefit cease to outweigh the cost?

Likewise, rail service is critical to the mobility of our citizens. if it was required to run at a profit, the fear is that the ticket prices would increase or service would decrease. the public good of mobility is arguably more important than the profitability of rail service

Locally operated rail systems are critical because of their benefits in reducing traffic, road building costs and harmful emissions, but I would argue how critical a national passenger rail service is. There are parts of the country with high usage rates where the service is a benefit reasons already mentioned. Those routes are well used and probably self sustaining, But that's vastly different on a national level. 100 years ago one would probably take a train between coasts or sections of the country as a necessity. Now that service is one of many options, so it is not critical.

i>However, food service seems exceptionally ancillary, and serves no public good. So, it should be private. or, at least profitable, to offset the subsidy to the rail service provider.

Agreed

Not everything is for immediate profits. These government services exist to help interstate commerce overall. The question is: "Do they, and if so at what point does the cost/benefit ratio tilt too much toward cost so that the benefit becomes expendable?" The real problem is that there is no political motivation to be efficient. But,there is no private motivation to undercharge for services. So, both directions have problems. With careful scrutiny, maybe the appropriate solution can be found... but that's not going to happen in this country. we don't like anything that's non-polarizing. Well put.
 
2012-08-06 12:16:38 PM

CreamFilling: insertsnarkyusername: Republicans, do not fark with the best way to travel between cities. It is the only civilized form of mass transit left to us.

It's the best way to travel between cities if the only cities you care about are New York, Boston, Washington, and Philadelphia. And it's hard to fark with something that's already so thoroughly farked. At some point it becomes "fixing."


This. It's faster to drive Detroit to Chicago then it is to take the train.
 
2012-08-06 12:28:01 PM
insertsnarkyusername

Republicans, do not fark with the best way to travel between cities. It is the only civilized form of mass transit left to us.

.. and the rest of society should pay for your ticket. *rolls eyes*
 
2012-08-06 12:31:17 PM

Lsherm: For fark's sake, it's not Amtrak's mission to just give people jobs. If it was, they could just throw money out the window at whoever passed by. It's supposed to be a passenger railroad company.

And how do you lose a billion dollars selling food on a goddamn train? It's not like you can step off and go to McDonald's if you don't like what they're offering.


You lose it by requiring that it be overpacked to 'prevent spillage' and that it last for weeks possibly and be ready to serve in minutes.

In short, you require that it be highly processed. It's not like Amtrak could pick up food on its routes ... oh wait, it could.

Additionally in order to achieve 'volume discounting' it required that the food be centrally delivered and then shipped AGAIN.

Most places that Amtrak runs it could buy farm produce and baked goods on the way. Yes, it would require on-train prep, but ... I bet a bakery right next to the train station would love a contract for 100 croissants per day. These are the croissants that cost 50 cents each. Sell for 1$, PROFIT!

Additionally, I have never been on a Boston-bound train that wasn't completely destroyed of food by the time it hit new haven.

Can you imagine that ?
 
2012-08-06 01:18:43 PM
I'm pretty much obligated to post since I got back from a vacation yesterday which I used the train for transportation on a regional-ish basis. (charleston sc to orlando)

The main comparison would be to driving. If you live in a city with a rail line and are going to a place that line connects to, then it is awesome. If you are going somewhere that would require a transfer and layover then it sucks the rustiest balls. If you are going with multiple people then the fixed cost of gas goes down in a way that a rail ticket can't compete with. When driving you can't relax or sleep or get work done you need to be paying attention to the road the whole time.

Then compare to flying. If you need speed, then no shiat flight is going to be better except for shorter regional trips. Nobody biatch-searched my stuff on the train. Nobody wanted to irradiate me or touch my balls. The seat was huge and comfortable. No bullshiat safety lecture. For much of the time it was so good I could almost forget that the train was run by the government; if someone could find some profitable routes and bring back a private sector rail service then there is the potential for it to be fantastic.
 
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