last (or only) US commuter agencies to have classed service

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dt_rt40
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last (or only) US commuter agencies to have classed service

Post by dt_rt40 » Sun Sep 08, 2013 5:56 pm

I thought of asking this under the "best agency" thread, but it's really only tangentially related. I've ridden commuter trains in SE England and, as far as I know, most of them have always had 1st & 2nd class service. For example, today in 2013, if you want a monthly ticket from Reigate, Surrey, to London, you can get a monthly 2nd for about $380 and a monthly first for $560. These figures seem high, but, generally speaking, almost everything is more expensive in the UK/Europe. Reigate to London is about 20 miles or Garden City to Penn Station, the monthly fare for which is "only" $242. My question: has any North American commuter rail agency had first & second class service, ever? Public or private, although they are obviously all public now. BTW not counting private "commuter club cars" which are obviously a different beast entirely. For example I wonder, surely when the Penn RR was operating commuter trains from say Princeton or New Brunswick to NYC, there was a first class option? My very broad definition of a commuter service would be: indefinite, unreserved ticketing available - either something like a 10 trip ticket or a monthly one - AND - is in widespread trade/use. Amtrak, I believe, will sell you a monthly or multi-trip ticket from Philly to NYC, even on Acela, but presumably they cost a fortune and only a very few people buy them. Thus we certainly wouldn't call Amtrak, whether regional or Acela, a first-class commuter service, though if you really want the option, it's there along a handful of corridors. (always wondered if Amtrak cut Senator Biden a deal) BTW when I ride a regional from Aberdeen to DC using my MARC monthly, it certainly seems at the time like the best commuter train service in the country to me. (snigger snigger)

(NB that the size of NYC's commuter rail network reaches out further than the equivalent in the UK; from Montauk to NYC is 115 miles. That would be roughly Bristol to London, which was obviously never considered a commuter-only corridor there. And btw, yes, I did search for prior threads on this...maybe not hard enough...but I didn't find anything. Montauk to NYC must surely be one of the world's longest true commuter-only train corridors. It seems like any similar route in Europe or Asia would also have supra-regional trains with classed service.)

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Re: last (or only) US commuter agencies to have classed serv

Post by CarterB » Sun Sep 08, 2013 6:22 pm

LIRR for years into IIRC the 1980s had parlor car service on several lines. I believe the SP had parlor service on at least one of their lines in bay area. Wayyyyyyyy back, several of the interurban lines had excellent parlor car service, including the Illinois Terminal, Indiana RR, and even somewhat recently the Red Arrow Norristown line in Philly ran the Electroliners bought from the North Shore electric lines.
Not sure whether the PRR "clockers" from Philly to NYC had parlors, perhaps. The Reading had parlor service Philly to NY on the Crusader. CNJ had parlor service on some of it's longer commuter routes.
Last edited by CarterB on Sun Sep 08, 2013 6:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: last (or only) US commuter agencies to have classed serv

Post by lirr42 » Sun Sep 08, 2013 6:34 pm

The LIRR still has the Hamptons Reserve service on its summer Cannonball train. For an extra $20 you are guaranteed a seat in the Hamptons Reserve cars plus you get access to the bar car. The seats are nothing different though...they are normal 2x2 C3 seats just with cupholders and a couple center seats removed for luggage storage.

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Re: last (or only) US commuter agencies to have classed serv

Post by Patrick Boylan » Sun Sep 08, 2013 9:26 pm

CarterB, the Red Arrow Liberty Liners did not charge a special fare, so I don't think they count as a separate service class.

dt_rt40
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Re: last (or only) US commuter agencies to have classed serv

Post by dt_rt40 » Sun Sep 08, 2013 10:02 pm

Thanks for the leads. I knew about the Hamptons Reserve trains (aka "Cannonball", right?) but I think for a number of obvious reasons it doesn't exactly qualify as a true 1st class service.
CarterB, was "parlor car" the typical parlance used to designate the upper level of class in the US, on day or commuter trains?
I'm still trying to figure out whether Tokyo's vast commuter rail network has a 1st class of service distinctive from the long distance trains on the same lines. It seems like the only place that might still have it besides the English. Apparently the egalitarian french never had 1st class on the RER trains, though, compared to the former "network southeast" in the environs of London, that's more thought of as an extension to the metro. I myself observed the very close headways those trains have the last time I was there...they seemed to be coming as fast or faster as WMATA trains on the Red line rush hour.

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Re: last (or only) US commuter agencies to have classed serv

Post by lirr42 » Sun Sep 08, 2013 10:25 pm

I'd say that there would probably be no separate classes of travel in any public railroads that exist today. To find any distinct commuter classes you'll have to go all the way back to the days when private companies operated commuter lines.

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Re: last (or only) US commuter agencies to have classed serv

Post by CarterB » Mon Sep 09, 2013 11:30 am

dt_rt40 wrote:T
CarterB, was "parlor car" the typical parlance used to designate the upper level of class in the US, on day or commuter trains?
Yes, parlor car service in the US was the daytime/short run version of 1st Class. Many, if not most, had plush single swivel seats along each side of the car. Some longer daytime runs used bedrooms, roomettes, drawing rooms as first class 'sitting rooms' during the day. As did some open section pullman runs.
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Re: last (or only) US commuter agencies to have classed serv

Post by Patrick Boylan » Mon Sep 09, 2013 11:37 am

In one of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rogers_E._M._Whitaker" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; Frimbo books or articles I remember he mentioned Amtrak changing the name from Parlor to Club car, and his comment that he spent many pleasant times in parlors and clubs, and so had no objection to either designation.

ExCon90
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Re: last (or only) US commuter agencies to have classed serv

Post by ExCon90 » Mon Sep 09, 2013 12:39 pm

The PRR clockers between New York and Philadelphia all had parlor cars (and diners) but were primarily considered intercity trains; the spread of population west of New Brunswick didn't really take off (as nearly as I recall) until about the 1960s, by which time things were getting pretty tatty and the parlor cars were not long for this world (at least in that service). The New Haven had parlor cars on many trains that were probably used by commuters. In Europe, the Paris RER had 1st class from the beginning, but it was discontinued (I think under the Mitterrand government). The S-Bahn operations in Berlin and Hamburg had 1st class, as did the new postwar S-Bahnen in Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Munich, and elsewhere -- I think all of it has since been phased out, although Hamburg's lasted at least into the 1980s, and in quite a generous ratio. On 6-car trains, the 2nd and 5th cars were all 1st class. I think Belgium and the Netherlands still have 1st class on almost all services, although it's hard to tell where commuter travel leaves off and intercity begins. Switzerland also has 1st class on most if not all local services. Getting back to the clockers, I don't know whether the PRR offered monthly 1st-class commuter tickets or required a regular round-trip fare each time (a 1st-class rail ticket was always required on the PRR and New Haven, and most others, for parlor-car travel, plus a seat charge). The PRR offered a book of 10 blank parlor-car seat tickets; the passenger could call the reservation bureau for a seat assignment, read the ticket number to the reservation clerk, who would write it on the diagram, and just get on the train without stopping at a ticket window or taking a chance on available space. It was a good deal for the PRR, since they got the money up front.

dt_rt40
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Re: last (or only) US commuter agencies to have classed serv

Post by dt_rt40 » Mon Sep 09, 2013 4:28 pm

". The PRR offered a book of 10 blank parlor-car seat tickets; the passenger could call the reservation bureau for a seat assignment, read the ticket number to the reservation clerk, who would write it on the diagram, and just get on the train without stopping at a ticket window or taking a chance on available space. It was a good deal for the PRR, since they got the money up front."

Wow. Very interesting. Thanks for the background...including the European rail systems. It seems like the very earliest days of the LIRR probably had first class, of course, whether it was thought of in the same way as we think of a "commuter rail" these days is questionable.
"I think Belgium and the Netherlands still have 1st class on almost all services, although it's hard to tell where commuter travel leaves off and intercity begins"

Yeah that's a key issue in making these comparisons. Especially if you look at Europe's population distribution (which the NYC area most closely mimics in the US of A) and pattern of post war private automobile use, in fact the whole concept of "commuter rail" versus just "rail to get places" gets muddied. First class - as a way to get to work - was probably driven out of business mostly by the automobile (no pun intended). I'm not going to go find the figure but I bet the % of adults who have never driven or owned a car is still much higher (though negligible) in Europe than in the US. Hence for those people, any commuter railway still counts as a "getting anywhere beyond your town" service.

Of course, trends have a way of reversing themselves: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commut ... ents/1712/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: last (or only) US commuter agencies to have classed serv

Post by Patrick Boylan » Tue Sep 10, 2013 6:03 am

If only you had said American instead of US I could have tried to include Mexico City's gender segregated subways. Of course somebody would probably have been quick to point out that isn't a separate class with premium fare.
I wasn't sure if they still had gender segregation, but http://www.subways.net/mexico/mexicocity.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; indicates they still do.

ExCon90
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Re: last (or only) US commuter agencies to have classed serv

Post by ExCon90 » Tue Sep 10, 2013 1:40 pm

The Hudson & Manhattan had a separate car for ladies in each train in the very early days, also with no fare differential; I don't know how long that lasted. On the basic question, I think the European practice of having of two classes would be the equivalent of a 1st-class car on every White Plains local all day, every day, heavily used by passengers for Scarsdale and neighboring stations, and similar accommodation on the Boston & Maine, New Haven, Long Island, Pennsylvania, DL&W, Erie, etc., etc., and nothing like that ever existed in the U. S.

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Re: last (or only) US commuter agencies to have classed serv

Post by TomNelligan » Tue Sep 10, 2013 3:01 pm

There is zero chance of this happening these days because of the political incorrectness of publicly funded commuter trains offering premium service, but I'm sure there are a fair number of affluent US commuters who would happily pay a premium for a guaranteed, larger seat in a less crowded car. I've traveled quite a bit on British trains and I do find the concept of first class service on commuter trains to be an interesting amenity, although I couldn't afford it myself.

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Re: last (or only) US commuter agencies to have classed serv

Post by Patrick Boylan » Tue Sep 10, 2013 5:16 pm

the vast majority of US commuters DO pay a premium for a guaranteed, larger seat in a less crowded car, their automobile.

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Re: last (or only) US commuter agencies to have classed serv

Post by ExCon90 » Wed Sep 11, 2013 1:34 pm

Which is also taxpayer-subsidized, although they don't like to acknowledge it.

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