Very much appreciate the praise from such an esteemed member such as yourself Mr. Norman.Gilbert B Norman wrote:I have to applaud Mr. Patrick A around here.
He notes recognition of what counts for Amtrak - namely trains that show up more or less on time, on which the HVAC works, and are safe from pop-gun toting whackos.
All too much of the discussion here relates to the quality of on-board F&B which means nothing to most Corridor riders.
I agree with those who hold the Business Class product should be labeled for the routes on which 2-1 Amclub seating can be offered. Elsewhere call it what it is - Coach-Plus.
So far as quality of food, we are addressing such a niche of Amtrak's business that if what is offered will not generate "Congressman, may I tell you about the vile Short Ribs I had on the Auto-Train? (mine from IL-6 would simply respond "we're just going to shut down that sorry excuse of a Federal Agency; God bless President Trump" - and send me some $$$$ so I can continue the fight)".
FWIW, I have had superb Short Ribs both on United flying overseas, albeit in Business, and also last week at a Lunch spot on Michigan Ave in Chi.
Apologies in advance for using the hackneyed lens, when it comes to Amtrak, of NEC (and related corridors) vs. LDs, however for the subsequent points, I think it is the best framework.
At its core, Amtrak essentially has 2 products on offer which cater to 2 very different types of travelers. The short-intermediate distance traveler (<300 miles), your typical NEC or other corridor (CHI and Cali areas) values their time at multiples over the long-distance rider. Corridor passengers therefore will very much care about On-Time Performance and having all in trip times that are as short as possible. In some respects, Amtrak already exploits this advantage by featuring 'city-center' access and productivity en-route with several advertisements featuring folks appearing to conduct business meetings on the train or using their phone/laptop. Airlines and buses (the principal alternatives for Corridor passengers) have responded on the productivity side somewhat through wi-fi upgrades. This leaves Amtrak with only one other lever to drive a competitive advantage, trip-times. On the NEC, where Amtrak 'owns' the vast majority of the RoW, this is the potential 'Tump card' over its rivals considering Airlines are beholden systems outside their control, Weather/ATC and Buses will have to contend with ever growing interstate traffic, especially in and around city centers.
Anderson's priority therefore should be to identify the opportunities which exist on each corridor to either 1) Improve reliability or 2) Decrease trip times and deploy resources accordingly. In my opinion, the focus should be on #1 items prior to #2, as solving those items reduce both the frequency and duration of major delays. #2 items can then 'run up the score' against other transit modes by reducing trip times and thus increasing Amtrak's value proposition.
Once you get headway in those areas, you then have the underlying business case to drive investments in a better on-board product. The goal should be to get more people to prefer Amtrak as a travel option by being competitive on time, then using the on-board experience to justify a further price premium.
From an LD perspective, it's hard to justify significant 'investments' in that area considering their low 'payback' potential prior to maxing out the corridor experience. By taking such an approach, you could very well 'convert' some Corridor users to include Amtrak LD service as a potential option, especially for an 'overnight' type service like the Auto-Train or the other NE-Florida routes.
Just one man's opinion. As a Delta Medallion member, I've experienced the transformational impact of Mr. Anderson's leadership which translated into much happier customers and employees. I hope he can have the same positive impact at Amtrak, especially given the difficult times the railroad has faced over the past few years.