Amtrak has threatened to discontinue food service on its local trains between NYP and ALB in the past. I am not sure if Mr. Amtrakfan is basing his report on one of Amtrak's old self-abusive threats, or whether he has discovered some new activity.
If the report is true, this step will be just one more in a series of outragious service downgrades, all coming at a time when Amtrak is asking for more money than ever. With each service downgrade, Amtrak becomes less relevant, easier to criticise, and more desireable to cut.
Worse, I question whether cutting food service will save any money at all. Amtrak's fares along the Empire Corridor are some of the highest in the nation on a per mile basis. Amtrak's business class seating is quite popular. It will be interesting to see how the discontinuance of food service will cut into those indirect revenue streams.
Most cafe cars easily sell well over $100 in food and beverages. Obviously, in a corridor situation, not every frequency will be busy enough to have substantial sales. But on the workhorse frequencies, the sales can be extremely substantial.
Sales could be even better if Amtrak would run its food service cars more reliably. Too often, the cars are not open for extended periods of time following a train's departure from its station of origin -- creating inconvenient lines when the cafe does open. Too often, the cafe car closes earlier than necessary before arriving at the train's final destination. And too often, substantial portions of the menu items are simply not available. Nevertheless, despite its shortcomings, Amtrak's onboard food service is an extremely important part of its transportation product.
When all is said and done, I question whether this might just be a ploy to encourage the State to step in with some additional funding. I cannot imagine New Yorkers standing for no food service on their trains. But then again, I never dreamed that I would see the Lake Shore Limited being operated in the manner that it is. I never dreamed that Amtrak would close every train station in Vermont. I never dreamed that Amtrak would discontinue through-coach service on the SGH Branch. I never dreamed that Amtrak would discontinue the International. And I never dreamed that Amtrak would discontinue the Lake Cities connection to the Lake Shore Limited in Toledo.