As for the number of people on the trip, we experienced EXPLOSIVE demand once the Inquirer ads began running, so much demand, in fact, that we had to add additional cars to handle it. This included an extra SEPTA car and the two additional first-class cars. The decision to even use SEPTA cars to begin with is one that will haunt us for quite some time, I am sure. Some people seemed to be ok with it, and others obviously weren't. At this point, all we can do is learn from it and do our best to secure more accommodating equipment in the future. Some people have already mentioned in this thread some of the costs associated with doing a trip like this, in particular insurance costs. My associate Mr. Swinnerton was actually erroneous in his prior post about the insurance cost for the SEPTA cars. The amount we were required to insure those cars for actually QUADRUPLED our property insurance premium. So once the dust settled, the SEPTA cars actually cost us substantially more to lease than the Amfleets, despite having more seats. I know this information is probably no consolation for those of you who had to ride in them, but that's how the economics of it worked out. But the options we were faced with were either secure some extra coaches to satisfy the demand and allow us to amortize our fixed costs over a larger number of passengers, or have a MUCH higher ticket cost. If we had just gone with what Amtrak was able to supply, by the time we tacked on a profit margin, ticket price to the public would have been approaching the $200 mark. The magic question is how many people would have paid that much money in the current economy to ride this trip if they were guaranteed an Amtrak seat?
CRHS Excursion Coordinator
First of all here is my video of the event of the event. I actually took some from w/in the Septa cars, but, given how small the windows are (!) and that I didn't have a window seat, it was hard to get any useful video.
"we experienced EXPLOSIVE demand once the Inquirer ads began running"
"So once the dust settled, the SEPTA cars actually cost us substantially more to lease than the Amfleets, despite having more seats."
These 2 statements really get to the heart of the matter of why I feel a little bit ripped off. Not enough to demand a partial refund, but close. By advertising in a non-specialist publication, and then booking some people in very uncomfortable SEPTA cars, there is the appearance
that this was just a money-making excursion. A number of other things contributed to this impression too - the lack of a narration - whether there was a technical excuse or not, and the fact that the last group of people in the Septa cars didn't get food until past 1pm and didn't get their choice of sandwich. I'm sorry to sound ageist, but some of the oldsters who saw the Inquirer ad were just dead weight, literally. There was one old woman who slept for most of the trip and hardly looked out of her window seat window. I was reminded of the "scenesters" as we called them, when I lived it DC, who would show up at the 9:30 club and stand around blocking the view of your favorite band, even though they hadn't even heard of that band. Granted they are making the 9:30 club money, but ruining the experience for the people who actually showed up because they care about the group. If I had it to do again, I would have paid 200 to ride in an Amtrak car, and I'm sure most of the rainfans would have too. It's only 70 more dollars. (OTOH, if I'd paid 200 to ride in a SEPTA car, I'd be talking to my credit card company if I didn't have a partial refund by now) It might have kept the oldsters away who were just looking for something to do on a Saturday afternoon. And the net result = CHRS making the same amount of money.
BTW I'd be careful about using letter feedback to gauge perception. There was so much angry talk in the SEPTA cars I didn't write a letter because I figured they'd already get scores of them anyhow. I guess I'm venting here...
Was using cars from another agency even considered? Just 2 MARC bilevel cars could probably have held as many or more people as those SEPTA junkers, and have MUCH more comfortable seats and windows that are are gigantic by comparison. It's hard to believe with the huge JD & Catepillar combines I've seen coming down the Port Road that there would have been loading gauge issue with them.
So for the record, I'm not demanding a refund even though I am unhappy with the experience. But I would only do another excursion of this type if the stock to be used was guaranteed. And that doesn't mean to me that the trip would have to have cost CHRS more: in a MARC bilevel, with narration and the sandwich type I wanted served on time, I would have been completely satisfied with the experience.