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Please bring back the entree salads which recently disappeared from the menus.  Due to various dietary restrictions they were sometimes the only thing we could eat, especially when the burgers ran out.

3 months, 2 weeks ago on Improving our Food and Beverage Service

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Favorite destination?  San Diego.  I'm starting in the unserved community of Ithaca, NY.  It takes some getting to, so I always take the fastest route; it's critical to me that the SW Chief runs as *fast* as possible.

3 months, 2 weeks ago on Breathtaking Views Ahead, Scout’s Honor

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If you want to be green, use real plates in the dining car and wash them, instead of throwing away 10 bags of plastic garbage per meal as you currently do.


Seriously.  The "savings" from using disposable plastic all the time is not worth it.  You're alienating people -- both people who like to be "green" and people who like to be "classy".  You're losing revenue.

5 months, 1 week ago on How Amtrak Recycles More Than 8,000 Tons of Materials Each Year

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Indianapolis, coming from NY.  Unfortunately, the three-a-week schedule of the Cardinal makes it completely impractical; I just can't make it work with my schedule.  The Cardinal needs to run daily.

5 months, 2 weeks ago on 5 Epic Train Trips That Will Totally Inspire You

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I really liked the "nut or fruit dessert" which used to be offered with every meal; often a nice torte.  Got it every single time.


However, in a case of thoughtless, mindless cuts to dining service, these have apparently been completely eliminated, leaving a meager dessert selection consisting of either sorbet or overly-rich, overly-sweet stuff.  No more Amtrak dessert for me.


Amtrak needs to improve the choices in the dining car, not reduce them.

6 months, 1 week ago on Top Picks for Long-Distance Meals on Amtrak

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The problem here is Canadian National Railway, which refused to negotiate in good faith.  Unfortunately, that's the railroad Genoa is on.


From the article: "The service was originally planned to run on Canadian National Railway tracks, but after years of failed negotiations with the Montreal-based company, officials were able to finalize an agreement to switch to a new route that used tracks owned by Metra and the Union Pacific Railroad."

That's all there is to it.  Blame CN, not the Governor.  It has literally been two years of fruitless negotiations with CN.  Apparently Metra and UP were willing to agree within weeks.

6 months, 2 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://www.daily-chronicle.com/2014/04/11/genoa-blindsided-by-amtrak-line-decision/am91ygr/

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I know you said you couldn't wait.  Well, I'm impatient too.  The sleeping cars routinely sell out on the Lake Shore Limited.  And that's even with very high prices!  We need more sleeping compartments and we need them ASAP.


I know that you need to make sure these cars are built exactly right, so I understand the need for delays in order to make sure there's nothing wrong with them.  But honestly, when are we going to get that extra sleeper space?


Also, the old dining cars in the East are really falling apart.  They're still very heavily patronized, but they're just not lasting.  We need new dining cars before the old ones stop working entirely, like the one whose axle stopped turning and delayed a Silver Service train for hours last year.

7 months ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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"You can now find permanent recycling receptacles in all café and lounge cars,"

My apologies for my confusion.  Does this include the Amfleet II lounge cars used on the Lake Shore Limited, Silver Service, etc.?

7 months ago on Recycling Bins Being Added to Bi-Level Trains

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While I'm here, I'd like to make a comment or two about energy efficiency.

I've discovered that new "heat pump" A/C uses about 3/4 the energy of old 1970s A/C units.  Has Amtrak upgraded its A/C on the trains?  Because I know that the Superliners date from the 1970s.... so I think their A/C may need upgrading!


And I've also discovered that LED lights save a massive amount of electricity compared to incandescents or flourescents.  I know Amtrak's newest locomotives and cars will be all-LED, but has Amtrak replaced the lighting in the older cars with LEDs?  Because it would save a lot of energy really quickly.


Because Amtrak has to generate electricity on the train by burning diesel fuel in the engine, any savings on electricity usage on the train saves a *lot* of money for Amtrak, as well as being good for the environment.  So replacing obsolete A/C and obsolete lighting has to be something with a really quick payback time.  Yet I'm pretty sure I've seen incandescent lights in an Amtrak car recently... so when is that going to end?


I've also been told that the Auto Train can't pull any more Superliners because of the needed electricity supply.  These energy efficiency improvements could allow the train to be longer, which should be very valuable when the train fills up.


Thanks for listening... :-)

7 months ago on Recycling Bins Being Added to Bi-Level Trains

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Good start.  Now, will we get these same recycling receptacles in the new long-distance cars currently being manufactured?  How about the new bilevel corridor cars for the Midwest?  And then, when will we get these in the old single-level cars used in the East?


Also, I'd like to note that some stations have excellent recycling facilities... and others don't seem to do anything at all.  Can Amtrak make some effort to go through its stations and make sure that each station which has trash cans also has recycling, at least where the station areas are under Amtrak's control?  (I understand that some small stations don't have trash cans and that some stations are completely not under Amtrak's control.)

7 months ago on Recycling Bins Being Added to Bi-Level Trains

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It's obvious that states should be providing these services directly rather than contracting them to private companies.

7 months, 1 week ago on Conversation @ http://www.governing.com/topics/health-human-services/gov-states-face-new-insurance-taxes.html

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@Amtrak @thegoodhuman If it's too difficult to wash the china on board the train, for goodness sakes just wash it on land at the end of each trip in Chicago or New York or whatever.  Storing it until the end of the trip can't be any harder than storing the enormous bags of garbage (which are currently stored until the end of the trip on trains like the Lake Shore Limited).

8 months ago on How Amtrak Commits to Sustainability

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@Amtrak @thegoodhuman

It's March.  There WAS no "next blog post on sustainability".

Meanwhile, I learn that Amtrak is replacing ceramic dishes on one of the few trains which had them, the Auto Train.. with more throwaway plastic.

In the long run, using real ceramic and glass is not just more environmentally sustainable, it's also cheaper.  Not only is there the huge cost of buying new disposable dishes for every passenger for every meal -- an enormous cost -- but there's also the cost of disposing of them. Most communities are now charging by the pound or by the bag for throwing away garbage.  

Because the communities who have to pay to operate landfills understand sustainability better than Amtrak's management does.   The fee is particularly high in New York City.

Amtrak will be paying those fees... but if Amtrak went back to washable dishes, and managed to actually do paper and bottle recycling on the trains, Amtrak wouldn't be paying those fees.

It appears that Amtrak's commitment to sustainability is skin-deep.

8 months ago on How Amtrak Commits to Sustainability

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Ah, I've always been going somewhere, never just wandering around.  

Syracuse (NY)-Chicago (repeatedly), Syracuse-Minneapolis, Syracuse-Denver (repeatedly), Syracuse-Los Angeles (repeatedly)... 

I've got plans for Syracuse-Portland and Syracuse-Seattle as well as more trips to Minneapolis, Denver, and Chicago...


I really wish Amtrak could make the Lake Shore Limited more reliable, for reasons which are probably completely obvious after the list of trips I just listed.  Also, the Lake Shore Limited has a tendency to sell out of rooms -- I hope the new single-level sleeper cars arrive ASAP.


I also WANTED to do Syracuse-Grand Rapids MI and Syracuse-Lansing MI.  But it's not really a reasonable trip to take, because there are no trains heading east from Michigan at all.  This really ought to be fixed.  (Changing to a many-hour bus trip in Toledo in the middle of the night is not really an alternative.)

I've also been trying for several years to figure out how to get to Indianapolis for a convention, but the three-times-a-week schedule of the Cardinal and the 5-hours-with-no-food-service Hoosier State make it completely impractical.

8 months, 1 week ago on The Extreme Cross-Country Trip of a Lifetime!

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Seriously, no love for the Adirondacks or Vermont?  I suppose winter train trips there are so popular Amtrak doesn't feel the need to offer deals.  ;-)

8 months, 1 week ago on Four Essential Winter Vacations

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Amtrak actually had a spare bilevel sleeper car and a spare bilevel observation car available for this trip?  

I wish spare single-level sleepers and observation cars existed for the east-of-Chicago trains, where there are often missing sleepers and missing lounges due to "car shortages"... and there are never any observation cars at all.

8 months, 1 week ago on All Aboard the #AmtrakLIVE Train

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@thepixinator

For me, seeing Kansas on the Southwest Chief blew me away.  It's actually sepia-colored, like in the Wizard of Oz movie.

And of course it wouldn't be right of me not to plug the Lake Shore Limited.  Maybe the industrial decay of Gary and the wheat fields of Indiana aren't everyone's cup of tea (though they are mine), but surely the forests of upstate NY and the striking Hudson River valley are.

8 months, 1 week ago on 4 Most Scenic Train Rides

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@ebpinnyc makes a good point.


On top of this, there's no food served on the Lake Shore Limited Eastbound #48 from Albany to New York... the diner closes and the cafe closes.  Given that the train is scheduled to be moving from Albany to New York during many people's dinnertime (including mine) -- and is often late, meaning that it's moving during *everyone's* dinnertime -- this is an unpleasant surprise and particularly bad for people with hypoglycemia.  On a train which advertises "Complete meals", a sudden absence of dinner is rather unexpected.

 Amtrak food service should be more consistent than this.

8 months, 1 week ago on How to Cancel a Train Reservation during Severe Weather

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Still hoping to see WiFi on the Lake Shore Limited sometime in the next decade.  There's enough cell service along the route.  Amtrak, when will we get WiFi on the longer-distance Eastern trains?

8 months, 1 week ago on Free Amtrak Wi-Fi Added to Midwest Trains

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Move the bike lane next to the sidewalk and put the parking between the bike lane and the streetcar.  I'm not actually sure there's enough room there to keep the bikes out of the door zone, but if there is, it would work.


Otherwise, you have to get rid of the parking.

8 months, 2 weeks ago on Streetcar officials respond to video of tight squeeze

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@ahblid @RussIsbrandt Last I heard Amtrak also needed to scrounge up more coaches with "long-distance" seating -- and last I heard Amtrak didn't think it would be worthwhile making the connection unless it had a sleeper.  Rumor has it that there are enough cafe cars.

11 months, 2 weeks ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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Unfortunately some of the routes I want to take most, don't really exist at the moment.  (Ithaca, NY to anywhere... anywhere to Columbus, Ohio... upstate NY to Michigan without taking a long bus ride... and I tried to plan a trip from upstate NY to Indianapolis, but I kept getting snarled by the three-a-week schedule on the Cardinal and the very slow timing on the Hoosier State, and I couldn't make it work.)


So I guess my birthday wish is for this country to fund more passenger train service.

11 months, 2 weeks ago on Boston to DC for Spring Break!

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@wilton_woods @ahblid The interiors are mostly from a company called "RailPlan" rather than from CAF anyway. 

I don't know how much it would cost Amtrak to order some new modules from RailPlan.  I suspect that Amtrak is ordering some spare modules in any case, and I believe that part of the retrofit plan for Viewliner Is involves ordering a whole bunch of bathroom modules.
 

The modules, unfortunately, are probably a lot cheaper than the frames -- I'm guessing most of the cost is in the frames.  So the hard part is getting enough money to keep manufacturing frames.

For what it's worth, the dining cars are mostly modular too -- RailPlan did the interiors there.  They apparently also  have slide-in and roll-in units for food and equipment, sort of like airplanes, so that a dining car can be emptied and refilled really quickly between runs.

11 months, 2 weeks ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@RubyOldsColin 

I realize it's a bit out of the way, but you could always board on any station on the Missouri River Runner route; head west to Kansas City; take the Southwest Chief from Kansas City to Los Angeles; and then take the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Sacramento.  Three days and two nights, but it works.

11 months, 2 weeks ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@ahblid @JerichoWhiskey "And I'm only repeating what I've heard, that the LSL will be the first to see the new sleepers.  There may well be other reasons that I'm unaware of.  That same rumor said that the Cardinal will be the second to see them."

The Viewliner Is have freezing problems with the underfloor equipment in cold weather.  I am told that the Viewliner IIs have been redesigned with cowls, insluation, etc. to eliminate this.  That's one reason to assign the Viewliner IIs to the northern trains first.  I presume that the Viewliner Is will eventually be retrofitted to eliminate the problem, but in the meantime...

1 year ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@PaulaMorelliPiersall These cars are for services which go into Penn Station
NY (where two-story bilevel cars will not fit).  

This includes NY-Chicago services as well as NY-Florida and NY-New Orleans -- which are all part of a cross-country trip, though not part of your specific trip.

1 year ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@IraWoods Unfortunately they'll mostly still be in production or testing.  If you had tickets for January of 2015, you'd perhaps get one of the new sleepers....

1 year ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@lawlass Elect different state legislators and a different governor.
 

In 2008, Congress passed a law which says (*approximately*) that all routes less than 750 miles have to be funded by state governments rather than by the federal government.  Thanks to the mess at the federal level, Amtrak doesn't have the money to start up new train routes longer than that, and if it did, state government help would still be essential to build stations, arrange contracts with the fright railroads, etc.

Your Alabama state government doesn't seem to give a damn about Amtrak service; in order to get service, the first step is for your state government to give a damn. 

1 year ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@LennyMills Yes, these new cars will be on both of the trains (Silver Star and Silver Meteor) from New York to Florida.

1 year ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@cbclassystuff @annedougherty @JohnPritchard I've heard people with both points of view.  I guess Amtrak decided that the people who *didn't* want the toilet in the roomette outnumbered the people who *did* want the toilet in the roomette.  I don't really care...

1 year ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@RAAndre @ahblid @cbclassystuff Unfortunately, they also had to make the aisle wider to accomodate wheelchairs etc.  Which is good, but it means the seats aren't wider.  There's more shoulder room, though.

There's one prototype Viewliner dining car running (#8400) which is why I can say this so definitively.

1 year ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@JerichoWhiskey @GenePoon Amtrak also appears to be planning to retrofit the Superliner "coach-baggage" cars to contain bike racks, so eventually every baggage car will have bike racks.

1 year ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@GenePoon Also, the Heritage dining cars used on the Eastern trains date from the 1940s-1950s and the underfloor equipment is falling apart -- one had its wheels seize up recently.  They desperately need replacement.  The Superliners date from the 1970s and 1990s and are still in decent shape mechanically.

1 year ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@JerichoWhiskey Viewliner Is are reported to be good for 125 mph, but not certified to be good for it; they should be cycling through the shops to be upgraded to match the Viewliner IIs.

1 year ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@Amtrak This isn't phase III.  You might call it "Phase IIIb", but these stripes are quite different from the original phase III stripes....

1 year ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@wilmamreever The number of roomettes on the Cardinal should at least double when these new cars come into service.

1 year ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@JerichoWhiskey @ahblid The speed improvement only arises once Amtrak can replace the diner and the baggage car on the train simultaneously (and either replace the sleepers or recertify them -- the old Viewliners are good for 125 but have to be certified, I am told).  Accordingly I'd expect that the Cardinal would benefit early, but the Silvers won't benefit until they have quite a lot of new cars available.

1 year ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@davidwdickerson Retrofitting of bike racks into Superliner coach/baggage cars was tested recently on the Capitol Limited, with lots of positive feedback -- you can probably find an article on it if you Google.  Amtrak may have more to say about this?

1 year ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@donoltmann Everyone takes their shoes off while sitting down.  Amtrak should simply change their rule, because it's stupid to ask people to sleep in their shoes -- most of us can't.  The normal requirement, as applied in airplanes, is to wear shoes when not strapped into your seat.

1 year ago on 10 Tips for Sleeping Overnight in Coach

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Tip #1: don't let idiot car attendants put you in an Amfleet I, which does not have the adjustable footrests or the legroom, for an overnight trip.  I had that happen once -- never again.  

Demand an Amfleet II, which actually *have* the adjustable footrests and the legroom.

1 year ago on 10 Tips for Sleeping Overnight in Coach

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@GreatStoneFace -- these won't be used on the Auto Train, which uses "bilevel" cars.   These are "single level" cars -- they'll be used on the Lake Shore Limited, the Cardinal, the Silver Meteor, the Silver Star, the Crescent, and any other long-distance trains which go into Penn Station New York.  (Bilevel cars won't fit into Penn Station New York.)

1 year ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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MORE!  MORE! MORE!... uh, anyway, more?    Every one of the eastern trains needs more sleeper cars -- they're getting very full and very expensive -- there need to be sleepers from Philadelphia to Chicago, the Cardinal needs to run daily, eventually you're going to need to run a second Lake Shore Limited (it's getting too long for the platforms) -- and all this will require EVEN MORE cars!  So, more?  Exercise part of that 70-car option?

Other comment: Brown is not an appealing color for windowshades.  Apart from that, looks great!

1 year ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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The dining cars aren't operated efficiently most of the time.  Once, on the Empire Builder, and once on the Lake Shore Limited, I saw the dining car crew really move, filling tables as soon as they emptied and generally keeping things flowing as fast as possible.  But usually they don't and there's lots of vacant tables.


If the dining car stayed open longer it would be able to serve more people.


It's clear the dining car staff spends way too much time doing manual paperwork and manual inventory management.  This needs to stop.  Maybe if this is computerized, the staff can spend more time serving customers?

If we could order our food from a menu *before* the train departed, it would be less likely for the diner to run out of the most desired items.

Diner items need to have clear information on what allergens they contain.  And there need to be dairy-free options -- this is especially a problem at breakfast.


1 year ago on Improving our Food and Beverage Service

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