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Passenger Trains > Service Alert: Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed


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Date: 01/23/18 11:53
Service Alert: Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed
Author: kimura

I was checking Sleeping Car fares for #11(2/4) to ride on the last Pacific Parlour car (anyone else booked this train?).

I noticed Amtrak's Service Alert for the Coast Starlight has been updated as shown in bold below...


Service Alert

Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed
Effective February 4, 2018

Amtrak will retire the renowned Pacific Parlour Car from the Coast Starlight. The last day of service will be February 2 on Train 14 and February 4 on Train 11. Retiring the Parlour Car is part of Amtrak's ongoing work to modernize its fleet of equipment.

Due to high demand, an additional Parlour Car trip has been added on Wednesday, January 31 leaving Los Angeles and Friday, February 2 leaving Seattle.

The Parlour Car will continue to operate on Thursdays and Fridays departing Los Angeles and Saturdays and Sundays departing Seattle through February 4.

The Coast Starlight will continue to provide daily service from Seattle to Los Angeles. Amtrak is reviewing what amenities offered in the Parlour Car will be available in the future. Customers can continue to enjoy the trip and spectacular views from other areas of the train, including the Dining and Sightseer Lounge cars.

We appreciate your patronage and apologize for any inconvenience. For reservation and train status information check Amtrak.com, our free mobile apps, speak with station personnel or call 800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).

Thank you for traveling with Amtrak.

PSN 0118-41



Date: 01/23/18 12:08
Re: Service Alert: Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed
Author: andersonb109

The headline is a bit misleading. According to the release, they are actually adding a departure. Most here already know the cars are being removed from service soon. The headline makes it look like the cars have already been removed.



Date: 01/23/18 13:03
Re: Service Alert: Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed
Author: edsaalig

It's the beginning of the end for Amtrak and the Coast Starlight. Sounds like the way Southern Pacific got rid of the Lark! History repeats itself in the passenger train business.



Date: 01/23/18 13:22
Re: Service Alert: Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed
Author: ATSF3751

edsaalig Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> It's the beginning of the end for Amtrak and the
> Coast Starlight. Sounds like the way Southern
> Pacific got rid of the Lark! History repeats
> itself in the passenger train business.


The Lark's patronage was decreasing rapidly prior to the removal of full dining service in 1966. After that, the train continued of offer full lounge service and light snacks as well as Pullman service. The trains 9PM departure did not generally attract a large crowd for dinner, even from the beginning of the streamlined version.

The removal of the RPO in 1967 accelerated the petition to remove the trains. This was granted by the PUC and the trains were removed in early April 1968 due to the fact of continued declining ridership. I rode the Lark and it continued to be a fine train right up to the end. There was no evidence, to me at least, of any effort to discourage ridership. By this time $13.50 fares on hourly flights were available via several airlines between LA and SFO.

For those of you who are interested, the Lark's statement of earnings for 1965 showed the following:

Revenue: Including coach, Pullman, dining, lounge, and mail and express: $1,372300
Expenses: Including apportioned costs: $2,629300

Net income (loss) trains 75&76: $(1,257600) or ($9,786124) in 2018 dollars.

Even if we removed the apportioned cost, and only allocate direct expenses, the loss would still be nearly $8 million dollars. And the above numbers include revenue from head end sources like the RPO and express. By 1967, a whopping $4 million dollar revenue stream was gone with the loss of most of that business. The means had the Lark continued to operate, the trains losses would have rose to over $12 million dollars in 2018 dollars.

Those big bad SP guys and their anti-passenger stance? Or realistic businessmen who understood the reality of the era?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/23/18 13:37 by ATSF3751.



Date: 01/23/18 14:52
Re: Service Alert: Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed
Author: Lurch_in_ABQ

"...Those big bad SP guys and their anti-passenger stance? Or realistic businessmen who understood the reality of the era?..."

They probably noticed the sky full of flying machines equipped with seating.



Date: 01/23/18 18:34
Re: Service Alert: Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed
Author: District

The 1965 costs seem somewhat high at about $2018 $50/trainmile for fully depreciated equipment by that time. The ICC did a study in 1968 and found lower costs.

I doubt the truth will ever be known, but on a third hand account from an IC accountant, sometime in the late 1960's their group was ordered to start adding in costs to passenger ledger sheets that had not previously been counted.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/23/18 18:49 by District.



Date: 01/23/18 19:00
Re: Service Alert: Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed
Author: kimura

andersonb109 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The headline is a bit misleading. According to the
> release, they are actually adding a departure.
> Most here already know the cars are being removed
> from service soon. The headline makes it look like
> the cars have already been removed.

Yes I know that headline is a bit misleading but that is the misleading title of the Service Alert Amtrak is displaying to Customers if they try to book the Coast Starlight!

Customers need to read the entire Service Alert to determine that the Parlour car will be removed permanently soon but that it is still running on certain dates and to determine if their train will have a Parlour car or not.



Date: 01/23/18 19:33
Re: Service Alert: Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed
Author: railwaybaron

Lurch_in_ABQ Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> "...Those big bad SP guys and their anti-passenger
> stance? Or realistic businessmen who understood
> the reality of the era?..."
>
>
Yes, SP businessmen ("girls not allowed") were not then nor are their UP masters now obliged to provide even one sous for the public good according to AQdam Smith. I have read this message on TOs many times. I can't argue against it, given that no Sky Mother has yet come down and cleaned their clocks. So was it with the Romans and the Pommies and now the Yankee empires. If UP, to name one railroad, takes from the pot, but does not put back in the pot, Uncle Sam will have no progeny.



Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 01/23/18 23:21 by railwaybaron.



Date: 01/23/18 20:41
Re: Service Alert: Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed
Author: MojaveBill

That is really weird...

Bill Deaver
Mojave, CA



Date: 01/23/18 21:29
Re: Service Alert: Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed
Author: edsaalig

One small thing you overlooked, the SP was deemed a public utility. As such it had the responsibility to provide an adequate and attractive service. With the absence of competition an attitude of indifference developed which resulted in poorer service than the public expected. SP could not simply divest itself of all unprofitable operations. Any attempts to discourage use of service would be in violation of it utility obligations. This requirement would mean that the SP must provide capital investment even if it is not profitable to do so. In the years (1961-1965) the SP took a number of steps which had the effect of making rail travel less convenient and attractive. The SP through the lack of promotional advertising had helped to discourage patronage. The total spent on advertising the Lark between 1962 and 1965 was $11,625.75 as compared to $92,913.10 for the years 1959-1961. In 1965 it spent $0. SP used the media of advertising to discourage rather than encourage rail travel. SP employed a waiting list when all accommodations of the consist were filled. SP initiated a reduction of seat spacing in chair cars from 42 to 35 inches. In March of 1963, SP increased fares with reduction in service. SP authorized its ticket agents to sell airline tickets to cities that were served by the Lark. Next came elimination of newspapers in lounge cars on the Lark. Then came a lack of convenient connecting service or through service via Coast or San Joaquin Routes for eastern trains. There was a lack of timetables and promotional material in company ticket officers. Want more? This is the path that Amtrak will take to eliminate long distance trains. My source is my Master of Science in Economics Thesis.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/23/18 21:35 by edsaalig.



Date: 01/23/18 23:26
Re: Service Alert: Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed
Author: railwaybaron

edsaalig Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> One small thing you overlooked, the SP was deemed
> a public utility. As such it had the
> responsibility to provide an adequate and
> attractive service. With the absence of
> competition an attitude of indifference developed
> which resulted in poorer service than the public
> expected. SP could not simply divest itself of
> all unprofitable operations. Any attempts to
> discourage use of service would be in violation of
> it utility obligations. This requirement would
> mean that the SP must provide capital investment
> even if it is not profitable to do so. In the
> years (1961-1965) the SP took a number of steps
> which had the effect of making rail travel less
> convenient and attractive. The SP through the
> lack of promotional advertising had helped to
> discourage patronage. The total spent on
> advertising the Lark between 1962 and 1965 was
> $11,625.75 as compared to $92,913.10 for the years
> 1959-1961. In 1965 it spent $0. SP used the
> media of advertising to discourage rather than
> encourage rail travel. SP employed a waiting list
> when all accommodations of the consist were
> filled. SP initiated a reduction of seat spacing
> in chair cars from 42 to 35 inches. In March of
> 1963, SP increased fares with reduction in
> service. SP authorized its ticket agents to sell
> airline tickets to cities that were served by the
> Lark. Next came elimination of newspapers in
> lounge cars on the Lark. Then came a lack of
> convenient connecting service or through service
> via Coast or San Joaquin Routes for eastern
> trains. There was a lack of timetables and
> promotional material in company ticket officers.
> Want more? This is the path that Amtrak will take
> to eliminate long distance trains. My source is
> my Master of Science in Economics Thesis.

I was writing metaphorically. Yes, SP, and really all corporations have public obligations, but in the real world of today's swamp, those obligations only exist if and when the gov't actually puts a pistol to the offending railroad's head.



Date: 01/24/18 10:51
Re: Service Alert: Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed
Author: ATSF3751

edsaalig Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> One small thing you overlooked, the SP was deemed
> a public utility. As such it had the
> responsibility to provide an adequate and
> attractive service.

By that logic, large numbers of branch line trains should have continued to operate "for the public convenience" even if they only carried a handful of riders each year. The ICC/PUC also looked at public need from a practical viewpoint as well. Trains were discontinued when they no longer were required by the public, especially when adequate alternative transportation was readily available, and/or as in the case of both Western Pacific (1970) and MKT (1965), the financial health of the company is in peril. In the case of WP, the CZ had good passenger counts, as well as an adequate advertising and promotion budgets. Yet despite all of this, profits were unattainable. MKT was allowed to discontinue it's remaining set of trains due to a desperate financial situation which threatened to bring down the carrier and imperil service to it's remaining freight clients. The latter was also true in the WP petition. SP was in a reasonably good position, but I believe the PUC was aware that continued operation of the Lark did not serve the public interest. Sure, SP was often very hard handed in their approach to public regulatory agencies, but really, that made them more honest about what was happening in the area of rail passenger service. I believe that the other pro-passenger carriers would have followed SP down that road had passenger service remained in private hands. It was only a matter of time. It was well known in sales offices and accounting departments that passenger services were not financially sustainable and ultimately the carriers could choose to continue operation, or aggressively seek removal of the remaining services before they brought the entire railroad into bankruptcy.
Fortunately, Amtrak solved this problem. Later, only deregulation of the US railroads saved them from a decent into insolvency.

The ICC realized it had a obligation to not only passengers, but shippers as well. Really, the "public necessity" also required the continued financial health of common carrier railroads to perform what was always their prime purpose, the transportation of goods.



With the absence of
> competition an attitude of indifference developed
> which resulted in poorer service than the public
> expected. SP could not simply divest itself of
> all unprofitable operations. Any attempts to
> discourage use of service would be in violation of
> it utility obligations. This requirement would
> mean that the SP must provide capital investment
> even if it is not profitable to do so. In the
> years (1961-1965) the SP took a number of steps
> which had the effect of making rail travel less
> convenient and attractive. The SP through the
> lack of promotional advertising had helped to
> discourage patronage. The total spent on
> advertising the Lark between 1962 and 1965 was
> $11,625.75 as compared to $92,913.10 for the years
> 1959-1961. In 1965 it spent $0. SP used the
> media of advertising to discourage rather than
> encourage rail travel. SP employed a waiting list
> when all accommodations of the consist were
> filled. SP initiated a reduction of seat spacing
> in chair cars from 42 to 35 inches. In March of
> 1963, SP increased fares with reduction in
> service. SP authorized its ticket agents to sell
> airline tickets to cities that were served by the
> Lark. Next came elimination of newspapers in
> lounge cars on the Lark. Then came a lack of
> convenient connecting service or through service
> via Coast or San Joaquin Routes for eastern
> trains. There was a lack of timetables and
> promotional material in company ticket officers. on
> Want more? This is the path that Amtrak will take
> to eliminate long distance trains. My source is
> my Master of Science in Economics Thesis.


Even substantial (for the era) advertising and promotional budgets did nothing to stem the tide of lowered passenger counts (1964 onward) on pro-passenger roads like Santa Fe, UP, and the Hill roads. Sure connections were severed, but that does not explain why the Lark was hemorrhaging passengers and cash during the time good connections still existed prior to 1965. The business traveler, a primary revenue driver for Pullman service, began to desert the trains in mass in the early 1960's when inexpensive and convenient air service began between the LA area and SFO/OAK.

Regardless of your educational background, which may be impressive, I know I could find a number of scholars who would agree with the path SP choose in regards to passenger service.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/24/18 12:41 by ATSF3751.



Date: 01/24/18 13:59
Re: Service Alert: Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed
Author: ProAmtrak

edsaalig Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> It's the beginning of the end for Amtrak and the
> Coast Starlight. Sounds like the way Southern
> Pacific got rid of the Lark! History repeats
> itself in the passenger train business.


How many times have I heard that, 14 and 11 had great ridership even before the upgrade! Amtrak'll be fine with 11 and 14 still running too!



Date: 01/24/18 21:45
Re: Service Alert: Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed
Author: edsaalig

Those scholars have ignored the fact that at the time SP was a Public Utility, and thus a regulated monopoly. The SP Lark had always been an integral link in the communications network of communities in Northern and Southern California. The value of the Lark's service to the people of California had long outweigh any alleged insinuancies in its attendant cost of operation. Were the government to insist a strict cost of service rationale in utility regulation, the suburban population would have been penalized unconscionably. There is no question that the cost of providing telephone service, natural gas service, electric service and even water service is greater to subscribers who live outside the city. The SP claims that its cost of service for its intrastate freight operation is greater than its revenue. Should the SP, abandon its intrastate freight operations its intrastate passenger operations? Obviously not, for the value of service concept in all utility operations has an equivalent weight with the cost of service. The California PUC advocated numerous reforms for the improvement of passenger traffic on the SP LARK. Staff Exhibit No 42 related the past Commission actions in urging and ordering the SP to upgrade its service on the Lark. Decision No. 70939, Application Nos. 48219, 48220, and 48356 of Case No 8378, dated July 1, 1966, ordered the SP to take certain steps to promote passenger traffic on the Lark. As the majority decision stated, the SP admits that they did not comply with Decision No. 70939. I won't even get into the fact the the SP misrepresented it's figures on what it was costing them to run the Lark. Equipment cost was depreciated not once but twice! What's to keep Amtrak from saying we don't have enough passenger to run long distance trains running and we are losing money year after year. The PUC, ICC and the Federal Government!



Date: 01/24/18 22:26
Re: Service Alert: Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed
Author: aronco

All of these discussions center on what the SP allegedly did AFTER they made the management decision to discontinue the passenger service.
SP's own internal studies concluded that there was no profit to be made in running passenger trains. Then they decided to begin getting rid of the trains. Of course they presented studies that showed the largest losses. Of course they increased fares and charges where they could. Of course they reduced expenses ever way they could, even to the automat cars. These were actions to achieve the goals decided on above.
I know only too well of the era of the 60's when the SP great passenger fleet disappeared. I worked as a brakeman and conductor on many passenger trains in that time frame. Sure it hurt me to see the decline of many great trains. But I had to believe that the SP was locked in a desperate struggle to survive and modernize the railroad. That's what I expected the top management to do. Unfortunately, despite all the improvements the SP did (Palmdale Cutoff, Colton Yard, CTC, etc.) the SP was near bankruptcy by 1990.
As to the laughable contention that railroads are somehow "public utilities", that belief overlooks massive public expenditures on highways, airways and waterways to benefit the competition. Shippers and passengers since WW II had lots of choices for travel and shipping. True monopolies like electric and natural gas companies have no competition and must be regulated. Regulation of the railway industry from 1880 to 1980 damned near killed the industry. Only the Staggers Act deregulation of 1980 saved the rail industry from its demise.
Time will tell whether we possess the courage to let a truly deregulated industry prosper.

TIOGA PASS

Norman Orfall
Helendale, CA
TIOGA PASS, a private railcar



Date: 01/24/18 23:36
Re: Service Alert: Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed
Author: edsaalig

There is no "allegedly," SP did whatever it took to discourage patronage. Look up California PUC Decision No. 70939 & Decision No. 55202 for the facts of what they did! To call it laughable that SP was a regulated monopoly and thereby falls under the definition of a Public Utility show your ignorance of basic Economics and what was stated by the California PUC and ICC under California and Federal Laws. If SP was not a regulated monopoly then tell me why they had to file an application with the PUC to discontinue it passenger service in the 60's?



Date: 01/24/18 23:39
Re: Service Alert: Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed
Author: edsaalig

SP's internal studies concluded that there was more profit to be made in running freight trains then passenger trains. Public be Damm I believe was their motto during that time. If you don't believe that a look at the case that involved its only RDC car. The PUC ordered SP to continue service from Oakland to Sacramento.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/24/18 23:45 by edsaalig.



Date: 01/25/18 06:09
Re: Service Alert: Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed
Author: District

I had forgotten about the Federal level Transportation Act of 1958 and its policy to allow for passenger train discontinuance.

Below is the direct link showing how CPUC at the time viewed this policy as flawed and how it impacted the Lark and other trains. The efforts to curtail passenger trains followed mostly the decision to build the interstate highways with an implicit below market cost revenue collection model.

ftp://ftp2.cpuc.ca.gov/LegacyCPUCDecisionsAndResolutions/Decisions/Decisions_D57801_to_D73750/D58111_19590318_A38039.pdf

Also, recall that the Interstates were authorized in 1956, but with the caveat that a cost allocation study be published, which was not done until 1961. As a whole the Interstate highway system was funded by collecting a broad swath of excise taxes from all road users, even local road users on locally financed roads. So the investment is leveraged so to speak, like collecting taxes on all groceries and restaurants in town, then only using those taxes to improve a fish house which would be overflowing due to the "low" price.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/25/18 06:12 by District.



Date: 01/26/18 16:17
Re: Service Alert: Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed
Author: ATSF3751

edsaalig Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> SP's internal studies concluded that there was
> more profit to be made in running freight trains
> then passenger trains. Public be Damm I believe
> was their motto during that time. If you don't
> believe that a look at the case that involved its
> only RDC car. The PUC ordered SP to continue
> service from Oakland to Sacramento.
son

Correction: There was NO profit in passenger train operation. This was a conclusion by ALL US rail carriers by 1965. Everyone points to Santa Fe and a great pro-passenger rail operation. They spent BUCKETS of stockholder money to promote their trains, did that translate in to passenger profits? If it did, they would have remained out of Amtrak. Case closed.



Date: 01/26/18 17:37
Re: Service Alert: Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed
Author: edsaalig

You are correct. There were no profit in running passengers by 1965, and thus came Amtrak. Amtrak has not made a penny. Then why do we continue to put our tax dollars into a service that does not make money? We let all the railroads off the hook why not let the tax payers off the hook?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/26/18 19:18 by edsaalig.



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