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Passenger Trains > Acela/Meteor Trip Report


Date: 11/23/22 10:21
Acela/Meteor Trip Report
Author: Chessie1963

Last Friday I took Aclea to NYC from Boston and then the Meteor on to Savannah, GA, and I returned via reverse route (with a change in DC rather than NYC), leaving Savannah yesterday evening (Tuesday).

The trip to NYC from Boston was uneventful, but 15 minutes late.  The Acela service was solid (I was in first class), though the exterior of the train was a bit dirty.  Amtrak gave me 250 bonus points for the late Acela!

The Meteor was a great trip from a crew and schedule standpoint.  There were two trainees on board, one in the "diner" and one in a sleeper.  I was in one of the new sleepers, and it was nice other than the shower that was just a dribble.  I showered in the other sleeper.  The one fly in the ointment?  The Meteor was FILTHY on the exterior.  But, to top that, I saw a train that was even dirtier in DC.  However, I washed my sleeper window on the Meteor before we left NYP.  The attendant told me that they rarely get washed anymore.  In DC I got off for some air, and the Cardinal came into the station.  I have NEVER, since 1971, seen a train so dirty.  It was embarrassing.  People on the platform made remarks about it, without cue.  We arrived in Savannah about 10 minutes early.

The Meteor home was better in terms of exterior cleanliness but still dirty, and again, I was in a new sleeper.  This time the shower was awesome!  We ran late much of the way, but it looked like I would be able to connect to the 8 am Acela to Boston rather than the 10 am.  Then, just outside of the DC tunnel, we stopped.  And we sat.  Then we moved!  We pulled in at 7:57 am.  My sleeper door was right by the escalator.  I carried my bags and ran up the escalator, avoided the station, and went right down to the waiting Acela.  The conductor saw me running and put his arm up and waved me on!  The door closed and we pulled out.  I was Batman!

But I had no ticket, only one for the 10 am Acela.  The app would not let me buy it from DC after the scheduled departure. Go figure, ha!  The attendant did not know what to do, and I told her the door was closed and we were moving, so I was going somewhere!  She laughed.  I decided to buy a ticket from BWI to Boston, and the app allowed that.  The conductor got to me right after the BWI stop, so no need to explain anything!

The Acela first class crew is not nearly so good as the crew going down, but they are adequate.  However, both meal services were breakfast only.

Overall, other than disgustingly filthy trains, it is a good trip (I am on Acela 2156 about an hour out of Providence as I type).  However, it seems to me that a company that is selling scenery had better figure out how to make sure we can actually SEE the scenery.

 



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/23/22 10:31 by Chessie1963.



Date: 11/23/22 10:35
Re: Acela/Meteor Trip Report
Author: joemvcnj

So now soap and water bills have been have been repurposed into the e-suite's bonus. 



Date: 11/23/22 10:52
Re: Acela/Meteor Trip Report
Author: CPR_4000

No excuse for not washing Florida trains, is there? ASSuming there's a wash rack in Miami.



Date: 11/23/22 11:00
Re: Acela/Meteor Trip Report
Author: Chessie1963

The attendant told me that there is one there.  Hialeah.

From a post from way back in 2019 about dirty windows, these are allegedly the wash rack locations:

Boston 
Suunyside (NYC) 
Washington (Ivy City) 
Philadelphia (Race Street) 
Miami (Hialeah) 
New Orleans 
San Diego 
Los Angeles 
Oakland 
Seattle 
Chicago 


CPR_4000 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> No excuse for not washing Florida trains, is
> there? ASSuming there's a wash rack in Miami.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/23/22 11:13 by Chessie1963.



Date: 11/23/22 11:21
Re: Acela/Meteor Trip Report
Author: irhoghead

The guy that operates the car washer in Miami has been busy shoveling snow, so no time to wash the trains.



Date: 11/23/22 12:06
Re: Acela/Meteor Trip Report
Author: MEKoch

New name contest for Silver Meteor and Silver Star:

"Murky Meteor & Slimy Star"

Your choice...........



Date: 11/23/22 13:32
Re: Acela/Meteor Trip Report
Author: WP17

irhoghead Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The guy that operates the car washer in Miami has
> been busy shoveling snow, so no time to wash the
> trains.

Well stated:-)



Date: 11/23/22 13:41
Re: Acela/Meteor Trip Report
Author: ronald321

Sense we learned that  the big bonuses of Amtrak's top management (9 people) is based on
cost cutting and nothing else -- i think this explains the following:

,  Dirty trains ---  washing them increases cost (good for ridership--bad for management)
.  Stored cars --  restoring them to service is good for business - but costs involved bad for bonuses
.  DC-BOS sleeper -- not restored although revenue would exceed costs -- only costs matter to bonuses
.  Full dining service -- good for customers -- bad for bonuses
. Zero Advertising & Promotion  - would grow business--but costs involved detrimental to management

.  Short consists -- as reported in my latest copy of Pass. Train Journal (P17) - 
"With longer consists, cost would go up, but revenues would rise even faster".
Thus, increasing revenue with longer trains is detrimental management.

Somebody in Washington, PLEASE!  CHANGE HOW AMTRAK MANAGEMENT IS REWARDED.

 



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/23/22 13:44 by ronald321.



Date: 11/23/22 13:45
Re: Acela/Meteor Trip Report
Author: amtrakbill

Squeaky clean trains can help change the culture at Amtrak. Gives the On Board employees something to be proud of and first impressions are very important for passengers

Seems the Amtrak car washers and McDonald ice cream machines are built by the same company They are always broken!

Posted from iPhone



Date: 11/23/22 14:03
Re: Acela/Meteor Trip Report
Author: SpringedSwitch

ronald321 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sense we learned that  the big bonuses of
> Amtrak's top management (9 people) is based on
> cost cutting and nothing else -- i think this
> explains the following:
>
> ,  Dirty trains ---  washing them increases cost
> (good for ridership--bad for management)
> .  Stored cars --  restoring them to service is
> good for business - but costs involved bad for
> bonuses
> .  DC-BOS sleeper -- not restored although
> revenue would exceed costs -- only costs matter to
> bonuses
> .  Full dining service -- good for customers --
> bad for bonuses
> . Zero Advertising & Promotion  - would grow
> business--but costs involved detrimental to
> management
>
> .  Short consists -- as reported in my latest
> copy of Pass. Train Journal (P17) - 
> "With longer consists, cost would go up, but
> revenues would rise even faster".
> Thus, increasing revenue with longer trains is
> detrimental management.
>
> Somebody in Washington, PLEASE!  CHANGE HOW
> AMTRAK MANAGEMENT IS REWARDED.

I'm not sure anyone has explained how management bonuses at Amtrak are calculated. It would be quite interesting to know.



Date: 11/23/22 17:13
Re: Acela/Meteor Trip Report
Author: ironmtn

SpringedSwitch Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>
> I'm not sure anyone has explained how management
> bonuses at Amtrak are calculated. It would be
> quite interesting to know.

It certainly would be. But what is in fact known is that revenues were a key target. And what ronald321 and others are saying, me included, is that it was a wrong target, at least by itself. Other key performance indicators should have been included, and evidently were not. Such as timeliness and schedule-keeping, equipment availability at a certain level to assure continuing service, keeping employment at certain levels in key positions (especially those hard to hire due to their skillsets and needed experience levels). And more.

Yes, all of those kinds of things ultimately affect revenue. If you can't maintain good service levels and quality due to staffing issues, poor equipment availability, and poor schedule-keeping, you're going to lose customers and revenue will be negatively impacted. But it will be the long way around. Such factors ultimately affect revenue, but only gradually, and only over time, and in gradual increments. Until the floor falls through because customers no longer have any faith in the product.

So, whomever wrote those objectives took the shortcut approach. Just look at revenue. And that was critical - especially during the pandemic. To Amtrak and lots and lots of other organizations, all hemorrhaging cash and with hugely depressed sales. It was appropriate to look at revenue -- but not only revenue. Doing that set up all kinds of misplaced incentives, and set the entire organization up for an even steeper and more difficult climb post-pandemic. Which is precisely what we are in the throes of right now. Big time. The objectives should have not only focused on revenue maintenance, but factors which affect revenue creation, long-term organizational strength and resiliency, and in the context of the times, the ability to spring back well from the effects of the pandemic.

When it was announced that the board of directors would be meeting soon in St.Louis, and outsiders could speak to the board either in person or via web conference, I signed up immediately. Evidently I have not been selected, as I've had no communication back from Amtrak. But if I had been a speaker, I would have addressed this in similar terms, and told the board very forthrightly that either they or whomever wrote and approved (they probably at the least approved them, if they didn't write them) the objectives for the bonuses had made a huge miss. And just as I have said previously here on TO, at the least the board or that other authority should have recognized that and revised those objectives, or rescinded them. They failed Amtrak and all of its customers by failing to do so.

Back to the OP's trip report. Glad you had a good trip. Sorry it wasn't as good as it could have been. The dirty cars are a real problem, and that needs to be addressed - they are a real quality of service issue. And one more example of how placing management incentives in the wrong place can lead to undesirable effects that gradually cause greater harm to customer trust. Thanks for letting us know that while there's progress, there's also still work to be done.

MC



Date: 11/23/22 19:06
Re: Acela/Meteor Trip Report
Author: Lackawanna484

SpringedSwitch Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
(SNIP)
>
> I'm not sure anyone has explained how management
> bonuses at Amtrak are calculated. It would be
> quite interesting to know.

Quite so. But personnel matters in government enterprises are usually protected from Freedom of Information Act requests.  Maybe the Republican majority in the House will investigate Amtrak, and invite Mr Coscia up to the Hill to discuss what went into the determination.

In publicly traded companies, the bonus formula and payout is usually described in the proxy (DEF-14A, I think) and the 10-K. 



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