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Passenger Trains > Cardinal thoughts


Date: 04/20/24 19:29
Cardinal thoughts
Author: fulham

Just finished an east coast/mid-west round trip.  Cardinal WB from DC to Chicago...Lake Shore EB Chicago to Springfield, MA.  Both trains on-time, and my accomodations were in the "new" V-II sleepers.  Windows were somewhat clean but both consists were grimy with road dust.  Maybe Amtrak is washing windows on consists but using car washers periodically...who knows.

Crews were good and the V-II's are nice, especially the new sink layout.  The Lake Shore was typical...5 coaches, 3 sleepers, one diner and one cafe for the  Boston section.  Lots of people getting on between Buffalo and Albany.  

The Cardinal was interesting.  Two Coaches, one food-service car, one full sleeper, and one of the new V-II sleeper/baggage combos.  Both the full sleeper and the sleeper/baggage had SCA's.  What was interesting was there was only one LSA in the food service car.   Nice guy.  He was responsible for the sleeping car meals and dealing with purchases from the coaches.  Guy did a real good job, but both SCA's really helped out with the sleepers.  They would take the orders and deliver the meal to the room or let the passenger sit in the cafe car.  My SCA made 3 announcements for breakfast roughly every 45 minutes as we got closer to Chicago.  Initially I was going to pass on breakfast but then decided to go to the cafe car where my SCA provided me a muffin and orange juice (what I asked for), AND made my room up while I was eating.  

I know there has been talk on this forum about a third coach on the Cardinal.  But if that were to happen, would the one LSA be able to keep up?  Would a second LSA be needed for the sleepers to assist with the SCA's.  Would a third coach add enough revenue to justify a second LSA?  What about a second full sleeper?  Bottom line is that currently the Cardinal provides adequate service for its passengers.  Should it go daily, yes,  Should it have more revenue cars, probably.  But with what it has right now, it provides a service, that while basic, is adequate for Amtrak's current operation.



Date: 04/20/24 22:53
Re: Cardinal thoughts
Author: BrynMawr

As is demonstrated in many cases increased frequency tends to bring more that simply the same numbers on the other days because the full daily options bring in riders whose schedules don't fit 3 days a week.   As to the crew issues, bringing the parked diners into service openon cafe hours, would both provide better food choices, and spread out eating. 



Date: 04/21/24 05:47
Re: Cardinal thoughts
Author: jp1822

fulham Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I know there has been talk on this forum about a
> third coach on the Cardinal.  But if that were to
> happen, would the one LSA be able to keep up? 
> Would a second LSA be needed for the sleepers to
> assist with the SCA's.  Would a third coach add
> enough revenue to justify a second LSA?  What
> about a second full sleeper?  Bottom line is that
> currently the Cardinal provides adequate service
> for its passengers.  Should it go daily, yes, 
> Should it have more revenue cars, probably.  But
> with what it has right now, it provides a service,
> that while basic, is adequate for Amtrak's current
> operation.

Thanks for the trip report and update! Much appreciated. In general, some comments on the current Cardinal's operations:

- Third coach needs to be RESTORED!
- If they are assigning a full SCA to the Viewliner Bagg/Sleeper, then it should be a full Viewliner Sleeper, to maximize revenue. Limited number of rooms to sell in the Viewliner Bagg/Dorm. Limited capacity and way too much cost with this current arrangement. The Viewliner Bagg/Dorms should be on the Silver Service trains where they can fill the room out with onboard staff due to operating a traditional dining Viewliner II Diner. 
- This train should be operating with a Viewliner II Diner. That would help relieve the stress/strain on the single LSA in the Amfleet Diner Lite car. 

Honestly, the current ops of the Cardinal does is costing Amtrak a fortune with the way this labor and equipment is aligned - including lost revenue opportunity (e.g. as a result of limited capacity overall). The Cardinal needs a second Viewliner I or II Sleeper year-round, or at least April 1 through Jan 15. 



Date: 04/21/24 07:45
Re: Cardinal thoughts
Author: MEKoch

While we at it, the state of Indiana needs to step UP to the plate and procure CRISI grants for two upgrades:

- north of Indianapolis to Dyer with better signaling, electric switches, two more sidings, CSX freight yard bypass in N. Lafayette, 79 mph operations.

- east of Indianapolis to the Ohio border for approximately the same as above: better signaling, more sidings, rebuilt grade crossings, and 79 mph.  

Results will be faster operation, less chance at freight interference, safer operations.  Therefore ready for daily service!



Date: 04/21/24 09:41
Re: Cardinal thoughts
Author: joemvcnj

They are perfectly capable of finding it a 3rd coach for the 2 sets.They don't want to. Senator Manchin is leaving the Senate and they don't want anyone making a business case to make it daily with a paltry consist.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 04/21/24 09:49 by joemvcnj.



Date: 04/21/24 09:55
Re: Cardinal thoughts
Author: jp1822

joemvcnj Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> They are perfectly capable of finding it a 3rd
> coach for the 2 sets.They don't want to. Senator
> Manchin is leaving the Senate and they don't want
> anyone making such a paltry train to make a
> business case to make it daily. 

ALL these things are doable. IF Amtrak can find a second Sleeper Car Attendant to staff the Viewliner Bagg/Dorm, they can also find another LSA to staff a Viewliner II Diner. Two Amfleet II coaches and two Viewliner II Diners are needed and also should not be a huge issue to find. Amtrak could even use a high density Amfleet coach for "shorts" on the Cardinal, OR an Amfleet business class with low density. This is not an impossible situation, but Amtrak has made it that way. Their choice. This is how they want to operate the consist. It doesn't even make good business sense and is even more expensive with the way they've arranged the onboard labor staff assignments and lost revenue opportunity. If easier, service and use the Viewliner Diner prototype and a Viewliner II Diner.  



Date: 04/21/24 12:11
Re: Cardinal thoughts
Author: Chessie1963

I am on the Cardinal three weeks from today, Indy to DC.  I will post a report.  It ha been three years since I boarded the bird.  Looking forward to it.  

Thanks for the report.  It sounds pretty much as it has always been for the Cardinal.  It is a redheaded stepchild (literally) in the system, a train that Amtrak really never wanted.  But it soldiers on, and it actually provides an important service to deepest WVA and VA.  If you ride the train, you quickly understand why it matters, maybe more than any other train that Amtrak operates.

Not to mention the great scenery...



Date: 04/21/24 13:16
Re: Cardinal thoughts
Author: cutboy1958

Those of  us  CARDINAL  fans(oit  only   train)  find  many good  points  in  this  discussion.  If  the   mission of  Amtrak us  to  carry people  they need  a  third  coach. Coild  probebly seel another  sleeper in summer  and  peak travel  times.   They  can easily fill a  coach at  Charlottesvelle  with students, teachers, government  types. Same  at Lafayette. And  yes  the  CARDINAL until covid  had  two  people  working   the  food  car.
  Strage. Too many  boxes  taking  up  pace in food  car.  Can't  all  tose  supplies  be  locked p in the  baggage/dorm!?
   Got  a  couple  CARDINAL  trips  reerved in the  next  7  months. Clean  windows  would  be nice!!



Date: 04/21/24 15:32
Re: Cardinal thoughts
Author: BrynMawr

Ignoring built in storage and trash areas seems to be Amtrak SOP.  The ever so gorgeous paper trash receptacles at stairwell landings, or taking up revenue spaces are classic inmate running the asylum behaviors, matching the disuse of half of Superliner dining space so as to reduce revenue.  
Can anyone on this board imagine a restaurant with a captive customer base deliberately reducing open tables to cut sales?



Date: 04/22/24 05:56
Re: Cardinal thoughts
Author: joemvcnj

cutboy1958 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Those of  us  CARDINAL  fans(oit  only  
> train)  find  many good  points  in  this
>  discussion.  If  the   mission of  Amtrak us
>  to  carry people  they need  a  third
>  coach. Coild  probebly seel another  sleeper
> in summer  and  peak travel  times.   They
>  can easily fill a  coach at  Charlottesvelle
>  with students, teachers, government  types.
> Same  at Lafayette. And  yes  the  CARDINAL
> until covid  had  two  people  working   the
>  food  car.
>   Strage. Too many  boxes  taking  up  pace
> in food  car.  Can't  all  tose  supplies
>  be  locked p in the  baggage/dorm!?
>    Got  a  couple  CARDINAL  trips  reerved
> in the  next  7  months. Clean  windows
>  would  be nice!!

Amtrak regards Congress to be their customer, not the passengers. Unless politicians are aware of and demand that 3rd a coach be put back, and Amtrak does not talk back and lie to say none are available, it will not happen. 

Garbage boxes, supplies, and crews hogging tables goes to show the lack of respect for passengers is part of the organizational culture that goes from the CEO down to the train level. 

As for lone snack bar attendant, it is like the Post Office with one clerk and a half hour line out the door, while Dejoy runs the USPS into the ground with rate hikes outpacing inflation as Amtrak has done to sleeper car fares along with high school Flex Dining slop, over-priced filling station junk food at the snack car, and dirty windows.  



Date: 04/22/24 10:56
Re: Cardinal thoughts
Author: scraphauler

MEKoch Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> While we at it, the state of Indiana needs to step
> UP to the plate and procure CRISI grants for two
> upgrades:
>
> - north of Indianapolis to Dyer with better
> signaling, electric switches, two more sidings,
> CSX freight yard bypass in N. Lafayette, 79 mph
> operations.
>
> - east of Indianapolis to the Ohio border for
> approximately the same as above: better signaling,
> more sidings, rebuilt grade crossings, and 79
> mph.  
>
> Results will be faster operation, less chance at
> freight interference, safer operations. 
> Therefore ready for daily service!

You are asking A LOT right there.  You have to remember, this is the same state with this law, which was signed into law by Governor Pence 10 years ago in 2014 - Indiana Code 8-25-4-9, an eligible county (defined as Delaware, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Johnson, Madison, and Marion) may NOT:
1, Purchase. lease, or otherwise acquire light rail systems
2. Construct light rail infrastructure.
3. Operate light rail services.
4. Cause any person to purchase, lease, acquire, construct, or operate light rail projects
5. Expend revenue from the county public transportation project fund on light rail initiatives.  

Indiana is the only state with a state with a law that explicitly bans light rail.  I was serving on an INDOT advisory committee back then.  There was A VERY strong push to omit the word light from this law.  It literally came down to a few votes.  Those that prevented light being removed where worried about the optics with Amtrak and any consequences job wise at Beech Grove (in Marion County).

You'll notice this is only suburban Indianapolis.  Counties NICTD operates in have no such law.  From my first hand experience dealing with INDOT and legislators, the prevailing opinion in the mid 20-teens was that supporting Amtrak was not a worthwhile endeavor for the State.  The preception is that very few people use Amtrak to VISIT the State.  A lot of people use Amtrak to LEAVE the State.  Why should the State of Indiana subsidize tourism for Illinois, or New York, by improving Amtrak service to those god forsaken bastions of liberalism.  NICTD on the other hand, is very deserving of support as it allows Red Blooded Hoosiers to travel to the wasteland of Illinois, then return home with their hard earned money to pay taxes and spend locally in the Hoosier economy.  

I no longer live in the Hoosier State.  But I still have business interest up there.  INDOT support of rail in general, freight or passenger, is extremely week.  Neighboring Ohio who constantly is belittled for their lack of rail support and killing the 3C is LIGHT YEARS more advanced than Indiana.  Attitudes in the State House from 10 years ago have not change.  If anything, they've trended more toward the far right.  Expecting them to "Step Up" and procure CRISI grants for the Cardinal?   Ain't gonna happen.   

Amtrak would be better off served by rerouting the Cardinal at Cincinnati.  Turn it into a New York (or DC and use Superliners) to NASHVILLE TN Train via Cincinnati and Louisville, and contract with CSXT to run a once weakly Hospital Train from Beech Grove and Chicago, and just exit Indianapolis.  
 



Date: 04/22/24 17:30
Re: Cardinal thoughts
Author: MEKoch

CRISI grants are federally funded improvements to passenger routes.  I don't a dollar of state money is involved.  

CRISI can even applied for by regional agencies in states, such as multi-county planning agencies.  



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