It’s official. In a cold one-sentence statement, Amtrak says that in two weeks the Pacific Parlour Cars will no longer be part of the Coast Starlight experience.
Yes, I’m upset. But what I find so discouraging is the passive acceptance coming from so many of the same people who have enjoyed experiencing these vintage lounge cars for so many years. “Well,” they say, “those rail cars are more than 60 years old and they’re just too expensive to maintain.”
To which my response is “Nonsense!” VIA Rail in Canada continues to run their wonderful Toronto-to-Vancouver train using rail cars that are probably as old as these parlour cars. Amtrak hasn’t been providing the Pacific Parlour Cars out of the kindness of their corporate hearts. It’s strictly business:
Amtrak has provided us with a very desirable amenity, the parlor cars, which we, as sleeping car passengers, have paid for through significantly higher fares compared with other long-distance trains. And we’ll continue to pay extra for these luxurious cars right up to the very moment they take them away from us.
I’m not going to do exhaustive research on this, but here are a couple of numbers to illustrate the point:
–On Wednesday of next week, the cost of a roomette on the California Zephyr for the 1300-mile ride from Denver to Sacramento is $356.
–On that very same day, the cost of a roomette on the Coast Starlight for the 1274-mile ride from Seattle to Sacramento is $523.
Two trains traveling almost the same distance, but the fare is 47% higher for one . . . the one with the Pacific Parlour Car.
And that begs the question, if we want it, and we’re paying for it, why are they taking it away?