How Long Can Amtrak Keep Cutting?
Over the past few years, Amtrak has been shaving costs wherever possible. One by one, the nice little extras have disappeared—tokens and gestures that make passengers feel as though they’re appreciated and that their long-distance train ride is a special experience. For example, this morning my coffee mug sat on a souvenir coaster I was given years ago on the Coast Starlight.
The days of those little gifts are long gone, of course. And so are the little bottles of cheap champagne that once welcomed us on board. So, too, the newspapers that were slipped under doors during the night. All gone.
It’s those of us riding in the sleeping cars who are bearing the brunt of all this cost-cutting. Coach passengers pay the basic rail fare and for that they get to sit in a nice, comfortable seat while being transported from Point A to Point B. Since Amtrak stopped providing the free pillows a year or so ago, there simply aren’t any on board perks to take away from them.
But when it comes to those of us who travel in roomettes or bedrooms, the cost-cutters have gone over our long-distance experience with a fine tooth comb. They’ve finished with our accommodations and now seem to be focusing on the dining car. For instance, the following was forwarded to me by a NARP member:
A passenger on the City of New Orleans has advised that breakfast served on the northbound into Chicago is now a cold affair, thrown together: a croissant, a cup of yogurt (no choice of flavor) that costs 50 cents at the supermarket, an individual-serving box of cold cereal (three choices), three strawberries and a cup of coffee OR tea OR juice. If you wanted juice AND tea or coffee? No can do.
Moreover, the yogurt, strawberries and the half-a-plastic-cup of milk accompanying the cereal were warm; probably all left out overnight in the kitchen.
As recently as Summer 2015, hot breakfast into Chicago was still being served, so this downgrade is fairly recent.
Regular Amtrak customers who travel in sleepers have only one question on our minds these days: What are they going to take away next?
Meanwhile, here’s the one question the Amtrak braintrust should be asking themselves: What happens when sleeping car passengers start thinking that a long-distance train ride is no longer worth the money?