Train 11/14: Is Ridership Slipping?
I was the only sleeping car passenger on the platform when the southbound Coast Starlight arrived in Davis, California, spot on time at 6:50 yesterday morning.
The door of the 31 car banged open and the car attendant, a feisty woman clearly approaching retirement age, called out, “Mr. Loomis?” I clambered aboard and, as the train started moving, she began the usual orientation. “You’re in roomette #6, up the stairs and to the right.”
“That’s OK,” I said. “I’ve been on this train many times. I know the drill.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Are you aware there is no longer a parlour car on this train?”
I said, yes, I knew that and added that I was not happy about it.
“No one is,” she said. “There are several passengers on board today who were expecting a parlour car, but hadn’t heard the news. They are quite upset.”
She added grimly, “And ridership is down ever since they took the parlour cars off … down significantly. It was a stupid thing to do.”
I said it was sad to think of those wonderful vintage rail cars sitting abandoned and unused in a remote corner of an Amtrak rail yard somewhere.
“They’ve already been sold,” she said. “Someone bought them right away.”
I hasten to say that I personally cannot verify any of that–either the loss of ridership or the sale of the parlor cars– but I can say that half the roomettes appeared to be empty, both in my sleeper and in the car closest to the diner.
Regardless, it was depressing to ride #11 and not be able to relax in the parlour car. What bothers me most about the cost-cutting binge that Amtrak management has been on is that they invariably seem to take the easy way. Want to save x-number of dollars? Oh, hell . . . let’s just chop off the parlour cars. It’s quick; it’s simple; it’s a no-brainer. And oh, so much quicker and easier than trying to figure out how to increase ridership on the Coast Starlight and thereby generate additional revenue to pay for the damn parlor cars.
And, yes, I’m still pissed!