Passengers Pay for Cardinal Crew.

In late March, I’ll be making my annual visit to Washington for the Rail Passengers Association’s Spring meeting. It’s a day of education and enlightenment with seminars and guest speakers. The next day we meet with members of Congress, followed in turn on Day Three by a three hour business meeting and a final luncheon.
I do enjoy these meetings because it’s a chance to exchange ideas with a couple of hundred people shelling out their own money to be there—every imaginable occupation represented, but with one common goal: to join forces in an effort to get more and better and faster passenger trains for this country.
As usual, I’ll be flying to the West Coast, then taking Amtrak to Chicago. This time I have managed to include Amtrak’s train 50, the Cardinal, in my itinerary, although Amtrak doesn’t make it easy for you. First, because the train only runs three days a week. Sometimes, if you want to take the Cardinal, you have to stay an extra night in Chicago and, at Chicago hotel and restaurant prices, that can easily mean an extra $400.
And then you come to the place when you find out what it’s going to cost.
* Cost of a Viewliner roomette on the Cardinal, from Chicago to Washington, departing on Saturday, March 30 is $621.80.
It was at this point that I went to the Amtrak website to see what a Superliner roomette on the Capitol Limited would cost. It was $339.
One of the reasons for the huge difference in cost is that Amtrak is short of equipment. In fact, for most of the year, there is only one Viewliner sleeper in the Cardinal consist and four (or sometimes five) of the 12 roomettes in that one sleeper are occupied by crew members—car attendants and people working the diner/lounge car. It seems pretty clear to me that I am paying for my roomette and for two-thirds the cost of a roomette for one of the crew.
I really am looking forward to my ride on the Cardinal in March. But next time, I’m taking the Capitol Limited.