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Old Dec 19, 05, 3:41 pm   #1
 
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Angry Amtrak discounts

Amtrak bill to cut promotions and discounts. Go to http://trainweb.org/crocon to see story. Dont know how many of you actually ride Amtrak (no offence ) I gather some use AGR for storage of points. Point is check this site out to get the story. Slipped in on the Amtrak bill. Internet is mentioned as sorce for many discounts. However internet specials account for about 0.2% of sales.
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Old Dec 19, 05, 9:52 pm   #2
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sinbad
Amtrak bill to cut promotions and discounts. Go to http://trainweb.org/crocon to see story. Dont know how many of you actually ride Amtrak (no offence ) I gather some use AGR for storage of points. Point is check this site out to get the story. Slipped in on the Amtrak bill. Internet is mentioned as sorce for many discounts. However internet specials account for about 0.2% of sales.
It will be interesting to see if Congress has the testicular fortitude to actually pass this in to law. Do they really want to set a national per-mile price as has been the case in Europe until privatization. Does the Pacific Surfliner cost as much per mile to operate as the Acela Express, and can you charge the same for a train on a market where the car is king like the West as you can in a market where roads are clogged and tolled such as the NEC?

Finally, if the federally-rescued-and-subsidized airlines can use yield-management, why can't Amtrak?
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Old Dec 20, 05, 5:00 am   #3
 
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Originally Posted by HeHateY
It will be interesting to see if Congress has the testicular fortitude to actually pass this in to law.
It is law. Passed by Congress and signed by the President.

The Amtrak funding bill for FY 2006 prohibits federal subsidy of routes where Amtrak offers discount fares of greater than 50% off the regular fare. The stated purpose (whether you believe it or not) is to prevent Amtrak from bolstering ridership on struggling routes by virtually giving away trips at little or no cost. Special web discounts sometimes were as much as 90% off. Now the limit is 50%.
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Old Dec 20, 05, 11:24 am   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PHLviaUS
The Amtrak funding bill for FY 2006 prohibits federal subsidy of routes where Amtrak offers discount fares of greater than 50% off the regular fare. The stated purpose (whether you believe it or not) is to prevent Amtrak from bolstering ridership on struggling routes by virtually giving away trips at little or no cost. Special web discounts sometimes were as much as 90% off. Now the limit is 50%.
Perhaps the biggest problem with this provision, beyond the mico-managing of Amtrak, is that it does not take into consideration state supported services. Services that already make up most, if not all, losses that Amtrak would otherwise have incurred by running the service.

This bill could force Amtrak California and the Downeaster to raise the prices of their commuter passes, which in most cases fall below the 50% threshold. Again, since Amtrak is incurring no losses on those runs, the states should have some input into the fares being charged.

We keep getting all of this nonsense out of Washington about how the states should help to keep Amtrak running, yet Washington then turns around and penalizes the few states that are actually helping Amtrak.
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Old Dec 20, 05, 3:59 pm   #5
 
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Discounts

We have till 1 March 2006 to try and stop this from going into effect! You all know what to do.
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Old Dec 24, 05, 6:53 pm   #6
 
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Avoid compliance

A good approach would be for Amtrak to just ignore the requirement, or avoid compliance by technically complying with the law in a manner that means the law is ineffective. Congress has little enforcement power, since it wants to fund Amtrak, rather than eliminate it. The amendment in question was from a powerful Member of Congress (in terms of writing the Amtrak bill) likely as revenge for both houses funding Amtrak at a much higher level than he would have preferred.
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Old Dec 24, 05, 8:56 pm   #7
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That idea might work if Congress was handing the money directly to Amtrak. However, that is not the case. Congress is giving the apropriated monies to the DOT, which means that Mineta can hold up Amtrak's money if Amtrak does not comply.

And you can bet that Mineta would love for that to happen. Or at least the people pulling Mineta's strings would love for that to happen.
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Old Dec 26, 05, 10:40 am   #8
 
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The 50% limit also is a problem for monthly pass holders.

Let's take a look at one of the most financially successful airlines, Southwest. I just now looked at flights between BWI and Long Island/Islip. The fares ranged from $29 to $100 in the nest few weeks. That's up to a 71% discount. Looks like Congress, in its infinite wisdom, dislikes the Southwest financial model.
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Old Dec 27, 05, 6:22 am   #9
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlanB
This bill could force Amtrak California and the Downeaster to raise the prices of their commuter passes, which in most cases fall below the 50% threshold. Again, since Amtrak is incurring no losses on those runs, the states should have some input into the fares being charged.
From the bill:
Quote:
...That none of the funds provided in this Act may be used after March 1, 2006, to support any route on which Amtrak offers a discounted fare of more than 50 percent off the normal, peak fare.
The limitation only applies to routes operating with federal subsidy. Amtrak is made whole on the Downeaster and the California Capitol Corridor services by the states. These routes do not receive federal support and are not subject to the 50% maximum discount requirement. If they wanted to, the states could make those trains free and simply pay Amtrak to run them.

It is interesting to note that Amtrak is in the process of raising the NEC monthly fares to a 50% discount (from 70% off). In its press release announcing the new higher commuter fares, Amtrak stated that the 50% discount will remain the "largest offered to commuters by any railroad." Opps. I guess they did not check their own fares in New England and California before making that statement.
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Old Dec 27, 05, 1:46 pm   #10
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PHLviaUS
The limitation only applies to routes operating with federal subsidy. Amtrak is made whole on the Downeaster and the California Capitol Corridor services by the states. These routes do not receive federal support and are not subject to the 50% maximum discount requirement.
This is only half-true. While the Downeaster is supported entirely by state sources, the Capitols and other California Corridors receive a portion of their operating support from Amtrak. Amtrak funds a small amount of the round-trips on these lines. I suspect there are other state-supported corridors where this is also the case.

Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority Managing Director (and NARP Director) Gene Skoropowski sent a scathing e-mail to rail supporters after the appropriation was passed adamantly asserting that the language would very much force the Capitols to raise their monthly pass and other fares by untenable amounts, and end the highly popular school field trip discount program. I don't have the e-mail, but it was reposted to other forums. Perhaps AlanB has a copy of it.

Incidentally, Mr Skoropowski is the recipient of this year's Railway Age W. Graham Claytor Award for Distinguished Service to Passenger Transportation. He knows what he's talking about, and when he talks, people listen.
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Old Dec 27, 05, 5:51 pm   #11
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoAmtrak
This is only half-true. While the Downeaster is supported entirely by state sources, the Capitols and other California Corridors receive a portion of their operating support from Amtrak. Amtrak funds a small amount of the round-trips on these lines. I suspect there are other state-supported corridors where this is also the case.

Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority Managing Director (and NARP Director) Gene Skoropowski sent a scathing e-mail to rail supporters after the appropriation was passed adamantly asserting that the language would very much force the Capitols to raise their monthly pass and other fares by untenable amounts, and end the highly popular school field trip discount program. I don't have the e-mail, but it was reposted to other forums. Perhaps AlanB has a copy of it.

Incidentally, Mr Skoropowski is the recipient of this year's Railway Age W. Graham Claytor Award for Distinguished Service to Passenger Transportation. He knows what he's talking about, and when he talks, people listen.
You are correct that the Pacific Surfliner is partially Amtrak funded, but the Capitol Corridor is a 100% state funded service. Mr Skoropowski is well aware of that. After making his statement that the 50% limitation might apply to the Capitol Corridor (if a VERY weird definition of federal support is applied), he went on to say:
Quote:
I guess that all 'contract services' such as in Maine, the Pacific Northwest, California, and elsewhere that have 'discounted multi-ride tickets', will be impacted, unless the 'subsidy' payment made to Amtrak by these contracting entities is considered as 'revenue' to Amtrak, thereby offsetting any ticket revenue not equalling 50% of the cost of full fare tickets (I will make the case strongly that we are 'exempt' because we are contract service and we pay Amtrak the difference between the fares collected and the cost of service. Our service should be 'revenue neutral' to Amtrak, regardless of what our fare structure is).
(emphasis mine)
Mr Skoropowski's final analysis, although less sensational than his initial warning, is correct. The Capitol Corridor and other fully state-funded services are not covered by the maximum discount limitation.

Last edited by PHLviaUS; Dec 27, 05 at 6:00 pm.
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