When I saw that Mr. Rosenwald would be
speaking, I was more excited about hearing him at the conference than
any other speaker on the agenda. I like to hear long-time
employees of Amtrak speak and I had heard repeatedly that Brian
Rosenwald was instrumental in getting the Parlour Cars on the Coast
Starlight, and later saving them from being eliminating. I
understand he was also intimately involved in the rehab. of the Empire
Builder. Now that is a
person I want to hear, as he now works on the Sunset Limited. I obviously,
living in Southern California, enjoy the best of Amtrak, the Coast Starlight, and by nature have
'regional interests,' so having never ridden the Sunset Limited, have only a
reporting interest in it's rehab. But true to my trade of
e-reporting for TrainWeb.com, I have heard the stories of how Katrina
knocked the socks off the Florida to New Orleans portion of this route,
and how riders wonder if it will ever return. It is from this
point of view that I dutifully took notes on Mr. Rosenwald's
I might add, RailPAC/NARP started a system at the beginning of the
conference of having attendees write their questions on paper, to be
read by an MC after each presentation (as TRAC has successfully done
since I started attending their conferences). This procedure fell
flat because they never picked up any questions after Mr. Boardman's
first presentation. Therefore, I still have in my possession my
questions for Brian Rosenwald.
How Amtrak is Changing
Mr. Rosenwald began by
addressing, How Amtrak is Changing. He mentioned that no one
person within Amtrak management 'owns a route' as in the past and they
have a systematic procedure for reviewing long-distance routes and
suggesting improvements to the Board.
Route Performance Improvement (RPI)
The way RPI works is that six routes per year are studied to see what
can be changed. The RPI saved the Cost
Starlight Parlour Cars.
The CS had to show revenue
on the Parlour Car to save it. That is why they charge for wine
tasting, and in return we now have a Parlour Car attendant.
They are also working on long-distance staffing in coach cars - one per
car - and working on dining car staffing. They've started
Regional Menus and restored greener and healthier menu items. By
June they will have one 'signature menu item' on each route.
Sunset Limited - Diamond
in the Rough
Mr. Rosenwald mentioned that the RPI on the Sunset Limited
65 people working on it and they worked on 250 ideas that were
submitted. The result of the RPI is a proposal, that may be
accepted by the board or rejected, (so I'm thankful that we got to hear
about it before it went to the board), is that service and schedule
plans are for it NOT
tri-weekly train. They reasoned that cutting service would not
make it financially sound, but restoring 7-day service will. Part
of the RPI was a discussion of connections with the Texas Eagle
Revenue Per Car Day is a good measure of revenue recovery. On an
accompanying graph, he showed the Empire Builder
at the top in
revenue recovery, and the Sunset Limited
at the bottom
- but it sits for days without any revenue on the current schedule.
will have daily service, probably within months,
if passed. Their restrictions in the RPI are: 1) they
cannot add more equipment because there is not any available, 2) they
must consider destinations without bias, 3) they must consider the cost
of the host railroads.
As with other prepared presentations of the day, Mr. Rosenwald had
excellent PowerPoint slides prepared. I tried to photograph as
many as I could.
Note to other presenters:
If you want your presentation to be accurately reported and remembered
by the attendees...have a slide presentation! Also, tell the
audience where they can find this slide set online, or other similar
information online! Otherwise, you are expecting an audience that
may never have been responsible for remembering anything from a
presentation giving their interpretation of your information, which,
more than likely, will be misquoted.
Mr. Rosenwald's excellent slides (with my feeble attempt to replicate
through photography). Remember to double click any image for a
Customer Profile of the Sunset Limited's
Route and Ridership boarding at each station LA to New Orleans.
Cost Recover by Route - Sunset Limited is lowest.
Proposal and History
The proposal is for a Los Angeles - San Antonio - Chicago daily
service. This route will provide the most revenue, a must for any
proposal at Amtrak. There is to be 'stub' service from San
Antonio to New Orleans on a daily, daylight schedule. Service
will include: Coach, Business Class, Checked Luggage, and Meal
Service. A later departure (10:30 pm) from Los Angeles will allow
for connections to the Coast Starlight
Since tickets, food, and sleepers are revenue generators these factors
are being considered in this proposal. Downside is a bad
arrival/departure time for Palm Springs, but added revenue from added
big-city stations offsets this negative factor. This is the "Cincinnati Phenomena
" the fact that
on the Cardinal
Cincinnati is always a looser because it is served at 3 to 4 a.m.
Thank you, Mr. Rosenwald, for letting us peak at the pre-approved
proposal and hear the considerations across the board that have to be
part of the thought process.
Another attendee's thoughts:
Brian Rosenwald came up with a really good trade off to "improve" the
Sunset Limited service. Bringing that train up to 7 days instead of 3
days per week is a definite "improvement" to me. Restoring the
connection in both directions with the Amtrak Coast Starlight is an
additional "improvement" that as Brian Rosenwald pointed out, is worth
an additional million dollars per year in passenger revenue.
The major trade off is that San Antonio to New Orleans service goes
down to just Coach / Business Class service. But it will be a daytime
train reducing the need for sleepers. And that to goes up to 7 days per
week. Again I see this as a major improvement. And like Brian Rosenwald
said, if equipment becomes available, there is no reason that there
couldn't be a sleeper on that train that gets switch out to the New
Orleans bound train in San Antonio.
Of course many see this as a nail in the coffin of Amtrak ever
restoring Sunset Limited service to Florida. I have a contrary opinion.
With 7 day per week service on the Los Angeles / San Antonio / Chicago
train AND the San Antonio - New Orleans train, I think ridership will
soar and put pressure on restoring service all the way to Florida.
After the Meeting, I got this 'Clarification from Amtrak' It is
what Brian actually said, but just like eyewitnesses to the same event,
many heard only a few of the facts, and may not have gotten those right:
restructuring (from an Amtrak official for forwarding to discussion
> I wanted to clarify a number of misconceptions that have come
> up about the revamped Sunset Limited proposal that was
> presented by Brian Rosenwald in Los Angeles to RailPAC.
> First of all, this is nothing more than a proposal that is
> under development and discussion, and at this time has not
> been finalized or approved by Amtrak's Executive Committee or
> Board of Directors.
> 1) As part of this proposal, the Texas Eagle (see name caveat
> below) would run from Chicago - San Antonio - Los Angeles
> daily, and a connecting Superliner train (with checked
> baggage and meal service) would operate from New Orleans -
> San Antonio daily.
> 2) Make no mistake, this proposal would restore daily service
> to all points on the Sunset route. Tri-weekly service is
> inefficient, confusing to passengers, results in poor
> financial performance, and presents a number of marketing and
> other challenges. The only bias that Amtrak had going into
> this analysis was to have daily service on this route.
> 3) As presented to RailPAC, the analysis for this proposal
> showed over 100,000 additional yearly riders for the
> proposal, along with significant revenue increases. The
> analysis took into account ridership demand, forecast demand,
> and markets.
> 4) The transfer in San Antonio from the thru train to the
> connecting train would NOT be in the middle of the night. As
> part of the proposed schedule, the eastbound train would
> leave Los Angeles after 10 PM, arriving San Antonio around 6
> AM, and the eastbound connecting train would leave around
> 7:30 AM. Going west, the connecting train would leave New
> Orleans around 10:30 AM, arrive New Orleans around 11:30 PM,
> and passengers could then get on the Eagle before it departs.
> Again, no schedule has been approved by any host RR and this
> is only a discussion at this time.
> 5) No name has been chosen for either service. This is
> certainly up to discussion and is probably the least of the
> 6) This proposal is completely independent of the Sunset-East
> study, and would not end the possibility of re-instating a
> transcontinental service, should the corporation decide to do
> so. Thru-cars could potentially operate between Los Angeles,
> San Antonio, and New Orleans, and even continue to points
> east should this be what the study recommends.