Hop Aboard an Amtrak in NYC for the ‘Prettiest Fall Train Trip in U.S.’

Amtrak is set to launch its popular window-covered Great Dome Car on the Adironack route in upstate New York in time for leaf-peeping season.

Dubbed the “the prettiest fall train trip in the U.S.” by Country Living, the Adirondack train, which travels from New York City all the way up to Montreal, offers spectacular views of changing tree colors and Lake Champlain vistas.

People can board at New York Penn Station, but the Great Dome Car is only attached to the train at the Albany stop — and then seats are first-come, first serve.

The historic train car is virtually all window, allowing travelers to soak in all the gorgeous autumnal views. The trip from New York City to Montreal takes about 11 hours, and one-way tickets start at $69.

The Great Dome Car will be available on the Adirondack route on select days from Thursday, Sept. 28 through Sunday, Oct. 29. Find more information at amtrak.com.

The Great Dome Car is the only remaining dome car in Amtrak service. Built in 1955, it was previously used on the Chicago-Seattle Empire Builder route when the train was operated by the Great Northern Railway and the Chicago Burlington & Quincy Railroad.

NBC New York


Amtrak debuts new marketing campaign amid years of flat ridership levels

Amtrak debuted a video ad campaign Thursday, hoping to attract air and road travelers to the rails.

Titled “Break the travel quo,” the four 30-second videos created by FCB Global focus on the headaches of traveling with Amtrak’s competitors, from highway traffic to Wi-Fi to baggage. The campaign launches amid flat national rail ridership, with Amtrak reporting just above 30 million passengers for the last six years.

“As soon as you say ‘train’ people shut down,” FCB Chief Creative Office Ari Halper said in a statement. “We had to find a Trojan Horse through their defenses, which is why we masqueraded as the perfect airline. In many ways, that’s exactly what we are, just without the wings.”

The agency was also behind Amtrak’s TV campaign in 2015, building a series of videos and a social media presence around the hashtag “AmtrakStories.” That push featured spots during the fall television season, as well as digital distribution on video services such as YouTube and Hulu.

“This is much more overtly asking people to consider the train, over car or air travel,” an FCB representative told CNBC when comparing the two ad campaigns.

Robert Puentes, CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation, a think tank in Washington, said the campaign appears to be aimed at discretionary travelers in the Northeast, where Amtrak has its strongest presence.

“But without huge upgrades it’s hard to think about an increase in ridership because you can’t squeeze any more trains on the existing infrastructure,” Puentes said. He added that the recent “summer of hell” repairs at New York’s Penn Station was a step in the right direction, but that more “improvement to Penn Station and the surrounding Hudson River area” are seriously needed.

CNBCAmtrak’s vice president of marketing, Kerry McKelvey, told CNBC the 2015 “500 Destinations” campaign made more people aware of the company’s brand. Now, he said, the most recent effort “is to put Amtrak at the top of the choice set” when people are thinking about domestic travel.

“We do well in the Northeast Corridor in the peak times, but we have a lot of trains that run off peak, which is an opportunity for people traveling on leisure,” McKelvey said.

Amtrak reported a $1.1 billion loss in fiscal year 2016, which ended Sept. 30. The company said it earned $3.2 billion from ticket sales and other revenue while incurring $4.3 billion in expenses. In November, Amtrak reported its smallest operating loss in decades, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Former Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson succeeded Wick Moorman as Amtrak CEO in June. Anderson was touted as someone who can help the company step forward because he helped lead Delta out of bankruptcy. Amtrak considers itself to be a private company, although it continues to receive heavy government subsidies.


Amtrak Wants to Remind You How Bad Flying Is

The rail system’s new president used to run Delta Air Lines. He feels your pain.

Richard Anderson knows exactly why so many people hate air travel. And as the former chief executive of Delta Air Lines Inc., he appears ready to exploit each of those pain points in his new role—as president and co-CEO of Amtrak. The railroad has launched a new advertising campaign focused heavily on why so many airlines have been despised by so many for so very long.

From free Wi-Fi to the absence of middle seats to the two bags you may check for free, Amtrak is pitching itself as a more comfortable, civilized travel alternative to an airline—albeit not as fast, but you can’t have everything.

“The coach on Amtrak is better than the first-class product on any domestic airplane,” Anderson said Thursday in an interview. The new campaign, though it predated his arrival, is “spot-on in terms of the contrast” with U.S. carriers, he said.

Anderson, 62, arrived at Amtrak in July and will assume the CEO title at year’s end, when co-CEO Wick Moorman steps down. Anderson said his first priority is to make the trains run on time; most depart punctually but then suffer delays en route and often arrive late. The company is also working to upgrade the interiors of passenger cars and will need to invest more on engineering work for Northeast Corridor tracks and other infrastructure, said Anderson, who moved to Washington this month.

Congress created Amtrak in 1970 via the Rail Passenger Service Act, and train service commenced the following year. The company’s ridership has been heavily concentrated in the Northeast, with service connecting New York, Boston, and Washington. That’s also the only region where Amtrak operates its high-speed Acela service, which began in 2000. Service in the corridor, however, is centered on the universally despised Penn Station in New York, a rat maze buried beneath Madison Square Garden. (Plans to expand Penn into a massive former post office at street level—and even clean up its nightmarish bathrooms—are gaining steam, though.

During his nine years at Delta, he became famous for the ferocity with which he battled subsidies

Financially, the enterprise has struggled, even as it boasts more than 30 million annual passengers. Its long-haul routes are among the most challenged, but Amtrak sees huge potential in “state-supported” routes of less than 750 miles, such as Milwaukee-Chicago, Los Angeles-San Francisco, and Seattle-Portland—the kinds of urban corridors whose population density has increased.

“You’re probably not going to build another freeway, and you’re probably not going to build another airport in those places,” Anderson said, noting the need for U.S. subsidies for rail travel, much as Congress appropriates large sums for America’s highways.

Amtrak also operates under federal subsidy, which helps to keep its average fares low, although the appropriate level of Congressional generosity for the rail system has been hotly debated over the years. Ultimately, Anderson said, Amtrak’s goal is to reach break-even on an operating basis within the next few years.

Anderson’s position on subsidies is noteworthy. During his nine years at Delta, he became famous for the ferocity with which he battled subsidies he believed competitors enjoyed, from sources including the Export-Import Bank and a trio of Middle Eastern governments that U.S. airlines accuse of giving unfair aid to their carriers. Under Anderson, Delta led an effort to cut off federal support for the ExIm Bank, which was a key element in many sales of Boeing Co. jets abroad.

Amtrak, meanwhile, provides an “essential service” for many Americans, Anderson said, and enjoys broad Congressional support. Earlier this month, the House of Representatives rejected a proposal by Representative Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican, to eliminate federal funding for Amtrak; a Senate committee has also set aside a budget request by the Trump administration to eliminate money for Amtrak’s long-distance routes.

Running a passenger rail company “is a lot more complicated than an airline,” Anderson said, because the railroad also owns its “air traffic control” system in the form of tracks, switches, and other equipment.

Anderson, who retired as Delta’s CEO in May 2016, isn’t collecting a salary in the Amtrak job. He was paid $53.2 million during his last four years as Delta’s chief executive. “We’ve all been very fortunate, right, so this is a great opportunity,” he said.


Amtrak reduces ticket window service as passengers choose eTicketing

JACKSON, MI – Train schedules won’t change, but the Amtrak ticket window at Jackson’s station will look different two days each week.

There will no longer be ticket agents Tuesday and Wednesday in Jackson, as more customers are opting to print tickets at home or scan their phone to get on the train. Other Amtrak stops are seeing similar changes, Spokesman Marc Magliari said.

“Overwhelmingly, our passengers choose electronic ticketing,” Magliari said. “Most people are using the eTicketing and a lot of people are doing it without talking to a human.”

A caretaker has been hired to open and close the station on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, since the station will still operate as normal, minus ticket agents. It went into effect Aug. 29.

The change helps Amtrak better manage costs, Magliari said.

“The days of people pushing coins and folded dollars across the counter to a ticket agent with a big stamping machine are pretty well gone,” Magliari said. “It’s all through automated systems.”

The ticketing window remains open for customers from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday through Monday.

Why close Tuesday and Wednesday? While Amtrak has a lot of business travelers, it also has a large group of student travelers who take the trains on weekends. Tuesday and Wednesday are typically the lowest travel days for Amtrak Midwest stations, Magliari said.

MLiveNews via California Rail News