While we’re all about flying here at Point Me, there’s still something wonderful about train travel. This is especially true in places where train infrastructure is modern and efficient. While Amtrak in the US often does not fall in this category, it’s still a nostalgic experience and sometimes a viable transportation option.
The dining car onboard Amtrak was one of the experiences that defined train travel for decades. However, last month, Amtrak announced that they were eliminating dining cars on long-distance routes east of the Mississippi.
Routes with dining car eliminated as of October 1, 2019:
- Cardinal (New York to Chicago)
- City of New Orleans (Chicago to New Orleans)
- Crescent (New York to New Orleans)
- Silver Meteor (New York to Miami)
Why Amtrak Is Eliminating Dining Cars
Cost savings, of course. Amtrak is seriously in the red to begin with, and they estimate they would save about $2 million per year by getting rid of the dining car.
Amtrak is also quick to say this isn’t a service cut, but actually the company adapting to the shifting needs of passengers and in particular, millennials.
Some people really like [the dining car] and view it as sort of a nostalgic train experience,” Peter Wilander, who leads Amtrak’s customer experience, told the Post. “Some people, especially our new millennial customers, don’t like it so much. They want more privacy, they don’t want to feel uncomfortable sitting next to [strangers].”
Yes, Amtrak is blaming its cost cutting on millennials not wanting to talk to strangers.
Amtrak’s New Enhanced Flexible Dining
Instead of a true dining car, Amtrak will be offering pre-assembled meals for its premium customers in sleeper cars. They are calling the initiative “Enhanced Flexible Dining.” The routes listed above, along with the Silver Star train from NY to Miami (this train currently has cafe car service only), get the flexible dining treatment.
- A new dining menu with hot, ready-to-serve choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Complimentary room service provided by the Sleeping Car attendant.
- Onboard lounge space for Sleeping Car customers to dine and socialize throughout the trip
- Flexible dining times without the need for reservations
For coach customers, they will be able to make select food purchases in the cafe car. However, it will be the end of freshly prepared meals aboard. Say goodbye to white linen tablecloths and a steak prepared to your liking.
The Petition To Save The Amtrak Dining Car
A Change.org petition with over 13,000 signatures and counting was started by Gene Arenson, a member of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP). The petition is asking Amtrak and Congress to save the dining car experience on long-distance trains.
Some comments from the campaign:
“We have had amazing trips on Amtrak and one of the best things is the dining car. You get to know America while seeing America! It breaks my heart that they want to phase out this beautiful institution.” – Hadley Northrop from San Francisco, California.
“Nothing could be finer than dinner in the diner! Please continue this once-proud service.” – Temple Whitson from Alexandria, Virginia.
“Don’t take away another beautiful tradition.” – Terry Walking from Pinellas Park, Florida.
“Railways and dining cars are part of America’s history. Please don’t take that away.” – Laura Leach from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Passenger rail advocates aren’t going down without a fight to save the train dining tradition.
While Amtrak is making cuts to dining, the company is planning to still invest in the overnight experience with updated cushions, bedding, sheets, and new sleeper cars.
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