Friday, May 1, 2009

Amtrak Should Cross Off the Cross Country Cafe

A couple of posts back I mentioned the redesigned dining cars that have shown up on several of the Amtrak routes. They're called the Cross Country Cafe and I found myself eating in one on both the Texas Eagle from Fort Worth to Chicago and again on the Capitol Limited from Chicago to Washington. They're also found on the City of New Orleans. At first blush, they look very stylish, but unfortunately they aren't really very functional.

For example, dining car patrons are seated in booths, not at tables. Half of the booths are like this one (above) and are quite awkward. Whoever is seated on the long side of the table has more room than necessary, but has his or her back to the passing scenery. The other two people, seated at each end of the little table, don't have enough room.

The other half of the booths seat four people, but the table is tapered slightly so the two people sitting closest to the aisle have less room than the other two patrons.

All the booths and tables are fixed in place and the designers have apparently allowed room for Amtrak's heftier passengers. But that means smaller people, especially kids, find themselves too far from the table and have to lean forward awkwardly while eating.

And, finally, Amtrak's dining car crews don't like this new set-up. It can't seat as many people at one time because every other table will only accommoodate three instead of four. The net result: On crowded trains, there has to be an additional sitting and that lengthens what is already a very long day.
Bottom line? In my personal opinion, the new Cross Country Cafe is what we here in Hawaii would refer to as "a bus' egg."

6 comments:

Mike said...

Hard to imagine that they went into production without trying a full scale model for field trials. Strange. What were they thinking?

JIM LOOMIS said...

I have to assume they did, but who knows? I suppose if they tested it with first-time or infrequent passengers it could have gotten favorable reviews -- the color scheme and appearance is certainly attractive. But it just doesn't work ... for me, anyway.

Print Man 2000 said...

They did do testing with two CCC's before converting anymore. In fact, the ones running now are the second evolution. The first ones had even worse seating than these.

ExEclipser said...

Sounds like one of those "We'll test it, but no matter what the criticisms are, we'll incorporate it anyway" type deals...

Mark & Amy said...

I rode in this car on the Capitol Limited in March 2009. I didn't have any problem with it. I saw 4 people to every table and no one was complaining. Yes, you can't see the scenery behind you, but you can easily look across the isle out the other window. Yes, the tables are differently shaped than traditional dining cars, but the difference is negligible. We all ate and enjoyed the experience. And if the dining car crew is "unhappy" that there is an additional seating, then I say, you're in the wrong line of work. Their job is to serve in a dining car. The job in itself is what it is.

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