Amtrak’s new CEO Richard Anderson, former CEO of Delta Air Lines, is bringing airline efficiencies and customer-facing improvements to Amtrak already. As announced in Aug. 2017, Amtrak is refurbishing over 450 coach cars in the series known as “Amfleet I”. The work is being done in three phases during normal car downtime to Amfleet I cars serving the Northeast and Midwest.
Phase I: Fall 2017
I rode in a Business-class car with these improvements:
- firmer seat cushions with great lumbar support
- attractive, comfortable, easy clean synthetic leather seat exterior with eight year lifespan
- new textured stain-resistant Antron nylon carpeting–replacable as often as every 3 months as needed
- LED reading lights, nice white spectrum vs. old hot reading lights
- LED main aisle lights, nice white spectrum vs. dim, yellow incandescent
- new one-piece antimicrobial bathroom flooring, vs. old tiled flooring that retained odor
- vent cleaning and air filter replacement
These same changes are also being made to Coach cars.
I noticed that the air does smell a lot better, particularly in the bathroom. however, the bathrooms still suffer from poor ergonomics, including for the handicapped restroom with regard to placement of the toilet paper holder. The toilets themselves are still something I avoid sitting on unless desperate. In the long-distance cars (Superliner I/II and Viewliner I/II) the bathrooms are much better than Amfleet I. Maybe it’s too costly to bring toilet improvements to Amfleet I.
Another downside I noted is that neither Coach or Business have armrests between the seats, only on the outer edge. While the feel of the seat is markedly improved, orthopedic/ergonomic factors are still reliant on the 40 year old seat frame. I think Amtrak did about the best they could without gutting the cars.
These “Made in America” changes will roll out over 9 months, through summer 2018. Amtrak is deliberating whether to replace Amfleet I in the 2020s, or to undertake a major refurbishment, gutting the Amfleet I cars and rebuilding the 40 year old interiors from scratch.
Phase II: Winter 2017
Business class cars will start to get:
- new curtains
- new wainscoting (below the windows)
- new bulkhead
The café cars are also scheduled to be refurbished, although the details are not yet available.
Phase III: Summer 2018
Completing Amfleet I coach upgrades for all affected routes:
- Northeast Regional (including trains to Springfield)
- Empire Service
- Maple Leaf
- Ethan Allen Express
- Springfield Shuttles
- Illinois Service
- Missouri River Runner
- Michigan Services