Friday, September 17, 2021

Postscript: CN Auto-With-You Survey

CN's Auto-With-You service was operated from 1972 until the VIA era began in 1976. Between 1967 and 1972, CN had received requests from passengers to travel with their own automobiles, based on similar service in Europe. Another precedent was the Washington-Florida Auto-Train service initiated in 1971. CN's Super Continental blasts through Concord, ON in these undated photos kindly shared by John Wallington, with a 57-foot auto transporter in passenger colours bringing up the markers:
This post is actually a postscript to an earlier post on CN Car-Go-Rail and Auto-With-You services. Car-Go-Rail was not attractive to passengers because of its limited service and schedule, and the passengers were without their auto while it was in transit. CN experimented with Auto-With-You service on train Nos 3 and 4 between Toronto and Edmonton. There was daily service with six autos per train. The passengers travelled aboard the same train. Passengers delivered their auto four hours prior to departure, with the auto made available soon after arrival in Toronto or Edmonton. 
In this 1973 online auction site photo, CN 8516 has two 57-foot auto transporters at the loading area at the west end of Toronto Union Station, by the CN Express building:
CN commissioned a survey among Auto-With-You users, the results of which were published in September, 1972. Of the 192 questionnaires mailed to Canadian and American users of the service, 112 were returned, giving a 60% return rate. These were peak-season passengers, and the survey was returned in a pre-addressed, postage-paid envelope to encourage participation. Highlights of the survey results:
  • 90% of the respondents travelled by CN due to the service being provided. If it had not been available, two-thirds would have driven and 18% per cent would have flown or used the bus.
  • 29% said they would have rented a car otherwise
  • 80% were on vacation
  • 85% of the trips were one-way, only 15% were round-trips
  • 13% were moving to a new home
  • 5% said their employer paid the fare for them

What did passengers think about the service?
  • 50% were completedly satisfied, mentioning careful handling of their autos and courteous employees
  • 35% thought the service was expensive
  • 90% also booked sleeping car space, with the remainder only travelling in coach because sleeping car space was not available

Why did passengers use Auto-With-You?
  • 58% said it saved them the drive
  • 30% said it was faster than driving
  • 18% would not have driven that far

Unfavourable comments about Auto-With-You:
  • 13% experienced delays in car delivery
  • 4% reported damage to their auto
  • 9% said employees were not knowledgeable about the plan

Unfavourable comments about their trip aboard CN:
  • 7% thought CN needed dome cars, (like CP?!)
  • 3% said their sleeping accommodation was too cramped
  • 4% complained of insufficient ventilation
  • 3% mentioned train delays
  • 6% did not find the food satisfactory

What about the cost?
  • 54% said the cost of shipping their auto was reasonable, 35% said it was expensive
  • 68% said tickets were reasonable, 14% said they were expensive

What about the prospect of using open auto racks?
  • 50% would ship in an open auto rack, but only if CN were responsible for damages!
  • Of those who would not ship in open auto rack, 78% said their auto not be safe from inclement weather or vandalism
  • 13% said their auto would not be secure
  • 31% said their auto would get too dirty
These results give us contemporary reaction to CN's revolutionary service, perhaps pointing to some reasons why it was not continued!

Running extra...

I finished two books recently. Yep, got 'em both coloured. Seriously though, I actually read two books. A rare ramble into fiction for me, with a re-read of Nicholas Monsarrat's two-years-in-the-making The Cruel Sea, telling the story of a corvette (non-sports car corvette!). Also, Mission Thrift Store dollar purchase of Alec Ross' 1986 Coke Stop in Emo. These two make me want to stay on dry land, away from U-boats and rapids, respectively!

Kudos to author Ross for using the adjective "Brobdingnagian" at one point in his saga. His usage loomed large for me. In fact it was gigantic! Hugely impressive. 

Running extra...Extra Election Edition!

Riding home from Toronto to Kingston one evening during the Stephen Harper reign, an elderly couple with special needs was seated apart in the Business Class car. They spoke to the attendant who told them he'd see what he could do. Then, a passenger boarded at Oshawa and was seated behind me in the single seat row of 2+1 seating. Overhearing the seniors' plight, he quickly volunteered to switch seats, giving them two seats together. After they switched, the couple expressed their thanks and talked to the fellow as dinner service started. The Oshawa passenger volunteered that he was going to Ottawa. He was going there for a veterans' event. They clearly had no idea who he was. I recognized him as Erin O'Toole, the then-Minister of Veterans Affairs, though he didn't tell them that. As I disembarked at Kingston, I briefly told him 'thanks' for making those elderly folks' trip much more enjoyable. I don't care about your or my political stripe, but integrity is doing the right thing - especially when no-one is watching. (Well, I was.)

Speaking of gigantic, be sure to vote in this Monday's election. In fact, vote early and often. You can even bring your own pen or pencil! No crayons. Thousands of our forebears died to build and preserve Canada, and while it's eminently Canadian to sit and grouse about our government, not voting seems un-Canadian. This election will not be rigged. Please vote for the party of your choice. The results for PM may actually take until the AM, so be patient.


J. P. said...

For the longest time until recently there were about 4 of the Car-Go-Rail Automotive Car Carriers sitting in the ground at the Guild Electric yard at Langstaff Rd. and Yonge St. (Across from Langstaff GO Station) you could see them on Bing and Google maps

Eric said...

I'd heard about those relics, J.P. Auto transporter boneyard!

Thanks for your comment,

Bill Staiger - USA said...

A very interesting article on the Car-Go-Rail. Just wondering, did the service continue year round or just in the summer months? I am surprised that VIA was not mandated in the legislation to continue operating the service at least for a trial period.

Eric said...

Hi Bill,

I believe the service was year-round. Of course, a snow-covered auto transporter photo would confirm that! The legislation was so broad that you could drive a....transporter through it!

Thanks for your comment,