New Embarrassing Review on Amtrak

I Took Amtrak Instead of Flying & It Made Me Want to Die a Little Bit.

https://jalopnik.com/i-took-am...e-want-to-1833533707


It's quite embarrassing that Amtrak is degrading in quality even more. Although many say that journalism is dead I think this is one of the most accurate reviews a non-train person has done on Amtrak. It's really saddening. What's more unfortunate is that even low-class airplane tickets will get you better treatment. What do you guys think?

Original Post

What's happening. Is your typical corporate fix.

Cut. Without thinking.  Amtrak was set up as a service for people.

Aren't these CEOs supposed to be brilliant?.  The money finder's?.

The term .  rob Peter .to save Paul.. Come to mind....use funds from profit making lines to off set lines that are costing more to operate.

If one person needs that line. Then as .a.a service...money needs to allocated to keep service going..

These board of directors. Need to seek Foundation funding. For these lines. 

Whenever you have someone cutting jobs.. Service goes down. Morale goes down..

Riki

It is indeed a shame--bordering on criminal--what we have allowed to happen to rail passenger service in the U.S., and the bad news is that it would be very difficult and terribly expensive to fix. In short: not likely to happen, at least in the current way Amtrak is structured and operated.

That said, my wife loves visiting New York City a couple of times a year with one of her lady friends (who foots a good part of the bill just to have someone go with her). I have not gone along on any of these trips, so can't pass along any personal observations.

Anyhow, Wendy loves taking the train, as does her friend, so that is how they travel to and from the Big Apple. I drive them to the Pittsburgh Amtrak station (about a 50-minute drive one way); they board the train for NYC; and I make a second round-trip to Pittsburgh a few days later to retrieve them and return to the Youngstown, Ohio, area.

They seem to really enjoy their train ride every time they go, and since it's a pleasure trip, they don't seem to mind that it takes them as longer or longer to get to NYC than if they drove there. They also have invariably found the Amtrak staff to be very friendly, courteous, and helpful. They don't even mind the snack bar type food.

IMG-0265

I took the above photo as Wendy's train pulled into Pittsburgh after her most recent visit to New York (they encountered a bit of a snowstorm).

As far as I am concerned, the only thing I really don't like is the back-and-forth drive from Youngstown to Pittsburgh and the once-beautiful and now terribly depressing Amtrak facility/station in Pittsburgh. It really is too bad Pittsburgh can't do better because it is a great reborn city and it deserves much better than it is getting from Amtrak. About the only thing good I can say about it is that the station is located in the heart of downtown, and close to the convention center, etc.

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"What do you guys think?"

To save the green, we will have a new deal; and except for a few, aerodromes will fly away while the others sing around a maypole; and if those nasty trains disappear, the future will be a running horse and buggy! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think that if you love trains then it is still a great adventure. I'm also thinking that maybe the writer was never caught up in the magic of trains. While his article was well written, he seemed sceptical from the beginning.

I recently took the North Jersey Coast line from Bay Head, NJ to Penn Station. It took over two hours with one train transfer and frequent stops. I could have driven it in much less time without stopping. But you know what? I loved every minute of it!

Sean

 

TCA 14-6985#

 

Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight


As far as I can tell, Amtrak is good for three things:

  1. Going up and down the east coast
  2. Going between the east coast and Chicago
  3. Providing said 'adventures' for people going anywhere else, preferably people not on a deadline.

If the author had tried 1 or 2 instead of 3, he might have gotten a much different impression - as he himself admits. But it's true, Amtrak is just not practical for most travel. I want to take Amtrak places, but I can never justify it. It's just much too slow. The only trip I have taken in recent memory - the only one that made sense - was up the NE Corridor to New York.

To those who are blaming Amtrak and railroads, in general, for poor performance, let's not forget that railroads helped foot the bill for road and airport construction, while not enjoying a penny from the government for building and rebuilding their own infrastructure.

Land grants of the nineteenth century aside, I don't believe any other money came from taxes levied on the public helped the railroads afterward.  Yet, money from the railroads, levied in the form of taxes, continues to build and support highways, for truckers and airports for the airlines and the communities they serve.

Who built all of the magnificent and lesser railroad stations in our country ?   I really don't think tax money was involved.  

So Amtrak is trying to make ends meet, like any other large corporation.

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

nickaix posted:

As far as I can tell, Amtrak is good for three things:

  1. Going up and down the east coast
  2. Going between the east coast and Chicago
  3. Providing said 'adventures' for people going anywhere else, preferably people not on a deadline.

If the author had tried 1 or 2 instead of 3, he might have gotten a much different impression - as he himself admits. But it's true, Amtrak is just not practical for most travel. I want to take Amtrak places, but I can never justify it. It's just much too slow. The only trip I have taken in recent memory - the only one that made sense - was up the NE Corridor to New York.

I'm retired and—shock horror—never learned to drive, never owned a car. Last year, took Amtrak to San Jose California from NYC. And back. About $2400, because I got a roomette. I've also Amtraked to Spokane, Wash., Kansas City, and Chicago. Last month, did, indeed, take the train to Boston. (And last week bought a Lionel Big Boy, which I will display, having no layout.)

I guess my dislike of driving extends to my model railroading enthusiasm, too!

Certainly when I've travelled and there's a mature train system and used it, I've liked it.  But its part of the culture and the locals support it even if they complain some about aspects of it. That's human nature. What they don't complain about is getting rid of it.

My wife and I have done Amtrak Phila to Boston about 18 times, to D.C. 4 times, to Florida 2 times. Coming in May, Amtrak Phila to New Orleans (Cresent), then on to AZ (Sunset Limited). I now have a Amtrak credit card. Now that I'm 77, I don't like driving over 2 hours to get somewhere.

Last year, I drove from Lewes, DE to St. Augustine, Fl. Rained 3 days out of the 4 days of driving round trip. Fun? No! But there was no direct rail or air option.

I saw this article this morning and had to stop reading almost at the beginning when he was complaining about the difference in travel time.  Yeah, no ____ there is a difference.  To some people , what you see while traveling by rail is well worth the time difference.  That along with being able to get up and walk around, get to your luggage (when you store in the small area in your car), grab a snack or drink, - more space/leg room -, makes a huge difference.  I get the issue with travel time if you don't want to "waste" your time traveling, but to my wife and I the train ride is part of the trip.  We look forward to that as much our final destination.  

Fortunately, we are only about 20-25 minutes from the Pittsburgh station, so that also makes it easier (so does the Amtrak Credit Card).  So far we've been on:
Capitol Limited: Pittsburgh -> DC and back (2 times)
Capitol Limited: Pittsburgh -> DC then the express (or whatever it's called) from DC -> NY and then back.
Capitol Limited: Chicago -> Pittsburgh

We've had a roomette every trip except two times one of the ways and obviously not on the DC -> NY and back train.  The staff has always been super nice to us.  Matter of fact, on our last trip we were in a roomette and the Amtrak employee that was servicing (we had interacted a few times with him and was was really nice) knocked on our door and moved us to our own room that had it's own shower/toilet.  

The only negative experience we've had so far is on one of the trips in coach, a guy thought it was appropriate to be listening to music on his phone with the volume up.  No fault of Amtrak.  The beauty of that though... it's a train and we could get up and walk around if we wanted.  

As for the food... we were disappointed when they canceled the dining service because it was enjoyable to sit in the dining car and order food.  With that though, the food they give you now (you have three choices I believe), is not bad by any means.  We've both actually like the meals we have chosen since they stopped the food service.  

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FWIW, I worked in NYC some time ago for a few years, I went up a couple times a week from the Phila area.  I started out riding Amtrak, moved to NJ Transit and PATH, and finally realized that it was easier and cheaper to simply drive up and go through the Holland tunnel and park a couple of blocks from the NYSE, job done.

When I have been in Europe, the trains have been night and day different than what we have here.  I was particularly impressed with the German trains, they were clean, fast, and on time!

Truthfully, I think a lot of the difference is the fact that the whole of Europe is similar in size to the US, so typically a trip in the US would cover a number of countries in Europe, probably not the typical train trip for an European traveler.  A country our size cries for true high speed train service to be practical for long distance travel in today's age.

Dan Padova posted:

Land grants of the nineteenth century aside, I don't believe any other money came from taxes levied on the public helped the railroads afterward.  Yet, money from the railroads, levied in the form of taxes, continues to build and support highways, for truckers and airports for the airlines and the communities they serve.

Just one (augmenting) point about the land grants:  they made money for the gov't not cost it.  The land was given to the roads for most of it to be sold, and, until it was sold, it was worthless.  Nobody wanted it, and nobody knew what to do with it.  It was almost completely inaccessible and uninhabited.  The gov't KEPT far more land than it gave away.  The land that was given away was mostly sold cheaply to folks who then moved there and grew there, making not only their own land but ALSO the remaining gov't land valuable.

Frisco, MoPac, and T&P near Rolla, MO

gunrunnerjohn posted:

Truthfully, I think a lot of the difference is the fact that the whole of Europe is similar in size to the US, so typically a trip in the US would cover a number of countries in Europe, probably not the typical train trip for an European traveler. 

I agree. We have done "non-local" rail travel in Italy, Poland, and Germany, but no trip was much over one hour. Our Florida trip was 24 hours. 

My mother-in-law used to take in girls from England who worked at Delaware beach places during the summers. They would say, "We'd like to go to California for the weekend", or "Spend a day seeing Florida".

Half the fun of train travel is having the time to watch the world go by, read a book, listen to music, chew the fat or play cards with new people you meet on the train. With all the time on hand, people are not in a rush, they are more friendly, and relaxed.

You don't get that on airplanes.

Ah yes, riding Amtrack. An activity that would drive even those not on questionable depression medication to suicidal thoughts, which would be funny if it weren't true, hehe.

Most of my travel is by Air, however, which is tolerable if you have a good book to read, or maybe in flight Wifi. Though, like Amtrack or any type of long-distance travel, depressive thoughts are just a given that you'll have to find some way to cope with.

I suggest a note pad of some sort and a pencil, as doodling whatever comes to mind helps ease any tension or boredom when travelling, though the drawings may lack any sharp linework due to the vibrations of the plane/train. And if all else fails, sleeping pills are always an option.

But there's also a certain amount of cultural support for trains elsewhere I think we are lacking but that's changed too -- since someone has to help get it all done.  Example, my experience in travel is that europe is very likely to integrate in one spot with walkable connectivity:  the plane, train, subway, bus and car rental ...

While this is true in a few spots in the US, it's not in my mind generally true here.

Finally there's the rate of service -- subways with trains every few mins at peak vs subways with trains packed a few mins apart all day long.

All this stuff makes sense -- but to be fair, it does make more sense in our densely areas...

I don't know if I would ever go on Amtrak. This is not because I don't like them, but more to do with infrastructure issues that have come about from whenever and not been addressed properly. This doesn't just extend to rail though.

An example is one of the roads I used to travel on to work some bunch of odd years ago. My late mother used to use the same road and would complain to no end about when will they fix it. What made things far worse was that the funds to fix it had been approved some months later, but the road remained the same. It wasn't until a year and a half(about) later that the road was finally patched up and back to pristine condition.

Now, I don't know if this is part of Amtrak's problem, but I would imagine it is somewhere in there as well.

Whoa!  That article was V E R Y spot on with the only time we took Amtrak a few years ago from Washington D.C. to Florida.....

The part where James, the food attendant,  said "crazy stuff happens on trains"  was the title of our trip down to and from Florida.  Right out of D.C., the A/C broke down in few cars, thankfully not ours; so all the way down to Florida, we had an extra 20+ people crowding the car...........sleeping on the floor and blocking doors.  They had nowhere else to go in the stifling heat in their cars.....who could blame them?    Never-the-less, packing people like sardines brought out mostly the most worst/obnoxious behavior..........

   At about 2 am in the morning, some young guy went nutso, possible from bad drug(s)  reaction,  and wanted to break out of the car (yippie he was VERY close by us) and tried to break windows to get out!  II couldn't get to him, but others restrained him, and he was led away to some other car in cuffs....

The return trip was a bit better....yet, again, there were two cars whose A/C either worked poorly, or had broke down.  My advice is that if you can afford one, get a roomette or whatever it's called.  Stuff breaks down, but as mentioned in the article, the "cleanliness" was questionable! 

The bathrooms looked like an elephant had misfired...........ok....enough..........

I have over 50,000 miles of riding Amtrak on about 80% of their system.  90% of these trips have been wonderful experiences.  I tend to not focus on the 10% because in transportation there is always disruptions, irregularities, etc.  For every 1 rude Amtrak employee there have been 10 super employees.  I avoid any bus connections although have used Amtrak Thruway in Arizona a few times and it served its purpose of getting me to either Flagstaff or Tuscon where my journey really begins.  Plan on lengthy delays because the freight traffic rules the roost.  Recent dining changes are not to my liking, but those of us who have been with Amtrak through the decades have seen this change depending on who is at the helm.  Amtraks Current ex airline executive Anderson needs to rethink the current downgrade in dining services on some routes.   

  As far as time on a 3 day trip, for me it goes by quickly.  I enjoy the scenery, the conversations and sometimes friendships that develop onboard, time to read, rest, and look for interesting railroad infrastructure along the way.

Another thing is to use common sense when planning a trip.  I avoid lengthy bus connections or backtracking because Amtraks service is not widespread enough.  I could use Amtrak from Cleveland to Cincinnati but it would be via Chicago and thus makes no sense at all for me to consider this.  There should be a direct route between these Ohio cities but politics killed that.  I-71 is the ONLY option and is often a nasty long drive with delays.  

Amtrak has been better in the past, but it still offers a great trip if you plan it wisely.  It also can be a vital alternative in many cases when other modes are suffering due to congestion and weather. 

The  railroads do get federal money help. And some of it from the highway fund.

The Big intermodal terminal in North Baltimore Ohio was built with federal funds. Then the railroads bought the container cranes for it from Germany.

Then I think its called the Gateway project  where they improved and enlarged all the tunnels for the intermodal traffic, between the east coast and Ohio was built with highway funds.

Then there is the big Chicago fix to get the trains through or around Chicago.

Those are the only ones I know of buy reading Trains magazine

The point is all transportation is subsidized even the large for profit corporations.

Lobbyist rule

If we take off our "railroad enthusiast" hats for a moment, his review is actually just fine.

He reported exactly what he experienced and how it made him feel.  It's okay to hear things that don't paint trains in a great light.

Some hate the airport, he does not.  He just wanted to experience another form of travel.   If anything, again forgetting what we know about railroads and how AMTRAK must interact, his first hand perception is something that needs to be addressed (among other things) if you want more of the general public to get behind passenger rail service.

The generations that grew up in the golden days of rail travel are slowly fading.  A lot of us, myself included, still like the so called romance of rail travel, especially trips of linger distances.

As this writer alluded to, many people view it as just another utilitarian form of transport.

I've taken a few long distance trips in the last couple years.  Dallas to Chicago.  Time was NOT a factor. Which is a good thing.

On each trip, the AMTRAK staff was excellent, and I had fun reliving my youth when my family would take the Superchief from Chicago to Los Angeles.  Like the writer, I do find some of the equipment tired on the inside.

Last year I priced out a trip, shorter than the Dallas to Chicago, to visit family.   Direct service with no train changes.   The price for a coach seat was about  the same for an airline coach seat.    A simple roomette was actually much more than a business class seat. 

Again, I like trains, I also like planes.  Unlike what seems to be a lot of people here, I really don't encounter issues when flying.

My take on the entire topic of passenger rail is that if we want a groundswell of support for rail travel to begin, we need to look outside our little railfan world.

Perception is everything.

Music, trains, boneless chicken farming
David

A very pleasant "short" Amtrak trip is the Adirondack …. between NYC and Montreal. I've done the round trip twice.

Everyone onboard were so nice. They all really wanted to be there. Some for fall foliage, etc. Very enjoyable trip speaking with folks, etc. Very relaxing.

I can understand folks wanting to have a nice sit-down meal on a train, but … not really for me. A hot cheeseburger and a cold Budweiser was fine with me. $10, IIRC. In the mornings I had microwaved Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches … plenty good enough for me.

All four legs of my two roundtrips were on time, or very close. Lots of beautiful land, and cool people.

I could have flown between NJ and Montreal, and arrived quickly, but it's just a nice experience on this train. Would I take a train half way across the country, or on other routes? No way. To each … his own.

This guys' approach (I'm in a hurry) and manner of experiencing (I'm in a hurry, dammit) it applies to 80-90% of anyone under the age of 30.  He was doomed to hate even before he bought the ticket.   Sad for him; even if a massive network of high speed rail would magically appear tomorrow, he would still hate after experiencing the quickness of air travel, because of the time factor (I wanna sleep in my own bed tonight). 

Whatever you do, except for the metro-corridors, don't ever expect rail travel in the US to be anything like Europe.

  

EBT Jim

Glad to hear about the good trips on the Adirondack. We're taking it to Montreal this May for connections to the Ocean overnight train to Halifax. We both enjoy the ride and as several others have said when you get into your high 70's long drives seem worse than any train delays.

Travel to Florida once or twice a year--not bad except for cancelling the diner on the Silver Star. And I make multiple trips to Williamsburg to see the grandkid each year. Of course living about 20 minutes from Penn Station Newark and NYC helps.

EBT Jim posted:

A very pleasant "short" Amtrak trip is the Adirondack …. between NYC and Montreal. I've done the round trip twice.

Everyone onboard were so nice. They all really wanted to be there. Some for fall foliage, etc. Very enjoyable trip speaking with folks, etc. Very relaxing.

I can understand folks wanting to have a nice sit-down meal on a train, but … not really for me. A hot cheeseburger and a cold Budweiser was fine with me. $10, IIRC. In the mornings I had microwaved Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches … plenty good enough for me.

All four legs of my two roundtrips were on time, or very close. Lots of beautiful land, and cool people.

I could have flown between NJ and Montreal, and arrived quickly, but it's just a nice experience on this train. Would I take a train half way across the country, or on other routes? No way. To each … his own.

I've taken the Maple Leaf before.   Enjoyable, and when I passed Herkimer NY I smiled ear to ear and thought about how as a youngster i wished i had a set of those OK streamliners from Herkimer Tool and Model Works. 

I had the pleasure of riding from Rensselaer to NYC many years ago in the vestibule of the hind end and the sunset over the Hudson was absolutely stunning. 

Back on track.  Amtrak has two major problems.  One side wants to eliminate it completely and the other side wants to fund it fully regardless of cost or ridership.  

It's akin to the USPS or the local library.  It and those who fund it need to adapt to a changing time.   Exactly what change is not mine to argue or decide. 

 

 

Rob M. ARHS # 3846 PRRT&HS # 8141 EPTC "Life Is Like A Mountain Railway, With An Engineer That's Brave..."

Rule292 posted:

Back on track.  Amtrak has two major problems.  One side wants to eliminate it completely and the other side wants to fund it fully regardless of cost or ridership. 

It's what Congress does when there is disagreement. A deal is struck that satisfies neither side and, in this case, leaves AMTRAK struggling to stay alive.

Joe Hohmann posted:

I think the question is: Northeast corridor only (which is making money), today's overall system (which, in total, is loosing money), or nothing. All I know is that every train we've taken between Philadelphia and Boston has been packed.

 

My understanding this has been an accounting trick.  For many years, Amtrak didn't account for infrastructure work (and needs) as part of the total cost for the NEC.  While it lookws like the NEC covers it's daily operating costs and even track maintenance, it isn't covering the capital costs of the infrastructure.   The NEC needs billions of dollars of investment in bridges and tunnels that date back to the 1930's or earlier.

Moving people is expensive and almost always does not make money.  My understanding is there is no passenger train service anywhere in the world that is really profitable.  If you take into account the operation of airports, air traffic control, safety, etc, much of which is covered by local/state/Federal government, neither is air travel.  

But moving people enhances the economy at many levels and tends to be a wise public investment.  Personally, while I've enjoyed several long distance Amtrak trips, I'm not sure they are the greatest investment, even if, in the grand scheme of things it is a tiny bit of coin.

On our many trips to Germany, trains were the way to travel. After the wall came down and opening many rails that were once for freight only and introducing again passenger service, there were very few places we couldn't travel within a day or 1 1/2 day.

Same here during 50s and early 60s I could take a train directly South, east or west without having as now travel far East to get to Chicago or Miami and it didn't take 2 1/2 days. Several years ago we decided to travel from home in Florida to Chicago, it took 3 days to get there and because of delays 4 days to get back. Never again.

What with all the taxes going to roads and airports, I'm sure, I would, if new rails were put into places for more direct service to many large cities in a state, many would consider maybe going by rail. But as of now, I would not consider a 1200 mile trip by auto in a day and 1/2 or flying in 3 hours, and back that would use up a weeks vacation to Chicago by rail. Europe has it right on moving people and they love it. I know very few that would consider flying to their destination within their country.

The writer was fair and didn't bash RR travel too much. He just spoke the unfortunate truth. Rail travel was never developed in this country as it should have been. If Eisenhower decided to build out the RR's instead of highways, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

 We are a biased audience for sure, that being said, I've traveled the NE Corridor, both Acella and Regional from NY Penn many times with no negative comments. Also ridden the Autotrain 6 trips to Florida and back, again with little to no issues.

Three Rails Are Better Than None 

FWIW.......I took the article as it was meant..........it is just a factual comparison between air travel and train travel.  That said, my minute experience about going to Florida in my previous post augments his experience. As I gathered from fellow Forumites......Amtrak is a topic that Congress and others would rather forget.

I would like to see improvements, yet honestly haven't much to offer for suggestions!  That said I agree that train travel is MEANT to be for those NOT on an immediate schedule....(leisurely).  And bring your own food and adult beverages!

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