Jcs17 From United States of America, joined Jun 2001, 8065 posts, RR: 36 Posted (11 years 1 month 4 weeks ago) and read 2407 times:
So, I took the "real" Amtrak for the first time on Sunday morning. I have been on Acela, but never one of the long-distance rail routes. The word "suck" does not do my Amtrak experience justice.
I board Empire Builder Train #8, which was surprisingly on-time at 12:55AM in Grand Forks enroute to St. Paul, MN(scheduled arrival at 7:05AM). First impression upon boarding, Jesus Christ, I've died and gone back to the year 1983. We boarded the train through the Viewliner car, the downstairs lounge is still bright orange, and the Viewliner itself was painted solid turd brown inside, with burrito diaharrea colored capret, and seats in the Viewliner that hadn't been replaced since the Reagan administration. Drink cups and litter were strewen throughout the cabin, which was about 50 degrees (it was -11F outside). As the train starts moving away from the station, the conductor informs us that there are not enough Coach seats to accomodate any Grand Forks passenger. Instead, we will sit in the freezing Viewliner car and have to wait for the train to arrive in Fargo, an hour and ten minutes later, for 15 Coach passengers to disembark. Hey, Amtrak, my ticket said "RESERVED COACH," call me old fashioned, but I was kind of expecting a coach seat to be availible for me when I boarded the train.
So we get to Fargo, and we are finally able to sit down in a warm Coach car. The seat was as hard as a rock, uncomfortable as hell. Also, notably, the elite clientel that Amtrak seems to attracts are single mothers, hillbillies, college students, people who usually take Greyhound, and old people. Of course, babies are crying, which doesn't help me fall asleep on my rock hard seat. I maybe manage half an hour of sleep before giving up and reading my Tom Wolfe novel.
5AM, train stops. 6AM, train still stopped, no information. 7AM, train still stopped, no information. We don't even know where the hell we are at that point (it turns out we're just short of the St. Cloud station). 8AM, conductor finally announces that a Burlington Northern train just ahead of us in St. Cloud, MN derailed and that we couldn't get by. He said that right now there is "heavy equipment on the way to fix the problem" and that he would give us an update in half an hour. By now, I know I can't make my flight from MSP. 10AM, conductor announces that buses are coming from St. Paul and should be in St. Cloud momentarily to take passengers to their final destination. 11AM, buses arrive. 11:30AM, finally allowed to get off the train and board bus to Minneapolis. Some people had to take a bus all the way to Chicago! 12:30PM, arrive at St. Paul station on the bus. 4:30PM, and $50 in standby charges later, I'm boarding my ATA flight to MDW. Finally got to my house in Dallas at midnight. A nice 24-hour trip from North Dakota to Texas ("Planes, Trains, and Automobiles," anyone?) thanks to good old Amtrak. It's nice to know that my tax money goes to such valuable, not to mention modern and efficient, subsidies.
(and, no, I will never take Amtrak again if I have a choice in the matter)
Seb146 From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 13677 posts, RR: 14
Reply 1, posted (11 years 1 month 4 weeks ago) and read 2385 times:
Sorry you had a bad experience. I have taken Amtrak from Pasco Washington to Fargo North Dakota once and many times between Portland Oregon and Lincoln Nebraska. I never had any problems like the one you described. I never had a problem with the coach seats being uncomfortable but I do remember the club car was always cold. Besides, with Greyhound cutting service, Amtrak is in the position to pick up more of the slack left behind. And, have you ever tried sleeping or getting any kind of pitch on a seat on the bus? Give me Amtrak any day!
Just an update: I will be taking Amtrak Cascades (similar to Acela) from Portland to Seattle and back for the New Years Celebration.
Venus6971 From United States of America, joined Dec 2004, 1458 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (11 years 1 month 4 weeks ago) and read 2376 times:
Sorry about the poor experience, here in Oklahoma City we are serviced by the heartland flyer which is about the only train in which even Amtrak makes money. Used it for the annual Texas Oklahoma game in Dallas. The clientele was a bunch of drunk Okies singing Boomer Sooner.
ANCFlyer From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 3, posted (11 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 22 hours ago) and read 2352 times:
If in Sea try the Coast Starlight, absolutely awesome. Have done that several times and never had a problem. Also, the Northeast Corridor. Acela is interesting. It's not a German ICE but fast nontheless.
Avoid the LA area until Union Pacific works out their over crowding problems though.
Redngold From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 6907 posts, RR: 40
Reply 6, posted (11 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 2272 times:
Perhaps I'll write more later, but let me just add two points for the time being:
1. AMTRAK is at the mercy of the freight railroads which own the tracks on which its trains travel. Even when things are "going smoothly," AMTRAK has a terrible time getting its trains routed around the freights to maintain a timely schedule, because the dispatchers are under pressure to get their own freights out first.
2. AMTRAK receives less-than-adequate financial support from both the populace and the federal government for what it is expected to do. This has resulted in major service cuts and a delay in equipment replacement (thus your vintage 1980s decor.) If you want to see better service and equipment, you should write to your government officials and join the National Association of Rail Passengers http://www.narp.org to aid the campaign.
CactusA319 From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 2918 posts, RR: 23
Reply 8, posted (11 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 2213 times:
I used to ride the Illini regulary between Chicago and Carbondale, IL during my college years. This train is all coach and the cabins weren't bad at all-probably the updated ones. However since this train ran on Illinois Central-Canadian National tracks, it was late pretty much every time I took it since it had to give way to the freight trains. Still, it beat driving 5-plus hours or taking Greyhound.
Stratofish From Germany, joined Sep 2001, 1076 posts, RR: 5
Reply 10, posted (11 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 2161 times:
I had the same kind of experience on the "Coast Starlate", we were trapped in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon for 13 hours due to a derailed freight train ahead of us.
My Ride on the Empire Builder (which I took all the way from Chicago, IL to Portland, OR) was the best train ride of my life.
" The seat was as hard as a rock, uncomfortable as hell."
I found my Coach seat very comfy even for the 46 hour ride, not first class but more than ok for me.
Btw, start acting like a man not like a wimp!
" Also, notably, the elite clientel that Amtrak seems to attracts are single mothers, hillbillies, college students, people who usually take Greyhound, and old people."
And your point is???
DeltAirlines From United States of America, joined May 1999, 9018 posts, RR: 11
Reply 11, posted (11 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 2147 times:
I've only taken Amtrak three times, BOS-NYP and return on Acela (Business Class), and Anaheim-Los Angeles on the Pacific Surfliner (in coach). On all three trains I was very impressed by the service, but I guess these aren't a real comparison to the majority of the country's Amtrak, as Acela is hands down their premiere train, and the Surfliner is essentially a commuter-type train (definietely not a long-distance train), but still, each time, seats were comfortable, about 38 inches of pitch, footrests on all trains, decent food in the cafe car, friendly employees.
747-600X From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 2827 posts, RR: 13
Reply 12, posted (11 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 2107 times:
Never ridden an Amtrak. Took the french TGV from Lyons to Paris a couple years ago, and needless to say, had no complaints in the world. Comfy, silk smooth, fast... it's too bad we can't get decent rail service in the states.
57AZ From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 2586 posts, RR: 2
Reply 13, posted (11 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 2060 times:
I have had mixed experiances with Amtrak service. My only unpleasant experiance was aboard the Amtrak Crescent about a year ago. Departing New Orleans Union Station, the dining car crew failed to open as soon as the conductor had completed his ticket lift. The dining car didn't open until the train had been underway for more than an hour, leaving hungry passengers without an option. The service provided was spotty and fare poor. This resulted in a complaint to Amtrak which was looked into. The quality of service on Amtrak has always been second rate, though not due to a lack of trying on the part of Amtrak's dedicated employees. Their survival is a testiment to their hard work. The railroads dumped passenger service in Amtrak's lap in the hope that they would fail and the railroads could be free of passenger service obligations and inconvienances once and for all. They didn't consider that congress would continue to pump money into the flailing operation for 25 years.
"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."
Newark777 From United States of America, joined Dec 2004, 9348 posts, RR: 27
Reply 14, posted (11 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 2044 times:
Northeast Corridor trains (regional service, not Acela), is not that bad in my opinion. They are usually on-time out of Penn Station, but I think this is because they own the tracks and the station. The ride down to Washington is usually pleasant, and the quiet car is always a useful place to go if I feel tired. It is sometimes a business car used as the quiet car, so that makes it that much better. I may just be used to NJ Transit, though, which is not much compared to most Amtrack service.
Redngold From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 6907 posts, RR: 40
Reply 15, posted (11 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 2039 times:
OK, here's the extended version...
First of all, I'd like to say to JCS that although your experience wasn't pleasant, it is not entirely AMTRAK's fault. There was a derailment, and lifting hundreds of tons of twisted metal (including hazardous material) off the tracks is going to take some time. You can't blam AMTRAK for something it can't control.
That said, there is absolutely no reason why the U.S. passenger rail system should be as shabby as it is. This is a case of the counterintuitive being the real solution. Congress and, therefore AMTRAK by dint of budget restrictions, have cut service time and time again with the idea that they can cut it down to the most efficient routes and then start making money. The result: a map of routes that used to form a web around the U.S. is now a skeleton of three major transcontinental routes (The Empire Builder, The California Zephyr and The Sunset Limited) connecting tiny webs in the Northeast and Southern California.
If you were to colorcode the routes that make money black and the routes that lose money red, then there would be a lot of red connecting small areas of black.
Enough of those analogies. The counterintuitive solution would be for the states to work with AMTRAK to set up inter- and intrastate, medium haul routes. In Ohio they've been talking about "The Three C's" route for years... A passenger rail route connecting Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. The problem is that ODoT has instead added a third lane to I-71, which connects the two cities.
For comparison - along a six-lane thoroughfare you could build, at a minimum, a ten-track system complete with grading, crossovers and sidings. The environmental impact is much less, since there's generally less chemical runoff and less danger to animals crossing the right-of-way.
In essence, the better railroads you build, the more demand there will be. If you can provide safe (railroad is already safer than auto travel), reliable and comfortable transportation, people will use it.
The problem is that people have become too accustomed to their automobiles. They can go where they want to, when they want to. But there are benefits to "committing" to several hours' worth of train travel. You can watch the scenery without taking you eyes off the road. Most modern rail cars (including AMTRAK) have power jacks so you can plug in or recharge your laptop (or your GameBoy if you please.) You can read a real book instead of having an audiobook compete with audible traffic signals (like horns or the sound of a vehicle in your blind spot.) If you're so inclined, you can even meet and talk with other people in the lounge. There's no risk of falling asleep at the wheel. There's little risk of missing your exit (since the conductor tags your seat with your destination) and there's almost negligible risk of an accident when compared with auto travel. Even better -- no road rage. You can actually socialize with other travelers instead.
Although the time difference doesn't compare, train travel does have some advantages over air travel. [Bear with me, A.netters!] There is less risk of illness because the train has an ample supply of fresh air (you can stand by a door,) and generally has a good heating/ventilation system (preventing comparable dehydration and altitude sickness.) You have more room to get up and walk around, and there are only rare occasions when you'll be asked to remain in your seat (such as when coupling or uncoupling at a station.) On long-distance trains, even the coach seats have foot rests and a generous recline when compared with that in air coach. Once again, the scenery you can appreciate on a train is miles (over)head that which you might take in while traveling by air.
If I seem like a spokesperson for AMTRAK, I plead guilty. I'm not paid; in fact I pay all but a meager AAA discount for any of my tickets. So what that I was 6-1/2 hours late into Las Vegas after a 2 day trip (alas, LAS was cut just after I whistled in)... I met fellow rail-riders from Australia, Germany, and Great Britain; was treated to a first-class meal in the dining car; and had wonderful chat with my coach seat companion for the two days we slept next to each other. Being four hours late out of Denver had its benefits: we went through the Rockies during daylight. (Since my trip, AMTRAK has adjusted its schedules deliberately in order to provide the best scenery during daylight hours.) The experience was unforgettable, in a most positive way.
Matt D From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 9502 posts, RR: 42
Reply 18, posted (11 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 1962 times:
Amtrak, like Social Security and welfare is just another Black Hole of taxpayer dollars. It consumes many, MANY times more money than it's worth, and like all of those other programs, should be shut down and liquidated.
The reason Amtrak is not profitable is because NO ONE RIDES THE DAMN THING, except for maybe the commuters in the Northeast and the folks that take the daytrips to San Diego from LA.
Amtrak should be at least broken up into small regional profitable units like our Metrolink.
Flyingbronco05 From United States of America, joined May 2002, 3841 posts, RR: 2
Reply 19, posted (11 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 1945 times:
Yeah, Amtrak is a piece of crap. In my first 2 years at college, I took Amtrak home about 8 times and ALL the trains were late by AT LEAST an hour.
One time the train was "stuck" in Canada so they bussed us all to chicago, but never called my family to tell them where I was. When my mom called Amtrak, they had no record of me getting on any train (no shit!) and had no idea where I was and had no idea when the busses were or when they were expected to arive in chicago. I got into chicago 6 hours late!
Another time, my girlfriend and I called Amtrak to see if our 10:10am train was on time and they, of course, told us it was. So we get to the station at 9:30, 3 hours roll by and I go in to ask where the train is. They have no information. I tell them I want to exchange my ticket for the 1:15 train which they do. I ask if that is on time and they say Yes. 4:45 rolls around and a train pulls up and we get on, but the train is over sold and people have to stand and sit in the cafe car. When we got home, we called Amtrak to see if the 10:10 train ever came, and they gave us some BS excuse about how it came early, but then we hung up and called back 20 seconds later and got a whole nother story about how the train broke down, then 20 seconds later a story about how it got stuck behind a derailed train in Canada.
I refuse to take Amtrak ever again. I would rather walk then give them a single cent.
ORDflyer From United States of America, joined Aug 2004, 511 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (11 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 1930 times:
Even though I'm usually happy to ride trains, my experiences with Amtrak haven't been great either. I've taken Amtrak 5 times to different places in the midwest. Always over an hour late, twice we were more than 2 hours late. Even though the coach seats were reasonably comfortable, I had JCS17's same problem of not being able to find an open seat because even though it was supposedly "reserved"
I understand they're a struggling company, but if they hope to survive I think they need to seriously address some of their service issues.
MSYtristar From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 21, posted (11 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 1922 times:
Well Josh, sorry about the bad experience, however, you can't judge long-haul Amtrak travel as a whole on just one sub-par trip. Hell I've had several bad experiences on the train but I continue to go back, because it's a very interesting way to see the country to me. I don't really care about the make up of the passengers in coach. The people on there are no different then people on LCC's these days. The coach seats on Amtrak are still FAR more comfortable than any coach seat on a bus or a plane. Did you not appreciate the extensive legroom with leg and foot rests? You are just not used to long-distance train travel, and there's nothing wrong with that. My advice to you: if you want "top notch" service and amenities every time you travel, don't take Amtrak. They are far from perfect, but as it has been stated over and over again, they can only do so much with the bull sh*t funding they get every year. By the way, the Empire Builder is a legend...has been running since 1929...and it's still one of the most popular runs in the Amtrak long haul system. Also, the cars you were on were Superliners, not Viewliners. Some Superliners were built in the late 70's and some in the mid 90's. Obviously you got an older train set, but big deal about the color scheme.
Jcs17 From United States of America, joined Jun 2001, 8065 posts, RR: 36
Reply 22, posted (11 years 1 month 3 weeks 5 days 12 hours ago) and read 1867 times:
The point is that Amtrak should've recognized that FOURTEEN cars--and some with hazardous material, had just derailed a mile ahead of us. Call me an engineering genius, but just getting some heavy equipment in wasn't going to solve a thing. There is no way that Amtrak should've thought that the derailment would've been solved quickly. They should've called for buses at 5AM when they first learned of the derailment (hell, the Conductor could've gotten off the train and looked for himself).
I don't really care about the make up of the passengers in coach. The people on there are no different then people on LCC's these days.
Eh, half of these travelers wouldn't even fit in at a WN check-in counter.
The coach seats on Amtrak are still FAR more comfortable than any coach seat on a bus or a plane. Did you not appreciate the extensive legroom with leg and foot rests?
Yeah, the leg rests, seat pitch, and foot rests were nice, but how about giving me a seat that is softer than a park bench. Another semi-annoying thing about the seats was the lack of an armrest between you and the guy sitting next to you.
My advice to you: if you want "top notch" service and amenities every time you travel, don't take Amtrak.
All I wanted was a comfortable seat when I boarded the train, and the train to be on time...is that honestly too much to ask?
JCS is just pissed because Amtrk changed their snack cake supplier from "Hostess" to "Little Debbie," and sometimes yoiu just get that craving for a ho-ho...
Lindy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 24, posted (11 years 1 month 3 weeks 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 1854 times:
I've taken Amtrak once in late 90's. I was going from Washington DC to New York. I was traveling on a company business. They "didn't" have money to put us (I was going there with my coworker) on a plane, but they paid for my ticket almost $400!!! I don't remember what class of service it was, but it was very comfortable. Two wide seats in each isle, table tray for a laptop etc. Much better ride over Greyhound from DC to NYC.
: If I had a craving for a ho-ho, I'd find Nancy. Wow............
: Jcs17, didn't you learn from the last time you tried to get with a girl? Why don't you call Aa61hvy's dorm room and see how she's doing? (It was a pre
: JCS hits below the belt there... But then again I guess thats where he spends most of his time.
: Jcs with a rough crack, but LHMark hit back solidly as well. Damn. Think I will stay out of this one.
: It's just like old times on this thread! To quote the shitty McDonald's ad, I'm lovin' it.
: I've made a fair few Amtrak trips and have to say that I didn't feel they were that bad. From memory, I've done: NYC - Pittsburgh Pittsburgh - Washing