jcs17
Posts: 7376
Joined: Mon Jun 18, 2001 11:13 am

Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Mon Dec 20, 2004 3:28 pm

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)

[Edited 2004-12-20 07:30:49]
America's chickens are coming home to rooooost!
 
seb146
Posts: 13769
Joined: Wed Dec 01, 1999 7:19 am

RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Mon Dec 20, 2004 3:50 pm

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.

GO CANUCKS!!
Life in the wall is a drag.
 
Venus6971
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Mon Dec 20, 2004 4:09 pm

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.
I would help you but it is not in the contract
 
ANCFlyer
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Mon Dec 20, 2004 5:19 pm

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.
FOR THOSE THAT FOUGHT FOR IT, FREEDOM HAS A FLAVOR THE PROTECTED WILL NEVER KNOW OR UNDERSTAND
 
YVR2SAN
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Mon Dec 20, 2004 7:55 pm

I would never consider Amtrak for long distance but the intra-California service is fairly decent, modern double deck cars on most trains. Usually ontime.

The ontime issues are alot of times not Amtraks fault, most of the rail lines they use if I remember correctly are not owned by Amtrak and they are at the mercy of the freight lines and their trains.



 
TWFirst
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Mon Dec 20, 2004 11:22 pm

An unexamined life isn't worth living.
 
redngold
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Mon Dec 20, 2004 11:33 pm

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.


redngold
Up, up and away!
 
aa61hvy
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Tue Dec 21, 2004 12:14 am

Aw poor Joshy....Did they not have a buffet on the train?
Go big or go home
 
CactusA319
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Tue Dec 21, 2004 1:08 am


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.

 
garnetpalmetto
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Tue Dec 21, 2004 1:20 am

One correction on Redngold's post - the National Association of Rail Passengers website is http://www.narprail.org. Unless, you'd like to join the National Association of Retired Persons  Wink/being sarcastic
South Carolina - too small to be its own country, too big to be a mental asylum.
 
Stratofish
Posts: 1033
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Tue Dec 21, 2004 4:52 am

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!  Wink/being sarcastic

" 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???
The Metro might be the Sub(optimal)way
 
deltairlines
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Tue Dec 21, 2004 5:15 am

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.

Jeff
 
747-600X
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Tue Dec 21, 2004 6:52 am

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
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Tue Dec 21, 2004 9:41 am

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
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Tue Dec 21, 2004 9:59 am

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.  Laugh out loud
Why grab a Heine when you can grab a Busch?
 
redngold
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Tue Dec 21, 2004 10:19 am

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.

So, ALL ABOARD! See ya on the rails!
Up, up and away!
 
Venus6971
Posts: 1415
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Tue Dec 21, 2004 11:12 am

Plus railroads are kind of hard to hijack and fly into buildings.
I would help you but it is not in the contract
 
LHMark
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Tue Dec 21, 2004 12:23 pm

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...
"Sympathy is something that shouldn't be bestowed on the Yankees. Apparently it angers them." - Bob Feller
 
Matt D
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Tue Dec 21, 2004 12:47 pm

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
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Tue Dec 21, 2004 1:30 pm

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.

They are the worst run company in US history!
Never Trust Your Fuel Gauge
 
ordflyer
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Tue Dec 21, 2004 1:44 pm

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
Posts: 7543
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Tue Dec 21, 2004 2:07 pm

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.

Happy railroading!!!  Smile
 
jcs17
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 4:09 am

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.  Smile

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...


If I had a craving for a ho-ho, I'd find Nancy.



America's chickens are coming home to rooooost!
 
aa61hvy
Posts: 13021
Joined: Fri Nov 05, 1999 9:21 am

RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 4:11 am

Doh. That last one left me speechless... I don't know if that qualifies as a KO or what.
Go big or go home
 
Lindy
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 4:18 am

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.

Rafal
BWIADCA - Nikon D100
 
Usairwys757
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 4:19 am

If I had a craving for a ho-ho, I'd find Nancy.

Wow............ Wow!
Inactive.....
 
LHMark
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 4:22 am

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?  Smile

(It was a pretty good crack, though)
"Sympathy is something that shouldn't be bestowed on the Yankees. Apparently it angers them." - Bob Feller
 
aa61hvy
Posts: 13021
Joined: Fri Nov 05, 1999 9:21 am

RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 4:23 am

JCS hits below the belt there... But then again I guess thats where he spends most of his time.
Go big or go home
 
KROC
Posts: 18919
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 4:25 am

Jcs with a rough crack, but LHMark hit back solidly as well. Damn. Think I will stay out of this one.  Big grin
 
LHMark
Posts: 7048
Joined: Fri Jan 21, 2000 2:18 am

RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 4:25 am

It's just like old times on this thread! To quote the shitty McDonald's ad, I'm lovin' it.
"Sympathy is something that shouldn't be bestowed on the Yankees. Apparently it angers them." - Bob Feller
 
BAViscount
Posts: 1975
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2004 8:01 am

RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 4:37 am

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 - Washington DC
Washington DC - NYC
San Francisco - L.A.
L.A. - Chicago
Chicago - Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh - Orlando
New Orleans - Salisbury, NC
Salisbury, NC - NYC

I have to say that the only trip I found to be too much was L.A. - Chicago, I spent two days and two nights on that train in a coach seat, and by the end of the trip I stank!! OK, so I regret not splashing out on a cabin, but I was on a tight budget, which was why I didn't fly in the first place. Despite my efforts to maintain some level of personal hygiene, the tiny bathroom with a sink the size of a soup bowl was just not big (or clean) enough to allow for a decent top-and-tail wash! The plus side was that I got to meet some interesting people and to see the country at ground level rather than from 37,000 feet, which meant I got to see herds roaming the prairies and some stunning scenery. And I got to buy some interesting knick-knacks from the stall holders at the station in Alberquerque (sp?) when we stopped there for an hour (now that's gotta make it all worth it huh?!)

I did however develop a good system for getting a good night's sleep - after a while I figured out that it was far more comfortable to kneel on the floor and lay into the seat - I slept like a baby (although my knees did ache the next morning)! I did get some strange looks from my travelling companions though!
Ladies & gentlemen this is Captain Tobias Wilcock welcoming you aboard Coconut Airways flight 372 to Bridgetown Barb
 
aa61hvy
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 4:49 am

Go big or go home
 
wgw2707
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 5:29 am

You do realize that the Viewliner cars weren't even in service in the 1980s, and that Viewliners are sleeping cars only? I think you were in an Amfleet car...

Amtrak does really lag behind the passenger rail networks in much of the world, but it is superior to most systems in South America and Africa, if that is any consolation...

-WGW2707
 
57AZ
Posts: 2371
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 2:55 pm

RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 8:48 am

The sad truth is that Amtrak is succeeding in its mission. It's mission was and still is to drive enough passengers away from passenger trains so that they can all be killed off. Only difference is that it will be a quasi-governmental company that kills off the passenger train-not the individual railroads. The day of the long distance passenger train is over and Amtrak needs to focus more on sustainable traffic corridores. Drop service to the tiny bergs with sporadic traffic and focus on markets where Amtrak has some realistic possibility of attracting revenue.
"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."
 
MSYtristar
Posts: 7543
Joined: Sat Aug 27, 2005 12:52 am

RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 9:00 am

Amtrak has stated numerous time that if it is forced to shut down its long distance routes, it will shut down the short haul routes as well, even the ones in the beloved Northeast corridor. It's all or nothing. Amtrak's long hauls feed the short haul routes. Ridership is not a problem. The incompetance of the freight railroads in dispatching Amtrak trains (especially Union Pacific) is a KEY reason why the railroad suffers poor OTP. Amtrak is doing the best it can with the limited resources it has. Some of the long-distance routes (Empire Builder, Southwest Chief, City of New Orleans, etc) are literally lifelines to the numerous small communities along the way that don't even see service from Greyhound!
 
MHTMDW
Posts: 138
Joined: Fri Jul 09, 2004 10:17 am

RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 9:45 am

Passenger railroads will never make money. Never have, never will. Far too labor and capital intensive. The Northeast Corridor trains are actually the biggest losers, if the costs of the infrastructure are factored in. Billions of dollars are needed to replace the tunnels under Baltimore harbor, and bridges in Connecticut alone.
 
garnetpalmetto
Posts: 5351
Joined: Tue Oct 21, 2003 1:38 am

RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 11:38 am

Drop service to the tiny bergs with sporadic traffic and focus on markets where Amtrak has some realistic possibility of attracting revenue.

Interesting graphic off the NARP site.

South Carolina - too small to be its own country, too big to be a mental asylum.
 
MSYtristar
Posts: 7543
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 12:30 pm

Every rail sytem in the world is subsidized at some level by their respective governments. Rail travel in and of itself cannot be self sufficient. Adequate funding would allow Amtrak to do the following: 1) resolve long overdue infrastructure improvements in the Northeast, including numerous rebuilds of bridges and trestles, 2) put dozens (if not hundreds) of wreck-damaged equipment back into revenue service, which in turn would lead to increased service and possible new service, and 3) update all of their rolling stock currently in operation, as many cars out there have not had an overhaul since they were first introduced in the late 1970's. This, of course, would leave the public with a more positive impression of the trains.

Josh - You must have had the misfortune of picking a bad seat or something man. I took the City down from Chicago to New Orleans in coach last August (about an 18 hour ride) and I was never uncomfortable.
 
57AZ
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 12:40 pm

MSYtristar-The NARP graphic is what the railroads want to happen-Amtrak doesn't pay enough for their handful of trains to be worth sweating over. It's not that that the freight railroads are incompetant but that they just DON'T CARE. If the railroad is backed up, it's cheaper for them to put Amtrak in a siding and sit while the moneymakers run in and out. Having worked inside the railroad industry, I am aware of the capacity problems that railroads face today moreso than most others including yourself. The railroads wouldn't mind dispatching Amtrak's trains on time if the extra capacity required existed, or Amtrak were willing to fund the necessary capital improvements as required under its agreements with the host railroads. The fact is that on many railroad lines, the traffic is running at capacity and Amtrak or the associated government agencies are unable or unwilling to fund the projects required to increase capacity. They are getting the service that they've paid for. Also, most of Amtrak's business is corridore oriented-very little traffic on the majority of the long haul trains is generated by the short haul. Amtrak has already given notice of train offs and unfortunately the situation is unlikely to improve. Extensive capital improvements are needed on the NEC which Amtrak has no funding identified for. The congressional money store is closed and the railroads certainly aren't going to give Amtrak any handouts. The states say they don't have the money to support train service yet complain at any indication of service disruption. Amtrak will have to make some hard decisions quickly over the next couple of years if it is to survive as a national network.
"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."
 
MSYtristar
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 1:53 pm

Yes it's too bad that the Three Rivers is getting cancelled, although that train was started primarily for the mail and express business which Amtrak has recently gotten out of. At least there is still one daily NYP-CHI (Lake Shore Limited) train and another tri-weekly one (Cardinal). Still, no more PIT-CHI service as of April is it?

As for the freight railroads, from what I have experienced from my 15,000+ rail miles I have travelled thus far, Union Pacific is by far the most "hostile" towards Amtrak. BNSF, Canadian National, and Norfolk Southern all do a pretty admirable job in dispatching Amtrak trains in my opinion. CSX is marginal, sometimes bad, sometimes ok. But UP, jesus, it's just ugly. I can tell you that I know UP wouldn't mind if train's 1 and 2 got the boot....but David Gunn has said that he wants to eventually make the Sunset operate daily, which would be a great thing, as the train doesn;t suffer from low ridership, just poor (ok, very poor) OTP.

Amtrak has always had a great deal of potential, but they always just seem to "hang in there". I would be curious to see what a fully-funded, fully-operation Amtrak system would look like. It would be a thing of beauty I think.
 
UAL Bagsmasher
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 2:03 pm

The Govt. gives Amtrak a tiny fraction of what it gives to airlines in the way of subsidies. The airlines are STILL losing money hand over fist. If the airlines can't even make money, how is Amtrak supposed to? All I have to say is judging from what happened after 9-11, this country needs an alternate mode of transportation. If the airlines shut down, the whole country shuts down with them as it stands now.
 
StevenUhl777
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 2:09 pm

Maybe they were on their best behavior for the holidays, but I had an overall pleasant experience on Amtrak this past Thanksgiving. Since my parents live near Oregon City (outside Portland, OR) and Amtrak recently opened a station there, it finally made sense for me to take the train and avoid the horrendous traffic on I-5. The station in Seattle is about 15 minutes walk south of where I work, and the Oregon City station is 3 miles from my parents, which makes it easy for them and they don't have to drive all the way up to PDX or into town to pick me up at the train station.

It was completely full both ways at Thanksgiving, and made a few stops, and I unfortuntely had a backward-facing seat the way down at night, but overall both trips were fine. They do charge extra for the holidays (duh) but normally it would be like $46 rountrip using an AAA discount.

Bottom line: good experience, I'd try it again. Flying between SEA and PDX is a bad joke really, and not the cheapest, either.

Still....you want a great train ride, take the ICE train in Germany! 180mph between FRA and downtown Cologne, among other routes it serves. Imagine doing Seattle-Portland on a train in only an hour.... Big grin
And the winner for best actress is....REESE WITHERSPOON for 'Walk the Line'!!!!!!!!
 
Superfly
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 2:25 pm

Jcs17:
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.


Sounds like Heaven to me!  Big thumbs up  Smokin cool

When I ride out to Sacramento, I purposly wait for the late 'Coast Starlight' or ' California Zeypher' to ride on those nice trains from 'the golden era'.
Those coach seats are not "hard as a rock". They are much softer than the more profitable commuter trains. Those commuter trains are just one step above our BART trains.
The reason why a great system like Amtrak is on a shoestring budget is because of lowlife trash Republicans in Washington are cutting funding for Amtrak.
I'd rather see a 600% increase in tax dollars going to Amtrak and stop wars in the Middle East.

Amtrak is just not your style Jcs17. You come off as a hyper frat boy that is commercialized. That's not meant to offend you but those who are more relaxed, less commercialized, slower paced folks that enjoy life, enjoy meeting eccentric people (cool & crazy) like using Amtrak. Don't knock it.
I'd much rather take a Amtak trip cross counrty in there earthone shag carpeted trains than fly Continental, ATA or Delta 757s with there cheap stark white, grey & blue thin carpets and barren bulk heads, PTVs, headphones and whare everyone is in there own world and theres no human contact.

Now if you want to fly cross country in style, fly Northwest, Midwest, United or Southwest.  Smokin cool
Bring back the Concorde
 
MSYtristar
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 2:35 pm

Superfly...you're the man! Bravo!
 
Superfly
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 3:04 pm

MSYtristar:
Thanks man. Big grin


Amtrak is part of the grand human experience. The government has an obligation to subsidize modes of transportation and yes that includes aviation. It's funny how people who knock Amtrak as being "un-profitable" have no problems driving on interstates and other hiways without paying a penny for usage of those roads. Pure market driven economics sounds good in your freshman economics class in college but it just simply doesn't work in every sector. Why do you think Airbus is kicking Boeing's a$$ in the commercial aviation arena? Boeing has resorted to outsourcing the wing manufacturing of it's so-called 'dreamliner' (7E7) to Mitsushitsi. You know the company that makes those little 2 door Esclipse with the 'plastic' wings on the back?
That has to be extremly emberassing and Airbus is moving forward with the Grand A380 which WILL be a huge success!

Sorry for being longwinded but I had to educate the mis-informed.



Bring back the Concorde
 
Superfly
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Wed Dec 22, 2004 6:14 pm

Aa61hvy:
This photo was funny as hell!  Laugh out loud
This is the first time you've actually been funny at this site.
Congrats!  Smokin cool




Bring back the Concorde
 
bravo7e7
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Thu Dec 23, 2004 2:41 am

You gotta love Amtrak. It is so amusing. You got hillbillies, hicks, freaks, trailer trash, and people who are scared of flying. All of these people have summer teeth(summer here, summer there), and crack me up.
 
TWFirst
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Thu Dec 23, 2004 2:45 am

>>You gotta love Amtrak. It is so amusing. You got hillbillies, hicks, freaks, trailer trash, and people who are scared of flying. All of these people have summer teeth(summer here, summer there), and crack me up.<<


So, your family loves taking Amtrak I take it??
An unexamined life isn't worth living.
 
ltbewr
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Thu Dec 23, 2004 4:27 am

Several years ago, I had to use Amtrak to/from NYC to Schendenay, NY, a distance of about 160 miles. The trip up was good, but we had about a 1 hour delay on the return trip. The next time I had to go to that area, I used my car, which meant I wasn't trapped to Amtrak's schedules. Amtrak is best from the NYC area for going where airlines or driving a car are not a good choice, like NYC-Phildelphia, NYC-Wilmington (I have done both). Don't forget that the excellent trains in Europe and elsewhere are also highly subsisdized by their governments too. I have take many a mile on trains in various areas of Europe, including the TGV between Paris and Lyon (300 miles - 2 hours, with peak speeds of 180 mph/300 kmh, faster that a small prop plane!). There is prody website about Amtrak called (I think) Amtrek.com, good for a few laughs.
 
bravo7e7
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RE: Amtrak Absolutely Blows

Thu Dec 23, 2004 6:25 am

TWFirst, which one of those categories would my family fall into?

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