A few thoughts while on a Amtrak

Postby mrtwills » April 21st, 2011, 12:05 pm

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I'm currently riding the Amtrak train from Chicago to Detroit and thanks to my Android's wifi hotspot I can write a few notes down on my thoughts.

1)I have been on longer Amtrak trips (LA to Dallas) and shorter train trips (Chicago to South Bend via the south shore line). But this seems like a good distance for a train. Long enough that you don't want to drive, short enough that you don't eat up your whole day or days (LA to Dallas was a solid 2 days).

2)It's nice that you can drink on a train, but Busch light at 7:30 am? I'm talking to you guy sitting across the row from me.
3)Every train I have been on ever is delayed. I think we were 45 behind an hour into the trip. This is because freight owns the rails in the U.S.
4)I can imagine how great this trip would be on high speed rail, and it makes me drool for it. I would be making regional weekend trips all the time, so would a lot of people and how much money would that pump into the economy?

5) Amtrak customer service is nice, but could be better and that would make the trip so much better. Smile people.

6)One of the best parts of riding a train is the scenery, so it makes me a little angry Amtrak can't clean their windows, this is a major selling feature and then I end up trying to look through caked on dirt?

7) My wifi hotspot is nice but not when I have zero service which is much of the trip. Offer wifi, maybe they do on other trains.

8) I could never live in a tiny town.

Anyone else have thoughts about Amtrak?

Re: A few thoughts while on a Amtrak

Postby Brett_nyc » April 21st, 2011, 12:40 pm


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I've been doing Acela up and down the NE corridor for a few years now and like it for the most part.
-We got upgraded to first class one time with miles and that was pretty nice.
-Boarding any train at Penn Station NYC is possibly the worst headache in all of transportation. Much worse than TSA sec lines at airports. It's probably comparable to soccer matches in hostile countries where people get stampeded and shot when their team doesn't win.
-Wifi on Acela is great. They even block bandwidth hogs like youtube and hulu. There's also power outlets at every seat.

Re: A few thoughts while on a Amtrak

Postby crewkid » April 21st, 2011, 12:54 pm


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I was once told (by an amtrak employee) that in all the years amtrak has been a company it has never made a profit. that it is a company that stays in business because of government hand outs. why hasn't free market fixed this? if they where held to free market standards maybe delays would be minimal and customer service would improve.

Re: A few thoughts while on a Amtrak

Postby Mr-914 » April 21st, 2011, 1:25 pm

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Brett: In Spain I only saw an x-ray machine at the Madrid station. The stations in Seville, Cordoba and Grenada were like subway stations with trains. Remember, Spain was the victim of the March 11 train bombings...they must be laid back, it seems like they are over that!
Ray Jepson

"L'homme n'est rien. L'œuvre c'est tout." Gustave Flaubert

Re: A few thoughts while on a Amtrak

Postby iab » April 21st, 2011, 1:49 pm


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crewkid wrote:I was once told (by an amtrak employee) that in all the years amtrak has been a company it has never made a profit. that it is a company that stays in business because of government hand outs. why hasn't free market fixed this? if they where held to free market standards maybe delays would be minimal and customer service would improve.


All transportation gets government handouts -

FAA - $16.5 billion
Highways - $43.6 billion
Railroads - $2.8 billion
Amtrak - $1.5 billion

Not to mention subsidies for airlines, auto manufacturers, etc. I think the only place where you won't see government handouts are for a few custom bike builders in the greater Portland area.

Re: A few thoughts while on a Amtrak

Postby crewkid » April 21st, 2011, 2:10 pm


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FAA, railroads, and highways are all infrastructures. Amtrak is a company.

Re: A few thoughts while on a Amtrak

Postby jafo » April 21st, 2011, 2:13 pm


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My two cents primarily from Amtrak Boston to NYC....

-A little let down by the quality. Armrest broken in places around the controls. Some doors semi operational.
-WIFI was slooooowwww. The trains didn't appear that full and I don't think the sites I was visiting were bandwidth hogs. Thought the WIFI on Bolt bus was better.
-There are some odd graphics in bathroom. Don't ask why I noticed this.
- Yes, Penn Station loading is poor. We are pretty much handled like a herd of cattle going through a single gate.
-I believe the NE corridor is the only section that makes money for Amtrak.
-Maybe not a fair comparison, but the high-speed trains in Japan are higher quality, better run and cleaner.
-The Reunification Express in Vietnam was certainly more entertaining. Again, maybe not a fair comparison.
-The food experience is poor. Small food service area (OK it's a train, but there's got to be a better way) and I'm paying $6.50 for a small frozen pizza, taken out of the supermarket box, microwaved and put in a cardboard travel tray. At least they serve Bud Lite at 7:30. I'm talking to you, guy sitting across the row from me on his Android's wifi hotspot :wink:

One-off experiences...
When I road the Amtrak train from SF to Seattle the train and crew appeared wore down. Maybe it was my expectation. I was hoping for a cool train ride with views. The views were good but as mentioned before, windows (and train in general) were dirty. It was a let down. I would only recommend because of the views.

Re: A few thoughts while on a Amtrak

Postby joyride » April 21st, 2011, 2:56 pm


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My fiance and I have taken that train several times (Kzoo to chicago), and I dont think it was the worst thing I have been on. I would much rather be on train than flight. The comfort level of planes has really decreased as airlines jam more people on (dont get me started on the load/unload process). I also noticed that the trains were never clean, and the windows are downright terrible when the sun shines on them.

I would say that 80% of the trains were late, and 4 seperate times had the train 'malfunction' in the middle of no where (Near dowagiac I think). The power goes out and the lights flicker and you stop moving...Its like a bad action movie before another hijacked train rams into you. Althjough with gas the way it is, amtrack is again looking more appealing for the chicago trips.


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