Government Passenger Rail (Amtrak)

Discussion in 'Travel' started by DGS49, Aug 30, 2018.

  1. DGS49
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    DGS49 Gold Member

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    I recently completed a two-overnite trip on Amtrak from Pittsburgh to Denver.

    I had only once traveled on Amtrak, in a transportation emergency, and it was kind of OK, but I'd never overnited, and frankly I pushed my wife into it because I wanted to see what the experience was like. Certainly it's no cheaper than Air, but let's see.

    First night we were leaving Pittsburgh at midnight, so I thought I'd chance it and just get regular seating. It would theoretically be more comfortable than airplane seating, so possibly OK to sleep overnight. The seats were not particularly comfortable, there was noise all over the place, the ride was worse than I've experienced in either sea travel or air, and I was somewhat surprised to learn that throughout the night, every time the train went over a road crossing, the Engineer blows the horn repeatedly. All. Night. Long.

    In short, it was a terrible night. Got essentially no sleep at all.

    So we switched to a Cabin-ette for the second night. It is a microscopic affair with an upper and lower bunk, and no room whatsoever to do anything once it is set up for sleeping. The cabin attendant was very courteous and competent, but he couldn't make a bad situation good. Same noises, same rocking and rolling, and a little bit more comfortable "bed." Slept a few hours, but laid awake for most of the night.

    Amtrak has not mastered the advance science of loudspeakers. Announcements were near-impossible to hear, largely contradictory, and seldom offered any valuable information. On night number 2, we rode through a severe thunderstorm that felled a tree on the tracks in front of us. Well, not much you can do about that. Amtrak leases the track from Burlington Northern, and we had to wait for them to send a crew to clear the track and inspect for damage. But as a result of the delay, we had to ALSO wait for another crew because the existing crew had run out of time. throughout this EIGHT-HOUR DELAY, there was not a single P.A. announcement telling us what the fuck was going on or how long the problem was likely to last. Our official notice of when we would arrive in Denver came when...we arrived in Denver.

    As bad as air travel has become, it is still miles ahead of rail, at least when Amtrak is the mode being compared. I would consider Amtrak for a daytrip on occasion, and in fact they gave us a coupon for $200 to compensate for our MISSING OUR BUS TOUR IN DENVER, and we may use that for a day-trip to Philadelphia later this year. But over night? Not on your life.

    One can only wonder how it would be if Amtrak were replaced by some number of regional, privately-owned rail carriers. No doubt they would still be sucking the hind teat with respect to freight traffic, so they would have some considerable obstacles to overcome, but I can't believe it would be this bad.

    With the possible exception of Social Security, I can't think of anything that government does well.
     
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  2. Pogo
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    Pogo Diamond Member

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    I took Amtrak to the west coast (from New Orleans). Don't remember how many days it was, more than two definitely. Way cheaper than flying but yes sleeping is evasive. On the other hand the meals are way better than a plane.. Also had an unforgettably lovely ride from Chicago to Philadelphia along the New River in West Virginia because sometimes track is laid where nothing else goes.
     
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  3. fncceo
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    fncceo Gold Member

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    AMTRAK took over passenger service in much of the US because railroads refused to provide the service ... even though mandated to provide the service by the government.

    Commercial railroad could not make passenger rail service profitable, compared to freight.

    I took a transcontinental train trip -- Los Angeles to Miami, in 1966 with my family ... it was a nightmare. By this time, railroads had cut back on all amenities to cut costs, no sleepers, no dining cars (only vending machines and microwave ovens).

    Since taking over, AMTRAK has received Billions in government subsidies to provide a service that was no longer wanted by the vast majority of the American public.

    Passenger rail service in the US should have died a dignified death in 1971
     
  4. Pogo
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    Pogo Diamond Member

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    It's a bit of a catch-22. People can't take rail if it doesn't run.

    There are plenty of rail lines around here but you can't ride on them. Found that out when I needed to get to a small town in Ohio and I had to hire a ride to drive me over 100 miles just to get to the first train. So around here if you don't have a car you're pretty much fucked.
     
  5. frigidweirdo
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    frigidweirdo Platinum Member

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    I did Amtrack nearly 20 years ago. From NY to Chicago, Chicago to New Orleans was two 24 hour journeys.

    The food nearly killed me. I'm not kidding, made me ill both times. And it was only microwave food.

    From Chicago to New Orleans there were only three people in my carriage, and a full one next door. Still not comfortable.

    Got speaking to this black conductor, or whatever you call the people that look after people on long haul trains. Was telling how he'd never get promoted because he was black.

    From New Orleans to Atlanta some guy got forcibly removed from the train, real fucking brain dead kind of policing going on there.

    Train from Atlanta to Phillie got cancelled because of a Hurricane, apparently their trains can't move through 2 foot of water or something.
     
  6. fncceo
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    fncceo Gold Member

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    When I travelled parts of Europe as a tourist, there were times when rail availability and my travel plans didnt match. I found the best solution was to hire a driver to take me between railheads. It also afforded me a chance to get a local perspective in the trip.

    And Europe is tiny compared to the US. It's just not cost effective to provide passenger rail to all the places that folks might want to go.
     
  7. Camp
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    Camp Gold Member

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    Cross country train travel in America is for adventuresome young adults in good shape hauling their luggage in backpacks and having deep pockets. For everyone else deep pockets that allow for about six hours a day travel time per day and a schedule, that provides for fine dining and luxury Hotels.
     
  8. Pogo
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    I trained about everywhere I went in Europe at least when I was vagabonding in France, including to some very very rural places. Big to a smaller train to another smaller train sort of thing.

    Ireland I had a rented car though. It's way more rustic.
     
  9. Camp
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    Camp Gold Member

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    Ya, but they have real beds and those kinds of big compartments like you would see in old movies. Plus, like you said, you can find "buses" which are often just vans, even mini-vans to haul you from station to station.
     
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  10. DGS49
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    DGS49 Gold Member

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    I guess I should have mentioned a few good things. The food and food service were good, the scenery was good - better than driving. The seats were pretty good - better than airplane. More opportunities to meet people than on a plane, and we did meet several interesting people and had long conversations over meals.

    It's not all bad.
     
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