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Amtrak...

Old 06-07-08, 04:37 PM
  #1  
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Amtrak...

I just got off an Amtrak trip from Orlando to DC that was a few hours late so this caught my eye:

https://www.kunstler.com/Grunt_trains_and_planes2.html

The train trip was nice, but like the article said we had to wait for freight trains. When I go north on the train,
as the article said, its almost never late.
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Old 06-07-08, 07:36 PM
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Up the west coast they have to wait for freight trains ... Amtrak doesn't own the lines so they are at the mercy of the other trains. This is why they can be hours, and hour, and hours late.
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Old 06-07-08, 08:40 PM
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Now you know why nobody wants to take the train over long distances.

One of the last long train trips I took in the US was a family vacation, between 25-30 years ago, riding from San Francisco to Seattle.

Riding overnight in a smelly, messy car with broken air conditioning sucked balls. I've got no reason to ride Amtrak again, at least nowhere besides the overpriced ride to NYC (and I don't even see when I'll want to go there, having visited often enough through my job).
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Old 06-07-08, 08:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
Up the west coast they have to wait for freight trains ... Amtrak doesn't own the lines so they are at the mercy of the other trains. This is why they can be hours, and hour, and hours late.

Yes, this is a major disappointment with Amtrak. I went by Amtrak to Whitefish, Montana. We were 16 hours late arriving and 20 hours late returning. These were jouneys that were only supposed to be about 20 hours, but that time doubled.

That kind of lateness is hard to deal with. I still don't know how even third world countries can get you accross their continents reasonably on-time and in the USA, it is nearly impossible to travel by train and have predictable arrival times.
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Old 06-08-08, 12:05 AM
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Originally Posted by mike View Post
I still don't know how even third world countries can get you accross their continents reasonably on-time and in the USA, it is nearly impossible to travel by train and have predictable arrival times.
Because we sunk all of our resources into cars and threw trains, especially passenger, in the dumpster. As car dependence continues to kick our asses, trains will make more sense. We are already seeing this here on our South Shore Line, one of very few remaining such systems. There are proposals to expand this, but there's a lot of whining going on about how it's going to be paid for, even though most of the money is coming from federal. Of course, I've never heard this kind of whining about funding for roads.

So let the ass kicking continue.
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Old 06-08-08, 12:27 AM
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Originally Posted by mike View Post
Yes, this is a major disappointment with Amtrak. I went by Amtrak to Whitefish, Montana. We were 16 hours late arriving and 20 hours late returning. These were jouneys that were only supposed to be about 20 hours, but that time doubled.

That kind of lateness is hard to deal with. I still don't know how even third world countries can get you accross their continents reasonably on-time and in the USA, it is nearly impossible to travel by train and have predictable arrival times.

Yeah, I had the same sort of experience. I was dropped off at the train station at Sacramento, Ca at noon ... it was the only ride I could get ... my train was set to leave at about 11:30 pm, so left my luggage and I puttered around Sacramento for several hours, and then returned to the station to wait.

11:30 pm came ... and went. We all set up for the night in the station, and slept draped over our luggage. About 5 am the station staff came in, and a line-up of people formed to ask the same question, "When is the train coming??" Instead of making a general announcement, which I would have thought would be common courtesy, they reacted with surprise that we wanted to know ... and they didn't seem to know or care.

Finally at about 6:30 am we were informed that the train was coming, and we could line up ... and we ended up standing in line for about half an hour, being told every 10 minutes or so that the train was coming, before the train finally pulled into the station and we were boarded. It was about 7:30 am before the train pulled out of the station.

The train was supposed to arrive at Eugene late morning, and I had a rental car booked for when I arrived to take me to a relative's place, but since we didn't get underway until about 7:30 am, there was no way we would arrive in time. In fact, the train lost 2-3 hours along the way, and we didn't get into Eugene until about 10 pm. I had to make arrangements for a hotel there, so I could make the bus to continue my trip northward.

So the lateness of the train basically ruined my plans for that part of my trip, and added to the expense.

However, I will say, compared with the US Greyhound, Amtrak is a luxurious method of transportation!!
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Old 06-08-08, 12:51 AM
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However, I will say, compared with the US Greyhound, Amtrak is a luxurious method of transportation!!
I enjoy the relative cleanliness, the space, and comfort of being on an amtrak train, but to me predictability and speed make me feel more like I'm in luxury than anything else amtrak could do. I like buses.
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Old 06-08-08, 01:00 AM
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Originally Posted by cerewa View Post
I enjoy the relative cleanliness, the space, and comfort of being on an amtrak train, but to me predictability and speed make me feel more like I'm in luxury than anything else amtrak could do. I like buses.
You must have had better experiences with US Greyhounds than I have. Mine was a glorified city transit bus (no comfortable reclining seats, no movies, etc.) .... and a brawl broke out in the back.
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Old 06-08-08, 01:00 AM
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Old 06-08-08, 03:20 AM
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I would really like to see passenger train service improve and succeed in the USA. I have a trip from Chicago to Montana coming up, so I checked the train prices, times, etc.

Despite being very unreliable and plagued with poor service, Amtrak isn't cheap either. It cost between about $700 for a coach class round-trip ticket.
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Old 06-08-08, 05:33 AM
  #11  
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Originally Posted by AverageCommuter View Post
1-Amtrak builds new tracks which are independent of the freight companies
1 will never happen because Amtrak was crippled at birth in such a way as to guarantee that it can never be profitable. Certainly not profitable enough to be able to lay its own tracks.
#1 could happen easier if the "Rails To Trails" programs were reversed.
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Old 06-08-08, 05:53 AM
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Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
Now you know why nobody wants to take the train over long distances.

One of the last long train trips I took in the US was a family vacation, between 25-30 years ago, riding from San Francisco to Seattle.

Riding overnight in a smelly, messy car with broken air conditioning sucked balls. I've got no reason to ride Amtrak again, at least nowhere besides the overpriced ride to NYC (and I don't even see when I'll want to go there, having visited often enough through my job).
Originally Posted by mike View Post
Yes, this is a major disappointment with Amtrak. I went by Amtrak to Whitefish, Montana. We were 16 hours late arriving and 20 hours late returning. These were jouneys that were only supposed to be about 20 hours, but that time doubled.

That kind of lateness is hard to deal with. I still don't know how even third world countries can get you accross their continents reasonably on-time and in the USA, it is nearly impossible to travel by train and have predictable arrival times.
Originally Posted by Machka View Post
Yeah, I had the same sort of experience. I was dropped off at the train station at Sacramento, Ca at noon ... it was the only ride I could get ... my train was set to leave at about 11:30 pm, so left my luggage and I puttered around Sacramento for several hours, and then returned to the station to wait.

11:30 pm came ... and went. We all set up for the night in the station, and slept draped over our luggage. About 5 am the station staff came in, and a line-up of people formed to ask the same question, "When is the train coming??" Instead of making a general announcement, which I would have thought would be common courtesy, they reacted with surprise that we wanted to know ... and they didn't seem to know or care.

Finally at about 6:30 am we were informed that the train was coming, and we could line up ... and we ended up standing in line for about half an hour, being told every 10 minutes or so that the train was coming, before the train finally pulled into the station and we were boarded. It was about 7:30 am before the train pulled out of the station.

The train was supposed to arrive at Eugene late morning, and I had a rental car booked for when I arrived to take me to a relative's place, but since we didn't get underway until about 7:30 am, there was no way we would arrive in time. In fact, the train lost 2-3 hours along the way, and we didn't get into Eugene until about 10 pm. I had to make arrangements for a hotel there, so I could make the bus to continue my trip northward.

So the lateness of the train basically ruined my plans for that part of my trip, and added to the expense.

However, I will say, compared with the US Greyhound, Amtrak is a luxurious method of transportation!!
Seems like time for a post about how only a moron would own a car since a bicycle and public transit can fulfill every transportation need.
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Old 06-08-08, 09:04 AM
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I ride Amtrak every week from Urbana, IL to Chicago, IL. In general, I haven't been delayed on Amtrak... though I have heard stories of folks being stuck waiting for freight trains. It happens, but I haven't found it to be a wholly common occurrence.

As for ways to fix the problem... vote for people that take public transit systems seriously and are willing to fund them appropriately. Amtrak has never received proper funding and the rules it lives under make it nearly impossible for the service to succeed. The same can be said of many public transit systems across the US.

As someone else noted above... you never hear politicians complain about adding more roads, but when it comes to adding another rail line or bus line... all of a sudden the money stops flowing and the bickering ensues.

Again... vote for people that take it seriously and want to do something about it. If voters make it an issue, it will become an issue.

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Old 06-08-08, 10:12 AM
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Folk's rail is topic that ,as investor, I've watched for years. The problem
can be largely summed up in one word....Chicago. This city is the central
hub for a rail system that our rail has long ago outgrown.

This bottleneck and the decline of rail in general is going to shut down
sections of our economy in time. Only now is rail beginning to get the
attention it deserves but still not enough attention. Amtrak is a small
,but growing, part of the whole rail issue to America's "way of life" survival.

This story covers many aspects of the American rail issue..........

https://www.ohio.com/news/top_stories/19381759.html

In time ,IMO, rail could be a VERY good place to invest.
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Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
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Old 06-08-08, 10:26 AM
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A trip from Emeryville, CA to Seattle, WA took 29 hours. It's "only" supposed to take 22. My favorite part was going to sleep around midnight, with the train stopped for a freight train, only to wake up about 5 hours later and the train was still stopped. Nevermind the loud kids, the constant opening and closing of the compartment doors, etc.

Like I tell everyone else, once was ok but never again. A plane will get me there in 2 hours for the same price; there's no point.
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Old 06-08-08, 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by SkyeC View Post

Like I tell everyone else, once (on Amtrak) was ok but never again. A plane will get me there in 2 hours for the same price; there's no point.
Air travel is rapidly going extinct due to fuel prices so forget that one. Truth is America has
waited far to long to build sustainable transport systems and now we're gonna have a LOT of
pain until we can fix the problems. This is what happens when the public sticks it's collective
head in the sand about sustainablity in general.

Letting "someone else do it" has never been a good answer.
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Old 06-08-08, 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Tightwad View Post
Folk's rail is topic that ,as investor, I've watched for years. The problem
can be largely summed up in one word....Chicago. This city is the central
hub for a rail system that our rail has long ago outgrown.

This bottleneck and the decline of rail in general is going to shut down
sections of our economy in time. Only now is rail beginning to get the
attention it deserves but still not enough attention. Amtrak is a small
,but growing, part of the whole rail issue to America's "way of life" survival.

This story covers many aspects of the American rail issue..........

https://www.ohio.com/news/top_stories/19381759.html

In time ,IMO, rail could be a VERY good place to invest.
When I was telling my brother about our train waiting for a freight train he remarked that he thought the problems with rail were due to a tax issue. He said at one point the railroads were taxed per mile of track so they minmized the miles of track by tearing up everything but the bare minimum. With tighter scheduling they could reduce the number of sections with two way traffic. This sounds too stupid to be true. The article I pointed to said the Amtrak is supposed to get priority over freight but the conductor several times announced that we were waiting on a siding for a freight train.

Another slow up the conductor announced was that he had to reduce speed in the heat.

As far as comfort and cleanliness, I have to say that for me Amtrak has been comfortable and clean but not perfect.

The most delay I've experienced was over 10 hours, but there had been an accident with a freight train. One thing about delays on trains is that they're more bearable than delays on aircraft because you can get up and walk around, go to the dining car and chat or play cards in the sandwich shop. This trip we had a sleeper so the two hour delay or whatever it was wasn't noticeable. I built the delay into the schedule and with meals and drinks included in the ticket price we could've taken a 20 hour delay in stride. Some of the stories friends have told me about sitting on the runway for 3 hours in a cramped airplane seem like worse experiences.
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Old 06-08-08, 02:32 PM
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20 hour delay more bearable than 3 hours? You must not travel with children.
Given that so far every flight has been cheaper and faster than the train, I will pick flight.

-D
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Old 06-08-08, 03:57 PM
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Originally Posted by derath View Post
20 hour delay more bearable than 3 hours? You must not travel with children.
Given that so far every flight has been cheaper and faster than the train, I will pick flight.

-D
You didn't read carefully, we can move around and socialize and play games and things so hanging out on the train was part of the vacation not a hassle. Moving around and socializing and playing cards isn't easy sitting on a plane on the runway. Some of the kids on the train made new friends. I used to take my daughter on the train. We took our bikes with us. As for the cost, I live car free so I have more disposable income, I didn't even compare costs. Sometimes I fly but this time I felt like getting a roomette and taking the train so that is what I did. I also wanted to take a lot of luggage so that is also easier on the train. Next time I might fly. I didn't exactly say any 20 hour delay on a train would be better than any 3 hours sitting on a runway. I wasn't clear. I was thinking about my recent trip where I built in the possibility of a long delay and thought it wouldn't be so bad compared with a horror story I heard from a friend of 3 hours without AC on a runway in a cramped plane. I'm sure some 20 hour delay on a train could be worse than some 3 hour delay on a runway. I met some interesting people on the train that I wouldn't have minded hanging out with for a while longer. We had elbow room and weren't trapped together. We could be in the dining car, the club car or in our room. On the plane you just have your seat and have to coordinate going down the aisle to the toilet.
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Old 06-08-08, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by gwd View Post
I just got off an Amtrak trip from Orlando to DC that was a few hours late so this caught my eye:

https://www.kunstler.com/Grunt_trains_and_planes2.html

The train trip was nice, but like the article said we had to wait for freight trains. When I go north on the train,
as the article said, its almost never late.
Yes, the problem with American trains is freighters get first passage. Think a few hours is late, try trains on the west coast. They might be half a day late. Still, if not in a hurry, I'd take the train over airplanes anyway. Sitting in the club car having a beer. A first class way to travel.
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Old 06-08-08, 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
Seems like time for a post about how only a moron would own a car since a bicycle and public transit can fulfill every transportation need.
You make a good point. Just don't forget that the car is mostly a solution to the problems it creates.
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Old 06-08-08, 05:13 PM
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
Seems like time for a post about how only a moron would own a car since a bicycle and public transit can fulfill every transportation need.
90% of lower Manhattan residents do not have a car and public transit fulfills every one of their transportation needs. It's not likely to be because of the lack of income.

Now that I am back in the city (burbs sucked), bike + subway + occasional cab ride + occasional heli ride to the airport covers my in-state travel needs fully.
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Old 06-08-08, 05:57 PM
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Originally Posted by gwd View Post
You didn't read carefully,
No I read fine. Nothing in your previous post said anything about kids. So it is reasonable to consider the possibility you were not travelling with kids. But thanks for clarifying.

Still, I have no interest in having to plan in 10 hours of delay into my travels. But also to be fair, with our current kids (5 and 2) we are not travelling with them much to begin with. People come to us to visit.

-D
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Old 06-08-08, 06:04 PM
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Originally Posted by derath View Post
20 hour delay more bearable than 3 hours? You must not travel with children.
Given that so far every flight has been cheaper and faster than the train, I will pick flight.

-D
That is going to go away very quickly...Econ 101, you can't stay in business very long it your product or service costs you more to produce than you receive for it...probably part of the reason multiple airlines have closed up shop in the last few months, and I am sure there will be more to follow.

Aaron
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Old 06-08-08, 06:27 PM
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Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
That is going to go away very quickly...Econ 101, you can't stay in business very long it your product or service costs you more to produce than you receive for it...probably part of the reason multiple airlines have closed up shop in the last few months, and I am sure there will be more to follow.

Aaron
It still has to get a good bit higher. Cut and pasted from another post I made in a different thread:

Gas is still gonna have to get a lot more expensive and Rail better

We recently got back from a trip to St. Louis to visit my inlaws. We flew. I thought it would be interesting to look at the options

4 passengers.

Fly(southwest) $900, travel time 2.5 hours
Drive $400, travel time 13 hours
Train $1400, travel time 24 hours
Bus $600, travel time 19 hours


So airfare has to still get a good bit more expensive. You also have to factor in the other costs. Even if rail fare was cheaper, I would have to factor in 2 more days of travel (not including any delays) which is 2 days of vacation time to burn etc.

Don't get me wrong. I would LOVE to see a resurgance of rail. But it has a LONG way to go.

-D
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