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Train travel

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by Big Buckin' agate_monkey, Jul 8, 2008.

  1. Big Buckin' agate_monkey

    Big Buckin' agate_monkey Active Member

    I spent the weekend in St. Louis and traveled by Amtrak. I had taken Amtrak once before — I think it was third grade, and we took a 40-minute trip up to the next sizable town and bussed back home. So this was really my first impression of Amtrak.

    As I'm traveling to St. Louis on Thursday, I reach a quick conclusion: Train travel will struggle to become a popular mode of transportation — as it is in Europe — as long as trains are constantly late.

    My train was from Chicago to St. Louis, and I jumped on in the middle. It was 30 minutes late into my station and an hour late into STL. My return train left STL on time (it was the first stop though), and 30 minutes late into my destination. From what I understand, 30 minutes isn't really late for Amtrak. Correct me if I'm wrong, but if a train is 10 minutes late in Europe, people wonder what's going on.

    I guess it was just another eye-opener that our public transit infrastructure isn't ready for fuel prices to continue to escalate.
  2. Armchair_QB

    Armchair_QB Well-Known Member

    Amtrak's success in the Northeast shows that regional train travel could work in the US. I'm not sure I'd want to go cross country but there is no reason networks like these couldn't work:

    Chicago-Milwaukee-MSP-Des Moines-Omaha-KC-St. Louis
    San Diego-LA-Sacramento-SF-Portland-Seattle.

    Set up regional networks like that and interconnect them with a small number of inter-regional runs.

    But there would have to be a massive upgrade in railbed for high speed passenger service to get it off the same lines used by freight service, which gets a priority in traffic right now and causes most of Amtrak's delays.

    That upgrade would probably be equal to the construction of the interstate system in the 60s-80s. I'm not sure our elected officials have the balls to push for that though.

    Every few years you hear talk of a high speed rail link in the DFW-San Antonio-Houston triangle down here but it never seems to go anywhere. Southwest Airlines usually lobbies against it but with their rising fuel costs they might not be as opposed to it.
  3. TheSportsPredictor

    TheSportsPredictor Well-Known Member

    I get my own Amtrak stop??
  4. Armchair_QB

    Armchair_QB Well-Known Member

    The second Wednesday of every week.
  5. crimsonace

    crimsonace Active Member

    Amtrak's two biggest problems are ...
    *-Infrastructure (the track needs upgraded/laid to not interfere with freight traffic).
    *-A bad business model. Amtrak is still in the 1930s when it comes to its business model -- going after long-haul cross-country passengers, who are going to choose airplanes 99.99999% of the time. Where it focuses on short-distance high-speed rail (DC-Balt-Philly-NYC-Boston/West Coast), it's profitable. But the decisions to keep/drop routes basically have to do with whichever friendly congressmen have stops in their districts.
  6. OTD

    OTD Active Member

    One of Amtrak's biggest problems is that they must share the tracks with freights. Amtrak is supposed to have priority, but that often is ignored, so the passengers must wait while freights are routed ahead of them. This is mostly what makes them late. It would be nice if they had their own tracks, as they do in the Northeast, but that's not going to happen.

    As far as the long-distance trips, I've done that several times in sleeping cars and enjoyed it. But Amtrak also serves a different kind of customer: in the coaches, you see people who are obviously of more modest means. They can and do take the train for long distances because it's cheaper. Also, don't forget that many people don't ride all the way from say Chicago to Los Angeles. Some ride from Jefferson City MO to Las Vegas, NM. For these people, Amtrak is perfect.
  7. sgaleadfoot

    sgaleadfoot Member

    If you don't mind running late, Amtrak can be a great way to travel. Where I worked a few years ago, the southbound stop headed toward Miami was around 2 am, only about an hour after we cleared our final pages at night. You could get off work, head to the station and get on the train and not worry about trying to stay awake at the wheel in the wee hours of the morning.
  8. Brooklyn Bridge

    Brooklyn Bridge Active Member

    And the government keeps cutting back on AMTRAK's subsidies. It needs track upgrades if there is going to be high speed rail service. We're talking billions of dollars. An outmoded business model doesn't help and Bush continues to tell the service to be profitable. But we continue to sink billions of dollars into highways and for air travel. In France the high speed train runs on Nuclear fuel....Good luck getting that here.
  9. Big Buckin' agate_monkey

    Big Buckin' agate_monkey Active Member

    I didn't realize Amtrak was supposed to have priority over freight traffic. I know we got held up for 10 minutes or so waiting on freight traffic last night.

    As long as fuel is above $4 and I'm not relying on the train to get me to a certain place by a certain time, I'll use the train.

    No kidding. GW can't even say nuclear.
  10. Brooklyn Bridge

    Brooklyn Bridge Active Member

    There was a story on AP about a week or so ago about huge backlogs in some areas. We are basically using the same tracks we were using 100 years ago. If more track isn't laid and soon, it will be virtually impossible to move freight from one end of the country to the other.
  11. Norman Stansfield

    Norman Stansfield Active Member

    I rode on Amtrak for the first time a few summers ago.

    Sat next to a girl with more facial piercings and tattoos than three guys. She also had a skateboard under her seat.

    Directly in front of us was a nice Amish couple.

    An interesting ride, to say the least.
  12. bagelchick

    bagelchick Active Member

    My ex works for Amtrak on the Miami to NYC route.

    The stories he tells me about how inefficiently they operate are a riot....and that's just in the dining car.
    And they are never on time.....
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