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(Seattle Times)   Amtrak reaches record ridership, on the way to profitability on the news gas prices suck, airlines resembling movie theaters and riding Greyhound is like playing Russian Roulette   (seattletimes.nwsource.com) divider line 143
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5748 clicks; posted to Main » on 21 Jun 2008 at 2:12 PM (6 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2008-06-21 10:37:54 AM
... and they are traveling with dope.
 
2008-06-21 10:54:37 AM
Wish Amtrak was as well-funded as our highways.... if they were maybe we'd actually have high-speed rail on the East coast and the Great Lakes area.
 
2008-06-21 11:08:14 AM
The problem with Amtrak is that they don't have dedicated rails and ride on privately owned tracks. The railroads give slow freight trains the right of way because they obviously generate a profit unlike Amtrak which doesn't pay so you'll have passenger trains sitting on a siding for hours while a two mile long coal train goes by. Give Amtrak the funding for their own dedicated rails and you'll have practical mass transit again.
 
2008-06-21 11:26:17 AM
The Boston -- NYC corridor is nice. A lot more convenient and cheaper than flying.
 
2008-06-21 11:27:04 AM
eddyatwork: Give Amtrak the funding for their own dedicated rails and you'll have practical mass transit again.

But then everyone will be howling mad about the injustice of imminent domain because if you're going to lay that much track, you're going to displace a shiatload of people.
 
2008-06-21 11:41:17 AM
flucto: if you're going to lay that much track, you're going to displace a shiatload of people.

Thank god they made those "rails to trails" back in the 80s. Great idea. Take rails which can take thousands of people and make them into trails that nobody uses.
 
2008-06-21 12:19:39 PM
eddyatwork: Thank god they made those "rails to trails" back in the 80s. Great idea. Take rails which can take thousands of people and make them into trails that nobody uses.

hard to run high speed train service on those though, right through people's back yards and over roadways.
 
2008-06-21 12:22:01 PM
High-speed rail is what North America should have been investing in long ago. The 80s farked us all over big time. All the progress towards a responsible national energy plan the fuel crisis of the 70s brought on undone in one decade of cheap fuel that made people foolishly believe another fuel crunch could never happen again.

I say we line up the boomers and cock punch the lot.

/I keed, I keed, I know many boomers equally outraged
//although they've probably still done something to deserve a cock punch.
 
2008-06-21 12:28:38 PM
Ghastly: High-speed rail is what North America should have been investing in long ago.

I'm dubious, unless there's a quantum leap in what "high speed" means. The connectivity in Europe, for example, is incredible but except for pockets of service like TGV, it's still pretty slow. When you consider the distances even between places like NY and Chicago, if the train can't do 200mph, you're talking about at least a whole day and people will still choose air travel.
 
2008-06-21 12:48:20 PM
Oh man, I have some very fond memories of taking the California Zephyr from SLC to Denver for the summers in '95 and '96. It runs alongside I-70 through most of Colorado - down beautiful Glenwood Canyon and through the Moffat Tunnel. The food was great, the views were amazing, and of course the seats were big and comfy.
 
2008-06-21 01:41:59 PM
amtrak is a nice enough ride if you don't have to be somewhere on time. i've taken it numerous times between kansas city and st. louis for fark parties and to visit family. hell of a lot cheaper than driving, you can get up and stretch your legs whenever you want, you can carry on a cooler so you don't have to pay for their fairly high priced bar-car drinks/food, etc.

for a casual weekend trip, i recommend it. for daily a commute or for business where timing matters, travel by other means

ymmv
 
2008-06-21 01:49:21 PM
flucto: Ghastly: High-speed rail is what North America should have been investing in long ago.

I'm dubious, unless there's a quantum leap in what "high speed" means. The connectivity in Europe, for example, is incredible but except for pockets of service like TGV, it's still pretty slow. When you consider the distances even between places like NY and Chicago, if the train can't do 200mph, you're talking about at least a whole day and people will still choose air travel.


If it could do at least 100 mph that would make it only an 8 hour trip.... slower than a plane but faster if you include all the time waste at the airport with security crap. If the trains are actually comfortable and include dining cars I certainly consider a trip.
 
2008-06-21 01:58:13 PM
Arthur Jumbles: If the trains are actually comfortable and include dining cars I certainly consider a trip.

the trains i've ridden were very comfortable. as for dining car... well, from my experience they carry $3 cans of soda, $4 cans of domestic piss beer, and the food selection is prepackaged sandwiches like you'd find at a local convenience store and chips and crap. not real food, but it will fill the void

again, that's just what amtrak has to offer around these parts - i'm guessing it varies around the country
 
2008-06-21 02:08:48 PM
Without Greyhound, what would lyricists use to imply travel in their songs?

"I drove for fifteen hours on this nasty Greyhound bus." - Better Than Ezra
"Hopped on the noon 'Hound to Philly." -Artist unknown.

Plus, all of the rich folk find cannon fodder at the stations.
 
2008-06-21 02:16:32 PM
Take the ICE in Germany and you will love train travel.
 
2008-06-21 02:18:02 PM
This is surely a sign of the apocalypse.

Rail travel is a step towards communism, and a tool of the devil.
 
2008-06-21 02:19:43 PM
Russian Roulette? Doesn't AmTrack derail all the time?
 
2008-06-21 02:20:34 PM
flucto: eddyatwork: Give Amtrak the funding for their own dedicated rails and you'll have practical mass transit again.

But then everyone will be howling mad about the injustice of imminent domain because if you're going to lay that much track, you're going to displace a shiatload of people.


Not where I grew up. Lots of places where tracks used to be but were torn up a few decades ago. The land is still owned by the railroads, so it's nothing but a 40 foot wide strip of brush and weeds for miles and miles. There's no reason amtrak couldn't use the old right of ways that are now just eyesores.
 
2008-06-21 02:21:04 PM
lazymojo: This is surely a sign of the apocalypse.

Rail travel is a step towards communism, and a tool of the devil.


www.genderracepower.com
 
2008-06-21 02:21:47 PM
sarahlh3: Without Greyhound, what would lyricists use to imply travel in their songs?

"I drove for fifteen hours on this nasty Greyhound bus." - Better Than Ezra
"Hopped on the noon 'Hound to Philly." -Artist unknown.

Plus, all of the rich folk find cannon fodder at the stations.


you forgot 'born on the backseat of a greyhound bus' - the Allman Brothers
 
2008-06-21 02:22:15 PM
I need to make the orlando-miami round trip this coming weekend. Amtrak wants $70/person round trip. If I was traveling alone, I'd do it. But for even just two people to go anywhere, still cheaper to drive.
 
2008-06-21 02:22:38 PM
I figured that out yesterday. I tried to put my sister on the train to San Marcos, but they had no reservations open. Then all the construction, Union Pacific, and flooding going on up north delayed the train so much they killed it at Ft. Worth and sent everyone by bus instead.

Now the Texas Eagle is late by over 5 hours.

$35 from Ft. Worth to San Marcos is still cheaper than gas though.

I agree that we should have invested more in rail travel.
 
2008-06-21 02:22:48 PM
lazymojo: This is surely a sign of the apocalypse.

Rail travel is a step towards communism, and a tool of the devil.


The 97,000 Portland MAX riders that occupy our light rail system on a daily basis would like to disagree...


http://www.lightrailnow.org/news/n_por_2005-01.htm
 
Slu
2008-06-21 02:24:15 PM
flucto: eddyatwork: Give Amtrak the funding for their own dedicated rails and you'll have practical mass transit again.

But then everyone will be howling mad about the injustice of imminent domain because if you're going to lay that much track, you're going to displace a shiatload of people.


At least with imminent domain, you know it is coming very soon.
 
2008-06-21 02:25:32 PM
Take the Talgo between Seattle and Vancouver B.C. The food is awesome and after you get out of Canada it goes along the coast all the way to Seattle.

Also, American Customs comes on train @ Blaine Wa and tears off all the hippies! Who needs a movie?
 
Slu
2008-06-21 02:27:01 PM
DreamWeaver: I need to make the orlando-miami round trip this coming weekend. Amtrak wants $70/person round trip. If I was traveling alone, I'd do it. But for even just two people to go anywhere, still cheaper to drive.

This.

Same deal in Philly. I'd love to take the train when I go to NYC or DC, but 2 people in the car with gas and tolls is cheaper than Amtrak. You put 4 in the car and it is a no brainer.
 
2008-06-21 02:27:04 PM
DreamWeaver: I need to make the orlando-miami round trip this coming weekend. Amtrak wants $70/person round trip. If I was traveling alone, I'd do it. But for even just two people to go anywhere, still cheaper to drive.

not to mention I have a car when i get where I'm going.
 
2008-06-21 02:27:54 PM
riding Greyhound is like playing Russian Roulette

+5 subby

Was on a 2 day ride from Pa to Fl. Thanks to the Navy. Good thing I hit the liquor store before I got on the bus. Never rode a Greyhound bus again.
 
2008-06-21 02:31:23 PM
Lottolandus
Take the ICE in Germany and you will love train travel.

i've asked 3-4 friends to try a euro train vacation and all have turned me down. amtrak isn't ice.
 
2008-06-21 02:31:58 PM
DreamWeaver: I need to make the orlando-miami round trip this coming weekend. Amtrak wants $70/person round trip. If I was traveling alone, I'd do it. But for even just two people to go anywhere, still cheaper to drive.

THIS. I was just looking into Amtrak for a trip from Spokane, WA, to Salem, OR. For two people, it's an 8 hour trip (Driving is faster than that!) for $112 each way at the cheapest. Yeah right. I could drive it for around half that and in less time. Hell, Southwest Airlines is about $65 each way (granted, it's to Portland, but we can get a ride with the wife's folks from there), and it's a helluva lot faster. Gas prices will need to go up a LOT higher for me to consider Amtrak a viable alternative.
 
2008-06-21 02:32:36 PM
I took a month-long trip on Amtrak once summer. It was on the North American Rail Pass and also included a very tiny amount of travel on the Canadian Via. We got off the train six different times for 1-4 days depending on the city/area we were trying to visit. Best trip of my life.
 
2008-06-21 02:33:28 PM
Intrestinly, in the good ol' days, the New York Central and Pennsylvaina Railroad did speeds of 116mph, behind STEAM locomotives, It is possible to do this again. Funding is the stumbling block, and for all you john Mcain supporters he hates Amtak and wants to disband it.
We could do this, it would take a national will though, a will to serve the common good, and not the private intrests and the politicians.
 
2008-06-21 02:33:57 PM
DreamWeaver: I need to make the orlando-miami round trip this coming weekend. Amtrak wants $70/person round trip. If I was traveling alone, I'd do it. But for even just two people to go anywhere, still cheaper to drive.

Part of your problem is that you're in Orlando. I pissed away a year of my life there, would rather have had a frontal lobotomy.

By the time you tack on Turnpike tolls (I suppose you *could* take 95 if you wanted to drive out to Cocoa first), it probably wouldn't be cheaper. BUT, like others have said, you would have a car to drive around Miami upon arrival.

I don't think I'd bother to take Amtrak in the state of Florida anyway, because no matter where you go, public transit is guaranteed to suck, so you'll need a car at your destination. I could possibly make an exception if I were in Pensacola and needed to go to Miami.

I would, however, take Amtrak from Florida to New York, or the West Coast, or Chicago.
 
2008-06-21 02:35:49 PM
Durendal: DreamWeaver: I need to make the orlando-miami round trip this coming weekend. Amtrak wants $70/person round trip. If I was traveling alone, I'd do it. But for even just two people to go anywhere, still cheaper to drive.

THIS. I was just looking into Amtrak for a trip from Spokane, WA, to Salem, OR. For two people, it's an 8 hour trip (Driving is faster than that!) for $112 each way at the cheapest. Yeah right. I could drive it for around half that and in less time. Hell, Southwest Airlines is about $65 each way (granted, it's to Portland, but we can get a ride with the wife's folks from there), and it's a helluva lot faster. Gas prices will need to go up a LOT higher for me to consider Amtrak a viable alternative.


You can pack a bottle on Amtrak, it's low-stress and the view from the train car window bests anything you'll see along the interstate x1000. But it does require patience, that much is very, very true.
 
2008-06-21 02:36:02 PM
ExJerseyGirl: The Boston -- NYC corridor is nice. A lot more convenient and cheaper than flying.

Convenient maybe but I'm going to be out in boston for a conference and I looked at the cost of riding to NY to see a friend ... $150 one way according to their website.

/maybe I'm just used to being able to pay $49 on Southwest to hop down to San Antonio or Austin from Dallas (a comparative distance)
 
2008-06-21 02:36:27 PM
lexslamman: sarahlh3: Without Greyhound, what would lyricists use to imply travel in their songs?

"I drove for fifteen hours on this nasty Greyhound bus." - Better Than Ezra
"Hopped on the noon 'Hound to Philly." -Artist unknown.

Plus, all of the rich folk find cannon fodder at the stations.

you forgot 'born on the backseat of a greyhound bus' - the Allman Brothers


How about America from Simon & Garfunkel "Kathy", I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh, "Michigan seems like a dream to me now."
 
2008-06-21 02:38:20 PM
Twenty four hours from Dallas to Alpine Texas is what I was quoted.
 
2008-06-21 02:38:44 PM
lexslamman: sarahlh3: Without Greyhound, what would lyricists use to imply travel in their songs?

"I drove for fifteen hours on this nasty Greyhound bus." - Better Than Ezra
"Hopped on the noon 'Hound to Philly." -Artist unknown.

Plus, all of the rich folk find cannon fodder at the stations.

you forgot 'born on the backseat of a greyhound bus' - the Allman Brothers

Laughing on the bus
Playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said be careful his bowtie is really a camera


-Simon and Garfunkel

They punch my ticket
I find a seat
And we move out past the lights.
Come on Driver, where's the heat?
It's cold out in the night.
I keep telling to myself that I don't care.
Come tomorrow, I'll be there.

Take the Greyhound.
It's a dog of a way to get around.
Take the Greyhound.
It's a dog gone easy way to get you down.


-Harry Chapin
 
2008-06-21 02:41:41 PM
Slu: At least with imminent domain, you know it is coming very soon.

ahahahaha. Eminently this!
 
2008-06-21 02:43:17 PM
cfreak: Convenient maybe but I'm going to be out in boston for a conference and I looked at the cost of riding to NY to see a friend ... $150 one way according to their website.

You can't possibly mean NYP-BOS? I just checked on amtrak.com to be sure - the 190, 170, 174 are $84 one way
 
2008-06-21 02:43:52 PM
The big Amtrak trains that run from Albuquerque to Chicago were pretty sweet. Double decker cars, scenery cars with huge windows and seats that face them, big dressing rooms for having sex, and a smoker's car for those that like those nasty things.

There was a lot of freedom on that train. At one point I was able to open the window at the end of the car near the pass-thru and smoke a bowl while the countryside whooshed by.
 
2008-06-21 02:45:14 PM
www.magicmoviemachine.com

22 hours on a train or 3 hours on the plane? (Thanks to Dr. Seuss) And it's roughly the same price. Of course that doesn't take into consideration the drive time and hassle at the airport. If I had an extra day to spend on just getting there then yeah I would do it. Other than that rail doesn't make sense in the US. We don't get the extra 6 weeks vacation they do in Europe which would make one day of just travel no big deal.

/That is 22 hours of luxury though
//Hmmm...
 
2008-06-21 02:48:15 PM
From the original article in the NY Times (of which the Seattle Times article is just an abridged copy):

TFA: Scarcity is not all bad for the railroad, though. It has raised ticket prices, so that it recorded ticket revenues of $153.4 million in May, up 15.6 percent from $132.7 million in May 2006. That jump is higher than the ridership increase of 12.3 percent, to 2.58 million, from 2.30 million.

This is the problem right here.

Amtrak is faced with increasing demand, to the point where it is bumping up against capacity. Rather than expand service, and add add trains and rails, it is instead raising ticket prices.

I want to support American passenger rail. I really, really do. But when taking the train is slower than driving, and still, inexplicably, just as expensive as flying, it's a no-brainer. Any rational person has to conclude that the train is a poor alternative at present.

This is a time when Amtrak should be becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to flying. The rising cost of fuel should be creating an increasing disparity in pricing that should be giving train travel an edge. Instead, Amtrak raises its prices to keep pace with the airlines, negating any advantage that may have lured people away from flying.

It's frustrating. I really want to see a modern, high speed rail network in the US, that is at least somewhat more affordable than flying.
 
2008-06-21 02:48:42 PM
 
2008-06-21 02:48:49 PM
I used to take the Texas Eagle from Ft. Worth home from college. (2-3 years ago) I must say it was splendid. I never really had trouble with delays. It took the same amount of time to get there, and only cost me about 17 dollars each way. Plus the views were amazing. I never understood why more people didn't do it, and it didn't go to more places.

/Also met some crazy people.
//Like the man who talked to me about Absinthe for 3 hours.
 
2008-06-21 02:51:25 PM
Our travel system at work now allows Amtrak booking, in addition to air, hotel, etc. Just attended a show in Boston and took the Acela out of Stamford. Couldn't be easier. The show was at the Hynes center, which is right across from the Back Bay stop. I'd never even consider flying to get from CT to Boston.

And for a really pleasant ride, they do have a Quiet Car where you are supposed to keep your yap shut and no phone use. Even with clearly displayed rules, some people just don't get it. But the conductor on the train was very serious about this, and even kicked one person out of the car who just had to "take this important call."

Not to worry the crowd who likes to bring mind altering substances with them, but during my last trip, there was an Amtrak cops with a dog going through the train. I'm almost certain that it was a bomb dog, because based on what I know about why people take Amtrak, the dog wouldn't have gotten through the train without barking at someone with a few doobies in their luggage.

And I've found that although technically you can't bring your own booze, if you are discrete, you can get quietly hammered on your own supply, just use some tact.
 
2008-06-21 02:55:50 PM
If only they went to the same places I want to go to without having to first take a train 500 miles in the opposite direction.
 
2008-06-21 02:56:51 PM
I was originally looking at doing a train from here (San Luis Obispo, CA) to my soon-to-be new place to live (Redmond area, Washington). At first it looked okay - the tickets were 110 each for me and my girlfriend, and even with a 30 hour ride, at least I could plug in with my laptop, nap, walk around, whatever.

Then, a couple weeks ago, the price jumped to 370 for the two of us. Since I had just found out when my stuff will arrive (so I couldn't buy the tickets earlier), I decided to see if airfare became competitive.... 150 for the two of us to fly from SFO to SEA. Add in 70 bucks on Amtrak to get from here in SLO to San Francisco, and about 10 bucks in BART fees, and it was the same price as the original tickets, but at 1/3 the travel time. Unfortunately, we have to take a bus for 5 hours, because Amtrak's service is a POS, and doesn't have trains every hour, or even every day.

In short: fark you amtrak.
 
2008-06-21 02:58:25 PM
In addition, amtrak allows NO weapons on board or in checked baggage. I cannot take my pistol on the train, even if I check it. So when considering other travel destinations, if I have any desire to go shooting with friends when I get there, the train is not an option.
 
2008-06-21 02:59:21 PM
My family lives in New York, so for the heck of it I tried finding routes from Arizona to New York, but just got error messages. I backed it up all along their route map to every major city between here and there and still just kept getting messages about not being able to find a route. Evidently there isn't even a route from Flagstaff to Albuquerque. If their site and service sucks that much, I don't see it getting that big anytime soon.
 
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