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(Duluth News Tribune)   Mudslide derails three cars of an Amtrak train. No one on board injured. Or, being Amtrak, perhaps it was just no one on board   (duluthnewstribune.com) divider line 22
    More: Scary, Amtrak, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, trains  
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2506 clicks; posted to Main » on 08 Apr 2013 at 7:47 AM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-04-08 08:29:05 AM
4 votes:

Louisiana_Sitar_Club: Seriously, why do they exist?


The Northeast Corridor and Acela lines are hugely popular. It's by far my preferred way to get from DC to NY/Boston and places nearby. It's also great for western sightseeing trips. The two-day trip down the west coast is nice, as are some of the trains that cross through the Rockies.

Outside of the NE Corridor you just can't look at Amtrak as a cheaper or faster alternative to flying or driving. It's not. It's a novelty and a fun way to take a trip (i.e. part of the vacation IS the train ride). Lots of people have the same impression of Amtrak as you (it's a cheap alternative to flying) when that's really not what they try to be. Unfortunately you're right that huge amounts of their network are pretty much useless for normal travel.

It's also those "boring" routes that cost them a ton of money, and yet they're required to run them. Just like the USPS wants to drop a day so they can lose less money, Congress won't let Amtrak ditch unprofitable routes so the NE Corridor and Acela have to subsidize the rest of the country.
2013-04-08 12:55:19 PM
3 votes:

LesserEvil: Who travels by train? I priced out a trip 10 or 12 years ago, and it was 4 or 5 times the price of an airline ticket.


Things change in "10 to 12 years". Hell, 12 years ago, airline passengers weren't groped by the TSA.

Orbitz shows the cheapest flight NYC to Chicago is $63. (For May 1st, any NYC airport any CHI airport). Amtrak is $99. But, need something a little sooner? Leave next Monday , April 15th, and you'll pay at least $135 for airfare, or ... $99 for train. Leaving tomorrow? Minimum $141 for air, ...$99 for train.

Now, the only issue is that the train trip takes about 19 hours, while the plane is 2.5 hours. This could change if we actually put any money into railroad infrastructure instead of fighting pointless wars on the other side of the planet. A cross-continental high-speed rail route would help a lot. 200mph gets you from NYC to CHI in just 4 hours, quite competitive with air travel (especially once you figure in the fact you need to arrive hours early to clear the TSA, etc)
2013-04-08 07:56:22 AM
2 votes:
Sorry to derail your amtrak bashing, compositard: 86 passengers & 11 crew FTFA.
2013-04-08 07:50:37 AM
2 votes:
I wish trains were more convenient.
2013-04-08 11:25:23 AM
1 votes:

LesserEvil: LesserEvil: Old_Chief_Scott: LesserEvil: I'm just sharing my experience. One $1200 ticket (one way)

Looking at their site, it seems like the prices HAVE come way down. Thanks, Obama.


A lot of it is seasonal fare differences and 'revenue management' (starting with high prices, eventually cutting them back to fill every seat).

For as much as they've cut their fleets down, the airlines have substantially more flexibility on adding more flights/bigger planes/weird connections to take on a popular travel time.  Amtrak really can't add additional summer service... they have the cars they have and quite literally, as of 2013, the majority of cars on the rails were built in the Carter administration.  So if they have sellouts they've obviously missed some revenue (someone presumably would have paid more than their current fare to get the last seat).
2013-04-08 11:14:41 AM
1 votes:

LesserEvil: Old_Chief_Scott: LesserEvil: I'm just sharing my experience. One $1200 ticket (one way)

Chicago to NOLA is $125 one way next Wednesday. You must have booked a sleeper or something.

Well, as I said, this was years ago. My wife wanted some alternatives to traveling there. She also had to be there on specific days, which probably increased the price - and this was from Michigan, not Chicago, and Chicago is a big transportation hub for rail.


Looking at their site, it seems like the prices HAVE come way down. Thanks, Obama.
2013-04-08 11:10:56 AM
1 votes:

Old_Chief_Scott: LesserEvil: I'm just sharing my experience. One $1200 ticket (one way)

Chicago to NOLA is $125 one way next Wednesday. You must have booked a sleeper or something.


Well, as I said, this was years ago. My wife wanted some alternatives to traveling there. She also had to be there on specific days, which probably increased the price - and this was from Michigan, not Chicago, and Chicago is a big transportation hub for rail.
2013-04-08 11:01:27 AM
1 votes:

LesserEvil: I'm just sharing my experience. One $1200 ticket (one way)


Chicago to NOLA is $125 one way next Wednesday. You must have booked a sleeper or something.
2013-04-08 10:59:40 AM
1 votes:
I travel on Amtrak for business instead flying. There are plenty of other riders.

I don't like the time consuming TSA theater at the airport. I don't like my luggage, which I am required to check due to TSA rules, not showing up. I don't like the routinely canceled connection flights. And, I don't like the cramped crappy seats.

On Amtrak I can plug in my laptop computer and nobody cares if it's turned on when the train leaves the station. I can spread out at a table and do actual work. The trick is I buy a sleeper, then I get free meals, linens and courteous service. The scenery and chatting with fellow travelers at meals are nice perks.

If I don't want the sleeper, there is a snack shop and bar open almost all the time with reasonable prices. I can bring on my own food, even a bottle of wine if I want, nobody cares. When I get home there is no expensive long term parking fee after having left my car at the guarded parking lot right next to station. Parking is free.

As I said, there are plenty of other Amtrak riders.
2013-04-08 10:40:11 AM
1 votes:

LesserEvil: Michigan to New Orleans.


Yeah, just not worth it for a ride like that. Way too long of a distance for Amtrak unless it was the ride/scenery you were interested in, and it probably isn't on that route.
2013-04-08 10:27:27 AM
1 votes:

dukeblue219: LesserEvil: Who travels by train? I priced out a trip 10 or 12 years ago, and it was 4 or 5 times the price of an airline ticket.

Like folks have said already, for *most* of their network they are not, and don't claim to be, a cheap alternative to airfare. If you're trying to go cross country nothing will beat a cheap, deep-discount airline ticket other than maybe Greyhound and I'm not certain about that.

If you want to go DC-NY you can do it by Amtrak for $40/person each way and it's much more convenient, faster and more comfortable than flying. If you want a wonderful scenic vacation, take the train out west. But if you want to go from Orlando to Milwaukee.... or Chicago to Dallas or whatever... that's not what Amtrak is good at.

Usually it's just a little bit more than flying, though. What route did you find where it was 4-5 times the price of flying?


You're arguing with non specific very old information provided by an anonymous internet troll who looks like he is interested in grinding his own agenda rather than discuss. Good luck with him actually coming up with this "example" he claimed he had. And even if he did, from 12 years ago, does it matter? Plane fare was a whole lot cheaper 10 years ago than it is right now too. I fly 20 times a year for business, so that part I can back up.

Agreeing Amtrak fills a niche, I would like to see us actually publically fund a new rail grid through major metro areas, which Portland/Seattle/Vancouver BC are fast becoming. But we don't, because politics and money and inertia.
2013-04-08 10:19:59 AM
1 votes:

LesserEvil: Who travels by train? I priced out a trip 10 or 12 years ago, and it was 4 or 5 times the price of an airline ticket.


Like folks have said already, for *most* of their network they are not, and don't claim to be, a cheap alternative to airfare. If you're trying to go cross country nothing will beat a cheap, deep-discount airline ticket other than maybe Greyhound and I'm not certain about that.

If you want to go DC-NY you can do it by Amtrak for $40/person each way and it's much more convenient, faster and more comfortable than flying. If you want a wonderful scenic vacation, take the train out west. But if you want to go from Orlando to Milwaukee.... or Chicago to Dallas or whatever... that's not what Amtrak is good at.

Usually it's just a little bit more than flying, though. What route did you find where it was 4-5 times the price of flying?
2013-04-08 10:16:04 AM
1 votes:

fat_free: St. Louis to Chicago is getting high(er) speed rail, so a train trip between the two cities will be about 4.25 hours. It's a 50 min flight, but when you factor in the time going thru security (and having to deal with the TSA's bullshiat), sitting on the runway, de-planing, etc., it's pretty much a push...


I live in central Illinois and I've tried taking the Amtrak to Chicago before. The problem is that it stops so freaking much. Amtrak runs that route like it's a subway. It doesn't matter what the train's top speed is, if it stops for 15 minutes every 30 miles, it's still faster to take a car. I know that cutting stops would mean the station I got on at would be closed, but that's the price for effective long-distance travel.

Oh, but the Amtrak can't not stop at Podunkia, IL. It's federally subsidized and Podunkia has an influential representative just like every little town that slows down Amtrak. No congressional representative is going to vote for the funding unless their constituency get the service too. So bloated, ineffective service it is.
2013-04-08 10:05:06 AM
1 votes:

musashi1600: I've heard that stretch of track is notorious for having this problem; Sound Transit has had to repeatedly cancel trains to/from Everett because of numerous mudslides in that area.


Correct. The tracks belong to old legacy freight shipper BNSF. The tracks run along a steep embankment next to Puget Sound. They are following a route that was convenient 80 years ago, when logging was the big deal for train transport.

The steep hill never gets carved back, never gets a retaining wall put up. I have no idea why. Locals are so used to the hill sliding shut ever year they put up with it.

Welcome to life in the Northwest. All civic projects in Seattle are a conflict between people that did not grow up here (and probably saw a more complete version of civilization implemented someplace else) and people that did grow up here, who can't imagine civilization being more thorough and thus balk and push back on the "waste" and "need" for such things as actual operating train tracks through a major metro area that carry passengers on a daily basis.

Seattle's civic mind can be understood if you distill everything down to: "This is a frontier outpost and a fishing village." Who needs better tracks? Hell we'll be out fishing 6 months a year, let the Railroad take care of it! Why have commuter trains? The prospectors (new arrivals) can walk, I already can make it to work fine without it.

Etc.


// 22 year Seattle visitor.
2013-04-08 09:59:42 AM
1 votes:
Been on 9 AMTRAK trips from Seattle to Chicago. Always full and ofttimes sold out weeks ahead. People are pi**ed at airlines and TSA.
2013-04-08 09:53:31 AM
1 votes:

dukeblue219: Unfortunately you're right that huge amounts of their network are pretty much useless for normal travel.


Also unfortunately, what some people get from this is "let's abandon the whole thing" rather than "let's make it better".
2013-04-08 09:19:07 AM
1 votes:

fat_free: St. Louis to Chicago is getting high(er) speed rail, so a train trip between the two cities will be about 4.25 hours. It's a 50 min flight, but when you factor in the time going thru security (and having to deal with the TSA's bullshiat), sitting on the runway, de-planing, etc., it's pretty much a push...


Also, train stations are usually centrally located.


The trick to an enjoyable train ride is getting a sleeper.
2013-04-08 09:12:26 AM
1 votes:
St. Louis to Chicago is getting high(er) speed rail, so a train trip between the two cities will be about 4.25 hours. It's a 50 min flight, but when you factor in the time going thru security (and having to deal with the TSA's bullshiat), sitting on the runway, de-planing, etc., it's pretty much a push...
2013-04-08 08:51:42 AM
1 votes:
Subby obviously doesn't travel by Amtrak.  Most Midwest and Northwest routes are routinely full, and many states are falling over themselves trying to build more capacity to keep up with demand.

Can't speak about the northeast, though.
2013-04-08 08:40:45 AM
1 votes:
I've ridden the Empire Builder and the Southwest Chief (the latter many times).

They may be overpriced.  They may lose money on every passenger. Late every time. Food service (and customer service) was bad 20 years ago and far worse now.  They may not make any financial sense.

But the one thing they aren't is empty.  I have no idea who these people are, where they're coming from, or where they're going.  But the transcon trains I've seen are, every last time, at least 80% full.
2013-04-08 08:34:14 AM
1 votes:
I was planning a backpacking trip to the Adirondacks and saw that there was a train station in the area which would make travel easier.  So I put in the nearest train station to me and that one to get coasts.  It returned an error, so played with dates and then other starting stations error, error, error.  I then tried working backward finding what trains went into the station where found under amenities- no wifi, not ticket counter, no shelter, no taxi stand, no regular service.  Amtrak is the cheese shop from Monty Python
2013-04-08 08:09:46 AM
1 votes:
I've heard that stretch of track is notorious for having this problem; Sound Transit has had to repeatedly cancel trains to/from Everett because of numerous mudslides in that area.
 
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