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  • 34

Tale of the tape: Amtrak is more comfortable than airlines

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Last week I traveled to Washington, D.C., to discuss the state of the airline industry in a public meeting at the U.S. Department of Transportation. I got there by Amtrak. (www.usatoday.com) 更多...

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FedExCargoPilot
If only the US could develop a high speed and more reliable rail system like Europe or Japan. Only bad thing would be that it would probably put all the regional airlines in the Northastern corridor out of business.
devsfan
ken young 1
We could....But who is going to pay for it?
Buddy
How about Europe since it was us that built theirs after WW2.
devsfan
ken young 2
Yeah..They can start paying us back a portion of all that foreign aid we've been giving them since oh 1945.
Oh, all the countries where we have military installations which guarantee their ability to continue to exist and prosper? They can pay us rent.....<LOL!
mhlansdell00
Looks like it's developed to me. It's more a matter of makeing it a priority and scheduling. If you look at the NEC as some here call it, we have 1 route between DC and NYC. Every train stops at the same stations. why not have one train stop at some and the next train stop at others. I know not everyone wants to get up before breakfast and everyone has their own time table, but we can't keep running things at a 50% loss. It was reported for one N. Central transit system that for every dollar paid to ride, it cost the States'taxpayers another dollsr.
Mateo
Mateo 2
Acela and the NEC regionals turn a profit.
mhlansdell00
I guess they do. They charge a lot of money for a trip to the in the NEC. If I don't need my car, it's about the same cost to take AMTRAK as drive. Airfare is less expensive but the airports are by necessity either a long way from your final destination and require expensive ground transport or as new phrases describe it, 'you can't get there from here', meaning you have to go to a remote airport like Detroit to get a flight to Upstate New York and you pay for it in time and money. Other than the NEC I've been advised not to use the train from DC to Florida, an overnight train.
ddgeorge44
Travelled once from Florida to Vancouver, BC by Amtrak. It took 4 different trains, but the transcontinental to LA and the Coast Starlight to Seattle were very comfortable and had decent beds and pretty good food, as well as showers with hot water! We were an hour late getting onto LA, and Amtrak held the Coast Starlight until we arrived on an adjacent track for the dozen of so of us making the transfer. Even our luggage made the transfer. Nice trip if you have the time.
wktaylor
While seats have gotten measureably smaller, the average American has gotten measureably larger since the 1960s: height, belt-size and weight. Bad combination.
mhlansdell00
That's particularly true when you consider that the air industry has subtracted padding from it's seats. Me thinks thay will go too far and suffer for it. 'Mother is the necesity of invention'.

Trains aren't the answer to all the needs of a transport system as demonstrated by David George below. Maybe our form of government won't allow trains to play any roll. We have more choices than Europeans and others because we have more freedonm to choose. It's up to the train folks to market trains and that won't happen while the government manages the rail system.
preacher1
preacher1 2
In actuality, the government is probably going to have to be the one to do it, but I think it is a transport system that has been passed by. When Lufthansa was in it's infancy in the early 50's, the Germans had a rail system in place moving pax & freight. Gate tenders on every major thoroughfare and steam was king in the late 50's. The TEE started up about that time. Steam pulled all between the metro's and handed off to electric for the city. Even the general that was over USARAR, US forces in Europe had a personal train, that went both diesel & Electric for the towns. Point is, not apples with apples. 2-300 miles and you were out of country but they rebuilt a country with it, But the they had a government that knew what they had to do. There are some infrastructure things that government needs to get involved in and not leave to private enterprise.
mhlansdell00
All true, and there was also a need to rebuild what had been distroyed in WWII. The U.S. paid a lot to help do exactly that while our own system rusted and deteriorated. Trains were used extensively through the 50s and early 60s. I remember the steam locomotives hauling long freight colunns and carrying pax to their jobs in NYC I hate to say it but the unions made even maintaining the lines difficult and expensive, We still suffer with rotting ties and deteriorating water crossings. There are still grade crossins in the NEC. The horns bleet constantly between Baltimore, Md and Newark, Nj. We decided to build the Interstate Highway system in the 50s and 60s even on into the 70s and even still. What we haven't done is learn to budget decision making priorities. We as a nation can't provide health care, lunches, breakfasts, and dinners for all and a rail system too, while we fight Ebola in Africa or bring it here.
preacher1
preacher1 1
well said
mhlansdell00
I almost ran out of breath :-)
Mateo
Mateo 1
There hasn't been a grade crossing on the NEC between Washington and New York in at least 20 (probably more) years. There are still a handful in eastern Connecticut. Any horns between Baltimore and Newark are for passing on a platform track (rare) or passing a zone with workers on the tracks (common).
mhlansdell00
Maybe it's the freight lines. We just recently had an HAZMAT incident and explosion in NE Baltimore where a train hit a truck. Damaged buildings,broke a lot of glass, even distorted doors. There must be a lot of platforms and Sunday work going on. My trains horn was bleating all but constantly from Newark to Aberdeen.
indy2001
indy2001 5
One of the things that I like best about international travel is the chance to ride the trains in so many countries. Although the locals usually like to complain (especially in the UK), I have found trains to be generally clean, safe, punctual, and reliable. Granted, I stay away from traveling during rush hours near large cities since that's an entirely different experience. But some of the technology is amazing. A month ago, we traveled from Edinburgh, Scotland to Crewe, England. The route, known as the West Coast Main Line, is very hilly and very curvy. But the train, known as the Pendolino, is able to tilt as it goes through those curves, resulting in a very smooth ride. All at speeds of up to 125 mph! At times it does feel quite a bit like flying.

In most of the US, however, the large amount of open space means that most travel over a few hundred miles is done by air, or by car if time is not an issue. A long-distance railroad trip is taken as much for the experience as it is for getting from point A to point B. We would need average speeds of 200 - 300 mph to make it a viable alternative to air and auto travel. However, the costs are unsupportable at this time. First, the technology itself is very expensive, as is maintenance and security. In addition, the urban and suburban areas around cities and towns are so built-up that acquiring that property would be cost prohibitive. High-speed rail (or maglev) will appear all over the US, I'm sure, but only when gas costs a lot more than it does right now.
preacher1
preacher1 3
Yeah, that property would be cost prohibitive for hi-speed rail, but God love 'em, if they needed to build a freeway, damn the torpedoes, but there is a lot to be said for going into air hub and connecting to inter city rail like ATL or STL has as opposed to 20 miles out. I personally think that rail needs to fill in between air hubs instead of regional airlines and the whole thing looked at as infrastructure cost rather than a profit making entity.
joelwiley
joel wiley 0
Take a look at California high speed rail. An LA-SF route would pencil in well. The current route jogs over to the Central Valley, then through Bakersfield to LA. The only thing along that corridor is vacant farmland - which could turn into residential communities if only where were some magical transportation mechanism. Oh wait, yes! High Speed Rail. ( I wonder who owns all that land)
preacher1
preacher1 2
Farmers. LOL
thecohorts
Matt LaMay 4
Let's see some differences here. I can get an airline ticket from Delta flying from Dallas to Atlanta for around $200.00. It takes 1.5 hours to get there. Yeah the seat is a little cramped, and that screaming baby 2 rows behind me makes me want to strangle somebody, but it's on 1.5 hours.

I can get a ticket on Amtrak from Dallas to Atlanta for $342.00. It will only take me 53.5 hours to get there. I will have to board 3 different trains, and have layovers in Chicago and Washington D.C...not to mention all of the other towns and cities I would have to stop in.

The bottom line is that Amtrak might be a wonderful option for you Northeasterners, but there is a lot more country...and people that live outside of the Northeast, and Amtrak isn't a viable option at all.
rad2
Exactly the whole point of using the right mode of transportation for a given situation. Taking this one step further, a person living in Dallas wants to go to Norman OK for the big game. $40 one way on Amtrak, less than 2 hours for the approx 200 mile trip, with none of the terminal(TSA) problems. Yes, flight DFW-OKC is approx an hour for twice the price. Yes, there is bus service. Yes, one can drive it in 3 hours, watch the game and drive home - which is probably what 90% of the people would do. The point is to make the best choice for the trip. This logic should be applied nationwide.
thecohorts
Matt LaMay 2
Certainly. That is only logical. The point that I was making is that Amtrak is great if. Live in the northeast, or have a lot of flexibility in your travel plans, or can catch a train that goes drone where you are to where you want to go

The problem with Amtrak is that it's just like the post office. It can't turn a profit because it's overpriced and mostly inconvenient. On top of it all, it's run by the government.
thecohorts
Matt LaMay 3
Apologies. Cell phone autocorrect is terrible sometimes.
paultrubits
All of us over sixty remember remember when train service was readily available. GM went to President Eisenhower and got him to build the interstate highway system to sell more cars.( fun fact: Hawaii has an interstate). New roads lead to car sales, suburbs, traffic jams and the end of intercity railroads. The closest we have now are subways and light rails. Within ten years, cars will be driving themselves. We will all have our own private train car and can post away on FA on our way to our destination.
joelwiley
joel wiley 6
And before that they killed off the interurban trains and trolleys to sell more buses and gasoline.
Bernie20910
Bernie20910 4
"State of the airline industry?" I can sum it up in one sentence, "Shut up cargo, and give us your money."
joelwiley
joel wiley 2
Out of order: Give, then shut up.
Daddude
Well, duh...Amtrak has always had the edge on seat comfort and the NE can offer comparable transit times.
wagnertew
T.E. Wagner 2
Spouse and I recently completed rail trip Seattle to Chicago and return (using two different routes). We were on four different trains, three of them in sleeper cars. Some folks do not know that fares include all meals which we found to be very good.
We do not agree with Kruse (below ) talking about sky high fares. On Amtrak it makes a big difference WHEN you buy your tickets. Our 4-train trip was delightful and reasonable price.
We experienced minimal delays but we were lucky. They can be long because of other rail traffic.
We had a great trip.
wrkruspe
bill kruspe 1
The rate for a 36'X 72" ROOMETTE is $464.00 one way from CA >Chgo, plus $348.00 fare for two adults. The DELUXE suite is $ 1107.00 one way plus $326.00 fare for two adults. The suite is acceptable but not the roomette. The top bunk is horrible, unless you are a midget ! MAKES NO DIFFERENCE when you buy . NO discounts on rooms . I have a pass and next time I use Amtrak I will be happy in a seat ! If you have the time and are not required to be at your destination on time , the train is GREAT ! Lots of scenery but if you don't have a WIFI car attached, nothing to do after the sun goes down, except amuse yourself.
wagnertew
T.E. Wagner 1
For us timing of ticket purchase DID make a difference. My spouse is a standard size person and did fine in the tight Roomette upper bunk. Timing is an issue. Don't go by train if you just be there at a certain time.
Enjoy sleeping in your seat. I prefer to sleep in a bed and not have snoring car-mates all around me. The included meals are tasty. The lounges in some depots for sleeper passengers also an appreciated benefit. I get Internet on my iPad via Verizon so don't use or need wi-fi.
Enjoy your seat. I'll sleep in a bed.
wrkruspe
bill kruspe 2
Delays are the killer. Remember, Amtrak owns no right of ways ! They are at the mercy of the RR's who run their priority trains first . As long as you keep that in mind you will be fine. Also, NEVER pay the sky high rate for a sleeper . A nightmare in itself ! High Speed rail is a great concept , but I don't see it in the near future on the long hauls. Big cities yes, but it still takes a lot of real estate to operate any system because you can't have crossings at grade. Too many dummies want to beat the train ! I know, I ran them for 40 years !
mhlansdell00
The coach cost from Washington to Northern New Jersey or New York City is still less than airfare but not low enough. The time is quicker by train even with the many local stops,and the seat comfort is vastly better. extra at added cost the higher speed Ocella Express drives the cost as high or higher than air fare. Arriving at a big city train station like NY or NWK is like arriving to a dungeon and the waiting areas are like cattle pens. There is NO checked baggage on the BWI to NYC and beyond to Albany. If you find yourself with a half a week's clothing, a laptop, and any medical equipment, there is no place to leave it while you go get a sandwich or a hot dog. The same Homeland Security rules apply as in airports about leaving your bags unattended. Nevertheless, I found a recent trip from BWI to Albany, NY, closest major airports EWR and LGA, to be a little less expensive and certainly a more comfortable ride. Some additional time learning more about the schedules or timetable and fares would have helped. There are no charts of the terminals or stations, particularly Newark and New York. In at least one case I could have saved an hour of wait time at Penn Station, NYC grabbin' an arm full of chu-chu earlier and avoiding the cattle pen waiting area. No one in the system seems to be particularly well trained and don't know how or won't answer questions.
s2v8377
s2v8377 2
While yes the next generation of new airlines seats are generally pretty awful comfort wise in economy/main cabin, and 777s are being fitted with the dreaded 3-4-3 seating, trains and buses aren't perfect either.

For example the author talks about Amtrak having just over a 50% load factor. That is certainly not true on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) where Amtrak makes their bread and butter. Most Acela and regional trains are well over 90% capacity. On paper the train may be faster but that depends as well. Like with the load factor depending on the market with Amtrak so does their OTP. While the Acela's generally do okay like the airlines they are subject to delays. For example Amtrak shares the NEC with several high density commuter operations which can affect their performance dramatically. Off the NEC Amtrak is at the mercy of freight railroads were there is no economic benefit to move their trains first.

Still an interesting article, and it never hurts to remind the airlines about uncomfortable seats.
s2v8377
s2v8377 4
I'm surprised everyone is so pro rail on an aviation website!!!
preacher1
preacher1 4
Putting it all aside, time is the determining factor. I wouldn't go Seattle-Miami either but LIT to STL ain't bad and UP dispatchers are generally telling engineer to hurry up. Even if load factor goes up, that load factor is based on current seating arrangement and still wouldn't be anything like the plane.
s2v8377
s2v8377 2
I guess you've never seen trains on the NEC, good luck getting a seat out of NYP!!! It's also not that easy for Amtrak to just add cars to the trains. For example the Acela's are 6 car train-sets.

When in doubt the freights will always go first if Amtrak doesn't own the tracks.
mhlansdell00
Acela's are 1 train in 5 or 6. The difference in price and time en-route don't justify the additional costs for me. The other trains can add cars if they want to. Amtrak's problem is poor management in a highly unionized environment in my estimation. It takes a highly talented manager to control an organization under those circumstances. If labor eats up all the liquid assets, there is nothing left for direction signage and all the other things it takes to run a transportation system. I can beat air travel every time by automobile between Washington and Newark (EWR) and probably LGA if you consider that LGA is not a destination in itself.

Because most here know where Teterboro (TEB) airport is, a trip from BWI to TEB by auto is easily made in 3-31/2 hours and I have my car with me when I get there. No need for a rental plus expenses. If I leave my home, 3 miles from BWI, park, clear security, wait an hour for my flight fly to EWR, trudge the terminal, get to a rental car agency, rent a roller skate and drive to TEB I'm already a half hour to 45 minutes longer than the interstate highway trip. I've made the trip too many times. Optionally, the coach train to Penn NWK offers hands off travel to the same local faster and more comfortable than air door to door with connections to other places like downtown Manhattan, Connecticut and Upstate Ny.
joelwiley
joel wiley 1
The trouble that shows up out West (at least) is that Amtrak doesn't own the lines. When it's a question of the Zephyr or a consist of North Dakota crud on a single line, Amtrak will be delayed. Shorter haul thru the heavily populated East coast is a different matter.
pinktristar
Geoff Cook 1
In Britain our High Speed Trains run on routes also used by commuter operations. Since the top speed of the long distance trains range from 125 - 140mph, the commuter trains are capable of 100mph with quick acceleration from station stops to avoid slowing the faster trains down. Perhaps it is time for MARC, SEPTA, NJT & METRO NORTH to invest in the 21st Century!
s2v8377
s2v8377 1
Yes, and who and how are you going to pay for the upgrades???

Also how do you explain years of service disruptions to passengers already paying a fortune for tickets.
Braniff77
Braniff77 1
True about the higher load factors on the Acela trains, but one clarification: Amtrak owns the NEC tracks, and as a daily NJ Transit train rider for years, I can attest to the fact that the Amtrak trains get priority when there are problems on the NEC, at least in NJ. I have spent many a time watching Amtrak trains passing me by while my NJT train stops and waits for them. That helps give the Acelas a pretty good OTP.
s2v8377
s2v8377 0
Amtrak, who dispatches that part of the NEC does try and give priority to the Acela's. It does depend if it's a Regional. I was addressing the entire NEC and not just that section in my comments. Amtrak does not dispatch Washington Union, They share NY Penn with the LIRR, and does not dispatch the NEC from New Rochelle, NY to New Haven, CT, where the tracks belong to Metro-North.
DSHartje
I'm a rail and aviation fan,but by the time one goes trough security check,board the aircraft,depart,land,and exit the airport you could have taken the train to Washington and back!

Amtrack's Northeast service is also almost always on time.
preacher1
preacher1 3
Well, depending on the schedule, in a short haul, or congested market, rail is a better option, just on account of the reasons mentioned above
neillaferty
All of the points about the hassle of the TSA, the ridiculously cramped seats, and the sense of feeling undervalued by the airlines are completely valid. I can't and won't dispute that; all of us who fly commercially experience these annoyances. However, for a typical American with a job offering very finite and limited vacation time, I cannot afford to waste entire days sitting on a rail no matter how comfortable it may be. Chicago to Milwaukee? Heck yeah, I'll choose Amtrak every time. But KORD to KFLL? I can get up at 4:00AM in Chicago and be on the beach lookin' at palm trees before lunchtime the same day. Simply not gonna happen on a train.
thegoodguy
thegoodguy 2
A lot of this was on the seats and if a 757 is set to haul 100 pax by Boeing then UAL kicks in 10 more by less seat room, then 10 years later UAL adds 20 more by cutting the seat space. Now you got a airplane that was built to hold 100 pax flying with 130 pax. What was done to get the other 30 people off when its on fire or in a crash???

And yes i know a 75 holds well over 130 pax. But the point is are airlines cutting safety for more paying pax with no over-site???
SWEATINTHSWAMP
I've ridden the Amtrak from MSY to Houston and found it very comfortable and relaxing. It takes a while but the last ride was on Christmas Day. No freight on the tracks so we made it in record time. Under 6 hours. That would be awesome. Great dinner and bar service. Wished they'd eliminate about half the stops on that segment down to three or four majors.
waterfall925
Listen up, folks. The United States of America has got the best airline system with the finest , most dedicated pilots, and the very best ATC system, on God's green earth. And that's a fact! And we've got the best overall transportation choices in the world, also...everything from walking to owning your very own G650--it's all here!the only thing needed to enjoy an airline trip is the right attitude.

So you wanna know what's wrong with this country? Ok, I'll tell ya...it's the union boys, the New Yawk-Bwoston-DC crowd, and the young -punk cost-efficiency mob in DC! Yes, they and the California bay Area-academic NIMBY snobs have made progress almost impossible in this country...because of them, we can't have an American SST, we can't have high-speed rail,we can't have the Keystone pipeline, we can't have clean coal, we can't have nuclear power---all because of a few loudmouths on the coasts, candy-a**** who would die if they heard a sonic boom or had to live within 500 miles of a nuclear power plant...

So, want to know what would be really great in this country? Ok, I'll tell ya...an American SST, The keystone Pipeline, Clean Coal, Nuclear Power, high-speed rail, and a Retro Airline that only flew the Lockheed 1049 Super Constellation, the DC-7, and the DC-3 for short hauls...and above all, we need a can-do attitude towards progress...most of the time on this site I see the same crowd whining about cost and why it can't be ddone...But there is always a good reason not to do anything, or to make excuses and be satisfied with what we should not be satisfied with...I ask the nay-sayers about high-speed rail, for example, why do anything at all? Why did Rice ever play Texas?
tduggan2010
Tim Duggan 1
I had to use Amtrak a LOT post 9/11. KDCA was closed down for several months, as many know. I lived less than five miles from there, and commuted to KEWR at that time.

So yes.....Amtrak was great then, and seems to be great now!!
bobj143
bob Johnson 1
Except for the "Northeast Corridor". passenger rail traffic and convenience died a long time ago.
ultramac
Amtrak will never grow much. They chsrge ss much if not more than the airlines for same distance. Dont be fooled by them, totally over priced...
mdtobe
John Mohan 1
And a Mooney is better than both. But you have to own a Mooney...
alan75035
alan75035 1
Waterboarding is more comfortable than flying coachm
Mmamidipelli96
Less than 2 hours travel can be undertaken by any flight without leg space and no push back facility, as found recently by spirit airlines, which is economical and comfortable.staff reception was also cordial.
Above 4 hours flight/international travel requires more comfort.train travel undertaken from SFO to LA last year was very comfortable, in its ownway. Depends on individual feelings.thanks.
209flyboy
209flyboy 1
How about going to a monorail type system just for passenger trains where passenger tracks would be elevated.? This way there are no delays and crossings to worry about as farmers wouldn't lose any land, and be compensated for it's use, and parking at stations would be under the structure at stations. Get the government out of the passenger train business to start with. High speed rail on the ground is nuts and too slow and too expensive and interferes with slow moving freight.
preacher1
preacher1 1
Freight is not that slow anymore, at least out here West of the big river. Intermodals are running on old PAX train schedules and have been for several years, with RR's running trains and local drayage/trucking companies handling the gathering and delivering. They are the RR customers, not the actual shippers.
Bernie20910
Bernie20910 1
Without government involvement, getting right of way for such a system probably would not be economically feasible.
devsfan
ken young 1
While rail travel is more comfortable, it is also highly inconvenient for most travelers.
For me to get to and from upstate NY using either the Ethan Allen Express or the Adirondack connecting from the Piedmont or Carolinian, it would take two days each way because the train schedules do not permit connecting.
I don't like to fly anymore because of the hassles and the fact that air carriers have degraded their product to all but first class and business class travelers, I drive. Done
preacher1
preacher1 1
This argument could go on forever and with very good pro and con. Rail may be good in spots such as the NEC or various metro's but unless you have the time, long trips are out of the question. We developed or at least financed the European system but you are looking at only 2-300 miles and even air is now taking that over in the interest of time. Our regional airlines have sort of taken it's place just as wireless is doing away with landlines. Whether good or not will remain to be seen, but regardless of what it is, the government is going to have to take control of infrastructure and develop a national transportation policy rather than have it fragmented by private enterprise, hopefully efficiently and union free.
waterfall925
I'm sorry that someone decided my previous comments weren't PC enough for someone. Basically, I was saying that if cost-efficiency is the only criteria , then soon we shall all be flying in pilotless planes, perhaps with poles to hang on to, rather than seats:) ...For very short trips, yes, Amtrak is an excellent alternative if the routing makes sense
CaptJohn1
CaptJohn1 1
Do they make the airlines run an evacuation test when they increase the number of seats in an aircraft? I forget what the test is officially called, but it's the one they do to confirm that they can completely evacuate the aircraft within a specific period of time for certification. If they do not, they should have to every time they make such a change. There's no way your getting out of smaller seats, packed together tighter, with more passangers, as quickly.
outward
I read the comments below, and then I read the article. I agree with the comments and some of the observations of delays, practicality, but for a short trip or overnight trip, I think traveling by train would be an enjoyable trip. Train travel has changed, just like airline travel, and gone are the days of romanticism associated with each. Still, there is something different traveling by train and I think I would enjoy the trip.

Thanks to working for a couple of companies that went under, and then being laid off at another one, it's been a while since I've flown. I don't know if I have missed anything though. I have read over and over about the TSA and I don't relish going to the airport and having some agent go 'where no man has gone before'. With a train, I'm sure there are metal detectors, but I wouldn't have to consent to legalized groping by another guy. Going on overnight trip and being lulled to sleep by the sound of the tracks is something I think about when I think about a long trip on a train, and not having ridden on a train since I was a kid in the 60s, I think that train travel has its appeal, if not advantages over air travel. And being 6’1”, I would definitely like having a decent amount of leg room and seat width.

The only problem would be customer service. Until Amtrak is made to be accountable instead of a losing company held up by taxpayer money, delays and poor customer service will most likely be the norm. If a private company could somehow start service with customer service and efficiency in mind, I think train travel would see a resurgence and become an attractive alternative to cramped seats, next-to-nothing meals in coach, and over-zealous security agents who really don’t care about those they are supposed to be serving and protecting with their security protocols. Probably won’t happen though. It would be too good to be true. So, I guess I’ll go to the airport next time I do need to go on a long trip and give myself up to someone with rubber gloves and a bored look. I’ll just make sure I leave my pocket knife at home so he doesn’t put me in restraints or strip me naked in front of everybody.
Bernie20910
Bernie20910 2
"If a private company could somehow start service with customer service and efficiency in mind..." And you would wind up with a rail version of the airlines IMHO. As has been said, Amtrak does not own the rails it rides on, and will always be at the mercy of those who do. That means that the only way for them to boost "efficiency" is either by upgraded equipment (expensive, and rail travel on those style tracks is already about as efficient as it gets), or packing on more passengers. How do you get more passengers on? More seats, and lower fares. Sound familiar? Yes, eventually you'll reach a point where profits are earned, service is acceptable and passengers are mostly comfortable, but no for-profit business ever wants to just stop there. No, they always want greater profits, and they want them without driving away the customers they have already, so raising fares is out. Enter the "extra" charges. Baggage fees, destination fees, meal fees, fees, fees fees, all on top of the low, low advertised fare. When the customers start to squawk a little too loudly at that, eliminate one of the fees, to make it look as if you're good guys, but decrease the seat width and pitch so you can pack more people on and make up those lost revenues, and a little bit extra.

It's inherent in the system you see. The owners and stockholders always want more money, and tell upper management to find new ways to do that. They pressure middle management and so on and so on, until you have one guy working 7 days running the office that calls for two, enough hidden fees to gag a horse, and customers who are at the ragged edge of tolerance, because that's the only point such a system can ever reach equilibrium. The point where no one is actually getting what they want, but where they can just barely tolerate what they're getting. That's the balance point, and that's what the airline industry is teetering on today.
preacher1
preacher1 1
maybe it's just this part of the world, BUT I have a nite owl friend in LIT that has watched AMTRAK's Texas Eagle arrive there every nite for the last year or so. This train runs from San Antonio to Chicago daily, touching DAL and FTW to the South and STL to the North, with other stops in between. This train runs on one of Union Pacific's hottest main lines. The Northbound is due in at 1130 and there is a crew change here. It is generally early. Southbound is due at 0315, crew change, and out at 0330. Normally OT or early. Amtrak shows 2 clerk positions but they are down to 1 for the last 2 months and the remaining one is working 7 days per week; customer service not suffering and trains OT. Union station at LIT is just before the Baring Cross bridge and North Little Rock Yard. UP stopped a freight the other nite to let the AMTRAK out as it would run on through the yard and they didn't want it caught behind the freight. Like I said, it may be this part of the world and work ethic but that's the way we roll.
arcticdodge
Jeff K 1
I have ZERO intention of riding a train for a week from Seattle to South Florida in relative comfort compared to only 4+ hours in a cramped Delta 757.
s2v8377
s2v8377 1
Finally someone that prefers flying like me!!! I can't believe everyone is siding with the train. We're suppose to like Airplanes on this site!!!
Bernie20910
Bernie20910 6
They're not mutually excluding you know. You CAN like aviation and aircraft, and like trains too. You can also like aviation and aircraft and hate to fly because of how terrible the airlines and TSA have made the experience. I love aircraft and aviation, and I used to love flying. I wouldn't get on a commercial flight these days though if you paid my fare and gave me a free car when we got to destination. Seriously.
joelwiley
joel wiley 1
That is a bit extreme I think. Depends on the car.....
Bernie20910
Bernie20910 4
On the other hand, give me a seat that's comfortable, easy check-in and boarding, and treat me like a valued customer instead of an annoyance, and do it at a reasonable price (I'm not expecting bargain basement fares to come with this, but neither do I expect to have to hock a kidney) and I'll fly anywhere.
devsfan
ken young 1
Small airports.....For example Concord Regional KJQF( near KCLT) now has scheduled air service via Allegiant Airlines. Direct service to KSFB( Sanford/Orlando) and KPIE( St Pete, FL).The carrier has announced it will offer connecting flights in the future.
Bernie20910
Bernie20910 1
I don't really see how this relates to my statement, which it is a reply to. Would you clarify please?
Bernie20910
Bernie20910 2
No, it doesn't. Seriously.
mhlansdell00
Some of my best friends are airplanes. It's the airlines that need the attitude adjustment. :-)
devsfan
ken young 2
We DO like aircraft. Just not AIR TRAVEL
minnerd
Dale Minner 1
Look, my child, see what I spy
a Greyhound bus up in the sky.
Perhaps it is the Untied flight
that I avoid with all my might.
Or mayhap it is the Delfa route to DNV
wtih luggage meant for XYZ
abowland
Andy Bowland -1
It might be comfy, but it Amtrak has never made a dime. It's easy to stay in business when you are owned to the US government.

In 2010 they had 2.51 billion in revenue with 3.74 billion in expenses.

41 of 44 Amtrak routes don't make any money, and lose $5 to $300+ per passenger.
btweston
btweston 3
Transportation is vital to an economy. The idea that Amtrak needs to make money is short-sighted.

Are you familiar with the Essential Air service?
devsfan
ken young 2
How about breaking EVEN? We are taxed enough as it is. I'd like to see at least a break even ROI on Amtrak.
Of course, with no incentive for efficiency Amtrak had no budget. No matter the cost for rolling stock and labor, the government just comes up with new taxes to pay for it. Nobody cares because as you state, "transportation is vital to the economy"....."Just pay it"....
preacher1
preacher1 1
Yeah, but not every town has an airport. Rail infrastructure is in place in most of the heartland, as is the gray dog. The whole point is as you say. It is going to have to be looked at as infrastructure rather than a profit making entity.
btweston
btweston 1
Exactly.

I was simply using the EAS in response to another comment which was harping on the fact that Amtrak loses money. Being able to move things around far outweighs Amtrak's ledger line. Within reason, of course.
LGM118
LGM118 3
Who really does "make money"? The Highway Trust Fund has gotten about $55 billion in bailouts since 2008, the FAA is shutting down Class D Towers left and right, the only way the airlines have been able to break even has been by merging to the point that we now have an oligopoly in the industry, the list goes on.

Transportation isn't about making money. Robert Crandall (former President of American Airlines back in the 1980's) once said that, "I've never invested in any airline. I'm an airline manager. I don't invest in airlines. And I always said to the employees of American, 'This is not an appropriate investment. It's a great place to work and it's a great company that does important work. But airlines are not an investment.'"

Transportation as a whole should be considered in the same way we consider roadways a public good that helps other sectors of the economy. Now, that's not to say there can't/shouldn't be private operators where possible who cover their own operating costs (the airlines for example) but at the end of the

Also, the whole "Amtrak does make money on the NEC" thing is a myth. There's something like $20-30 billion in maintenance needs to bring the NEC to a state of good repair, not to mention that thanks to Chris Christie cancelling the ARC Tunnel back in 2010, we're about to see Amtrak lose massive ridership for a few years when they have to close down one of the Hudson River tunnels at a time for two years to fix damage from Hurricane Sandy. Even with those repairs, Amtrak's going to need to replace the tunnels entirely by around 2030 or else they won't even be able to run trains under the Hudson River since those tunnels will reach the end of their useful service life. That alone is going to cost about $15 billion.

Long story short: Transportation ain't cheap, and no one really makes money on it except through accounting tricks.
devsfan
ken young 1
That ARC tunnel was nothing more than a "make work" project that was devised to placate the unions who year after year throw their undying support toward their benefactors on election day.
There was an idea. There was NO MONEY to pay for it.
The original estimated cost was around $8 billion. Would have taken 15 to 20 years to build. And with delays due to labor strife, palm greasing, and those "unexpected"( Yeah right) cost over runs for which no one seems to ever be accountable, the cost would probably tripled.
Again, with no money available to pay for it, no doubt the taxpayers of NY and NJ would have felt the brunt of the cost.
preacher1
preacher1 3
At some point and time, just like our waterways, it is going to have to be considered part of our infrastructure and not a for profit entity. Regional Airlines cannot/will not serve all the heartland. Government is going to have to get back in the directed air business again or beef up AMTRAK/Greyhound to link up those cities/towns without air service.
preacher1
preacher1 2
and connect them to Air Hub
devsfan
ken young 1
Same reason why all those railway systems in Europe are in business. All are heavily subsidized by taxes on everything. Motor fuel being one source.
We here in the States could have a rail system similar to Europe( in about 50 years) if gasoline was $8.00 per gallon.
rad2
The problem with AMTRAK is the politicians bend to their minority constituents (Old folks - mostly) who want the old idea of a long distance, coast to coast train service. I my opinion, passenger rail should never go much further than 300-500 miles, as it does in the Northeast. And that should be as high speed as possible and still be considered local service. Any food service should be no more that a Starbucks type of operation, with that service catered out with no railroad employees involved.

Airline service, in today's environment, should not serve the under 300-500 markets. This would require a real Department of Transportation and the Congressional support to set the guidelines that a private company could live with. Such an organization just might be able to operate profitably. Long distance trains are not very efficient and, if operated to cost, way too expensive. There are railfan operations to cater to the folks that can afford the long distance train fantasy.
preacher1
preacher1 1
Back in the day, when I was a USAF guy, I was at the weapons lab at Kirtland AFB in ABQ. We had a 135 land with a planeload of German AF cadets. I think the came out of McGuire and one made the comment that" if we had driven this long in Germany, we'd be out of the country". I think the 3-500 mile range was what was envisioned in the early days of AMTRAK.

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