Inside Amtrak’s Dying Long-Distance Trains | WSJ

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Posted by CMStPnP on Monday, July 29, 2019 3:44 AM

daveklepper
Which Class I does give Amtrak good service?

I think things have changed the last few years but the Southwest Chief on BNSF used to be fairly well handled train as well.    Whenever I fly to KC and my hotel is across from KC Union Station, I can watch it arrive just before 8 and I hear it's horn while I am starting to doze off around 10-11 p.m.   Typically ontime when I stop to notice.   I don't check it everyday though so it could be horrendously late as well.    And there is some silver lining on the LD trains being unreliable.   The main impetus of the newly proposed day train between Chicago and St. Paul is that the Empire Builder has a bad schedule and has problems adhereing to the schedule due to circumstances West of St. Paul.    I think if it was 100% reliable or never existed in the first place Minnesota never would have considered a suppliment to it.   Again points to the fact that many LD train routes have started Corridor service initially or opened a lot of minds to it.......they havent been a complete waste of money.

 

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Posted by Deggesty on Monday, July 29, 2019 11:55 AM

daveklepper

Elderly and other limited mobility who cannot fly;  buses serve the same purpose?
To some extent they do.  However, anyone who has taken a long-distance bus trip, anything more than three hours, knows they really do not.  The comfort level is less, the amount of space per seat is less, the restrooms are far less adequate, the ride as bumpy as bad track, much even most of the time.  What about meal and beverage service?   Greater problem to leave the bus for a roadside diner than moving to a dining café car, and most meal stops are not at places with great food.   No 1st-Class service or handicapped room. 
But, clearly, with the freight congestion and Amtrak LDTs’ poor time-keeping and reduced meal options, they aren’t doing their job either. 
I believe my fix, station restaurants with home delivery, take-out service, and on-board sevice just a fraction of that business. can solve the food and beverage  problem.   But something drastic has to be done about so-called precision railroading’s effect on Amtrak timekeeping.
Is there any LDT with decent on-time performance?  How are the Florida trains doing these days?  What about the Empire Builder?   Which Class I does give Amtrak good service?  
Any?
 

Dave has a good point about comfort. Greyhound says that it has more legroom--but does not specify what mode of transportaion has less--is it by air? The seats for elderly/disabled on Greyhound buses that I have occupied in the last three years have less legroom than the seats farther back, and definitely less legroom than even coach seats that I have ever ridden in. Granted, I have not ridden coach in a long distance train in thirty years, but the restrooms in coach or custom cars I have ridden in the past few years were definitely not noisome.

As to meal accommodations currently available along bus routes, I personally am acquainted only with what is found between Charlottesville, Virginia, and Bristol, Tennessee--vending machines in Charlottesville and Roanoke and a stop at McDonald's at Max Meadows (near Wytheville, Virginia) Years ago, Wytheville had a nice bus station with what seemed to be a good lunch counter (I never patronized it except in the middle of the night).

How many of you have spent a night on a bus? Even an Amtrak coach seat is far more comfortable.

Johnny

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Monday, July 29, 2019 3:08 PM

Friends that ride Greyhound,  Megabus and Amtrak coach say the Megabus is best,  Greyhound the worst. 

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Posted by CMStPnP on Monday, July 29, 2019 10:35 PM

charlie hebdo
Megabus

You can pick your seat on Megabus, it is assigned on Greyhound.

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Posted by Deggesty on Tuesday, July 30, 2019 7:47 AM

CMStPnP

 

 
charlie hebdo
Megabus

 

You can pick your seat on Megabus, it is assigned on Greyhound.

 

Is this a new practice on Greeyhound? The times I rode in the past four years I sat where I could; once I was unable to sit in a front seat because they were already in use--no seat was assigned to me.

Johnny

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Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, July 30, 2019 9:12 AM

Charlie, do your friends who give you the three-carrier comparison ride overnight?

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Posted by JPS1 on Tuesday, July 30, 2019 9:19 AM

charlie hebdo
 Friends that ride Greyhound,  Megabus and Amtrak coach say the Megabus is best,  Greyhound the worst. 

Last year I rode Megabus from NYC to Philadelphia to give it a go.  The coach was spotless, and the ride was comfortable.  I was able to reserve a seat for a few extra bucks.  

I also rode Greyhound from Dallas to San Antonio.  It was an express bus that took 5 hours, 5 minutes compared to 10 hours, 5 minutes on Amtrak's consistently late Texas Eagle.  Because I chose the Economy Extra fare, which cost me $19 compared to $14 for the regular fare, I had priority boarding.  The fare on Amtrak would have been $29.

Seats are not reserved between Dallas and San Antonio on Greyhound.  However, the two front seats on the right hand side of the bus are reserve for elderly and/or mobility challenged riders. 

Of the two experiences, I found Megabus to be a somewhat better experience. 

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 1:33 AM

Was the latter an overnight trip?

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Posted by CMStPnP on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 1:50 AM

Deggesty
Is this a new practice on Greeyhound? The times I rode in the past four years I sat where I could; once I was unable to sit in a front seat because they were already in use--no seat was assigned to me.

Your ability to pick a seat is limited by how many people are on the bus prior to you boarding.   That is a method of assignment based on boarding position.   Southwest claims that none of it's seats are assigned (open seating)........which is well and good but try getting other than a middle seat if your in boarding position C or D.    You don't have a choice then.    Same is true of Greyhound, if you are boarding a bus at a continuation point in the trip and you have folks before you with priority boarding......good luck.

Megabus you can pick your seat on the internet and reserve it.   It shows you each bus layout and seats available on the Internet.

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 5:23 AM

So, anyone rode Megabus or Greyhound overnight?

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 8:50 AM

Yes.  Both.  Megabus was much better than Greyhound,  and a smoother ride and quieter passengers than Amtrak coach. 

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Posted by York1 on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 9:09 AM

Talking of seating ...

In December, 1989, my family took an Amtrak trip that involved changing trains in Chicago.

Union Station was being remodeled, it was below zero outside, and there was no heat in the station.  We froze standing in line to get onto the train.  The train originated in Chicago.

We got into line early because we wanted to sit with our three young daughters.

When we finally got onto the warm train, we were amazed that the train was full.  My wife ended up sitting in one car with one daughter two rows ahead.  I was in a different car.  I finally got someone to move so I could sit with the youngest.  The oldest, who was nine, had to sit about 6 rows away.

I finally complained.  I asked why the train was full when we were at the front of the line and the train originated in Chicago.

I was informed by a worker that the people on the train payed redcaps to get them onto the train earlier.

I wish I had known that before we stood in a freezing line for several hours.  Several others who waited with us in line were very unhappy.

John

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 9:15 AM

Did you write a complaint to Amtrak?   Why not?

Which trains did you use?

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Posted by JPS1 on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 9:17 AM

daveklepper
 Was the latter an overnight trip? 

Assuming this question is addressed to me, I don't know of anyone in my active adult community that wants to ride a bus, train or plane overnight.  They will do it when traveling overseas because they don't have a realistic option.  

Most of the people that I know don't want to sit cheek to jowl with a stranger on any conveyance.  They prefer the comfort and convenience of a car.  Like me, they will put up with sitting uncomfortably close to a stranger on an airplane, as an example, as a trade-off for covering long distances as quickly as possible.  Or in a bus or train for the convenience of not having to drive or not being able to drive!

I suspect most of the people found overnight on a train or bus, with the exception of those in a sleeper, are either afraid to fly or don’t have any choice.  They are an small segment of the population. 

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Posted by JPS1 on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 9:31 AM

The 11:30 am Megabus from Dallas to Houston for August 14th has four reserve seats on the first level and 16 on the second level.  The price of the reservation ranges from $2 to $8.  Two of the first level seats have been sold; two of the second level have been booked. The fare is including a reserved seat is $11.

The $8 seats are on level two at the front of the bus.  They definitely offer the best view of the roadway  And if the bus is involved in a collision, the occupants of these seats, along with the driver, will be the first to arrive.  

Greyhound has five express buses from Dallas to Houston on August 14th.  The base fare is $19.  The Economy Extra fare, which includes priority boarding, is $27.  Reserved seats are not an option.  

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Posted by Deggesty on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 10:03 AM

I have ridden a bus overnight many times--the last time was 35 years ago--and I have plan to never do so again. I have ridden a bus in the last few years only because I no longer drive, and I wanted to go to a place which has not had passenger rail service since 1969.

Johnny

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Posted by York1 on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 10:14 AM

daveklepper

Did you write a complaint to Amtrak?   Why not?

Which trains did you use?  

 

This is going to be long:

Dave, to tell the truth, it never entered my mind to write to Amtrak.  I figured I had learned a valuable lesson, and would know to tip a redcap if it ever happened again.

1.  We got to Chicago on the City of New Orleans.  We came from New Orleans.  This was before Christmas, 1989, so we knew the trains would be crowded.

2.  We were late getting into Chicago, and missed the train west.  I do not know the name of the train we took from Chicago to Hastings, NE.  Amtrak put us up in a hotel in downtown Chicago, gave us a voucher for meals at the hotel, and paid cabfare to and from the station.

3.  The train encountered some record low temperatures.  By the time we reached Hastings, the temperature was 25° below zero.  The toilets on the train had not worked since Iowa.

The trip back was even more interesting.

1.  We traveled back to Chicago and got onto the City of New Orleans.  In Memphis, we picked up a large group of football fans who were on their way to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl.

2.  In southern Mississippi, the train stopped.  We were told there was a derailment ahead.  We sat for several hours.  Believe it or not, the train backed up to a town.  We were told that had not been done before.  At the town, the crew brought boxes of Kentucky Fried Chicken to give to each passenger.

3.  After sitting for several more hours, we started off again.  We reached a very deserted part of either Mississippi or Louisiana, the train stopped again, and we sat for hours.

4.  By this time, the passengers were not happy, especially the football fans who had been enjoying adult beverages.

5.  Then, all the crew disappeared.  Completely.  People walked up to the locomotive, and they could see no one there.  There was no one from Amtrak around, it was dark, and we were in the middle of a swampy area.

6.  The angry football fans broke into the cupboards and compartments of the snack car, trashing it.  At this point, my wife and I and others became a little fearful.  We went to a coach car and sat together with some other fearful people.

7.  Some of the people saw a light in the distance.  About 10 people took off walking.  They returned carrying quite a few more bottles and cans for partying.  No crew anywhere.

8.  After hours of waiting, some Amtrak people showed up.  Everyone got back into the seats, and we took off.  We reached New Orleans about 3:00 a.m.  Football fans were very angry and drunk.  The train cars were a messy disaster.

 

Believe it or not, instead of being angry, we were able to tell our friends all about it at the New Year's Eve party.  It got a lot of laughs, and even today my grown daughters talk about it.

John

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 2:12 PM

Wow!    Thanks for the report.

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