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Heartland Flyer woes?

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DryCreek

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OK, just checking on the HF (we're on it tomorrow) and the Dixieland Tracker shows service disruption, and the Amtrak site shows "Service Cancelled".

Has anyone heard what's up and how long the issue will take to resolve?

That would really, really suck having to take a bus from FTW to OKC. That is pretty much what made our earlier vacation such an uncomfortable "adventure". If there's a bustitution in our future, I'm sure the wife will just cancel, and we can throw the rest of the travel voucher value in the trash!

I hate to do that. Really.
 

Bob Dylan

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That sucks! No idea why the cancellation on the HF, but why would you throw the voucher "in the trash?"

It's good for a year and you can roll it over and extend the expiration date indefinitely!
 
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DryCreek

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That sucks! No idea why the cancellation on the HF, but why would you throw the voucher "in the trash?"

It's good for a year and you can roll it over and extend the expiration date indefinitely!
Why? Because my wife detests having to ride the bus. The trip from Temple to SAS was miserable earlier this year. If we had to take a bus from FTW to OKC she would never, and I do mean never, consider booking Amtrak again. I am pretty sure that even taking the bus from FTW to Gainsville would not thrill her. We have seen I-35 so many times in that stretch. We ride the train to see something different. So, the voucher would be useless to me. This trip is just a test ride to give Amtrak one more chance.

Amtrak says it's bus from GAinsville to Ft Worth Today Only, Sept 7.

http://www.amtrak.com/heartland-flyer-train

Jim
Well, that's good news. I hope that they get the BNSF trackwork done today. Of course it doesn't sound like fun for the track crews, but the double time and a half sure helps get the bills paid!
 

Ryan

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So skip the trip now and book it for some other time that the train is running. Seems silly to give Amtrak "one last chance" and set yourself up for failure.
 

greatcats

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I was bused in May Ft. Worth to Austin and then Austin to San Antonio. I too was not thrilled, but it doesn't have to be unpleasant. This was because of flooding and Amtrak did get us there. May I politely suggest that your wife take a more adventurous attitude? My apologies if that is taken as impolite.
 

DryCreek

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So skip the trip now and book it for some other time that the train is running. Seems silly to give Amtrak "one last chance" and set yourself up for failure.
That sounds fair.

According to your crystal ball, when can I schedule a trip and be absolutely sure that there won't be any service interuptions in the future? Oh, and can you call the Holiday Inn Express in the Brickyard and convince them to reimberse my non-refundable lodging costs ($319.42)?

How silly of me to think that I should expect to actually ride on a train when I make train reservations! I guess that the airlines could get a similar pass?
 

DryCreek

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I was bused in May Ft. Worth to Austin and then Austin to San Antonio. I too was not thrilled, but it doesn't have to be unpleasant. This was because of flooding and Amtrak did get us there. May I politely suggest that your wife take a more adventurous attitude? My apologies if that is taken as impolite.
Yup, us too. We were thrown off of the train in Temple with no firm information given other than "a bus is coming". Well, four hours later they in fact did show up and we were herded aboard like cattle. Since the stationmaster and conductor announced that these were the only buses available, everyone needed to get aboard and the ensuing mess was quite amusing. All of the buses were completely jam-packed. Not a seat open. The bus seats were on par with what is considered todays airline coach seats, but without as much recline. Quite a rude awakening from the comfort of a roomette we had booked.

Your suggestion was not taken as impolite. My wife is actually quite adventurous. But, at the time she was in a walking boot and having to use a cane. The coach passengers were trampling all over us and everyone else to get aboard a bus. It was the most poorly planned contingency I have ever seen. I would have thought that the first-class (sleeper) passengers could have been boarded seperately, or at least boarded by car numbers onto the buses.

When we were living in Newport News, we used to take Amtrak to DC all the time. It was a quick getaway and we didn't have to worry about parking or traffic. Granted, that was back in the early 90's. When we booked a train, that's what we rode on. I guess that our expectations were that we could get the same level of service all these years later. And yes, we have had flights cancelled and spent the night in chairs at the airport (at least twice). I understand that the trains can only travel on the tracks. I know that those tracks can be flooded or undermined by flooding. I know that freight delays can be expected. But, I would expect that Amtrak would know these things too - and develop contigency plans to deal with those types of events. It was the disorderly manner of boarding and the total lack of communications from the crew that displeased my wife. From now on if we are on a train and they announce a "bustitution", that very same scenario we witnessed will be what she expects. So, what are the chances that we would get "bustituted" two trips in a row? How is that going to convince her that we could even book a short trip on Amtrak and expect to get to our destination as planned?

Well, anyway - it seems to be a moot point now. As posted earlier, the trackwork is scheduled to be complete by end of day today. I would guess that anyone booking the HF for today would have been given notice at the time of the booking. If not, then boo on Amtrak! And, I would hope that if the service disruption persists into tomorrow that they would notify us before we leave our house and head to Cleburne.

When I order grilled chicken with pasta, and they serve me fried chicken nuggets with soggy french fries (and then tell me that they ran out of what I ordered) I tend to get grumpy. I would really like to be an Amtrak fan, but I certainly would be ashamed of myself if I turned out to be an Amtrak apologist who can easily overlook the very obvious decline in service through the years. If they can't do it right - they just shouldn't even try.
 
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greatcats

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Dry Creek- thanks for your comments. I thought our buses were handled fairly well. My complaint was that upon arrival San Antonio the station staff should have been out there to direct U.S. To the parked through sleeper and coach. We did get to those cars and then were evacuated between 2 and 5 am with the idiot

Bomb scare, another story. Among other dining car subjects, I too am annoyed when they keep running out of items.
 

DryCreek

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Dry Creek- thanks for your comments. I thought our buses were handled fairly well. My complaint was that upon arrival San Antonio the station staff should have been out there to direct U.S. To the parked through sleeper and coach. We did get to those cars and then were evacuated between 2 and 5 am with the idiot

Bomb scare, another story. Among other dining car subjects, I too am annoyed when they keep running out of items.
Well, actually the dining car topic is another sore spot with my wife. I was just using the chicken pasta example as an allegory for the substitution of a lesser product than what I had ordered.

But, the dining car issue is real. I had planned for us to take a scenic long vacation trip to Glacier National Park on the High Line either later this year, or early next year. Our main concern was the lack of variety in the dining cars. Just a quick round trip between CBR-TUS-CBR and we had already tried just about everything the menus offered (when in stock). We do not eat burgers, so that was about half of the lunch menu. So, because of that, it looks like I will have to drive up there instead. We will most likely take the Jeep though - I have heard that there are some great trails to explore out there.
 

Devil's Advocate

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So skip the trip now and book it for some other time that the train is running. Seems silly to give Amtrak "one last chance" and set yourself up for failure.
According to your crystal ball, when can I schedule a trip and be absolutely sure that there won't be any service interuptions in the future? Oh, and can you call the Holiday Inn Express in the Brickyard and convince them to reimberse my non-refundable lodging costs ($319.42)? How silly of me to think that I should expect to actually ride on a train when I make train reservations! I guess that the airlines could get a similar pass?
Apparently you're supposed to keep throwing time and money down the drain until Amtrak finally impresses you. Be careful, if you speak too negatively they might start calling your complaint "Busgate" in an effort to mock your annoyance and marginalize your concern.

I had planned for us to take a scenic long vacation trip to Glacier National Park on the High Line either later this year, or early next year. Our main concern was the lack of variety in the dining cars. Just a quick round trip between CBR-TUS-CBR and we had already tried just about everything the menus offered (when in stock). We do not eat burgers, so that was about half of the lunch menu. So, because of that, it looks like I will have to drive up there instead. We will most likely take the Jeep though - I have heard that there are some great trails to explore out there.
I'm also looking at Glacier National Park in the future and unless I'm traveling alone it's hard to envision putting any friends or family through the ever more risky schedule keeping, ever more uncomfortable bustitutions, ever smaller menus of ever worsening food, and rough attitudes that have become de rigor on today's Amtrak.
 

OlympianHiawatha

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A bus ride between Gainesville and FTW isn't that bad PROVIDED you do not get hung up in the frequent traffic standstiils on the 35 north of FTW. Then you can add at least an hour.
 

Ryan

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So skip the trip now and book it for some other time that the train is running. Seems silly to give Amtrak "one last chance" and set yourself up for failure.
That sounds fair.
According to your crystal ball, when can I schedule a trip and be absolutely sure that there won't be any service interuptions in the future? Oh, and can you call the Holiday Inn Express in the Brickyard and convince them to reimberse my non-refundable lodging costs ($319.42)?

How silly of me to think that I should expect to actually ride on a train when I make train reservations! I guess that the airlines could get a similar pass?
Nothing is guaranteed, but you've got a significantly better shot at avoiding a bus by traveling when you know that a segment has been cancelled.

As for your hotel accommodations, that's on you for booking non-refundable accommodations knowing that something like this would happen.

The airlines would just cancel the flight out from under you, at least Amtrak is offering an alternative in this case.
 

DryCreek

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Nothing is guaranteed, but you've got a significantly better shot at avoiding a bus by traveling when you know that a segment has been cancelled.

As for your hotel accommodations, that's on you for booking non-refundable accommodations knowing that something like this would happen.

The airlines would just cancel the flight out from under you, at least Amtrak is offering an alternative in this case.
So, are you inferring that if I choose to travel by Amtrak in the future that I should always get fully-refundable lodging?

Why, that sounds like you are saying that Amtrak is a totally unreliable way to travel! That is so unusual for an "Amtrak Cheerleader" like yourself. If you are trying to instill confidence in the general public that passenger rail is safe and dependable, you should be telling folks to book the least expensive lodging option available - which is typically a non-refundable room.

"Knowing that something like this WOULD happen". Again, not a very positive statement there. I certainly hope that you aren't a spokesperson or lobbyist for them. Why not just come out and say that rail is not a dependable way to travel, but it is kinda' fun and relaxing as long as you don't have a set schedule? You could present it sorta' like hitchhiking your way to a destination. That would paint a picture of wild abandonment and raw thrillseeking.

The plain truth is that we are going anyway. If Amtrak can't get us there comfortably and in a reasonable amount of time, I'll drive today. My wife's Chrysler 300 is very comfortable (and fasssssttt), and we could get there and back in way less time - and for about a third the cost in fuel prices. The hotel reservations were never in jeopardy of going to waste. Besides, the platinum card I booked with has travel insurance as a perk.

And yes, I've had airline flights cancelled on me. But, in every case I was booked on another flight and given compensation (except when weather related). And, I was ALWAYS booked on another airplane. In other words, I was transported by the same type of vehicle I had originally chosen, not some lesser form. Now there are even more protections for fliers when Involuntarily Denied Boarding. Those rights extend beyond simple oversold flights, and may also be applied to cancellations caused by mechanical/scheduling issues.

"Nothing is guaranteed, but you've got a significantly better shot at avoiding a bus by traveling when you know that a segment has been cancelled." So true. I would never book a train trip if notified that a bus would be used instead. I do mean never. Now, it would be up to the reservation-takers to inform the person making travel plans to inform them of such an inconvenience. Do you really think that I am stupid enough to book a TRAIN trip when a big red "!" pops up and says you will be on a BUS instead? Remember, my wife and I had a horrible experience with bus substitution earlier this year, why would we want to repeast that nightmare? When I made my reservations (by phone, with a live agent) there was NO MENTION of the possibility of a cancellation. I can see why now, it was only for yesterday.

NEW UPDATE:

This morning our phone rang, identified as "800 Service". I had a sinking suspicion that it was our friends at Amtrak. It was. They called to inform us that our booking on Train 22 from CBR to FTW wuold be provided with "alternate transportation". That was the final straw. I was set to drive, but decided to call the 877 number for more information. As it turns out, a derailment somewere between LRK and FTW had the Train 21 in Service Disruption this morning. According to Trainorders it (the derailment) was near Texarkana. Anyway, a call to the number revealed that 22 was being turned at FTW and would return with the "bustituted" passengers to SAS. So far it looks like train all the way, at least as confirmed by "Richard" on the toll free number. He had no idea why we were called and e-mailed with the "bustitution" update. We were obviously not going to be affected.

Yay! Go Team Amtrak! Does my cheerleader skirt make my butt look big? I can iron out all those pleats if it does.
 
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Ryan

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I'm not inferring, I'm explicitly saying that if you're not willing to lose the money, book refundable travel plans, regardless of transportation modes.

Delays and cancellations are possible no matter how you choose to travel.
 

Karl1459

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I'm not inferring, I'm explicitly saying that if you're not willing to lose the money, book refundable travel plans, regardless of transportation modes.

Delays and cancellations are possible no matter how you choose to travel.
And to add there are attitudes thrown from other modes... After 8 hours of "we will have you out in 2 hours", then "not tonight and no hotel rooms available and no vouchers" and trying to find quiet spot of floor to sleep at O'Hare Amtrak is not the worst.
 

jebr

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While yes, the airlines often do not provide immediate alternate transportation if a specific flight is cancelled, they can almost always get you on your way a lot faster than Amtrak can. With Amtrak's once-a-day schedule on the long distance routes (or worse for the Sunset Limited or Cardinal,) there is rarely an alternate route that's faster if you're already trying to take the fastest route. If Amtrak wants to at least maintain some semblance of a schedule, bustitutions around derailments and the like are usually the only way to provide that.

As an "airline" example, in February I was trying to fly ATL - MSP via MDW. My 10 AM flight to MDW was cancelled due to weather, but Southwest was able to put us on a direct flight to MSP that only got in a few hours later. It would not be practical for them to try and have found an alternate mode of transportation, as even a direct bus would have been close to 24 hours on a bus (and still would have had the weather issues.) That being said, I know back in the day when Delta/Northwest flew into St. Cloud, if they couldn't make a flight they'd just charter a bus for the passengers to MSP instead. (This was only about an hour and a half bus ride, and the flight probably barely took off before it landed again.)
 

DryCreek

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OK, as it turns out, the HF was the smoothest segment of our little getaway. I plan to bang out a trip report sometime tomorrow and post it in the proper forum. We were a bit late getting home tonight (by almost three hours, bus late at FTW from LRK) and I am a bit tired. I will be sure to set a link to it here in this thread.

I will say that you Okies should really be proud of OKC. What a fun town to visit. That is a big compliment from a rural redneck that abhors crowded cities. The Amtrak station right there within walking distance to hotels and interesting attractions is a HUGE bonus!
 

fillyjonk

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I've had bustitutions both as "planned" and as "contingency."

Several times I got off the train at STL (trackwork) and was bused to BNL. It was not bad and was not a big deal - they had nice, comfortable motor-coach type buses (And anyway, 3 or so hours on a bus is not bad)

Once, because of flooding, I got off the train in STL and got on a bus for MIN. This was contingency-planning and to put it politely, it was a cluster. We were given contradictory information - we were first told, "We will group passengers by destination so each bus only goes to certain stops" and that didn't happen. And it really was like being herded.

And then, the bus driver insisted on playing videos - loud, shoot-em-up movies - ALL NIGHT LONG to keep the passengers "entertained." I just wanted to try to sleep. I had earplugs but they did almost nothing. I was on that blasted bus for 18 hours. It really was like a city bus, the seats had no padding, the bathrooms were horrible (at least they had them) and it was just a big LOSE all around.

If that ever happens again - and it's come close - I just plan to change my travel plans. Even if it means I miss a day of work (I did with the bustitution anyway - 18 hours on a bus for a trip that should have taken about 10)

Amtrak is pretty good when they have advance notice and can get "good" motor coaches. But the result is kind of scary when they don't have much advance notice.
 

west point

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fillyjoink: Was that one bus driver or two ? If just one a violation of hours of service rule.
 

DryCreek

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Once, because of flooding, I got off the train in STL and got on a bus for MIN. This was contingency-planning and to put it politely, it was a cluster. We were given contradictory information - we were first told, "We will group passengers by destination so each bus only goes to certain stops" and that didn't happen. And it really was like being herded.

And then, the bus driver insisted on playing videos - loud, shoot-em-up movies - ALL NIGHT LONG to keep the passengers "entertained." I just wanted to try to sleep. I had earplugs but they did almost nothing. I was on that blasted bus for 18 hours. It really was like a city bus, the seats had no padding, the bathrooms were horrible (at least they had them) and it was just a big LOSE all around.

If that ever happens again - and it's come close - I just plan to change my travel plans. Even if it means I miss a day of work (I did with the bustitution anyway - 18 hours on a bus for a trip that should have taken about 10)

Amtrak is pretty good when they have advance notice and can get "good" motor coaches. But the result is kind of scary when they don't have much advance notice.
All of the statements highlighted in red pretty much echo the experience we had. We were held just prior to temple for an hour, and then the train was wyed and we entered the station. The station at Temple is not designed for the volume of passengers that were aboard the 21 that night. All we had were metal folding chairs to sit on until the buses could be summoned. Each time a bus pulled up there was a melee to board and it took multiple loud shouts from the conductor to get them to understand that some of those buses were not through buses and they could end up stuck at some interim station instead of SAS. Those buses had seats packed in tighter than coach class on American RJ's, and didn't recline. So, after sitting for almost three hours in a folding chair, we were herded aboard a bus for a nearly four hour ride to SAS. There was not one single open seat on any of the buses. If some of the passengers had not called relatives to drive up from the intermediate stops, some would have been left without a seat!

So, with THAT being our only experience of a "bustitution", how else would you expect us to react when one is announced? Cartwheels and happiness, smiles and laughter? I don't think so.

To add credit where due though, the station agent at Temple did his best to keep us comfortable. The bus driver, although disturbed late on Memorial Day was courteous and efficient. He only got off one exit too early, but soon figured out where he needed to be with very little input from the company that chartered his bus.
 
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fillyjonk

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West point: We made a detour at one point to change drivers, which added more time, but yeah, prevented a violation-of-hours thing. I just think Amtrak didn't have their stuff together, they could have had the relief driver waiting at one of the intermediate stops....
 
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capltd29

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Having been bussed "only" 3 times in the 20 years I've been riding Amtrak (I'm 26yo), the possibility of getting bustituted is always there, but it's never been something that's discouraged me from planning a trip. Dining car food selection has been up and down and up and down over the years I've been eating it, but again, its never been something that has made me wish to drive a few hundred or thousand miles instead, and I'm a vegetarian, so there are even fewer options. I guess train travel is different things for different people.
 
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