I took Amtrak instead of flying and it made me want to die a little bit

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fillyjonk

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Mar 10, 2011
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Heh, yeah. I remember midday the day BEFORE my last Amtrak trip, suddenly getting anxious as to whether I'd booked the ticket for the right day (Friday) or for Thursday by mistake. (A check of my ticket and a calendar verified that I had, in fact, booked the correct day). And if I'd booked the "wrong" day, it would still have been early enough to get myself to the station to meet my train.

But yes, there are people who are like that, they expect everyone else to look out for them. Partly because I'm a cynical Gen-Xer who regularly got the shaft as a young adult, partly because my parents taught me to be independent, I do stuff like check the dates of my own travel. And if I couldn't find an outlet, I'd ask an attendant or conductor to show me....

shoot, I don't even expect I'll get my bed put down in a timely manner; I know that car attendants are busy and often have more demanding people. So I'm always grateful when it is. ("Blessed are the pessimists, for they shall often be pleasantly surprised...")
 

crescent-zephyr

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I agree that domestic flying isn't that great. I'm not sure how this alone is supposed to make Amtrak look good though. Flying has the advantage of much faster speeds so even if the service is not that great the shorter duration and better ground services remove the need for many on-board amenities.
It doesn't make Amtrak look good. It's just the reality that all public transit in the USA is about the same. Sometimes you'll get a plane / bus/ roomette in great condition, sometimes it will be falling apart at the seams.

I love trains but if I had to choose between the writers bus-train-train connections in coach or flying I would def. choose flying. So I guess I agree with the writer.
 

WindyCityTexan

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I had TWO friends tag me in this crappy article on FB yesterday. Here's my response:

Yeah, I read that article. Keyword: COACH. If you're taking a long distance trip, ALWAYS get a Sleeper.

The author managed to extort a free upgrade to a Roomette, but not on the day he wanted. So, he traveled in Coach overnight. Not terrible, but not nearly as good as private quarters with lie flat beds, access to hot showers, and all meals in the Dining Car included. He started out bitter about not having the trip he expected to have, and he stayed that way.

Also, the author repeatedly compared Amtrak to flying. Big mistake. Amtrak should be compared with long distance road trips. When comparing costs of mileage, gas, meals, and lodging, a Roomette on Amtrak is usually equal or less, and much less stressful.

And, Amtrak quite literally keeps America connected. It serves many small communities that airlines refuse to serve. It's a lifeline for thousands of families each year.

I leave on my next Amtrak trip this Saturday, on the Southwest Chief from Chicago to Flagstaff. My Dad is going with me, his first trip.

Amtrak is the most relaxing trip you can ever take, IF you realize it isn't just transportation, but a destination unto itself. And, on a long trip, ALWAYS get a Sleeper. It makes all the difference.

THIS article best describes MY experience on board Amtrak: https://www.afar.com/magazine/why-a-train-trip-across-the-us-is-the-fastest-way-to-slow-down
 

spinnaker

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Mar 23, 2018
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I
Yeah, I read that article. Keyword: COACH. If you're taking a long distance trip, ALWAYS get a Sleeper.

The author managed to extort a free upgrade to a Roomette, but not on the day he wanted. So, he traveled in Coach overnight. Not terrible, but not nearly as good as private quarters with lie flat beds, access to hot showers, and all meals in the Dining Car included. He started out bitter about not having the trip he expected to have, and he stayed that way.
Actually, he didn't know the ticket was for the wrong day because nobody told him. :eek: He does not mentioned if he called customer service or not but I would bet they would have worked with him if there were roomettes available. But I guess he was expecting someone to do that for him ;)

Just over night is not too bad in coach if you don't have trouble sleeping I have a horrible time getting to sleep. It does not help that I am tall and even if I am lucky enough to not have someone sitting next to me, I still can't get comfortable.

I am willing to pay the extra price within reason. Last year I took coach out of Eugene to Sacramento. Roomette were close to $1000, It was my misfortune to be in Eugene the weekend of the Grateful Dead where everything was expensive. It was pretty brutal but I survived. And it was still a heck of a lot easier than flying since I had a bicycle with me.
 

SarahZ

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I feel like a lot of people are taking this article quite personally. Not everyone is going to love everything you do. He tried it, he didn't like it, and he listed his reasons for not liking it. I really don't see the problem.
 

AFS1970

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I just posted a thread about the number of negative stories I have seen lately. This was one of them. I agree the writer was biased from the start.
 

daybeers

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NHV
I was feeling a bit sympathetic for the author, or at least a little more than the other responses here, until I read this:
...it all conspires to make you wonder how anyone can take a long train journey like this and resist the urge to open their wrists.
It was at that point any sense of pity left my brain. The headline was catchy and was passable, but this statement was certainly not. There is absolutely no justification for joking around about suicide like that.
 

Rasputin

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A number of people seem to criticize the writer for travelling by coach as if anyone who travels overnight by coach is in for a miserable experience. In years past when I was much younger I have travelled by coach on trains for multiple nights. I found it tiring but I had a nice time. I wouldn't trade those trips for anything. I certainly prefer to travel in a sleeping car and almost always do so. However, in recent years I have traveled by coach overnight twice. Once was with family (four of us) on a single overnight. We did fine and we had a nice time. If we hadn't traveled by coach the sleeping car fares for the four of us would have caused us to fly instead. The last time I traveled by coach was on a trip where I was going to detrain at a station at 4:00 a.m. I could not justify paying several hundred dollars for a roomette only to be rousted out of it that early. I went by coach instead, slept reasonably well and had a nice time. I found that a sleep mask and a small pillow help very much.
 

NSC1109

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It doesn't make Amtrak look good. It's just the reality that all public transit in the USA is about the same. Sometimes you'll get a plane / bus/ roomette in great condition, sometimes it will be falling apart at the seams.

I love trains but if I had to choose between the writers bus-train-train connections in coach or flying I would def. choose flying. So I guess I agree with the writer.

All about the Benjamins. Especially for Amtrak. They can’t always afford to pull a car out of service for what amounts to “minor” problems in the grand scheme of things. You might have a bedroom that is falling apart, but the replacement could be full of bedrooms falling apart, or mechanical problem, or something else.

I agree that it needs to change but it all comes back to the same thing: money. Give them the money and they will do everything they can do better serve the public. Skimp on it and it’s just the status quo.
 

spinnaker

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Mar 23, 2018
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A number of people seem to criticize the writer for travelling by coach as if anyone who travels overnight by coach is in for a miserable experience. In years past when I was much younger I have travelled by coach on trains for multiple nights. I found it tiring but I had a nice time. I wouldn't trade those trips for anything. I certainly prefer to travel in a sleeping car and almost always do so. However, in recent years I have traveled by coach overnight twice. Once was with family (four of us) on a single overnight. We did fine and we had a nice time. If we hadn't traveled by coach the sleeping car fares for the four of us would have caused us to fly instead. The last time I traveled by coach was on a trip where I was going to detrain at a station at 4:00 a.m. I could not justify paying several hundred dollars for a roomette only to be rousted out of it that early. I went by coach instead, slept reasonably well and had a nice time. I found that a sleep mask and a small pillow help very much.

No shame in traveling by coach if that is all you can afford. Or if you simply think it has more value to you.

But that is not what is happening here. The article isn't about how coach is horrible. It is about train travel in general is horrible. That is sort of like going to a restaurant, ordering their cheapest meal then complaining about the whole restaurant.

The author could have ridden first class for free and my have had an entirely different perspective but he chose to wait till someone told him the ticket was for the wrong day. How hard is it to check your ticket before you set out on the trip?
 

Deni

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May 11, 2008
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I've had great times on multi-day coach trips over the years (it is definitely for the young or young at heart, my back would have a hard time doing it today) and my favorite Amtrak trip of all time was the summer of 2000. I was 29 on the way and 30 on the return trip. Went from Seattle to Boston on Empire Builder and Lake Shoe Ltd to go work at a camp in Maine for the summer. Returned from NYC on the LSL and EB. Both of those three night trips were the best time of my life.

It's not for everyone but for me personally I'd rather spend two night on Amtrak coach than 4 to 6 hours on an airplane coach, though I don't get the chance much these days.

I think one thing Amtrak should do to draw more customers to long distance trains is to offer a lower price sleeper option. Why not bring back open section sleepers? Or have rooms with 4-6 berths that the customer only has to purchase a berth, not the whole compartment? A "second class" sleeper option. That exist in most other place on the world. Right now you either have to pay a huge amount of money for a sleeper or be OK with sitting in a coach seat with no middle option.
 

PerRock

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I think one thing Amtrak should do to draw more customers to long distance trains is to offer a lower price sleeper option. Why not bring back open section sleepers? Or have rooms with 4-6 berths that the customer only has to purchase a berth, not the whole compartment? A "second class" sleeper option. That exist in most other place on the world. Right now you either have to pay a huge amount of money for a sleeper or be OK with sitting in a coach seat with no middle option.
I've been saying this for years. Essentially make it an upgraded coach class. You pay a bit more & get a bed. Unlike regular sleepers it doesn't include meals, lounge access, or any of the other amenities regular sleepers get.

peter
 

spinnaker

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I've been saying this for years. Essentially make it an upgraded coach class. You pay a bit more & get a bed. Unlike regular sleepers it doesn't include meals, lounge access, or any of the other amenities regular sleepers get.

peter

Or you could simply have a first class coach (if that makes any sense ;)) . Sort of like the business class some airlines offer with lay flat seating. Partitions for some privacy could be added and maybe access to showers.
 

crescent-zephyr

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I’m not sure why anyone thinks that a slumbercoach 2.0, open section, or lay flat style seat would end up being a “budget” option. The budget option is coach, the deluxe option is the bedroom, the middle ground is a roomette.

I think a business class seat, reserved 2-1 seating with some soft amenities like pillow and blanket (basically domestic first class) would be something that could be added to some trains. I’m guessing that’s why they have tested the business class idea.... anything beyond that is going to take up similar space as a roomette.
 

spinnaker

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No one ever said anything about "budget" just another option for another class of travel that's all. Amtrak already offers business class and on some trains that means just a bit more space. But it isn't budget, that is in coach. People are willing to pay just a bit more fpr a little more comfort.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Sorry, the term “Budget Sleeper” / slumbercoach 2.0 has been thrown around in the experiential thread, thought you were bringing up the same idea.
 

dlagrua

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My wife and myself had to take an urgent business trip to Seattle last week, and there wasn't time to take the Empire Builder. It was our first airline trip in 20 years. Reluctantly we took Delta and even got the prechek. It was a good flight, the lunch and journey long complimentary drinks were very good and it was served to us on china, with silverware, ceramic mugs, glasses with linen napkins on a white tablecloth. The entertainment system and internet worked well. Even though the trip was decent, given a choice we still prefer the privacy of train travel in a sleeper. Just something about looking out the window and seeing many parts of our great country as the train travels along to its destination.
 

tonijustine

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Oh my goodness! He can’t be alone with his thoughts. He’s never heard of reading to pass the time. He can’t check his ticket. He doesn’t want to talk to anyone to fix a mixup. And that is Amtrak’s problem? Sure. He’s got a smug problem.
 

Michigan Mom

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So I read through the article. Guy has a bad attitude but his writing is hysterical and there were moments I couldn't stop laughing even though his entire premise was kind of slanted from the beginning. There's several problems that led to his discontent. For his very first train trip, he chose the Detroit-Toledo bus to catch the Capitol Limited, which, although he didn't say anything about it being delayed, usually is. So he's boarding the train at midnight to ride in coach, even if the Cap was on time, one simply has to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy the experience. He wasn't. He sounds like an origin and destination kind of guy, and that's what he focused on. What time do I get there, no mention of enjoying a journey. Boarding the bus to connect to a late night train at TOL does sort of require the proper mind set, so not having that, he zeroed in on the negatives. Basically he's comparing it to being in an airport, which is not fair. TOL is a safe and clean staffed station and not a bad place to wait for a connection. He was being silly likening it to "old Soviet public spaces" which I'm guessing he has never actually seen. Once on the train, no evidence of enjoyment of the journey. Again, he compared everything to an airplane. The down and depressed feeling he got from not being in a more high tech environment (such as.. an airport) was magnified by his perception of everything taking too long. There's just no way this guy is cut out to enjoy the romance of traveling through the night on the rails. It was interesting, scrolling through the comments, that many of his readers took a different view.
He'll be back some day.
 

Michigan Mom

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Also. A better city pair, for those wanting to compare flying vs. driving, would not originate out of my home state. :) Or Ohio for that matter. The schedules make this, as I noted above, unfair from the start.
Consider for example, Chicago to Minneapolis-St. Paul. 8 hours in Amtrak coach is much cheaper than flying. As for time, once you factor in getting to O'Hare or Midway... security lines (with or without precheck), taxi and (in season) de-icing times... your travel time is still greater on the Empire Builder but not by such an exaggerated margin which again, would happen on the routing he chose for his first train trip. I've done the plane/train comparison between CHI/MSP and the train wins hands down.
Leaving Chicago at 2 pm and arriving Minny at 10 pm was relaxing, convenient, and economical. Yes, the dining car prices are a little crazy for coach passengers, however leaving out of Chicago provides endless options for taking dinner with you. At CUS I usually get a sandwich from Pret a Manger and voila, good to go.
 

NorthShore

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Basically he's comparing it to being in an airport, which is not fair. TOL is a safe and clean staffed station and not a bad place to wait for a connection. He was being silly likening it to "old Soviet public spaces" which I'm guessing he has never actually seen.
Cuz, you know, there are so many Streamline Moderne Art Deco buildings constructed by the Soviets.

I'm surprised he didn't call it old and outdated, in an architectural style from the World War 2 era that represented the kind of travel that is rail and belonged to. But that sprt of snark would at least require a learned personality who understands something about what one is getting into.
 

MARC Rider

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He seems to be the senior editor of a website that is about cars, and his byline at the end of the article lists the five cars he currently has and their condition.

Need we say more about where the bias comes from?
Heh Heh, I can't wait to see the article he writes when he has the opportunity to sample the future utopia of "mobility as a service" using a shared autonomous electric vehicle that drives like Grandpa going to church on Sunday.
 
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troo troo tcrane

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The article itself isn't unreasonable but just the title is a tad bit sensationalist isn't it? Died a little? Lol ;)
 

Manny T

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Not unreasonable at all. Just opinionated and well written. Funny. His opinions are a little exaggerated for effect but his facts are mostly accurate.

The question I asked myself was, is the author's description of his trip factual? He may like it or dislike it, but was he making things up?

To answer that, I went through the article and separated his factual descriptions of what he experienced from his negative opinions.

This is what I found.
He writes (and I quote, verbatim):

price is about the same [coach vs. airfare]
train takes longer than a plane
buses are pretty much normal large passenger buses
--bus terminals were shabby places
--worn, beaten, but still just-maintained-enough
--I can give them “safety.”
much more hassle-free than air travel
there’s almost no security at all for your luggage
--you just heave them into some luggage racks
seats are bigger than on an airplane and have a lot more legroom
15 percent scaled-up version of an airplane bathroom, but somehow shabbier
general, overarching sense of wear and neglect all over the train
yellowy beiges, and the stainless steel trim on everything
opportunity to meet “interesting people”
The food is packaged and microwaved
food and equipment that’s roughly on par with a small public pool’s snack bar
you can order beer and wine
the scenery out the window ... was stark and sometimes beautiful
the interminable slowness of the train...the top speed never really managed to get much past 40 mph
observation cars ... like a combination of a rolling cafeteria seating area and a greenhouse
spotty phone service
a big block of uninterruptible time without great internet coverage
an electrical plug at the seat

I don't think he's far wrong in his descriptions. He just doesn't like it.
Many on AU are not bothered by these things, they even enjoy the experience overall.
C'est la vie.
 
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