Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Monday, February 21, 2005

Well, the train finally showed up at 3am Saturday morning. I stood on that platform for three solid hours. The problem? Strange as it may seem, Amtrak has no tracks. The tracks are leased from other railroads, so freight trains always have priority. It is an absolutely appalling situation which results in a train system with a schedule which is all but completely meaningless. When John picked me up at the Maricopa station, he told me that in Germany, if a train is scheduled to arrive at 51 minutes after the hour, it comes later than 50 minutes, and earlier than 52 minutes. Schedules actually have a meaning. On Amtrak, the west bound train is often up to 10 hours late.

So what am I to make of all this? My experience on Amtrak was a nightmare from start to finish, but it was, if nothing else, a real education. I simply was not prepared for the extent to which the service has deteriorated since I rode the old Empire Builder across the West as a child. Amtrak really reminds me of many of the old, state-owned enterprises in China which are being forced to become efficient or go out of business. To my knowledge, Amtrak has never made a profit in all the years of its existence. The Amtrak website is openly deceptive, listing stations in places where Amtrak does not have service. And the reservation agents have to talk in circles to avoid having to tell you directly that the system does not actually have service in the community that you are asking about, even though their website lists that community as one of the Amtrak stations.

Poor service, appalling mismanagement, deceptive business practices--all symptoms of a failing business. I think it's time to let the old dinosaur die a natural death. Amtrak is not transportation. It's an "experience," and in my case, a very, very miserable one.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?