In most countries trains are much more reliable than planes – they are not affected by the weather or runway, air traffic and gate limitations. In light of the numerous flight cancellations and the on time record of US airlines, this is probably also true in the US as well. Nonetheless, it’s shocking how unreliable Amtrak is. I take the train to Boston and DC relatively regularly and it’s almost never on time.

I am currently on the train to Boston to speak at an entrepreneurship conference at HBS. The train is already nearly an hour late and just stopped for an indeterminate period of time as they fix the bridge in front of us! While I am complaining, I suppose I should mention how incredibly slow the “high speed” Acela is!

Ah well, at least I have power and I can use my cell phone as a modem.

  • i take the acela back and forth between boston and nyc regularly. its not exactly high speed, it just makes fewer stops than the regional.

  • Service is certainly not up to snuff, but sucks?
    Come now.
    Bridge out has nothing to do w/ Amtrak.

    It’s the infrastructure, stupid!
    Don’t tax you!
    Don’t tax me!
    Tax that man behind the tree!

    Even in the NEC, we wait for freight.

    If Amtrak could average 100mph between NYC and BOS, where I live, the trip would take 2 hrs and no one would ever fly that route again.
    I wonder why THAT’S not happening.
    What Amtrak needs is a constuctive, entrepreneurial you to help fix it!

  • Gripe, gripe, gripe. There you are, sitting in a wide comfortable seat, food and drink readily available, and probably working on your laptop or making phone calls as you ride. But there’s a problem with a bridge — no doubt the responsibility of the State — so you dump all over Amtrak?? Gripe, gripe, gripe.

  • I grant you that was a gripe and the bridge is not Amtrak’s fault. That said, we were already 1 hour late before then and it is a recurring event.

    Obviously, I am much happier in the seat working on my notebook, making calls than in a plane, but nonetheless, the quality of service could be dramatically improved.

  • Without competition train service won’t improve. Already the government gives 1.5 trillion to cars, about 30 billion to help airlines each year. Is it any wonder that trains which generally run on private tracks don’t have a competitive chance when it comes to passenger traffic.

  • You’re too young to remember but Reagan tried to kill Amtrak in the 80’s. USA rail unions have a history of driving the rail operators out of biz. Rails are only now surging with the higher fuel costs and the prolonged attrition the rail companies pursued as a strategy. Fact is Amtrak is a highly subsidized government boondoggle that should be killed off. But the socialists just won’t let it happen. I was around in the 80’s and you should have seen the viceral reaction of the lib-lefties. They acted like you wanted to cut off their left testicle. It was actually IMPORTANT to them. Really how do you get this square??? To them Amtrak appeared to be a symbol of that great communist land in the sky where we should all be compelled to live whether we like it or not. ( And we should be sent to re-education camp if we do not because we’re all a bunch of bitter small townies clinging to our Gloks, or SW-40 calibers for you that like more fashionable accoutrements ) ( I used accoutrement Fabby… )

  • Fred, I agree that Amtrak is subsidized. It was a compromise piece of legislation that had weaknesses that only gov’t subsidies could make work. But how high a subsidy does Amtrak get compared to highway and airline subsidies? I would like to have privately run passenger rail, but until people realize how expensive other forms of transportation are then I don’t see that happening.

  • India is the only country that is able to turn a profit on its railways, mostly through: 1) effectively adding on freight services 2) highly differentiating service classes and pricing accordingly.

    They say the railway minister, Lalu, is going to make a run for Prime Minister.

  • Gary Stevens remark is an example of what we heard in the 80’s. Just can’t bring themselves to shoot the lame horse in the head and put it us out of its misery! Its a no brainer! Amtrak ain’t working, ain’t every going to work, ain’t ain’t and ain’t. But the libs just can’t let go. Just like EVERY other government program….its absolutely indespensible. Because if we dispense with on useless program….we’ll have to dispense with them all. And thus would unravel the vast liberal kingdom at which idiocy sits on the throne. Said throne is a gold plated turlet which has direct gravitation access to all the tax payers heads.

  • Fred, Fred, Fred!
    You are too, too angry about things of which you know so very little.
    SocSec saved the aged in US.
    Conservatives have kneecapped government works at every turn.
    Amtrak isn’t perfect, but it works as well if not better than the heavily subsidized airline industry.
    Have a nice day.
    Hope you feel better real soon.

  • I just read “The Elephant in the Bedroom” The authors make the case that private transportation has many hidden subsidies. Only when the total expense for private transportation is paid by the private driver will people turn to more efficient and possibly better transportation.

  • interesting, as many complaints that I read here about Amtrak, most of the trains are sold out so there must be something that people like about it.
    now i agree about trains being delayed and all but if they changed the schedule to include the delay and you get to your destnation say 5 minutes early you would think service is great

  • Bailing out banks can make some sense given the right angle, even though that pill is still hard to swallow. But not the US car industry. The money spent to bail out GM & Co. and their lousy unions and dumb execs should be sent straight to Amtrak, modernize rail beds, put in concrete x-ties and wring some control out of CSX and other freight operators, or at least work out some reasonable solution. Don’t let Quebec be the first to use high speed rail in North America. We might fight off French cars imports, but lets admit they’re way ahead in term of rail tech and listen to what they can do to help us modernize our rail system. Or the Japanese, or the Germans. The need for dependable, fast and comfortable rail travel is there. How much fun is flying these days? Travelers still ride Amtrak despite its miserably unreliable schedule: there’s no other choice. Flush GM and the union/exec wipes and get us a real rail system now.