Pros and Cons of Amtrak

Rachel came back from Chicago on Sunday night, but seeing as I had some vacation time, I decided to stay a little longer and take the train back. Often, during the week, it's a pretty cheap trip via Amtrak from Chicago to Ann Arbor. I missed the official special price, but still picked up a $29 ticket.

The last time I took a inter-city train in the US was when I was about 3 years old. Since then, I've been enamoured with train travel experiences I've had abroad, and was looking forward to the experience. I'm assuming that more and more people will look for alternative forms of public transport as time goes on and oil remains high (or increases), so I thought I'd share a bit of my experience.

1. The train was clean and very spacious. It's not even fair to compare to a bus ride, and it was about twice as spacious as a plane, in empty seats, seat size, baggage size, and hallway size.
2. Unlike highways, towns and other commercial shops don't build up along the train track, since it has already chosen it's stops. Thus, you get to travel through a lot of open countryside. And when you enter a town, you go right through downtown, instead of only an interstate exit.
3. No billboards.
4. The clickety-clack. You know what I'm talking about.

1. Half of my trip was actually on a bus. They sort of snuck this in on me, but from Chicago to Kalamazoo was all bus, then on the train to Ann Arbor. Why? I don't know, but it's really a different thing to ride a bus (see above Pros), so this should have been more emphasized.
2. Through a variety of largely unavoidable planning mishaps (no equipment failures or anything), my trip was delayed almost 3 hours. It's only a 5 hour trip total. There may be a good explanation for this, and they were apologetic, but no real explanation was given.

I really want Amtrak to work as a form of train travel for Americans. However, as it stands, they certainly did not impress me. Train travel impresses me, but not Amtrak. Seeing as though it's our only choice, I may give it a go in the near future if the opportunity appears, but I won't really be seeking it out.


teresa said...

The news in Nashville has recently announced that they will be building one of the super-fast trains (like in Japan) from Nashville to Atlanta (through Chatanooga). It's supposed to make the trip take only 2 hours. Unfortunately, it will take 10 years to complete. Maybe Amtrak will lose out to this better form of train transportation!