Now I know why Amtrak will fail......(long)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Leroy, Aug 19, 2002.

  1. Leroy

    Leroy Second Unit

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    :..because their sevice absolutley stinks!!!! Just got back from my trip to California(to climb Mt Whitney) and Las Vegas. Me and my bud decided to try something different for out adventure travels: the train.
    What a HUGE[​IMG] mistake! If anyone might wonder how Amtrak could be in so much trouble, I can tell you that repeat business is probably non-existent.
    For starters, my Friday 9:30pm departure turned into a Saturday 4:45am departure. Reason, no one seemed to know. We did discover why the last 30-45 minutes of delay came from. The conductors 12 hour shift ended about 5 miles from our station, so he stopped the train. The replacement crew had to hop in a cab and look for the train so they could change out crews.
    The delays grew and grew as we went down the line, again with no real explanation. Originally due to arrive early morning Sunday in L.A., it was closer to 5pm with 2 stops to go befor L.A. We had to hop of in Ontario, CA to pick up our rental since the Hertz counter at LA Union Station had already closed[​IMG] So rather that already having our camp set up at the Whitney Portal, we were standing around at the rental counter at Ontario Airport waiting for a car. We arrived at the Portal around 10pm and had to set up our camp by headlamp. Although we now only had 1 day top acclimate to the altitude the rest of the trip went fine, we climbed, packed went to Vegas had fun, lost money etc..
    On the way back, we were a mere 3 hours behind. What really got me on the way back was when we hit San Antonio. We were already over an hour behind when we rolled in. A 15-20 minute stop for fuel and baggage loading/unloading was announced by the conductor. I call Amtrak(train staff seems to dissapear during the delays)to see if any problem has been reported. The operator tell me that the train is behind schedule but it had left San Antonio at 8:35am. Imagine here surprise when I told her(at 10:51am) that I was actually on that train and that we hadn't budged!! An hour and a half later we pull out. So, anyone who called for train status to pick up someone in Houston was being given a train status that was off by almost 2 hours!!
    This doesn't even begin to adress the failure of the toilets on our car on the way to L.A., the lack of any updates on any of the many delays(either form crew. conductor or Amtrak phone operators)or that the crew could care less about people that sneak liquor(not allowed in coach)on to get tanked abd be obnoxious, sneak into cabin cars to take showers, steal the videotapes of movies that are shown in the lounge cars or people who don't wan't to pay for their food, so they pilfer all the crackers off of the tables while strolling through the dining car!(these were all adults 30+, not kids).
    Anyway, this was the worst single travel experience I have ever had. I'll be calling Amtrak customer service today(since you are not allowed to talk to them until after your trip is concluded).
    Whew!! I feel better now!!
     
  2. Edwin-S

    Edwin-S Producer
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    Well....at least there is one consolation.........you actually made it to your destination without hitting the ditch. Judging by their performance recently, you should be thankful.
    [​IMG]
     
  3. Leroy

    Leroy Second Unit

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    Just got off the phone with "Customer Service". Gee, they want to send me a travel coupon for future use on Amtrak!! Weeee!! How shocking[​IMG]
    Well, not surprising considering how well everything else went.
     
  4. Dave Poehlman

    Dave Poehlman Producer

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  5. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    I was delayed this past vacation to Alaska from Juneau to Anchorage when a plane had a mechanical.. On the plane, I got a $5 food coupon (only valid in certain terminals), a $10 sprint phone card and either 1000 airmiles or $25 off the next fare... Oh joy, after being delayed 4.5 hours from our scheduled departure, they give us these cards DURING the flight where we can't use the $5 food coupon or the Sprint card.

    Jay
     
  6. Steve Peterson

    Steve Peterson Stunt Coordinator

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    Just so you understand the 12 hour thing, all engineers and conductors are required by federal law not to exceed 12 hours on duty. When the 12 hours are up, the crew goes "dead on the law". They cannot continue to the next station, they pull into the nearest siding and call in that they've gone dead on the law. Violating the 12 hour maximun service law can and will result in termination of your job, so this irratating, but necessary regulation is followed religiously.

    Steve "Other than the NE corridor, never go by train if you need to be somewhere on time." Peterson
     
  7. Leroy

    Leroy Second Unit

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    Steve, I understand that they are pretty strict on their 12 hour shift. My main beef is that they (both the conductor onboard and the one at the station)surely knew that time was about to expire, so why did it take an hour for the new crew and conductor to mobilize and then get lost(according to overheard radio transmissions) trying to get to the train? Just sooooooooooo unorganized in every single possible way.
    Too bad the travel credit can only be used by me, I have a few people that I would love to have that "Amtrak" experience!![​IMG]
     
  8. Josh Lowe

    Josh Lowe Screenwriter

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  9. Peter Burtch

    Peter Burtch Stunt Coordinator

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    Sorry to hear you had such a crummy trip, LeRoy ;(.
    Unfortunately, the problem cannot be solved by merely throwing more money at Amtrak to prop it up. The whole mentality of Americans has to change before train service will get to where in is in other countries like Germany or Japan. First problem- we *expect* gas to be cheap and plentiful for the vehicles we drive. And to boot our government indirectly subsidizes the entire oil, auto & airline industries. Fuel prices are not where they should be (look at what they pay in Europe or Asia). I guarantee you that if the average American had to pay $4.50/gallon there would be a lot more demand for fuel efficient cars/trucks and more incentive to work on developing a real rail system that works efficiently. The rail system just will not develop here with the oil, auto & airline industries' lobbyists throwing money at congress [​IMG].
    cheers,
    Pedro
     
  10. Ben Menix

    Ben Menix Stunt Coordinator

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    What one country's citizens pay for gas is not what another country's citizens pay for gas. The higher prices of gas in Europe are *not* where fuel prices should be for the rest of the world, whether our government chooses to subsidize the oil industry, directly or indirectly. It has a bit more to do with supply and demand.
    Besides which, the price of gas has as much to do with the operational capability of Amtrak as I do. Amtrak is a bloated, mismanaged government scapegoat and moneysponge. IMHO, we would be best served selling this wreck of a company to Union Pacific.
    Ben Menix
    [email protected]
     
  11. Peter Burtch

    Peter Burtch Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi Ben,
    Indeed. The prices should not and will not be the same across the board. But I disagree with you- the current U.S. prices would not be $1.50 if the oil industries were not so heavily subsidized by uncle sam. Take away all the perks and add the appropriate taxes and it would likely be more in the $3.50+ range per gallon. $1.50 a gallon is nowhere near where it would be without the government help. The cost of filling up would be too much for millions of people. This would be enough of an incentive to get folks to start thinking outside the automobile. Here's a link to help put in perspective the true *cost* of gasoline-
    http://www.icta.org/projects/trans/rlprexsm.htm
    If you care to take a peek at the b.s. by the API (American Petroleum Institute), go here:
    http://www.api.org
    But if you want a better idea of how it could be fixed check out the World Energy Council's comments on energy policy-
    http://www.worldenergy.org/wec-geis/..._5_action5.asp
    "We pay too little for Gas"
    http://www.sierraclub.ca/prairie/Sprawl/art3.htm
    I see one problem with selling Amtrak outright to Union Pacific. It won't solve anything in the long run since they also have lobbyists who throw money at congress. Another bailout would be likely down the road. The whole system needs to be redesigned and put together from the ground level by a consortium of government and private bodies who can ensure the same mistakes aren't made again. If efficient rail service can work in Europe & Asia, it can work here too. There are a lot more ways to make it work here too since we have more available resources. Nobody should have to wait at an airport for two hours on each end when they could simply grab a train [​IMG].
    best,
    Pedro
     
  12. Edwin-S

    Edwin-S Producer
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    Amtrak is a bloated, mismanaged government scapegoat and moneysponge. IMHO, we would be best served selling this wreck of a company to Union Pacific.
    ------------------------------------------------------------

    The reason passenger operations are government owned and subsidized is because companies like Union Pacific won't touch it with a ten foot pole. Private sector railroads abandoned passenger service because they could not make a profit at it, so governments had to step in and assume the responbility for maintaining service.

    Private sector railroad companies consider passenger service to be a nuisance that gets in the way of their more lucrative freight hauling business. Amtrak (VIA in Canada) does not own any track so they have to lease track usage rights from companies such as Union Pacific. The companies in turn try to do as much as possible to make the service as inefficient as possible. For example, in Canada, freight service used to have to take the siding and wait for the passenger to pass but that practice is now reversed....at least where I am at. Private sector railroads would like nothing better than to see passenger trains disappear off their tracks.....permanently!
     
  13. Ben Menix

    Ben Menix Stunt Coordinator

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    Peter,
    First I would like to apologize for the brashness of my first post; I realized a bit after lunch that I may have misinterpretted what you wrote.
    However, if you are going to argue that subsidies=lower prices (which I do not disagree with), I would like to counter that for every subsidy that could be removed, you can take away an equal, if not greater, tax; or remove an unecessary regulation that increases the cost of fuel. If we removed all government intervention in the American petroleum industry, I think we would see prices around $1.00 / gallon.
    I agree totally that the Amtrak system needs to be completely rebuilt using Japanese or European technology. The railways operated elsewhere in the world are generally much more technologically advanced, resulting in inherently more efficient and effective transport.
    Have more thoughts, but I have to go see a man about a transmission... [​IMG]
    Ben Menix
    [email protected]
     
  14. Peter Burtch

    Peter Burtch Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi Ben,

    I truly appreciate your willingness to discuss the topic with an open mind. By no means did I think you were responding in a brash manner.

    If there were no taxes, transfers or subsidies the price could hypothetically go as low as $1/gallon. But as we both know this is unlikely to ever happen. The government (at this stage) will never let tax revenue of this kind slip away. [death and taxes are certain, as they say.] But I can envision a day where they finally refuse to give anymore freebies to big oil companies. And if associated taxes become anything remotely close to what they are in Europe on petroleum, the price will be much higher than it is now. Although I've seen some studies published by the Cato Institue which tried to prove the government subsidies actually hurt the oil industry, I am still not convinced.

    cheers,
    Pedro
     
  15. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    It's funny that one of the lessons of Sept. 11th has been so quickly forgotten: that the airports can be shut down on a rumor and without Amtrak you can forget about getting anywhere if you're not going to drive. There needs to be massive reinvestment in upgrading rails and equipment (one of the things Clinton promised in 1992 but never delivered on) though, to get it to where it needs to be.

    As aptly said above, the reason that it's government run is that there's no way to make money at it. It needs to be looked at the same way that highways are: it's a necessary part of the infrastructure, and one of the costs and benefits of living in civilized society. Treating it as a potential profit center has been delusional from the word go. The police aren't there to turn a profit. Moving people around the country is important too.

    And when you look at the scale of things, the government's support for the airlines--even before the 9/11 handout--utterly dwarfs that of Amtrak. And when we start talking highway funds, well, that's several orders of magnitude more.
     
  16. Francois Caron

    Francois Caron Cinematographer

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    Man that's bad! They make VIA Rail look good! [​IMG]
    Actually, Via Rail is pretty good. Taking into consideration the number of times I've used their service over the years, I've encountered very few delays and no technical problems although they did have a a few problems four or five years ago with derailments from VIA and other trains screwing up the tracks...
    Currently, a trip betweeen Montreal and Toronto on VIA, downtown-to-downtown, costs $102 CDN one-way not including taxes, or $162 one-way for VIA-1 (first class). And yes, VIA is also heavily subsidized by the government.
    But Amtrak personnel abandoning the passengers in the middle of nowhere? That's ridiculous! Doesn't any of these clowns know how to read a timetable? They would have known they'd never make it to their destination within the legal deadline!
     
  17. Andrew W

    Andrew W Supporting Actor

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  18. Edwin-S

    Edwin-S Producer
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    But Amtrak personnel abandoning the passengers in the middle of nowhere? That's ridiculous! Doesn't any of these clowns know how to read a timetable? They would have known they'd never make it to their destination within the legal deadline!
    ------------------------------------------------------------

    It is not quite so simple as reading a timetable. Train schedules aren't worth the paper they are printed on. Anything can cause a crew to run out of hours like, mechanical failure, poor call out procedure, and bad meets. The timetable looks pretty when it comes off the computer and then goes out the window when you are forced to take the siding over and over, in order to let 200 car freight trains pass. The companies, in order to maximize tonnage hauled with the least amount of power required, are stretching the tonnage/horsepower ratio to the breaking limit, which leads to slow under powered freight trains holding up the less important passenger in a siding.

    Throw in a mechanical problem like a knuckle busting on the 140th car of a 200 car consist and you can kiss the schedule goodbye.
     
  19. James Q Jenkins

    James Q Jenkins Stunt Coordinator

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    I think it's ironic how in the USA the government investment in roads and airports is ABSOLUTELY MASSIVE, but some people expect the passenger rail system to work with minimal government subsidies.

    Would the same people calling for Amtrak's privitazation like the privatization of the air traffic control industry? How about federal and state highway dollars? Should the highway builders and maintainers be required to "turn a profit"?

    The problem with Amtrak the way I see it is that it needs to be seen as a non-profit bearing public service - a publically funded system like highway building and air traffic control. Sure charge for tickets, but make it cheaper than air travel and make sure that it's safe.

    Or I may just be full of it.

    Nothing political here, BTW, just a statement of how I feel the government is letting the US down.
     
  20. Dennis Reno

    Dennis Reno Supporting Actor

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    Peter - The International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA), the World Energy Council and the Sierra Club are all special interest groups like American Petroleum Institute. I take what they say about as seriously as I take what the API says. All are full of self-serving sh!t. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

    As for Amtrak, many people look at the mass transit rail systems in Europe and Japan without regard for the BILLIONS of tax dollars that went into building, maintaining and operating those systems. If that's what you want your tax dollars spent on that's fine. Personally I would prefer that the rail system be privatized. The free market system works far better than any other system.
     

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