Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In which I rail against Amtrak

Is it unfair to complain about Amtrak these days? Is it like beating a guy while he's down? Well, I don't care – I am tired of being patient and understanding. Amtrak needs to get a clue.

Do not let Amtrak's somewhat updated website trick you: they are as lame as they always were. When you buy your "ticket" online, they can't actually give you a ticket, they give you a bar code which allows you to go to a "Quik-Trak self-service ticketing kiosk" to pick up your ticket on the day of your journey. I am sure they thought they were being very 20th century by putting these self-service kiosks in some of their major stations, but a better, actually useful step would have been to provide conductors with ticket scanners so as to eliminate the need for ticket pick-up altogether. All the kiosks do, in my opinion, is save them money on service counter staff. We see right through your ruse, Amtrak.

But I live in Munster, Indiana, you say, a kiosk would be better than nothing – we have no service counter at all! So true, my dear Hoosiers, so true. But this illogical, c-fearing organization, I am sorry to report, only puts "Quik-Trak" kiosks in their "larger Amtrak stations," i.e., in cities.

So what is a resident of or visitor outside the city to do, then? Pay, of course: It's the American way. $15 and an afternoon off work to receive your express-delivered ticket later, you are enabled to participate in the pathetic excuse for a train system that is Amtrak. Not only is this just a lame way to do business, our country just cannot afford discrimination of this kind at this polarized moment. I say: Equal opportunities for all riders!

You know, Amtrak's board of directors is appointed by the US president. Since the future vice-president of the US is such an avid Amtrak user, I am thinking he might-could take this issue straight to the president in January. They seem to be in the mood for cleaning house. Although Mr. Biden probably has some fancy east coast version of the Amtrak service, I am sure he has at least one horror story of his own – or someone in Pennsylvania told him one. If any case, it's pretty much common knowledge that service in the rest of the country (pardon me) sucks. And since it's clear that Americans are too nostalgic (or practical) to give up the idea of passenger rail, we might as well make it worth all the money we are pouring into it.

So, why not get to redistributing the kiosk wealth? Why not wrest some of the tracks from rail freight companies so we can be on time for a change? Why not promote train travel as an often cheaper, more efficient alternative to driving? And, if nothing else, why not use US mail to deliver tickets?


oijoyphoto - the husband said...

man, living in the 'paradise' of europe has really made you an angry lady toward the 'not-very-conveniences' of your homeland... is this remonstrance just now bubbling to the surface or has it always been there lurking around? geez, get a car already.
suv's are cheap here now. i say, "trains, shmaims!" :)

Swiss Ms. said...

no, I have harbored a grudge against Amtrak for a long time now. (In fact, it can probably be traced back to the time it delivered me home at 2:30 a.m., four hours late.) But nonetheless, I really want to love it, and I use it as often as I can; it just always lets me down.

So actually, these prodigious "rantings" have been developing for some time. The kiosks were the last straw. Anyway, I was outraged on behalf of you, you know. Those IN/MI stops get really crappy (no) service!