Planning Early for A Late Arrival.
I really hope that something can be done to ensure better, more consistent on time performance for Amtrak’s long-distance trains. Late trains cost me money. In fact, they costs me money even when they run on time because I literally add days to any mainland trip, which mean extra nights in hotels and other expenses. The problem, you see, is there is a very good chance your train will be late. And quite possibly VERY late.
For instance, here is an actual example from an itinerary taking me to Washington, DC, next month for NARP’s annual Spring meeting.
My plan is to fly from here to Seattle and take the Empire Builder to Chicago, connecting there with the Capitol Limited for the overnight ride to Washington. In theory, that should be do-able: the Builder arrives in Chicago at 3:55 in the afternoon and the Capitol Limited doesn’t depart until 6:40 p.m. That’s a two-hour-45-minute connection.
But it’s not enough. Not nearly enough to feel safe about it.
Everything could work out. But consider the consequences should the Empire Builder be three-and-a-half hours late and I miss the Capitol Limited. I could take the same train tomorrow, of course—assuming there’s a roomette available—but I’d miss the NARP board meeting which is tomorrow at 5:00 p.m.
There is no viable rail alternative, so I’ll have to fly—tonight or tomorrow morning. But that means an extra night in a hotel, either in Chicago or in Washington, plus confusion, anxiety, frustration and a host of other emotions, most of which are better avoided.
So several months ago, in planning my itinerary, I decided to leave home a day earlier, planning to spend that additional night in Chicago to be sure of making the Capitol Limited the next day.
Ka-ching! That’s an extra day of meals, a couple of taxi rides, and an additional night in a hotel. Call it $400 I’m spending because I simply cannot count on Amtrak being less than three hours late into Chicago.
And isn’t that a helluva note!