After some 200,000 miles traveling on Amtrak long-distance trains, I have formed some general impressions of the folks who travel in coach and those riding in sleepers.
It has always seemed to me that for most of the coach passengers, their train trip is for a serious purpose. Maybe they’re off to college. Perhaps they’re relocating. My guess is that most of them are on the train because they have to go somewhere and it’s less expensive than flying or driving. Coach passengers only want one thing from Amtrak: affordable transportation.
It’s different for those of us who travel in the sleepers. It starts with the fact that we have the time to travel overnight—as many as three nights or even more, in fact—and we can afford to pay for our accommodations and meals aboard the train.
Long-distance train travel is an enjoyable experience for us. We enjoy the changes in the passing scenery. We enjoy the time away from whatever responsibilities or concerns we face in our daily routines. We enjoy the interaction with other passengers over meals in the dining and lounge cars.
But most of us no longer expect too much from the experience. We’ve become tolerant of our trains often running late. We’re forgiving of the short-staffed dining car crews and we miss the on board amenities. It always seemed to me that the souvenir coffee mugs and the complimentary toiletries and the newspaper slipped under my door during the night was Amtrak’s way of saying, “We know you’d be there by now if you had chosen to fly.”
We travel by long-distance train because we enjoy the entire experience. And because we enjoy it, we’re willing to pay for it. But I do believe many of us who routinely choose to travel in sleeping cars are coming to resent it when Amtrak increases fares while cutting corners at our expense.
If there’s one thing about those of us who travel in sleepers I wish the current Amtrak decision-makers would really grasp, it’s this:
We don’t really need you, so stop pissing us off!