A Big Plus and an Ominous Sign.

A week ago, a lot of people in Canada thought that they were literally within months of losing passenger rail in their country. The conservative government of Stephen Harper had given every indication they were perfectly willing to see VIA Rail simply disappear. There had been talk of cutbacks in schedules, in routes and in funding. Then the election results came in … and the Harper government went out.
And today, everything has changed. Transport Action Canada, the country’s leading citizen action group, proposed a 10-year, $5 billion plan for revitalizing Canada’s national passenger rail system.
Yes, it’s optimistic. And, yes, the new Trudeau government hasn’t had a chance to look at, let alone consider it. But isn’t it amazing what people can do when they get together and vote!
OK, now comes what could either be bad news or just another poor decision by someone in the Amtrak hierarchy: The Amtrak Unlimited web site reports that effective three days ago, French Toast is missing from the breakfast menu in Amtrak dining cars and has been replaced by buttermilk pancakes.
Railroad French Toast has been a dining car tradition since who-knows-when and it is jolting to realize that someone in a position of authority at Amtrak actually thinks this is a good idea. Or, many times worse, could this possibly be another of the senseless and counter-productive cost-cutting measures undertaken in an effort to mollify the anti-Amtrak elements in Congress?
Either way, Amtrak has got to stop nickel-and-diming its sleeping car passengers. Even the occasional traveler is starting to notice that the little things that made riding in an Amtrak sleeper a pleasure:
* Finding your berth made up and a chocolate on the pillow when you came back from dinner in the dining car.
* Waking up to find that the car attendant had slipped a copy of USA Today under your door during the night.
* Having hot coffee available all day and into the night (the coffee pot is now shut off at about noon).
So help me, if this is another pitiful attempt by Amtrak to get Congressman John Mica (R-Florida) off its back, I may run off screaming into the night. Amtrak has to stop encouraging that clown and go back to treating sleeping car passengers as if they actually valued their business. How’s that for a marketing strategy!