Consider Amtrak for Business Travel.
Some years back, I was on Amtrak’s train #51, the Cardinal, heading for Chicago and coming from a NARP meeting in Washington, DC. At lunch in the dining car, I was seated across the table from an attractive woman, a banker from Philadelphia, who was heading for a weekend conference being held at the famous Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
She had been unable to get a last-minute flight and spent half the lunch hour raving about the convenience of being able to get on the train in Philadelphia at 8:15 in the morning and get off the train literally a few hundred yards from the Greenbrier’s lobby just after 5:00 that same afternoon. Furthermore, she said, she was riding in comfort through beautiful countryside and working on her notes for the conference.
The fact is, in a comparison between plane and train that takes into consideration more than just cost and travel time, a case can often be made for Amtrak. If it’s a business trip—traveling from Washington or New York to a business meeting in Chicago, for instance—you can spend the night on the train in getting there, which means there’s no hotel bill, and your meals are included.
Yes, the train will take longer, but it would certainly be more comfortable and, in computing the real cost of flying, let’s not forget to include transportation to and from the airports or the additional time required for security checks. That’s a real issue in the case O’Hare.
To each his own, of course, and there will be times when flying is the only practical alternative. But when all the variables are taken into consideration, a legitimate case can often be made for taking Amtrak instead of a jet. Besides, the train is the only civilized way to travel left to us, isn’t it!
Perhaps feasible overnight only east to west from either Washington or NYC to Chicago, given the horrendously scheduled, elongated timecard returning east. However, even traveling west, Superliners on “Capitol Ltd” only offer showers in bedrooms; although shower (available in bedrooms) and for roomette passengers in Viewliners on “Lake Shore Ltd,” car attendants act very reluctantly to clean out shower of items stored in them.
Even more regrettably is the denigration of the food & beverage services on long distance trains. No longer lounge cars dedicated for sleeping car passengers, the car now so designated as the train lounge is a cafe, more like a “7-11 on wheels.” Bottom line–no trained bartender (“mixologists”) and no cocktails or premium liquor in liquor kits. The diner fare has continued to deteriorate to less than truck stop quality; same meal menu everyday; no toasters; no consistent effort at up-selling cocktails before meal or wine at meal.
Outside of Boston-Washington “Acela’s”, there is no daytime “first class.” Where business class offered, other than California and the “Cascades,” no advantage re food/beverage service availability in same car.
Now, compare this to VIA Rail Canada’s daytime VIA1 business class (formerly first class but name change required for reimbursement/tax issues of business passengers)–quality of food/beverage service; even food/beverage service aboard the overnight “Ocean” between Montreal-Halifax.
As well, to seriously market to business travelers, in addition to fixing the above issues, schedules must offer the convenience of a frequency greater than the usual one, sometimes two trains, each way.