Still Advocating a Daily Cardinal.

For years, Amtrak has been pestered to run its train, the Cardinal, on a daily basis. It now operates just three days a week between New York City and Chicago—a meandering route over the Blue Ridge Mountains, across the Shenandoah Valley and through West Virginia’s New River Gorge. It is, in my opinion, the most scenic of Amtrak’s eastern trains.

The agitation for a daily Cardinal comes from many sources: the National Association of Railroad Passengers (now known simply as Rail Passengers Association), Friends of the Cardinal, and from many of the mayors and town councils representing communities, large and small, along the route.
I’ve always been impatient to a fault, but I do have to ask: What the hell is the problem, Amtrak? Why does it take so long just to get an answer . . . anything more than “We’re studying it”, that is? Do you not have the equipment? Then tell us. What about a six-month trial to see how it goes? Is that feasible? Can you do it or not? How hard can it be? Hello? Hello?

Down in Florida, a private company, Brightline, is gearing up to operate passenger trains between Miami and Orlando. Start-up service—apparently only about 70 miles from Miami up to Palm Beach—is scheduled to begin sometime in the next few months. But the Brightline folks aren’t messing around and, in fact, they have just taken delivery of their fifth trainset.
That’s a private company, of course, and when Amtrak is involved, things slow down. Way down. Yes, of course, there has to be a study. But even that takes forever. And, once completed, it sits there “under review”.
If Amtrak expects financial support from government—state or federal or both—they have to demonstrate that there is real demand out there for better service. There is no better way to make the point than to run the Cardinal every day—run it on time—and let the increased ridership speak for itself.
So, Amtrak, how about a six-month trial? Run the Cardinal daily, promote the improved service, and see what happens.
If you do it, people will come. People will surely come.