A Letter to Amtrak’s President:
Dear Mr. Anderson …
Out here—which I guess means anywhere in the country except Washington, DC, and maybe New York City—there is real concern that your long-term plan is to pull the plug on the long-distance trains. We certainly hope that’s not true and I’d like to give you a couple of specific reasons why we think it’s a bad idea.
I recently got an email from a guy I met on the train several years ago. He’s from Taos, New Mexico, and he travels a couple of times a year with his brother-in-law, who has been diagnosed with the early stages of dementia. Flying isn’t possible because the brother-in-law feels claustrophobic in the plane and begins to get panicky. These two guys really need the Southwest Chief and a lot of people like them really need all your long-distance trains.
For instance, there’s the DJ on a radio station in Montana. He has to go to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota two or three times a year for tests and treatment for a rare cancer. It’s too far to drive and the regional airport is almost 100 miles from where he lives. But the Empire Builder goes right through his town. He needs that train.
Yes, I know these are specific cases, but the fact is that all across the west and mid-west, your long-distance trains are the only affordable public transportation available to more than 120 million people.
Putting it bluntly, if you think you’ve had a lot of negative press so far, just try shutting down those long-distance trains.
That’s it for now. Thanks for listening.
PS: I’ll write again. What you don’t understand about dining cars is a lot!
He has nothing in mind except the dollar. However, with the changes he seems to hope to initiate, he is attacking the very basics of train travel. It is the least expensive way there is to move large groups of people efficiently, affordably & available in so many communities with no other means of public transportation. Give some consideration to the actual train riders of America. Many of us cannot afford air travel, access airports, make all the connections necessary for many long distance trips. A long distance train requires the passenger to board once & detrain at the arrival destination. It they are making a connection it will be inside the same station & accessability help is there. Train travel is not just a method of getting from point A to B, it is a journey. I realie that the word journey & all that it represents may not be part of your understanding or consideration, but it should be. Please give long distance train travel very deliberate thought. Many of us have no other option or find it the only way we are able to travel.
An exact financial accounting of what happens in the dining car does not tell the story by a long shot. Super markets have low prices on frequently purchased items like milk and these items are even known as “loss leaders,” BUT, this practice brings a lot of people into the store! Likewise, a dining car with good food and an ample portion of ambience can bring in both new and repeat passengers.
Going back several decades when the airlines served meals on a plane I never recall having a lengthy conversion with my seat mate while eating on the plane. Having a meal on the train often results with lengthy, warm conversations with your fellow passengers. Two distinct experiences, one of which is ignorant of other. Peanuts and pretzels just don’t do it.
Absolutely right. And it is, in my opinion, the critical difference between the two modes of transportation. That difference should be expanded and exploited by Amtrak. Instead Mr Anderson has chosen to narrow the differences.