Who’s Making These Decisions?

OK, I’ll admit that a few of the knives in my drawer could use sharpening. But when it comes to train travel, I’ve been around the block a few times and if it takes me three attempts and almost a full half-hour just to book a roomette one-way from Oakland to Chicago on the Zephyr, can’t we legitimately say the Amtrak website needs work?

I’m sure the people who spent months tinkering with the site are convinced it works wonderfully well and I do acknowledge that it has to handle a variety of tasks, some quite complex. But I haven’t used it for the past year because I haven’t been able to go anywhere and, in the interim, they made changes. Now the website looks the same, but is different in little ways. Different does not necessarily mean better.

To attend all the Rail Passengers Association meetings, my usual preference is to fly to the West Coast and take Amtrak to wherever the meetings are being held.

This coming September, our meeting will be in Washington, DC, so I’m flying to San Francisco, taking the Zephyr to Chicago and, the next day, I’ll be on the Cardinal from there to Washington.

But here’s a weird thing: The cost of a roomette for my two nights on the Zephyr was a pricey $1,052. That includes all meals for two people. But then I happened to notice that the fare for a family bedroom on the same train was $870, almost $200 less than the roomette. And that includes all meals for two adults plus two children.

I suppose the rationale for that pricing is lots of demand for roomettes; not so much for family bedrooms. Anyway, I went for the family bedroom and will make my cross-country journey in style with plenty of room for my bags . . . able to see out of both sides of the train . . . not one, but three lavatories and a shower room within a few feet of my door . . . and the almost musical rhythm of track noise from just a couple of feet below me.

I just read this to my wife. She said, “You left out the best part. You saved 182 bucks!”


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