Is a Boom in Train Travel Starting?
If the number of emails coming in asking my advice about various train trips is any indicator, we’re seeing a resurgence in train travel . . . and by that I mean long-distance train travel.
I am puzzled, however, that many of the inquiries have been for very simple itineraries—Chicago to Kansas City was one example—itineraries so simple that one wonders why the first stop wasn’t the Amtrak website or, even more obvious, a phone call to a live person at Amtrak Reservations.
I don’t know what there is about the Amtrak website, but I find some of it difficult to use and/or incomplete when it doesn’t have to be.
For instance, in early October, I want to take the Maple Leaf from New York City to Toronto. Of course I know the train isn’t running now because of the pandemic, but apparently Canada is just days away from opening the border to Americans and I’d like to make a reservation on that train for mid-October. But go to the website, enter “New York City” and “Toronto” and put in the date and this message appears:
For Given date or service number or city pair, Service does not exist.
Now how is that helpful? Furthermore, while the phrasing is exact, what you see here is actually much smaller than the size of the text used on the Amtrak website, small enough so it’s easily overlooked. Wouldn’t the public be better served if that notice were to appear in a larger font size and said simply
Amtrak service to and from Toronto has been temporarily suspended due to the pandemic.
Is there some internal reason behind their awkward wording? Is Amtrak deliberately trying to confuse me? Shouldn’t Amtrak want me to know why there’s no train to Toronto, thus heading off complaint calls to their Reservations Centre?
Those seem like valid questions to me. Are there valid answers? Based on past experience, we’ll probably never know.
Amtrak doesn’t recognize we like to do our own planning sometimes. .Currently I do not see on their website any train schedules that cover the entire route for long distant/state operated train. If you only want to know about point A to point B its there. Just like the airlines.
You’re right . . . and they PAY people to run the website for them!
Amtrak has been having a ton of IT issues with their website especially. For example, if there’s no service that date they’ll tell you the next available date ahead, but not before. Sometimes prices glitch and you have wrong prices matched with the wrong room. It lets you put in the wrong AGR Number for a passenger without stopping you. Coupons glitch all the time and like you mentioned, it can’t word things correctly. If a train is sold out for a day it says “No Trains Available” instead of showing everything is sold out. amtrakfoodfacts.com can’t spell California Zephyr correctly. Can’t spell Twitter correctly at media.amtrak.com/social-media
The problems aren’t deal-breaking, but I wish they would add some features to their website like airlines. They should have a price chart showing the minimum prices for each day. Some type of explore map feature like on Google Flights where you can see the cheapest destination from your origin. That would be extremely helpful since Amsnag is gone.
However, I agree that travel is back! Fares are a lot higher, especially on the Chief, and trains are full. Amtrak is also making a lot more passenger-friendly changes :)
Thanks, Phil, for that excellent contribution!