Don’t Be Quick to Blame Amtrak!
As I write this , I am sitting on train 19 to New Orleans from
Culpepper VA. It’s 12:40 A.M. and we’re sitting behind a
freight train 9 miles from New Orleans. We’re already 3 hours
and 38 minutes late with no end in sight. Don’t EVER use
Amtrak, they are dishonest when they know you’ll never
make your arrival time.
I received this email a couple of nights ago. This guy certainly has the right to be upset. But while the information will eventually be available, I do not know why this particular train on this particulate day is running so far behind schedule. My anonymous e-mailing friend has come to the same conclusion most people do when their train is very late and their plans are disrupted: It’s Amtrak’s fault!
His train, the Crescent, is operating on track owned by one of the freight railroads and it’s very likely that a dispatcher for either CSX or Norfolk Southern or both has simply decided that his company’s train will proceed ahead of Amtrak.
That’s a big problem for Amtrak because there’s a cost in terms of customer goodwill . There’s also an out-of-corporate-pocket cost—estimated at $40 million a year—for hotel rooms and meal vouchers for all those passengers.
That’s the cost to Amtrak, but what about the cost to Amtrak passengers? In 2019, Amtrak’s long-distance trains—just the ones operating outside the Northeast Corridor—were late a total of almost two years!
Just how bad is it? Here are On-Time Performance (OTP) records for a half-dozen of Amtrak’s long distance trains for the month of May, 2021.
Crescent (New York-New Orleans) 33%
Silver Star (New York- Miami via Tampa) 18%
Capitol Limited (Chicago-Washington,DC) 34%
Empire Builder (Chicago-Seattle/Portland 43%
Southwest Chief (Los Angeles-Chicago) 27%
Sunset Limited (New Orleans-Los Angeles) 21%
Last week traveled NYC to Chi and we were only 2.5 hours late.
But Chi to NOL was 6.5 hours late.
No one cares whose fault it is. Unreliable transit can be worse than no
transit at all. Fix it or shut it down. Blame game does no one any good.
I had concert tix for 8pm in New Orleans. I could handle
a 4hr delay, but not 6.5. More wasted money.