A Wish List for Rail Passengers.
Amtrak is getting a big chunk of money from the federal government and, given the state of the current fleet, let us all assume that new or overhauled equipment will be where a large chunk of the money goes.
Let’s all try to be realistic . . . but let’s come up with a collective “wish list” for how some of the funds should be spent. (Some items are just a policy change). OK, I’ll go first.
1. Assuming there will be some new sleeping cars, whatever the design, there must be a window for the upper berths in all roomettes. And, if possible, try to add a window for the upper berths when Superliner sleeping cars are refurbished.
2. And—this is coming in the form of a question because I really don’t know all of the problems that may be involved—is there any reason why Viewliners could not be used on some of the long-distance trains which now have Superliner equipment? I personally like the Viewliner sleepers a lot and would be glad to find them on the western trains.
3. It’s too damn hard—and potentially dangerous for us old guys—to climb up into the upper berth in both Superliner and Viewliner sleeper roomettes and bedrooms. Lightweight, easily stored ladders, please.)
4. The old time railroaders were right: the best way to attract more ridership for long-distance trains is by serving really good food in the dining cars, because that’s what passengers talk about with their friends when they get home. So give the chefs more latitude to create at least one dish that is unique to whatever train their diner is attached to.
5. And let’s get the issue of late trains resolved. That will mean the federal government, with support from Congress, putting an end once and for all to the freight railroads’ arrogant flouting of the law that says they must give preference to Amtrak trains running on their track.
That’s my list and, really, there isn’t anything there that can’t be accomplished when there’s a common sense of purpose and good will among all the players. (I knew there was a catch!)
On the note of late trains:
On some lines (Southern Transcon, NS Water Level Route), Amtrak trains are running along lines with upwards of 80 mile-long freights a day that have severely constrained capacity. The best solution would be for all parties to work together and make crucial additions to capacity of such lines, such as what has been done along the Capitol Corridor in California and what is planned for the NS line between Harrisburg and Pittsburg.
You have presented an excellent list! I have 4 I would like to add:
(1) Please upgrade/fix the HVAC system in every Amtrak car system wide. They have two temperatures: “fires of Hell” and “artic tundra.” Goodness, it’s the 21st century! I am a control engineer and I guarantee this problem can be fixed with time and money.
(2) Please put in a Wi-Fi network that works faster than a broken telegraph! This can be done – ships in the middle of the ocean can have high speed internet. And tell the bean counters that it’s OK to charge a reasonable fee for it.
(3) I have not traveled in over 3 years but the bedroom linens, blankets and towels are a travesty. Spend a little cash and get something better.
(4) In the sleepers have coffee, tea, juice and light snacks 24 hours a day.