Friday, August 26, 2011

Why Amtrak, Why?

I know there's a lot more I could do, but I generally try to do right by the environment: I don't have a car, I keep my house painfully cold in the winter, I try to eat locally, and I like trains. In fact, I would like to take the train to Detroit this evening. Unfortunately, as you can see in the image above, the Wolverine 352 has been arriving an average of 163 minutes late to Detroit this week. It's hard to stomach the idea of spending that much extra time on a train ride that's scheduled to take just 61 minutes. To put it another way Google Maps says it would only take 1 more minute to bike from Ann Arbor to Detroit than to take the train, and that's at the leisurely pace of 18.2 kph (11.3 mph)! Maybe I should just get a touring bike. I digress. My point is this: Amtrak, you're tearing me apart!

I realize Northfolk Southern has a substantial roll in the current delays, but the current state of passenger rail in Michigan is pretty depressing. Thank god for bicycles.

Hat tip Ed Vielmetti

The image above was produced using this page by Registration Software


  1. And they charge you > $150 for a round trip. I refuse to ride Amtrak, & frankly I don't understand how there's enough demand to continue running the line.

  2. That's a little disingenuous, because your post seems to imply that it's taking three hours to get from Ann Arbor to Detroit. Most of delay occurs prior to arriving in Ann Arbor.

    That said, if you're not checking the Amtrak website before you leave, you'll be waiting at the station for those two extra hours, so the greater point of Amtrak delays are still valid.

  3. Tell me about it! I took the train to Chicago once this summer. Six hours of agony. Seriously.

    And of course we can't have high-speed rail in this country because that would be Socialism. Or something.

  4. Amtrak is doing everything it can. The barriers are (as was mentioned) Norfolk Southern and the State of Michigan.

    1. This summer, NS reduced the speed limit on their tracks due to track condition. In sections, the train can only go 30 mph -- hence the 2-3 hour delays, which mainly occur between Kalamazoo and Dearborn. Track work is under way to restore the track to its prior speeds, and is expected to be completed by September 15.

    2. Amtrak is experiencing *extra* delays right now, because (duh?) there's a whole bunch of heavy equipment working on the tracks that Amtrak's trying to roll over.

    3. Michigan has $400 million in Federal rail money allocated to it. We have to come up with something under $30m in match (< 10%) in order to use it. The legislature failed to take action on this last session.

  5. motowntotreetown - $150?!? for goodness sakes, what the heck are you looking at?!

    As of right now, Amtrak's website is quoting me a price of $12 one-way, $24 two-way. Are you thinking of Chicago? Even that is looking like only $55 each way for a same-day booking -- which is a steal, relative to flying or driving. (Same trip on Megabus is quoting me about $40 each way, just in case that's the comparison you're thinking.)

    Amtrak's ridership in Michigan has been growing steadily over the past decade, even as service has been reduced (elimination of the through trains to Canada post-9/11, for example). The primary impediment to further ridership growth is that the rolling stock is full, and Amtrak doesn't have cars to replace it with. (Some of Michigan's Federal rail money would address that issue.)

    The present slowdowns make it a little on the unreasonable side, but, as mentioned, that should be fixed soon. The demand is there, and I might encourage you to try it again -- maybe after September.

  6. I just got back from a trip to California...I wish I would have taken the train instead.

  7. I took Amtrak round trip from Chicago to Detroit last month. Two simple words: "never again".

    --We were due into Detroit at 2:30pm. We finally arrived at 5pm.

    --The snack car attedant was pontificating on his political beliefs. Later on he was sleeping at one of the tables.

    --Coming back into Chicago, we were over 2 hours late.

    --The only way to describe the train conductor on the Battle Creek-Chicago segment: 'NO SOUP FOR YOU!'

    --On both segments of the trip the coaches were filthy. No, not with trash, but there was dirt all over the place.

    Next time I'm flying, taking Megabus, or driving. I'm not taking Amtrak again.