Thesis: Names that mean something are worth more than those that don't.
This thesis may have been false in the past. At a time earlier in the post-industrial revolution world when modern meant both new and unique, brand names that tangentially invoked their product's purpose or appearance were probably pretty popular. Otherwise so many of them would not have survived into the twenty-first century.
We are thinking Passenger Rail and comparing names like Amtrak and Metra to names like Rail Runner Express or North Star Express or even Metro North. The latter of which at least uses two words that were a part of the English language before the invention of the particular rail service described.
Every successful passenger system in the world names the really good trains. Those systems that are exceptional make use of system names that carry both bearing and pride, and that say, "This is a successful railroad."
We dislike the following railroad names: Metra, CSX, BNSF Railway, etc. We like Union Pacific, Kansas City Southern (even though the parent company tends to initialize as KCS Industries), Canadian Pacific, etc. We think a descriptive name is worth a thousand recognitions of the manufactured one.
Amtrak is a shortening of America and Track. Why it wasn't spelled Amtrack probably has more to do with the mindset of advertising agencies than with saving paint on one "c", but we don't know for sure. It's a misnomer, because we were saving passenger trains, not track. Amtrain would actually have been more descriptive, and we can go on to the realms of the ridiculous.
Were Amtrak to redo its image as something else, changing the name to something recognizable would be both valuable and important. Off the head-top, we could think of a dozen names that would at once be more descriptive, romantic, user-friendly and melodius. We aren't going to share all of them, but even something like North America Intercity Railway sounds better than Aaaaam-traaackkkk. Railway of the United States.
We could be truthful: United States' Taxpayer's Railway
We could be romantic: Great Eastern and Western Overland Route
We could be playful: Trains To Everywhere
Or truthful again if Amtrak doesn't shape up: Trains To Nowhere
How about catchy without going the acronym route? Fun Trains Rail
Or green: The Energy Saver Route.
Or satisfy the accountants: The Billion-Dollar Down The Hole and Western
We are just kidding . . . but you see what we are getting at. After all this time Amtrak is no longer a valuable name and needs to be dumped.
Nothing wrong with a name, if it means something.
©2008 - C. A. Turek - firstname.lastname@example.org