Friday, January 15, 2010

Amtrak Has a Sense of Humor

Showing uncharacteristic guts in using advertising that effectively says travel by Amtrak is less stressful than air travel, the national passenger railroad has targeted air travelers while they are in the middle of security screening. (Amtrak Takes Aim at Air Travel With Comedic O'Hare Ads NBC Chicago) The author of this link suggests that Amtrak needs to clean up its own act before this becomes less comedic and more believeable. As much as I would like to disagree, I can't.

Amtrak currently has no equivalent to the onorous airport security screenings, so there's a plus. We continue to hope it never comes to this. However, the inability of Amtrak to keep its schedules and conquer weather problems makes it no better than air travel as far as uncomfortable delays are concerned. Sitting for hours in a darkened Amtrak coach or sleeper is the equivalent of spending hours in an airport when the air traffic system gets backed up by weather.

Passenger Rail can and should be able to endure bad weather. There will always be some weather problems for all modes of transport. Mother Nature is just to big and strong for any mode to conquer. But Amtrak, as a surface mode, has all the cards when it comes to all-weather operation. It just doesn't have equipment designed well enough, built strong enough, and new enough to make it happen.

I think the advertising is well targeted. There will be a certain component of air travelers who see that ad in the bottom of the bin where they have exposed their belongings for all to see - a component who will say, "To hell with this," and who will try Amtrak next time.

Let's hope Amtrak is up to it when they do.

The first round of new equipment orders will be only the beginning. If Amtrak is to become a true all-weather mode, every current route needs new equipment and then backup equipment before we can even consider putting on new trains. But we have a sea change in federal attitudes toward funding Amtrak, and now is the time to get it done.

©2010 - C. A. Turek - mistertrains@gmail.com
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