Amtrak’s woes

The Amtrak train from Chicago to Seattle has been averaging 3-5 hours late recently, in no small part due to Warren Buffet’s influence at stopping the building of the Keystone XL pipeline. He controls the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad. A recent derailment caused Amtrak to have to reroute a train with a 12 hour delay.

Let’s say I wanted to go from Charlotte to Chicago in the train in a few days. Here is what Amtrak proposes:


I can catch the train from Atlanta to Washington DC at 1:30 AM – in one of the few neighborhoods I would not want to drive into during the day. I would arrive in Washington DC in mid morning, with a six hour layover (assuming the train arrived on time). Around 4 PM, I catch the Capital Limited routed via the old B&O mainline through West Virginia through Pittsburgh and arrive in Chicago after 17 hours, a travel time of around 31 hours. The only seat available is a roomette, which would cost me $934.

If I hop in my car, it’s about a 13 hour drive going through Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

Let’s say I didn’t own a car and rented one from Enterprise. A three day one-way rental would be around $450, plus gasoline of course.

If I find somebody on Uber to drive me to the airport, I can be in Chicago in two hours (plus TSA delay). My hypothetical trip is on the 24th, so my one way fare would be $315.

If I push my hypothetical trip out for a month to July 24

Amtrak is $283
Rental car stays around $450
Airplane is $161

To their credit, Amtrak just decided to withdraw from the silly plan to develop a common train for use on the Northeast Corredor and on California’s high-speed train to nowhere.

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4 Responses to Amtrak’s woes

  1. Nidster says:

    Weel, in a sadistic world Amtrak is the way to go. So, when do you leave?

    • Art Stone says:

      They’re still constructing the station at the Homeland Security detention center in Indiana, so not quite yet.

      During the evacuation of New Orleans before Katrina arrived, Amtrak ran evacuation trains back and forth to Baton Rouge (I think) . I’ve wonder how much distrust of the government played in people not hopping on those trains

  2. CC1s121LrBGT says:

    Please consider the non-Amtrak alternatives; if you go with Amtrak, you are paying only for a portion of the cost, the remainder is paid by taxpayers. 😉

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