There's certainly a broader discussion of rail finances in the US to be had compared to elsewhere in Asia and in Europe, given the vast size of the US and alternate means of transport. But the bottom line is that riding in trains in the US will likely start to have many of the same unpleasant experiences people have with airline travel, and that's a bad development.
I want to go with my bike to new places, but I can't. Amtrak won't allow bikes on most trains unless they're boxed.
I want reasonable food for a day trip. All we get is a horrible boxed lunch.
I want a late train so I can have a reasonable day trip.
I want to know that the train will get me home on time. The delays on Amtrak are insane.
It's more expensive than flying.
What's the point? They offer an uncertain service, at a bad price, with poor hours.
Compare that to Europe, where trains are on time, the hours are good, there are many destinations, I can take my bike, etc. The Northeast is more than dense enough. Amtrak just doesn't care.
I never understood why we never went anywhere on the trains. I went to Tokyo and was floored by the immensity of the passenger rail system. Even in San Diego I would ride my bike 17 miles down to the nearest station and take the Coaster into National City to go to work. And then, I was in DC for a month and I took the overnight Acela Amtrak Express from DC to Boston and back. Gritty, dirty. Like a noir film type ... gritty. For another $50 I could have taken a 1 hour flight after dinner and been in bed at a decent hour. As a citizen, I'm a fan of the idea of passenger rail. As a customer, I'm not a huge fan of Amtrak, at least under current management.
Free market, because first, rail leads itself to monopolies. Rail infrastructure is expensive, and you need significant area coverage until you can get enough customers. So if you built one, you as a rail provider will go at extracting the most possible value, since you don‘t have competition. Classic free market failure. The solution here would be to have at least four (proven number to avoid oligopolies) private train providers competing on public infrastructure. Since Americans shudder already at the word „public“, that‘s a significant hurdle.
Individualism because in the US, people have a propensity to not share rides with others. Same fear of „public“ IMHO, as long as public transportation is thought of existing solely for poor people until they can afford a car, nothing is going to change.
There's no reason why train operators should also own the fixed infrastructure. Truck companies don't own the interstate highway system, and airlines don't own all the airports.
Why not have private train operators (passenger & freight) bid for routes / slots / capacity on a publicly-owned rail network? Lucrative routes between major cities will return significant profits, while regional routes will require support/subsidy. But in either case, competition between operators promotes cost efficiency, innovation, and a focus on service quality.
One solution would be to auction off packages of "slots" on the most profitable, and capacity constrained, routes (eg: east & west coast main lines) rather than franchise them as single monolithic entities.
As for "not working very well", those who remember the days of government-owned-and-operated British Rail will attest that the current system is a significant improvement!
In the UK, you can buy expensive, flexible tickets which are valid on any train and any reasonable route, or you can buy cheaper tickets with various restrictions, typically one or more of:
- Valid only on a particular route/operator
- Valid only on off-peak services
- Valid only on a specific train/time
- Must be purchased a certain period in advance (usually by the previous day)
However, in the event of significant disruption, and trains are running late or cancelled, an announcement is usually made relaxing the cheap ticket restrictions. At the very least, if you have a cheap advance ticket and your train is cancelled or delayed, then you're allowed to use it on the next available service, regardless of operator.
the problem isn't the model as Japan has the best trains in the world and runs on a similar one.
" As of April 2015, 211 companies and entities were
registered with MLIT as railway operators in Japan.3 A
number of these are involved in multiple activities,
combining operations of both railway and other
transportation services. "
Cars are much more practical for travel in the US largely because the cost of fuel is much lower than in Europe, Canada, etc. Perhaps in Europe cars would be used more if they were a more affordable option.
I loved riding trains in the EU but often would need to rent a car or fly.
It's mostly privately owned, but you are basically describing the current state of the current US rail network. The United States has an extremely extensive intercity rail network, with dozens of operators. This was basically all built by the dreaded free market, by the way.
The trouble is that the large railroads are only moving freight, because of the misguided decision to nationalize 20 passenger rail systems under Amtrak. We should have just continued to subsidize passenger service under the private operators.
just a nitpick but land ownership-based industries, in which you get a license from the government to own and lease out monopolies on land, are inherently far from free markets. ive always wondered if land ownership could be made to be more free market-like.
Sure, the product is basically the same - a ride from Point A to Point B. But if you offer a private dining room, an observation lounge, a steward who attends to just you and 3 other cabins, you can charge way more than an economy seat.
By only focusing on the "Point A to Point B" aspects, they're entering a downward financial spiral.
But in the Northeast, offering a small private office so that some colleagues can work during the otherwise non-productive 4 hour trip from Boston to New York makes a lot of sense.
The only viable (and still not funded) project is the Southeast Corridor project, from Washington DC to Atlanta Georgia. Top speed is likely to be about 110 mph (180 kph). Average speed will be lower because the passenger trains will always be held up by slower freight trains (no dedicated tracks, like the TGV has)
Cargo makes more money than people transport and most people preferred air; and short range rail is very expensive due to all the legal barriers.
We have an amazing rail system in the USA, it's just not about people transport. It, along with barge and truck, make the modern US possible.
This is a bit of a tangent, but one of the most frustrating things about riding the passenger rail (I've experienced this most going through upstate New York) is being slightly behind schedule, and then falling far, far behind schedule by having to wait for a freight train using the same stretch of track to pass.
As I understand it, passenger trains are always supposed to be given priority. But in practice it never seems to work out that way. The dispatcher or whoever's making the decision often prioritizes the freight.
Compare to the airlines fees for bikes. If you have something heavier, you might not even be able to pack it aboard an airplane. Then there is the inconvenience of traveling to and from an airport. Even with an airline, you'll still need to take off the pedals and bars.
Amtrak is not the best, but still better than air travel for cyclists. For the cost of a flight + bicycle baggage fees I can get a room on Amtrak.
Sure the food isn't the greatest, but you can also pack your own and include a bottle.
If you really look into it you'll discover that the notion that checked bikes are available on most trains is a lie. There are so many exceptions. Just because it's available on a train, doesn't mean it's available at your station. Only the bigger stations allow them and you have no way of getting your bike off the train otherwise. So if you want to go somewhere nice to bike around, you're mostly out of luck.
I'm not going to deal with taking the handlebars and pedals off all the time in a train station.
What am I going to do with that box? I ride my bike to the station.
The checked bike thing is horrible even if you're willing to deal with all of this insanity.
> Amtrak is not the best, but still better than air travel for cyclists. For the cost of a flight + bicycle baggage fees I can get a room on Amtrak.
Air travel is far cheaper than Amtrak in the Northeast. Checked bicycles are about $40 to fly with if you pick the right airline and $20 on Amtrak. But what's even cheaper is travel by car. Just rent a car for the day and you don't need to deal with any of this.
Personally, I'd still prefer to have mine boxed to prevent scratches.
It’s a great way to unblock lots of people to utilize trains that wouldn’t otherwise. 2 or 3 cars of the train are devoted to bikes. That certainly is indicative of the environment and the temperate California weather, but still. Makes for a marvelous multimodal commute for me.
The is because Amtrak must share lines with much slower cargo trains.
Amtrak will file for "track windows" where they have exclusive access to the track for higher speed travel - but if they miss the window (for example a passenger had luggage trouble and delayed the train by a few minutes) then they are stuck behind cargo trains.
And once that happens they have no way to recover their original time table. The train will be late all the way to the final destination! And not just a little late, travel time will double.
I'm not aware of any good solution for this.
Actual use of this almost never happens, however.
This is because unlike other forms of transportation, railways are required to pay property taxes, so they're incentivized to have as little improved property as possible.
Minnesota does: https://www.revenue.state.mn.us/railroad-property-tax#
New Jersey does: https://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/railroadtax.shtml
Missouri does: https://apps1.mo.gov/stcoriginalassessment/report/CompanyRep...
The problem was so bad at one point that one of the steps taken to arrest the rail industry's decline was to ban property tax discrimination against railroads: https://www.thetaxadviser.com/issues/2014/dec/tax-clinic-10....
You never see this in Amtrak discussions, because Amtrak does not own the vast majority of the rails it runs on, and people couldn't care less about private companies. For highways and airports, they're pretty much all on publicly owned land, so they don't pay property tax because that would be silly.
And your 10 minute plan gets complicated when you consider they pick up passengers at multiple stops along the way. If they waited an extra 10 minutes at every stop they might ending up causing themselves an even bigger delay.
But I don't have specific info on what things are causing the most delays.
I agree with all the criticisms of Amtrak that I'm hearing in this thread and that are common for Americans. But I want to tone down the love of European trains a bit. Amtrak is much much cheaper than trains in Europe and in general you get more legroom. European trains have shitty food, as does Amtrak. Actually the best food I had on a train was in the early 1990's on a trip from Warsaw to Prague on a soviet era train. It was actually cooked in a fancy dining car.
The UK has wrecked their train network. Delays are terrible and the network doesn't receive any real new investment. I blame Thatcher. A few weeks ago there were no trains between London and Leeds over a bank holiday weekend. For 3 days there were no trains between London and Leeds. This affected me and I had to change my plans. I suspect that this affect all travel north out of London for 3 days. How can you rely on a network like this? Sure they give you advance notices, but where is the redundancy in the network?
Dutch trains are better, but they're mostly just for commuting. Distances are short so the Dutch rail network is basically what Americans would consider a suburban light rail network. Like privatization everywhere else, the private elements of the Dutch rail network play games with timings and commitments to 'juke the stats'. For example, a late train may be cancelled because the penalties for cancelling trains are less than for a train being late. Yes, this actually happens.
I have less experience with German, French, and Italian trains. But at different times in my life I have been screwed over by them as well. Delays, cancellations, confusing rules that only the locals understand. Trains in these countries are still considered a second rate service compared to airline travel. And how exactly am I supposed to take a train through Paris exactly? Let's say I am in Belgium and I want to go to Lyon. How can I do that without taking the Paris metro or taking some stupid long route? Answer, you can't. Because trains don't go through Paris.
So in short I don't want Americans to think that European trains are all that great. They're much more expensive and come with their own problems. They lack redundancy and delays in one part of the network can cause problems in other parts of the network.
If you've mostly taken trains in the US on the coasts, or for long cross-country trips, you may have an overly rosy view of the situation here.
I live in a mid-sized US city, the capitol of its state, with a metropolitan area population of around one million (city A). To reach the nearest city of at least this size (city B) by car is only a two hour (<150 miles) straight drive along the interstate. Both these cities have train stations serviced by Amtrak.
The only itinerary Amtrak offers to get from A to B using their service passes through city C, which is more than 500 miles from city A or city B. It's a 30 hour trip.
UK train network is not perfect, but generally is in a decent state of repair. It does receive large amount of investment regularly (less so under Conservatives but still a significant amount) - and main disruptions of the recent years were caused by either railway worker strikes fighting for their rights or changes to timetables that were too ambitious (because of the amount of new services added to the network).
Yes, the maintenance closures are annoying - but no piece of infrastructure can avoid periodical maintenance. You usually get 6 months' notice and in most cases a diversionary route. In fact even then you could get to Leeds from London via the West Coast mainline and then Transpennine routes. And it certainly didn't affect all travel to the north - depending on how you count them, London has 3 to 5 separate rail routes to there.
The assumption that delays, cancellations, and odd rules are particular to only railways is frankly bizarre. And so is your statement that train travel is considered a second-rate service here - it is all of course highly anecdotal, but on routes that are competitive with local flights (and longer distance routes with high speed trains) - trains are usually considered to be the better option (although that might have something to do with the never-ending cost saving drive by the airlines).
Your particular example of travel from Brussels to Lyon is also incorrect now, as French railways recently introduced direct high-speed services avoiding Paris (and building even more tracks for that). Crossing Paris old-style involves a Metropolitain trip, but that is not an unusual problem for most places (Boston's infamous North-South railway gap comes to mind).
I have experience with Amtrak, UK, French, and German railways - and I don't think I ever saw Amtrak tickets cheaper - unless you are comparing them to some last-minute train tickets on over-subscribed services in Europe. In fact I was under a distinct impression of Amtrak being noticeably pricier.
And finally, railway redundancy in US is typically way worse - Amtrak doesn't own most of the tracks it runs on and is treated as a second class citizen there. And any contingency route is likely to be untested and not ready for use due to cost-cutting. And apart from North East Corridor most of Amtrak routes are double track only, shared with freight.
Outside of the Northeast corridor, yeah it's pretty impractical compared to almost every other alternative.
And then the profitability of short distance routes is a direct product of the density of population.
This would look differently if airlines were charged for the CO2 externalities (i.e. not receive a de facto subsidy). But we all know how's the carbon pricing going in America ...
I have a lot of experience taking trains all over Europe. In almost no case was a train cheaper than flying once I included transportation to the airport. The few times a train costs more the difference is marginal and you'd end up flying Ryanair or Easyjet --- no thanks.
> And then the profitability of short distance routes is a direct product of the density of population.
Not a problem in the Northeast in the US. Only Amtrak can fail to offer a service that works everywhere else in the world.
That said, I don't understand the hate for easyJet. It's one of my favourite airlines, being straightforward, well-informing, and no more crammed than your usual cattle class option in a traditional airline.
In this case it wasn't that the trains were more or less expensive, but they were just slow from point A to B. I think Americans have a romantic notion that trains are great all over Europe, but it really does depend on the country. Western Europe, with Italy and Germany in particular seem to have a great high speed rail system. Eastern Europe has trains, but they are not nearly as efficient time wise.
You can only book train tickets three months in advance in Germany.
That said, currently they seem to reach only to mid-December so I don't really know.
Especially the Acela mostly competes with short haul air flights. People who are really price sensitive take the bus (or dive).
What would you prefer?
Delta is a well-run airline. Its former CEO knows B2C transport. Flying is, broadly speaking, preferable for business travellers to rail. That is due to service failures by Amtrak. Failures someone who has tackled these problems is uniquely qualified to solve.
The alternative, hiring rail enthusiasts with no understanding of competition, is what got us unto this mess.
I’m pretty sure I couldn’t justify the time or the money as business expenses to start taking 24 hour overnight train trips rather than a 2-3 hour flight.
You don’t have to agree with his thesis to find the book valuable though. It’s useful to understand where people on the other side of the debate are coming from, and even someone with opposite views will probably enjoy the detailed history of passenger rail in the US that he presents.
I have been closely watching the Texas Bullet Train ambitions to use Shinkansen trains to connect Houston and Dallas. 90 minutes. Privately funded at $15 billion.
Interestingly, current legal debate is whether or not the organization can call themselves a railroad before they are actually operating a railroad. They have 30% of the route’s land needs secured, but they’d absolutely need to exercise eminent domain to complete the project. And to do that, they need to be a railroad.
I often think that if Elon really wanted to combat climate change, he’d take on domestic air travel, and to do that well would likely mean some sort of rail project. Maybe self-driving cars and better battery tech will get us there first; I’m just doubtful.
Meanwhile I’m headed to a funeral this week and my only viable option is an airplane on an airline that wants to nickel and dime me to death and punish me for being a customer.
I am more excited by rail than flying, and I know other Millennials that are as well. I thought it was starting to come back into vogue.
Flight is much more convenient and in most instances cheaper.
I usually avoid flying when equivalent land transport is available and will take less than 8 hours, since it seems like a waste of fuel, but trains are absolutely not exciting when you're sitting in a 40 year old carriage lumbering along uncambered track at the same speed as freight.
Even though we were 13.5 hours late (due to weather outside Omaha), it was a great experience and I'd love to do it again.
I've been severely delayed on an Amtrak train as well, and IMO that's part of disconnecting. Depending on the train, you might have no Wi-Fi, no cellphone signal, and no control over when you get to your destination. Just need to relax, look at the scenery, and have a drink from the cafe car.
And that’s a big deal when people don’t have 4+ weeks of vacation per year.
I get the attraction—just took the sleeper from London to Edinburgh—but it just doesn’t make sense for routine travel outside of a few relatively short routes like the northeast.
American population centres are disparate. Comparisons to Europe, with its tightly-packed industrial centres among centuries-old farms, are silly.
This sounds like cyclical political pressure brought about when anti-train politicians are elected. It's virtue signaling. As for the underlying problem: imagine if interstate highways and airports were subjected to local property taxes the way rail infrastructure is.... conversely, imagine if the government built out high-speed rail infrastructure as aggressively as it did high-speed auto and air infrastructure....
Amtrak may be dying as we have known it but it is not dying. It is transforming into mostly a regional passenger train service focusing on the highly profitable Northeast corridor.
If the public values the traditional American rail service they need to let Congress know this and that they are willing to continue to subsidize it to a large degree. To date they have not.
I have a sometimes hankering at least for the idea (if not the likely reality) of taking a long-distance Amtrak train trip. But I'm not sure I could really justify why middle-class American taxpayers should subsidize my Chicago to Seattle train ride.
Maybe there's a market for private luxury long-haul trains with a "flexible" schedule across routes in the West.
For example, Amtrak has constant scheduling issues because they don’t have priority over freight trains and many shared chokepoints which are very expensive to fix. If you’re comparing their performance to a system with dedicated right of way or priority scheduling, you need to include the costs spent building that infrastructure to avoid a completely misleading comparison.
Similarly, a system which has high ridership needs less subsidy since it has higher fare revenue for the same base operating costs (think about how those passenger miles change going from 60% occupancy to 80% when the operating cost of basically unchanged). Since the U.S. has massively subsidized car travel and often deliberately avoided rail improvements (think Chris Christie wasting a billion dollars to avoid expanding the congested NJ-NYC connection), there are many cases where American routes have the same operating costs but aren’t as competitive as the same route would be in Europe or Asia because we’ve chosen to subsidize road travel instead. Any meaningful discussion needs to at least acknowledge the difficulties of comparing numbers.
Is this really true? Do millenials or younger people in general have an aversion to meeting strangers in public? Perhaps teaching kids not to talk to strangers has gone too far; I fear that if society has default_distrust_strangers=True, that could be pretty harmful.
Personally I love meeting new people in real life. It's quite refreshing compared to the highly curated experience of "discovering" people online, if that's even the right word for it.
Second anecdata: I manage a fairly large team of millenials, and to the person they generally describe themselves as highly introverted, to the point that it seems radical that when I'm in meetings with customers simple things like asking customers questions for clarification seem crazy to them.
I noticed their Blue Jays jersey and asked if they had a game and we chatted about baseball, the sights in New York they’d visited, and Toronto.
I really enjoy my little conversations with strangers and find it hard to imagine a world where immediately upon stepping outside I’ve got headphones in and am totally insulated from the world around me.
No judgement, I get it, not everyone is gregarious, or in the mood for a chat with a stranger at every given moment.
But it sure is a more pleasant and fulfilling world for me when I’m interacting with other people even if it’s just for a few small moments here and there.
Hell, I spent a train ride talking to a man from Newark about all the clothes he stole from JC Penny’s that day. I don’t condone that behavior and I wouldn’t have struck up the conversation with him. But when he talked to me I listened and learned he got some of those clothes for his nephew. Even people you might judge as bad are trying to bring joy to others a lot of time and it’s certainly interesting to hear people’s perspectives. He showed me his food stamp card and told me how he was excited to help his friends have groceries, of course he was really hoping they’d make him a meal with them too!
So we're waiting to catch a train back to Prague and she ends up chatting with this other American who was there with her daughter. They continued talking the whole way back on the train and we ended up having dinner and romping around together for the rest of the night.
Well yeah why would you bother someone else with a question you could easily answer yourself?
However I will say I have had to develop the skill of knowing when to stop searching my own and just ask someone
This comment, for example.
Humans are a social species. These "interruptions" are close to the only thing we exist to do.
In the subway, people are rushing to leave and get where they're going, lots of people have headphones on and those who don't are wary of scammers and muggers. There have been jokes about strangers not talking in the subway system for decades.
I don't think this is a Millennial quirk, I'm at the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation, and I do the same, I just got back from a trip to Europe and used my phone the whole time to navigate the London underground and Paris Metro.
My phone will tell me which train to take (and which destination sign to look for), how many stops to travel, the names of the stops, as well as how long until the next train.
That's still not ok. When you get directions it tells you the end of the line it's going towards. If you aren't sure, you have to ask someone.
I am curious as to about when this word started to be used in favor against "anecdotal data".
On a related but side note: must every phrase be shortened?
YMMV, but IMHO yes.
One time I got seated on the Coast Starlight observation between two model train enthusiasts.
One had sold his business manufacturing extremely authentic model train cars and had gone to work for Dell, but when I met him had just left Dell to go work for the person he sold his train business to.
The other was a day laborer who saved up money to take train rides as vacations. I still remember what he said as he was disembarking: "People ask me why don't you ever get married, and I tell them, 'I am married! I'm married to the trains.'"
I don't want to meet friends while I'm eating. I've taken sleeper trains in the US with my wife, and we both didn't like the communal seating.
Nothing against them personally, but particularly with airports or Amtrak stations, all the things that happen before the point I'm in my seat are often a little stressful and draining. As an introvert that means I need alone time to recharge.
Further, there's guidelines or social norms that may make one feel "trapped" in a conversation they don't want to be in. On an airline if it's bad enough to ask an attendant for a new seat because other ways of getting someone to stop have failed, that's an incredibly embarrassing and stressful situation to be in.
This isn't a scenario I encounter often, but I imagine there's also instances where someone is uncomfortably being hit on that would likewise upset them. And particularly traveling alone on an Amtrak at night, depending on circumstances, that could be a pretty scary situation for some.
So ultimately there's quite a few reasons I barely scratched the surface of why some may not enjoy it. There's nothing wrong with not wanting to engage in conversation. As much as you may long for days when people would chat more openly, many may long for a day when that is no longer the default expectation.
I don't think the privacy narrative makes sense. You're already traveling with some stranger in the next seat. You don't get significantly less privacy in a dining car. It probably fits within other cultural norms like smaller counter-service-only restaurants. If they're feeling tension in a dining car, they're going to have a full on panic attack in the coach!
What it does mean is that the value proposition for eating on board went down significantly. All you had to do to get the sale was offer reasonable food at fair prices. I don't need Michelin-star dining, but if you can match a basic chain diner (Applebee's or the like) with the convenience of "eat when you're hungry instead of waiting for your arrival and to find a place, and enjoy the scenery while doing so", you're a compelling value proposition.
I was livid about this when I rode the UK Great Western services recently; for 20 GBP extra between Swindon and Plymouth, first class was supposed to include a meal. Instead, you got a snack-box that looked suspiciously like the one you'd spend 7.99 USD for on Frontier Airlines. Needless to say, I packed my own meals for the rest of the trip.
(I'm sure there is correct terminology for those types, I just don't know the terms).
Long distance bus are much cheaper, but also much less comfortable and less reliable. DB gets a lot of flak for one hour delays on the first snow, my bus was delayed 3 hours at the start of winter. In general delays seem much more frequent with the bus. The concept of connecting to a different bus also doesn't exist (probably because of unreliable travel times), meanwhile with the train I can travel from anywhere to anywhere.
I would love cheaper trains, but they are already cheaper than traveling long distance by car and much more enjoyable and reliable than long distance bus. They lose badly to cheap flights though.
Flixbus will offer you connections with multiple legs, but the transfer time will always be 3-4 hours minimum. They're well aware that usage of public highway leads to random delays due to congestion.
I must also say that the service, friendliness and humor of the staff on the ICE was almost always exceptional!
You used to even be able to get freshly made meat and vegetable dishes on the Guangzhou to Hong Kong (Hung Hom) intercity route.
High speed rail has for the most part either totally ditched the dining car or switched to pre-packaged boxed meals that aren't particularly interesting.
On my most recent long-haul slow train trip from Hong Kong to Beijing in 2016, a university professor from Beijing decided to sit across from and repeat government propaganda to me as if she was the first person to ever tell this foreigner who speaks fluent Chinese these things. "Did you know China has 56 ethnic minorities?" "Did you know China has 5000 years of history?"
I made a point to visit a dining car on an east coast Amtrak route several years ago after my amazing China dining car experiences hoping to get some of that traditional dining car experience and found to my disappointment that even then they were only serving pre-made meals.
I guess it's hard to justify pulling and staffing a full kitchen and stocking it with fresh ingredients.
I meet people from all over the world daily. Today, I can be sitting anywhere and order food from kilometers away and have it within a half-hour. I can do my job anywhere and anytime (besides a few windows of time for meetings). Yes, there are a few things that have gotten worse, but the overall picture is so much brighter than it used to be.
I guess it will soon be too late, but the fresh dining experience you wanted still exists on the Western half of Amtrak service. From SF to Chicago I was slamming back steak and clams. The meals come with the sleeper car.
Configurations for short routes don't have them.
Do you really need a dining car when the longest route in the country is only 8 hours long?
Packaged meals on HSR do worth their price. Whatever meal I had in the past 7 years on the rail was cooked fresh.
I wasn't aware of the HSR buffet. Look forward to trying out!
You know what has hot food options and no food boxes? Cooked-onboard meals at a table in the dining car. Seriously, did anyone focus-group this move at least?
It's so counter-intuitive to cut that service out, I just can't help but suspect that it isn't meant as a business move at all, but rather as just another cynical salvo in the longstanding (since Reagan I guess) political effort to choke Amtrak out.
 There is also 'aviatophobe' but that sounds too much like 'the fear of Erlich Bachmann.'
Also on long distance trains if you are in a sleeper car your meal is free. I get it, the price is really just included in your ticket, but psychologically it nevertheless feels amazing to order steaks or mussels for free. Getting rid of the dining car would also greatly diminish the value of sleeper tickets.
I’m thinking ‘diner’ would be a good choice...
But you could easily imagine it as a rollicking good time, not unlike a cruise ship: fine tableware and china, well appointed interior, with cocktails and wine, next to other fascinating characters. The observation car is OK and all, but it's not the same.
Millenials don't like it because the experience isn't authentic enough.
I never took a United flight in 2008, but I took both one and a Amtrak in 2016, and the food in the train was 100 times better than the disgusting stuff United serves you. They are the worst airline in economy for this.
My personal opinion on this, having a dedicated dining car (A) reduces the probability of fellow passengers eating in their seats around me and (B) provides an optional location to escape to if desired.
It’s not eating itself that bothers me, just the place-appropriateness of it—I can block the noises but not the smell.
Most food eaten on that train is actually eaten by people in their seats, and this is true across most European train routes.
I should note, that I love the dining car and nothing is better than a good coffee and watching the scenery go by.
Yes, it’s allowed to eat in regular cars and I wouldn’t say anything to anyone if they do it—but if at some point it starts to bother me, I like to be able to voluntarily put myself in a café-like environment of the dining car where I naturally become more tolerant to smells and noises. The change of context makes a big difference.
 The dining car looked the same as in this article: http://don.at/references/don-denrailjets-der-oebb/
It's so much nicer than the new ones -- but the new ones normally are only half the car and there's normally business class or something taking up the rest of the car.
So indeed there's the loss of the steaks, eggs, french toast, etc. in favor of stuff that can be cooked in a microwave oven. On the other hand there weren't many choices to begin with compared to a restaurant.
As a millennial I feel like I’m bothering people all the time and I really like having an “excuse” to be around strangers.
Meaning, if you fly only once a year, you should consider your self privilege. If you fly more often then that, you should consider your self a carbon hog.
We really can’t afford to loose the train network in America. If we are going to be serious about preventing climate catastrophe (or at least minimize it) people have to stop flying for anything other then emergencies and inter-continental travels. People are going to have to ride the trains as long as Boston to L.A. if they have to get there regularly.
Let me ask you this: are highways profitable?
The post-millennials are going to grow up wondering why there’s absolutely nothing to do but sit at home watching streaming video and endlessly scrolling through social media. I feel privileged to have lived before millennials destroyed everything worthwhile.
Also, a person who is completely dependent on online services for any kind of decision or activity in life is probably the wet dream of many business leaders and politicians - so I think there are a lot of forces right now moving people in that direction.
Whatever the reason though, I think post-milennials are already getting fed up with it right now (or at least certain groups of them): Studies show that "Gen-Z-ers" are, taken as a group, more miserable than generations before them, with smartphones appearing to be a deciding factor. They also seem to become more politically active as well.
So I think we're currently on the trajectory to a Black Mirror/Brave New World kind of future, but it's not clear at all if we'll arrive there. We're living in interesting times.
I remember just a few years ago, sitting in an Amtrak admiring the view... Well the train tracks for three hours really while waiting out on a BNSF rail to pass through. Yep, oil and shipment are more important than human beings.
And the dining car was an outright joke, they microwaved some shitty prepackaged food even then. This was on multiple long hauls, mind you, not one of those short day trip feel good trips (which I admittedly took as well).
Makes no sense to attempt to follow airline fare. It's unique in American modes of transportation.
This reminds me of how bizarre it is when you're in a coffee shop with little tables that can fit 2-4, but because there's one person at it, nobody shares. Our personal bubbles have grown bigger. Is there a way to hang a sign that says "open to socialization - I don't bite" ?
I was a regular at a coffee shop for 7 years, and this was one of the reasons. (RIP Rebecca's Coffee House.) I met lots of people by striking up conversations with someone seated at the same large table.
(Some people don't want to talk, but if you have the social skills to read the signs, it's no big deal.)
Any readings on the topic much appreciated.
This article is completely disingenuous. First, the reason American millennials don't take trains is that Amtrak scheduling is ridiculous except on the east coast. It ain't about the dining car.
Second, the guy Trump put in charge of Amtrak has said his mission was to kill it. This is obviously just the first step. It won't bring millennials onto trains because that's not the goal. The goal is to reduce ridership of people like me who enjoy using Amtrak. Mission accomplished.
Edit: I may be repeating a railfan conspiracy theory above. I can't find a link that confirms Richard Anderson ever said he wanted to kill Amtrak and Trump didn't put him in charge. Hanlon's Razor applies.