Author Topic: Recent Amtrak experience  (Read 854 times)

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Offline aggie

Recent Amtrak experience
« on: June 08, 2022, 07:35:07 pm »
I made reservations for a trip from Fullerton, CA to Whitefish, MT about six months ago unaware of changes Amtrak has made to taking a bicycle on this route.

I was informed there wasn’t carry on service from Portland on train 28 so bike needed to be boxed.  I was not aware boxed bicycles are no longer available on the Pacific Surfliner.  I was told to carry it on and box it in Los Angeles (couldn’t even box it myself as the train doesn’t take them). The train from Fullerton was a little late so when I arrived in LA I was told there wasn’t time to box it and get it on the train so I carried it on again.  I was told I could box it in Portland - wrong.  Again told I couldn’t box it.  They made an exception and let me carry it on if I signed a damage waiver (no damage).  I was also told they don’t check baggage to Whitefish.  Yet when I got there they had baggage service.  At every station I was told something that didn’t happen at the next station.  Changes made because of Covid has negatively affected their service.

Don’t get me wrong I love traveling by train and have taken many trips.  Although I am not sure I will use them again.  Maybe less of a hassle flying.

Offline Tandem Tom

Re: Recent Amtrak experience
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2022, 06:58:57 am »
The COVID-19 Virus seems to be the default excuse for bad service wherever you go.
Amtrak is quite poorly run and there is no excuse for them not having the ability to properly communicate their policies. The IT people might dtill be working from home so they are safe.
Yep, I'm no more Amtrak for our travels. We rent 1 way rental vehicles and not dependent on incompetance.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2022, 12:48:59 pm by dbarth »

Offline aggie

Re: Recent Amtrak experience
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2022, 10:35:16 am »
I have to agree on the excuses all businesses are giving for their p-poor customer service.  Convenient excuse to ignore customers - just take their money.

Unfortunately for this trip I injured my knee so I am forced to go home early.  I will be checking my bike in Whitefish all the way home.  We will see what happens when the boxed bike arrives in LA Union Station for transfer to the Surfliner.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Recent Amtrak experience
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2022, 11:01:39 am »
I have to agree on the excuses all businesses are giving for their p-poor customer service.  Convenient excuse to ignore customers - just take their money.

Unfortunately for this trip I injured my knee so I am forced to go home early.  I will be checking my bike in Whitefish all the way home.  We will see what happens when the boxed bike arrives in LA Union Station for transfer to the Surfliner.
Sorry about the trip and the knee.

Going home I usually find it worth it to just drop the bike at a bike shop and pay them to box and ship it home.  It has never been much over $100 total for packing and shipping and it is so nice to just forget about it and be on my way never giving it another thought until it arrives at my door when I am already at home.

I have kind of given up on Amtrak.  It has generally been slower and more expensive than other options for the trips where I have considered it.

Offline jamawani

Re: Recent Amtrak experience
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2022, 09:39:45 am »
I have supported Amtrak for 40+ years.  I've ridden every route and some former routes, too. I've supported Amtrak politically with my elected officials through the many efforts to defund Amtrak. (even though there is no Amtrak service in my state - Wyoming.)

I can no longer support Amtrak.

At the beginning of this trip, I planned to take Amtrak from Havre, Montana to Vancouver, Washington. I chose Vancouver rather than Portland because a friend was picking me up. Havre is the closest Amtrak station - 400 miles from Buffalo, WY.

First, Amtrak no longer publishes timetables - you get to throw darts in the dark on their revamped website. The new website is glitzy, but doesn't work well. Like comments above, they say this is because of the pandemic. I have written to customer service many times saying that the lack of timetalbe makes planning difficult with no response. I guess this is pandemic related, too.

Second, Havre used to be a full service stop - it is a major Burlington Northern division point. Bike boxes have always been available there. There is still a station agent, but he is no longer allowed to do any monetary transactions - thus no bike boxes. Nowhere was there any indication of this change.

Third, even though Vancouver, WA has baggage service, the westbound Empire Builder #27 does not allow baggage service. Even though its scheduled arrival is 9:30a is during staffed hours. Apparently the track configuration is such that it is difficult to do so. But not so difficult for passengers - including handicapped passengers - to reach the station.

I had already purchased my ticket to Vancouver. I wondered whether they were going to take my bike all the way up to train arrival. The Havre agent assured me he would do everything possible to get it onboard. Then I had to ask the conducto onboard for the last segment to let me go all the way to Portland (an extra 5 miles, but still not my purchased ticket) and he said it was no problem. Both the Havre agent and the conductor said that current Amtrak management and policy revisions make it unnecissarily difficult for passengers and, also, for them.

The fact that Amtrak doesn't bother to respond to my concerns that I have set out carefully in writing tells me they don't care. They can spend millions of pandemic dollars on marketing, but nothing on customer support. In the past I have endured poor service, late trains, even a bike sent to the wrong station.

But the current Amtrak has lost my support - and there is no way for them to regain it.
The reality is that Amtrak is horribly expensive - massively money-losing. A few urban corridors come close to breaking even in Amtrak's clever accounting. Even the Northeast Corridor couldn't begin to cover the huge infrastructure rebuilding costs based on ridership. Rural areas desperately need public transportation. Busses can do this for a fraction of the cost of Amtrak and can provide faster service to more areas. Yes, I know, busses are .... well, busses.

Amtrak service is dirty, late, rude, incompetent, and hostile. Why should it be maintained?
« Last Edit: June 12, 2022, 09:44:29 am by jamawani »

Offline jamawani

Re: Recent Amtrak experience
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2022, 09:46:36 am »
Aggie -

I am sorry about your experience with Amtrak.
I am more sorry about your knee wonking out.
Hope you heal up 100% - and quickly.

Jama

Offline staehpj1

Re: Recent Amtrak experience
« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2022, 10:11:22 am »
FWIW, I've actually found a one way car rental can often be faster and cheaper than Amtrak even for one person with one bike.  There is no way that should be the case, but there it is.  It gets better if there is more than one person sharing the car.

Regional buses can sometimes be great where there is service.  Greyhound sucks pretty bad IME.

Offline aggie

Re: Recent Amtrak experience
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2022, 11:40:06 am »
Jamawani, thanks for your thoughts. 

An update on my return trip.  Surprisingly it went rather well.  The only “problem” was the sleeper car from Whitefish to Portland.  If you wanted to take a shower forget about it.  There was no hot water and almost no water pressure.  One would think for the extra money you pay for a room they would ensure the car provided all the services they advertise.  The route from Spokane to Portland doesn’t have a dining car so all they had was a very meager microwaveable “rubberized “ breakfast food.  Again not worth the extra expense.  Everything was shipped boxed and shipped from Whitefish.  The staff member was very friendly and helpful.  Everything including my bike arrived in Fullerton no problem.  The staff at Fullerton weren’t happy about my boxed bike.  It appears they were too lazy to use their motorized cart to pick up the baggage and used a regular luggage cart.  It worked but they weren’t to happy.  Again why does the Amtrak website state this station has bike boxes but actively discourage anyone from buying or using one. 

The equipment on Amtrak’s long distance routes is antiquated and increasingly run down.  They appear to neglect theses routes in favor of the east coast routes more visible to politicians and the public.  It’s too bad no one from Amtrak or our politicians will ever see these posts.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Recent Amtrak experience
« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2022, 02:17:14 pm »
I took Amtrak back to Southeast Coastal Florida after bicycling to San Diego California. There was no direct route. I had to go to Washington DC and then South to Florida. The ride was okay. The bicycle arrived the same time I did. There were people on the train being deliberately pointedly rude. It was obviously on purpose. Then we have the Greyhound bus. If I were to travel to some distant point in the United States and Greyhound bus was the only possible way of getting there, even at my age I would get out to some entrances to and Interstate with a sign declaring my destination and also saying I will help with gas oh, and I would hitchhike. If Greyhound is the best they can do for a transcontinental Bus Line in America, it indicates that we are screwed. If that's the best they can do it's the beginning of the end. Probably the best way is to hunt around for Discount airline tickets. Right now they are advertising airline tickets from Fort Lauderdale Florida to Seattle Washington for around $300 to $400 one way. Greyhound is around 270 which also means four or five days on the road and buying Greyhound food which is garbage. Amtrak runs from south east coast of Florida to Washington d.c. to Seattle for about $400 one-way.