Monday, December 29, 2008

My first ever Amtrak train ride

This Christmas was surely a test of patience. I was stuck at JFK overnight, after being bumped off a crowded flight. When I finally made it to Chicago, I had to wait a day before I could get to Kalamazoo, Michigan, my final destination. It seemed I had not only picked the busiest time of year to travel, but the worst blizzard in recent years. The temperatures were frigid in Chicago. I walked from the EL stop at Clinton Street and braced myself against the 1 degree weather, wind chill not included. I made it to Union Station to find that buses were not running and that trains were full. If Chicago is serious about winning the bid for the 2012 Winter Olympics, they had better get themselves in shape a la Salt Lake City, Utah.

I digress. On my return trip, as fate would have it, another storm brewed and dumped ice and more snow on the ground, precluding a nice leisurely two hour car ride with my dear son, Tye and to the O'Hare Airport. We slipped and slid in his car to the Amtrak station where I purchased my ticket for the train that had been delayed some 30 minutes due to the ice storm.

I settled in with my coffee and breakfast sandwich and expected to see smiling faces, a la Metro North that I so love here in NY. It was, alas, not to be. I can clearly see why Amtrak is subsidized by the government - it is to make sure that the employees act as though they were recently released from prison and have forgotten all social graces. The uniforms were not crisp and neat as those of my Metro North conductors. In fact, a makeover is long overdue.

When I finally made it to Chicago, I exited the train and slipped down the stairs - an annoyed Amtrak worker asked me in an obligatory tone whether I was alright - how that could be the case, given that I had just slipped down a flight of stairs, I don't quite know. I graciously said I would be fine and went on my way.

I doubt seriously whether I will take another Amtrak train ride - the company was good, thank goodness and I met some really nice people, but the train was old and in need of a makeover and the conductors need some lessons in decorum.

It is now clear to me why they are losing revenue and operating in the red in recent years.

I took a trip into NYC last evening - I rode my beloved Metro North - friendly well-dressed conductors, clean train and life is good again.


smithtrek said...

Randy and I rode on the metro in Washington D.C. on our trip there in October. I have nothing to compare to as this was the first time that I had ever ridden on the metro, but we were impressed and felt that they had a very efficient system. However, we were not impressed with their bussing system. The bus drivers were very impatient, rude and grouchy.
I just thought that I would share that with you in case you ever get the chance to go to D.C., stick with the metro system and if you have to commute in a part of the city where the metro isn't available, you're better off either walking or haling a cab than riding the bus.

Annette James Daley said...

Thanks Smithtrek.

Perhaps my experience was an anomaly. I appreciate your feedback.

I loved the efficiency of the EL/metro train in Chicago and have enjoyed taking the subway in NYC (crowds notwithstanding) on numerous occasions, at least a couple of times a week in the year that I have lived here.

DC is on my list of places to visit. I will remember to use their metro system.

Thanks again for posting.