On September 5th we rode the Coast Starlight from Albany, OR to Salinas, CA for my mother’s 90th birthday celebration, it was our first full bedroom trip, and our first Coast Starlight trip in over a year. I am sorry to report that the ‘ride’ (smoothness) has significantly deteriorated in that time. Even on the long straight areas in Northern California, the train pitched and rolled making walking between the cars, or getting to a restroom a challenge.
As the rails that Amtrak uses are increasingly utilized by freight (as the economy improves and as oil transport by train increases), the track condition deteriorates and becomes less suitable for passenger rail use. Not only that, but delays due to freight sidelines and broken rails significantly delayed our trips – we were over 4 hours late arriving home due to track issues and freight sidelines.
The service on the train, besides cost-cutting measures mandated by a rabidly anti-train congress, has NOT deteriorated. Our room steward on the trip south, Lorna, was fantastic and we enjoyed attentive and friendly service. Also, the food was very nice in the dining car – although they frequently ran out of entrees, and after two days, a little more variety would be appreciated.
One minor disappointment was the discontinuation of the sleeper car Champagne upon boarding, (probably a $1 a bottle savings…) and the free wine and cheese tasting – but I guess Congress needs their pound of flesh from Amtrak to feel good about themselves.
If the United States is serious about passenger rail (hmmm… doubtful), then we would likely double track our chosen routes – one track for freight and one for passenger trains.
What do you think is the right path forward to get our rails improved?? Please leave your responses below –