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Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Auto Train, An Amtrak Failure

The Auto Train was not long ago a more civilized and genteel method of travel.  Our past experience has shown the bloom is off of the rose.   Now the Auto Train is simply another means to get from point A to point B.   From what I have gleaned on the Internet, one disgruntled congressman is responsible for derailing this very popular train.   Congressman John Mica from Florida appears to have the destruction of rail service as one of his primary goals.  

It is dismaying to see that an elected representative can be so short sighted as to not recognize the importance of rail travel.   The Auto Train has available coach and compartment travel from Lorton Virginia to Sanford Florida.   You paid for your ticket in either coach or compartment and you paid for your vehicle to be transported.   It doesn't take a mathematician to see that if you remove several hundred cars a day from I95, you are reducing pollution, traffic and wear and tear on a seriously overburdened highway. 

The differential between a coach ticket and a compartment is significant, depending on the date of travel more than $400.00 each way.  That differential meant in the past that compartment travelers had  wine tasting upon arrival and had wine for dinner.   Due to budget constraints the wine has been eliminated.   Not only that, the staff has been cut and an additional coach class car has been added.  This adds eighty plus people who need care and decreased significantly the number of people who were barely adequate for service needs prior to the downsizing. 

The lounge car that previously was used for the compartment passengers wine tasting has been eliminated.   The wine tasting and the socializing that ensued meant that new friends could be made and a trip could be congenial rather than burdensome    The elimination of the lounge car made dinner more difficult as well.   The dining car was overburdened.   The staff was forced to run to the bar car to get wine and to collect the money for said wine leaving their tables to their own devices.   You can't get coffee if you have no server.  

My personal disappointment is that a long train ride that was made far more acceptable due to amenities that I was willing to pay for has now become little more than a cattle car with ribbons.   Congratulations to Congressman Mica in the destruction of a civilized method of travel and the ensuing increase in road traffic, pollution and wear and tear on our highways.   His short sighted cost cutting will add up to far more destruction of both our infrastructure and our way of life.   Adeiu Auto Train, I will now ship my car and fly.  No fun at all but at least I will save some money.

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