David Bailey

Amtrak is Awful


This winter I decided to take the Amtrak Southwest Chief from Los Angeles to Albuquerque. I thought it would be fun, interesting, and be a little greener than flying. The train leaves Los Angeles nightly at 6:45 and is scheduled to arrive Albuquerque at 12:12 the next day. However, the word on the street is that Amtrak trains usually run half an hour late. This is the story of my journey.

  • 5:36 PM I had originally intended to take the bus or a tram to Union Station, but rain changed my plans. So I had a friend drive me to the station instead. This is my first time inside Union Station and it smells funny. Maybe it's the rain. Also, there are two boarding calls for each Metrolink train. I thought these trains worked like the RER in Paris which functions more like a subway. Apparently not.
  • 5:59 PM While sitting and waiting in Union Station several questions come to my mind. Why do trains travel slower in cars. It takes me 10-12 hours to drive from LA to ABQ, but it's a 16 hour train ride. Why would anyone in Southern California take Metrolink when they could drive in less time and less money. For mass transit to work, it must be cheaper, faster, and more convenient. Right now cars are winning an all categories, except maybe convenience. What is this smell in Union Station? I'm changing seats.
  • 6:19 PM Aboard the train. Union Station is leaking quite a bit on the walkways to the train. Thankfully the train appears to be watertight.
  • 9:08 PM Quite bored. I spend most of my time listening to my iPod while waiting for trains to come in the opposite direction or watching the flashing lights at the few crossings. Because Amtrak doesn't actually own the tracks, we frequently stop to allow freight trains use of the track. This is like always allowing semi trucks to pass on the freeway.
  • 9:55 PM Stopping for another freight train??? Not cool.
  • 1:00 AM Someone is throwing up in the bathroom. Train sickness?
  • 2:00 AM Finally fall asleep in some really uncomfortable and awkward position.
  • Some time during the night we stop in Flagstaff, and more passengers get onboard.
  • 9:00 AM Wake up somewhere in Arizona after sleeping on and off.
  • 12:40 PM Arrival in Albuquerque. Trains are slow and not awesome.

The ride was pretty miserable. The seats are a little bigger than coach seats on an airplane, but much harder to sleep in. I will definitely be flying Southwest back to Los Angeles.


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