Amtrak Tracking for My Commute Between New York City and Philadelphia

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"LIRR, Amtrak repairs (in East River tunnels) cause travel nightmare"

News Day has an article about some track problems in the East River tunnels:

LIRR, Amtrak repairs cause travel nightmare

The problem with the track in the tunnels were discovered during a Sunday night inspection by Amtrak, which owns the four tunnels. Trains could only go 10 mph max (normally 30) causing 10 to 15 minute delays for trains in these tunnels.

These are not the tunnels for Philly-NYC commuters however as we go under the Hudson River tunnels. But problems in those tunnels could be a harbinger for problems in the Hudson River tunnels.

"Amtrak responds to weekend’s (Aug 25) ticketing meltdown"

The Amtrak ticketing system, called ARROW, behaved badly this past weekend and Cox Newspapers have some stories on this:

The article on by Rafi Guroian notes:

"Amtrak says for ARROW to go down the entire nation was unprecedented. In cases where ARROW goes down at individual stations, the practice in the past has been for station ticket agents to call other stations to assist in looking up reservations. Because every terminal in the country was down, it appears that some station agents may have become confused as to what the standard operating procedure should be.

Amtrak says that the correct procedure, which was observed in New York Penn Station among other locations, was to permit passengers with pre-paid reservation computer printouts to board trains; Amtrak conductors collected those printouts, using them as tickets. Other locations, however, like Amtrak’s Baltimore-Washington International Airport station, were reportedly instructing customers with existing pre-paid reservation printouts to purchase duplicate, hand-written tickets at full price from onboard train conductors; station personnel reportedly promised passengers that the older reservation would be refunded if the passenger phoned in a request when ARROW came back online.

This sounds like a major failure but computer systems go down all the time, as long as they don't happen every month. The trains still ran however and this happened on the weekend fortuneately for Amtrak commuters. I believe if you had a montly or a 10 trip smart pass ticket you would have had no problems getting on the trains.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

"Crowds Heed Amtrak's 'All Aboard'"

A Wall Street Journal article talks about Amtrak and the ridership increase it is experiencing.

Some quotes:

"Ridership on the passenger rail system is up 6% so far this year, the biggest jump since the late 1970s. On the Acela Express, trains that run at higher speeds between Washington, New York and Boston, the number of riders has surged 20% over the past 10 months."

"... some big names in the airline industry are supporting Amtrak by calling for the U.S. to do what governments in Europe and Asia have long done -- building high-speed train lines for short-distance travelers and freeing up runway space for long-distance flights."

"Another airline-industry legend Robert Crandall, former CEO of American Airlines parent AMR Corp., says improvements to Amtrak's network in the Northeast are one of the best ways to reduce aviation gridlock"

Any improvement to the NEC tracks will be better for Amtrak commuters. Better tracks, more and newer trains will make for faster travel times and fewer delays.

Pushing for NEC upgrades to ease airline congestion in the Northeast is a good way for Amtrak to secure existing and gain new funding from the government. And it makes sense too I think, it's an efficient way for the government to spend money to improve travel along the East coast from DC to Boston. Have you flown recently? Who wants to do that, it's a nightmare.

Hopefully Amtrak will keep ticket prices flat. Commuting via Amtrak between Philadelphia and New York City is still the way to go but the cost is still staggering. If prices remain flat but travel times improve, that's at least a positive trade off.

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