Disclaimer: There’s something personal between me and the Amtrak train from Albany Rensselaer to New York’s Penn Station. We’ll start with a little story time:
When I was young and stupid, I willingly took the Amtrak train from Albany Rennselaer to New York Penn Station every day for my first big girl job at Macy’s Merchandising Group. After graduating college a semester early and immediately entering the real world, my peers were still day-drinking on unsteady porches, participating in Beer Olympics and passing out on lawns.
Without knowing how much I’d like the job, it was hard to commit to a pricy midtown apartment and live with a Craigslist roomie. So, I commuted at least three days a week (just as expensive as an apartment once you do the math) and couch-surfed with a family friend in the Upper East Side.
It. Was. Miserable. But we all make expensive, incredibly dumb mistakes, right?
But on those daily rides to and from, I endured every possible type of delay you can imagine, sending me in a post-nap frenzy texting my boss about my late arrival.
Then, there were the rude humans talking at 5AM in the designated quiet car or playing music through their headphones at an unacceptable volume. There were the questionable screeching noises that made me fear for my life. And the line to get on the train at Penn that’s longer than a football field. And of course, there was the complimentary WiFi that never, ever works.
I spent the better part of my rides tweeting at Amtrak, chirping away with complaints and questions that often went unanswered by customer service. So the day I read the news that the local trains would be getting a $16 million upgrade, I was relieved to know my 140-character concerns were being addressed.
But how far can that money take you to redo 450 local train cars? Let’s see:
New seat cushions
Upgraded wainscoting and bulkheads
Redesigned galleys in cafe cars
Take a deep breath….that’s it? Wainscoting! Woooooohooooooooo! I can’t book my next trip to NYC quick enough while reading this list.
OK, OK, I do love the idea of a nice, fresh interior makeover, especially when the tickets are so pricy. For nearly $100 round trip, it’s expected for your seats to be comfy and the surrounding areas to be clean and updated. And I know $16 million doesn’t go super far when you’re upgrading so many cars, but has Amtrak considered dealing with the customer service issues they hear every day?
If I was investing the big bucks to improve these trains, my list would definitely look a lot different. Give the people what they want!!
A cafe car that’s ALWAYS open
Televisions in front of the seats…maybe?
Helpful customer support
Timely departures and arrivals
You don’t truly understand how behind-the-times the train systems here in the U.S. until you’ve traveled overseas and traveled their high-speed trains. You can get from the English suburbs to the center of London in 30 minutes on a train going, like, 99 miles an hour. That’s amazing! Knowing our Amtrak trains have trouble going 55 mph and continue to get into serious accidents doing so, we’re clearly a long way from the European level of train sophistication.
So, Amtrak, props to you on getting a makeover. But if you want me to dread coughing up the cash to ride you, it might be helpful to take a look at the exterior circumstances.
Two Buttons Deep is a news & entertainment website based in upstate New York.
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