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Amtrak Upgrades Wi-Fi 164

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-now-where-will-i-go-to-simulate-early-90s-dialup dept.
New submitter WillgasM writes "A bit of good news for American travelers, according to the New York Times: 'After years of criticism of the wireless service on its trains, Amtrak announced on Thursday that it had upgraded its cellular-based Wi-Fi using broadband technologies that will improve the speed and reliability of the Internet in its passenger cars.' So far the service has been rolled out on the high-speed Acela lines and a few routes in California, but they hope to have the rest of their trains upgraded by the end of Summer. We're still an order of magnitude away from high-speed rails in other countries, but it's nice to know someone's trying."
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Amtrak Upgrades Wi-Fi

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  • by Crimey McBiggles (705157) on Friday May 17, 2013 @01:07PM (#43754411)
    It's about time!
    • by Art Challenor (2621733) on Friday May 17, 2013 @01:11PM (#43754469)
      I think it's still true that Amtrak carries more passengers in the Washington, Boston, New York travel corridors than do the all the airlines combined. Those are the "high-speed Acela lines". Of course, it's just a coincidence that the lines that carry the most politicians are actually funded and effective, while the rest of the country languishes due to underfunding.
      • rest of the country has lots of freight

        • by PopeRatzo (965947)

          rest of the country has lots of freight

          Wait, are you calling me fat?

      • The US northeast is the busiest rail transportation corridor in all of North America. It makes far more sense cost- and speed-wise to take the train between most destinations there.

        We recently vacationed in the area (a year ago) and took Amtrak from Washington to Baltimore and back, from Washington to Philadelphia and from Philadelphia to Manhattan. It was reasonably quick, comfortable enough, and super convenient. I can't overstate how much nicer it is to walk on a train instead of having to pass through airport security. (As a nice bonus, flying home from Newark instead of Philadelphia or Washington saved us about $150 each.)

      • by milbournosphere (1273186) on Friday May 17, 2013 @01:55PM (#43755047)
        Amtrak doesn't do horribly in the southern coast region, either. With the upgraded wifi, the only real argument against taking the train is the time required to move anywhere. From LA to San Luis Obispo is around 6 hours, vs 4 at the most via automobile. From SLO to San Diego, the end of the line, can take almost 10 hours at times. I can drive there in a little over half the time.

        That said, the seats are comfortable, the cars are relatively quiet, the wifi seems to be improving, and I've had worse free coffee. It beats driving on cost, and beats flying on both cost and convenience in that I don't need to give up my civil rights to get on the train (yet). I yearn for the day that CA and other places have high speed rail.

        • by dkleinsc (563838)

          There at one point was a serious proposal to get a high-speed rail line starting from San Diego and expanding north. It got shot down by Orange County, because the residents were worried that those trains would bring the wrong sort of people into their neighborhood.

      • it's just a coincidence that the lines that carry the most politicians are actually funded and effective, while the rest of the country languishes due to underfunding.

        Not just coincidence. It's fact. In the early days of Amtrak in the early 1970s, most of the routes catered to whomever was in a position of power in elected office. Ten years prior to Amtrak, railroads were in dire financial condition and federal regulators required them to run the passenger trains even if they were empty. Railroads we

      • by alen (225700)

        i've flown the delta shuttle NYC to Boston pre-911 and it was FAST. we would take the 7am to boston and be back by 5 for dinner. arrive 20 minutes before the flight and just get on the plane

        post 9-11 you have to get to the airport early to stand in line, wait around and sit in your chair and wait
        might as well take the train with wifi, better seating, LTE access since its outside and a power outlet by your chair so you can charge your phone

        same travel time

        • by mjwalshe (1680392)
          Yes I remember doing the BA London to Edinburgh route for BT a few times just walk up to the desk plonk your card down a quick beer and walk from the lounge/bar to plane and 40 min later in Edinburgh -probably not as easy to do these days
        • Back in the 80s and early 90s I was working in New Jersey and often doing projects in DC. Taking the train was a lot less stressful than flying, and typically took only about 15 minutes longer, but sometimes I'd fly from Newark to National Airport. There were shuttle planes every hour, you only needed about 15 minutes at the airport to catch your plane, and if you missed it there'd be another one an hour later. (Except occasionally, with bad weather or whatever.) So we'd usually aim to get to the airpor

      • by squiggleslash (241428) * on Friday May 17, 2013 @02:05PM (#43755187) Homepage Journal

        Historical accident, not politics. The NEC is the only part of the national rail system Amtrak actually owns.

        Amtrak exists because a giant railroad company that operated most trackage in the North East called Penn Central was going bankrupt. In the early seventies it went to Nixon and said, essentially "We might survive if we can get rid of passenger service. which costs lots of money and isn't covering its costs for us. Hey, whatsay we make passenger service a government program, and then you guys can screw it up even more and close it down after two years? Then we can sell all the track we no longer need, cover our debts, and just do nice profitable freight in future."

        (You probably think I'm doing a dig at Amtrak there with the "government program" and "screw it up" bit, but actually, that really was the plan. I'm not kidding. A few years after Amtrak's creation, Louis W. Menk, the then chair of the Burlington Northern, actually blurted it out in public, saying that the government was making a mess of screwing it up. Look it up.)

        So, anywho, the other railroads were also invited to join, as most (but not all) were having similar problems. Amtrak was formed. Penn Central went bust anyway.

        The bankrupt Penn Central was then reconstituted as Amtrak and Conrail. Amtrak got the NEC. Conrail got the rest. Conrail became amazingly profitable, was privatized, and finally split between CSX and NS. Amtrak has finally gotten the NEC to be profitable over the last few years, though the rest of its passenger service is still technically "loss making". But the non-NEC services suffer from not being under its control. It can't run Acela Express services on CSX tracks, for example, because it would need massive upgrades to lines that Amtrak would barely benefit from.

        • The bankrupt Penn Central was then reconstituted as Amtrak and Conrail

          This is poorly worded. What I meant was that Penn Central's assets were divided between Amtrak, and Conrail, the latter being a new government corporation specifically created to take over the bankrupt entity's assets. Amtrak, of course (as should have been obvious from what I'd written earlier) already existed.

        • by kriston (7886)

          The NEC is not "the only part of the national rail system Amtrak actually owns."

          Amtrak "actually owns" 224 miles of other lines in addition to the Northeast Corridor. Let's try to keep our facts straight.

          1) Philadelphia to Harrisburg Main Line, approx. 104 miles.

          2) Empire Corridor (portions a.k.a. Empire Connection) from New York Penn Station to Spuyten Duyvil, New York, 11 miles.

          3) Michigan Line (a.k.a. Chicagoâ"Detroit Line), 98 miles.

          4) Post Road Branch (upstate New York), 12 miles.

          • I stand corrected [wikipedia.org]. That said, I stand by the point that reason for the NEC's success is that Amtrak owns it, not because it's near Washington DC.
          • 1) The Keystone Corridor is also successful (from a customer service point of view), sees over a dozen trains each way daily, with portions of the line at over 100MPH speed.
            2) That section of the Empire Corridor is slow but only because it is a former freight line through a very urban area. There are some sections where vibrations of trains could cause rockslides (though those have recently been stabilized enough to allow 45MPH speeds). It is a necessary evil because the only other option would be for Amt

      • by Gothmolly (148874) on Friday May 17, 2013 @02:37PM (#43755553)

        People don't understand how large and empty most of the US is.

        The rest of the country languishes because everything is so far apart. Do you want to spend days on a train to get from Chicago to LA, or do you want to spend 4-5 hours on a plane? Even high speed rail can't beat a jet. In the Northeast the density of cities plus the ability to work/talk/move around on a train trumps the cost and hassle of air travel, elsewhere not so much.

        "Hello air travel? It's train travel... you win."

        • People don't understand how large and empty most of the US is.

          The rest of the country languishes because everything is so far apart. Do you want to spend days on a train to get from Chicago to LA, or do you want to spend 4-5 hours on a plane? Even high speed rail can't beat a jet. In the Northeast the density of cities plus the ability to work/talk/move around on a train trumps the cost and hassle of air travel, elsewhere not so much.

          "Hello air travel? It's train travel... you win."

          Let's look at that. Say, Salt Lake City to Denver. If you live in, say LakeWood, CO you have, probably a 2 hour drive to the airport, you need to be there 90 minutes ahead of departure, 90 minute flight, so 2 hours by the time you disembark and get to your rental car, 30 minutes into the city center. 7.5 hrs. Assuming a track following I70, high speed rail would pick you up in Lakewood, it would probably take about the same time, but maybe up to 8, or 8.5 hrs to drop you in the city center. I do that a

          • by Gothmolly (148874)

            If its picking you up in Lakewood or making other stops on the way, it's not the "high speed" you're thinking of.

            • by dj245 (732906)

              If its picking you up in Lakewood or making other stops on the way, it's not the "high speed" you're thinking of.

              The population of Lakewood is over 140,000 people. Not enourmous, but worth stopping at. [wikipedia.org]

              I have been on the bullet trains in Japan, and the non-super-express ones stop at some fairly small stations. The key is that their trains are electrified, which allows for very fast acceleration. They also stop only long enough to let people on and off- 1 minute or less. When they changed from the 500 series to the N700 series, the acceleration was improved by about 80%. Even though the N700 has a lower top spee

          • by geekoid (135745)

            Yes, if you cherry pick exact few situation trains..tie.

      • by AJH16 (940784)

        Or it's just coincidence that the lines in other parts of the country that are less utilized have to be used by both freight and passenger traffic and are thus slower.

      • Of course, it's just a coincidence that the lines that carry the most politicians are actually funded and effective,

        If memory serves the Obama administration tried to put more money into high speed rail and Republicans in Florida made a big show about turning the money down.

        In an efficient transportation system planes would carry passengers between major airports and trains would fill in for commuter airlines. We subsidize every form of transportation in one way or the other, I don't see why passenge

    • I'm on the West Coast, you insenstive clod. The rolling stock of the Pacific Coast Starlight hasn't been upgraded in over 30 years.

      • by sconeu (64226)

        The WiFi on the Pacific Surfliner (SantaBarbara-SanDiego) sucks.

      • by kriston (7886)

        It may not have been renovated in thirty years, but like most Amtrak rolling stock it has been overhauled and rebuilt several times in thirty years.

      • In the northeast, unless you're on the Acela Express or in a sleeper car, you're not riding anything younger than 30 years. The Amfleets which are the Northeast's bread and butter were built in 1975. At least the Midwest gets new Superliners every few years.

  • by LeadSongDog (1120683) on Friday May 17, 2013 @01:12PM (#43754481)
    ... for "high speed trains"
  • by iggymanz (596061) on Friday May 17, 2013 @01:16PM (#43754551)

    amtrak has a couple places they'll go to 110 MPH, and mostly 80 MPH is the limit. On good old 18th and 19th century style rails-on-wood-in-pebble ballast. I could drive my dodge caravan around at 100MPH too and call it a high speed sports car....

    • by RevDisk (740008) on Friday May 17, 2013 @01:41PM (#43754857) Journal
      It's optimized for freight, not passenger service. US has the most advanced freight railroad system in the world. Passenger service makes sense in some area, in others it will always be break even at best. 15,000 tons of coal is not something you need or want to move at 80+ MPH.

      It doesn't receive a lot of attention (folks often want high speed rail for mass transit), but our rail network is pretty good for what makes economic sense.
      • It is hard to talk about what makes "economic sense" here, since the passenger rail business was killed by competition from heavily subsidized alternatives: the interstate highway system, and airplanes. Had no federal money been spent promoting cars and airplanes -- had the government instead allowed competition between businesses determine how Americans travel -- passenger railroads would probably remain a viable business (but I doubt we would see high speed rail, for the same reasons that private Interne
        • by geekoid (135745)

          Yes, and the rail companies would still be killing people to take their property.

          Cars are far better then trains, mostly becasue they aren't on a track.

          • Automobile accidents are the leading cause of transportation death though.

            Today we had a train wreck between two rush hour commuter trains in Connecticuit. Worst Metro-North has seen since 1988. No deaths.

        • It is hard to talk about what makes "economic sense" here, since the passenger rail business was killed by competition from heavily subsidized alternatives: the interstate highway system, and airplanes.

          Um, no. Passenger rail was always a money losing proposition, maintained by the railroads despite this for prestige and as a loss leader for their freight services. But the railroad's physical plant were beat to hell after nationalization in WWI, a decade declining revenue of the Great Depression, and extrao

      • by Miamicanes (730264) on Friday May 17, 2013 @02:51PM (#43755709)

        That's part of the reason why FEC (Florida East Coast Railroad) has never been actively *hostile* towards passenger trains, compared to railroads like CSX(*). FEC runs mile-long trains hauling limestone at 60mph on glass-smooth welded-rail tracks that are maintained to higher standards than some stretches of track in the NEC itself. FEC's one non-negotiable mandate for voluntary passenger service on their tracks has always been that someone else had to pay to lay down a second track, maintain it to FEC's no-compromise high standards, and equip every train that runs on them with in-cab signaling and the kind of automation rarely found outside of Japan(**).

        Once Amtrak, Florida, and a federal funding act or two cleared the way for the feds to pay most of the bulk cost of double-tracking FEC from Jacksonville to Miami, FEC announced that Amtrak was welcome with open arms (Amtrak itself is still trying to scrape up funding for the trainsets themselves, or come up with a good way to split & join NY-Florida trains in Jacksonville so half can proceed straight down the east coast to Miami, and the other half can run to Orlando & Tampa (historically, Amtrak has always resisted splitting/joining trains anywhere besides an endpoint).

        (*)About 15 years ago, FDOT approached CSX with a request to double-track it from Auburndale to Tampa for Tampa-Miami passenger rail. CSX refused. FDOT offered to TRIPLE-track it... and CSX still refused. Exasperated, FDOT offered to elevate a ~12 mile segment running through Lakeland, and CSX told them that the only way they'd voluntarily allow it is if FDOT agreed to let CSX refund the purchase price and demolish it at will if it later decided that the support columns or track structure were in the way of whatever they felt like doing. That was the turning point when FDOT decided that any future rail route between Orlando and Tampa simply *had* to run along I-4 instead of CSX... CSX was impossible to deal with in any sane way, and taking the corridor via eminent domain would have ended up costing more than building it down the middle of I-4 instead (I-4 was planned for complete reconstruction over the next 10-20 years anyway, and FDOT owned a fairly wide corridor that was straight and flat, so they just designed the empty space into the new road and bridges so it would be there when the day came to build the new tracks).

        (**)FEC is a HUGE proponent of cross-training and automation, and because it operates entirely within a single state, it can get away with telling its union to go to hell over things that would get CSX crucified. For example, FEC requires all engineers and conductors to be cross-trained and capable of serving either role as needed (sensible and efficient, but *vehemently* opposed by railroad unions because it means the conductor can operate the train while the engineer takes a break, instead of having to staff a second engineer while the conductor twiddles his thumbs). I believe it also requires engineer-conductors to have college degrees.

    • by Type44Q (1233630)

      On good old 18th and 19th century style rails-on-wood-in-pebble ballast. I could drive my dodge caravan around at 100MPH too and call it a high speed sports car....

      However, it'd be far more entertaining for the rest of us if you drove it around at 100mph (on good old 18th and 19th century style rails-on-wood-in-pebble ballast) and called it a train... :p

    • by whitroth (9367)

      The problems are that a) Congress has consistantly underfunded Amtrak for decades, leading to slower maintenance, and b) in just about all of the rest of the country, Amtrack goes over leased trackage from other railroads... who do no, or almost no, passenger, and all freight... and so they maintain the trackage to *freight* standards (trains hitting 80mph are *very* rare - 55 or 60 is full speed, and slower for long, heavy trains.

      Note that in 1915? 25? a Pennsy E6 Atlantic (passenger steam loco) was clocke

      • by Salgak1 (20136)

        The problems are that a) Congress has consistantly underfunded Amtrak for decades, leading to slower maintenance, and b) in just about all of the rest of the country, Amtrack goes over leased trackage from other railroads... who do no, or almost no, passenger, and all freight... and so they maintain the trackage to *freight* standards (trains hitting 80mph are *very* rare - 55 or 60 is full speed, and slower for long, heavy trains.

        OR, you **COULD** note that Passenger Rail was effectively killed by the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s, and Congress funds AMTRAK primarily to keep the only viable lines going: the Northeast Corridor, and to a lesser extent, the San Francisco-San Diego corridor. Highways and airlines have effectively obsoleted railroads for most passenger applications in the vast majority of the US. . .

        • by gsnedders (928327)

          In most countries with 250km/h (155mph) plus high speed rail, it's taking back marketshare from the airlines --- because it tends to be quicker, by virtue of not having to arrive at an airport an hour before departure, not having the hassle of security, etc.

          To use the typical North Eastern corridor example, it'd be far from impossible to build a line from New York to Washington DC, with one stop in Philadelphia, that would run in under two hours. This is half the time of driving between the two, and only ha

          • certainly I wouldn't want to do a transcontinental journey by train

            Speaking as someone who has done exactly that...it is not really so bad, as long as you have time for it. The biggest problem was not with being on a train (it is far more pleasant to spend 4 days on a train than one hour on an airplane), but with delays caused by freight railroads prioritizing their traffic. If Amtrak were running on its own right-of-way rather than leasing, the journey would probably face far fewer delays, and the trains could run much faster (though not as fast as Japanese trains).

      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        And, of course, Congress let the railroads prioritize Amtrack, on the leased trackage, *lower* than the frieght traffic, leading to frequent *long* delays of schedule.

        Not exactly. What happened was this:
        - In the early days of Amtrak, railroads were required by law to prioritize Amtrak over freight traffic.
        - In the 1980's, Congress quietly slipped in a provision at the behest of railroad lobbyists that said that while railroads were still required by law to prioritize Amtrak, Amtrak no longer had the power to sue the railroads to enforce that rule. This of course allowed the railroads to ignore the law, since no one could enforce it.
        - George W Bush of all people got throu

      • by moeinvt (851793)

        The problem is that the federal government killed the railroads by subsidizing the automobile and petroleum industries. Rail didn't stand a chance when government was funneling billions into projects that boosted their competitors. Then, when, government nationalized the railroads during WW1, they never recovered.

        Automobiles and all the associated problems (emissions, urban sprawl, accidents, etc.) are the "central planning" solution to transportation. If the auto and petroleum industries had been force

    • Actually most of the NEC is continuously-welded rail on modern concrete sleepers and I've got a GPS snapshot of going 125MPH, not even on the Acela, just the normal trainsets. Still a joke compared to other countries, but you can do Philly-Newark, about 100 miles line of sight, in 58 minutes (real-world and experienced), for $51. For one person, you beat the cost of driving, and for two, you beat the cost of driving and time (especially when you include comfort).

  • They don't even have wifi on all of their trains yet. They need to do that before they worry about how good it is.
    • Having Wi-fi on some of the lines would be pointless, because there's no infrastructure around for the train to connect to. If you're taking the Empire Builder from Chicago to Seatle, you're not going to get broadband internet out in the North Dakota wilderness.

      • It doesn't need to work continously. Even on the trains that have it now, it only works reliably while in towns. If you're taking a 3 day cross country trip, having 10 minutes of internet every 2 hours is still an improvement.

  • they're not really moving to transferring the data through the tracks or something like that, are they, is it that they're switching to faster cellular technology?

    what's amusing in the article is that someone complained that she had to use her own mobile data connection to keep working. well, doh, that's what it's for. which gets us to the point that the networks should just build better coverage so patrons wouldn't need the train as the proxy between the network and their machine..

    of course, americans shou

    • They set up a captive portal on the trains, put the antennas on the outside. Probably just upgrading from a 3g cell card to one that supports 4g. The cell signal outside the rail car is much better than trying to get a signal inside a metal can. You're also assuming that everyone has a phone. What about wifi only devices? There's many a laptops that benefit from using the wifi/cell service they're providing.

      • What about wifi only devices?

        For a little over a dollar a day, users of Wi-Fi-only device can buy a cellular radio with a Wi-Fi router. You could think of it as a cell phone that doesn't make calls because it's only designed for tethering.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        They set up a captive portal on the trains, put the antennas on the outside. Probably just upgrading from a 3g cell card to one that supports 4g. The cell signal outside the rail car is much better than trying to get a signal inside a metal can. You're also assuming that everyone has a phone. What about wifi only devices? There's many a laptops that benefit from using the wifi/cell service they're providing.

        we have same kind of system here on trains. only problem is that your average modern phone gets just as good connection if it's by the window - and it's not shared with hundred other people. and my point was partially that she chose to first use the crappy train connection even though she already had perfectly good working private connection to the same data transfer system.

        (most internet sharing from phones is nowadays done over wifi-hotspot functionality even if bluetooth would make more sense for it..)

  • A bit of good news for American travelers

    All ten of them will no doubt be thrilled to hear this.

  • Unless they did the upgrades and left them off the entire time, and then flipped this on in the last week, it hasn't made a damn bit of difference on the Acela trains.

    Upside, its a good excuse to not be productive for a few hours.

  • I'm not sure why we should be so worried about lack of Wi-Fi when most of us don't have access to high speed rail, period. The only current high-speed line on the Amtrak system is on the east coast, which connects the biggest east coast cities but does nothing for anyone else. We can't really start comparing Amtrak to actual high speed rail until we start connecting more cities at speeds greater than what the average Hyundai can achieve. There is plenty of demand from passengers tired of requisite anal probes at the airports, it is time to produce a real plan and go forward. NYC->Chicago would be a great start for one.
    • Exactly. I'm on the west coast- the Pacific Coast Starlight goes over 1500 miles with NO wifi access at all. And I can drive to Seattle faster in a Prius than on either the PCS or the Cascades.

      • You mean this one [amtrak.com], the description of which specifically mentions "Sleeping car passengers can experience a full range of exclusive services and amenities on the Coast Starlight, including complimentary onboard internet access via AmtrakConnect and an exciting alternative meal service, both available in the Parlour Car."

        It's restricted to select passengers and only in one car, apparently, but it IS there.

  • Amtrak is more expensive than airlines on the same route, is usually slower than both airline and intercity express bus (including airport security times) to the same destination. And offers both worse service/schedules and en route service than either. Why would anyone ride Amtrak other than for nostalgia? (not that it can't be made better, but that will take tons of investment that it appears no one is willing to make)
    • Well, I actually fit in an Amtrak coach seat (I'm 6'2", which, as I understand it, is ridiculously tall in America, nobody could possibly be that tall, and that's why airline seats are designed for people no more than 4' high, which is presumably normal.)

      That's a good reason to begin with.

      Also: the ability to get up and walk around, the view out the window, and the fact I can arrive at my destination relaxed. Show me someone who says they're relaxed after a long distance bus or air trip, and I'll show

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      And offers both worse service/schedules and en route service than either.

      The en route service is actually significantly nicer than buses or planes: You get about 2-3 times as much leg room, on some routes there's a full-service diner on board, and there's almost always a lounge / cafe car with very comfortable seating and snacks for sale. Some of the Europeans I've run into say that Amtrak's on-board experience compares favorably to what they get in their countries, even if the trains are slower.

      For long distance trains, part of the appeal for some is seeing the country from wha

      • by geekoid (135745)

        What about leg room over time? I spend 4 hours in the air with little leg room, and then I get all the leg room I want. During that same distance on a train, you get adequate legroom for 2 days.

        frankly, I would rather be uncomfortable for 4 hours then on a train for 2 days

        and I've seen most of the country, and most of it is blah. the rest is interesting for 10 minutes.

        "Also, quite interestingly, it's the standard way to travel long distances for Amish and Mennonites."
        no, that's' not interesting at all. it's

      • Some of the Europeans I've run into say that Amtrak's on-board experience compares favorably to what they get in their countries, even if the trains are slower.

        As someone who's travelled on more than his fair share of trains in Europeland - at least on the west coast, Amtrak trains are super-comfy. Big seats, loads of legroom, decent food (on the last trip - previous trip a few years ago involved a fossilised, tepid space-burger).

        Best of all, there's often a carriage specifically for viewing the scenery goi

    • Not in the Northeast. It's cost and time competitive with planes from Boston to Washington (even better for points in between, like PhillyNYC) when you include security (and sometimes without). And it's miles more convenient, since it takes you right into the middle of the city. And miles more comfortable.

      Some comparisons - from Amtrak website and Expedia, for June 3

      Bos - DC - $70 for 7h40, $251 for 6h40. 18 trains between 5AM and 9PM
      Bos - NYC - $49 for 4h (faster than you can drive it), $107 for 3h25, 19 t

      • Definitely not in "the corridor" however, someone explain to me how Amtrak can justify can charging $54 for a trip from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia (a 4.5 hour drive, yes, that's typical for me, about $45 with tolls/gas) that takes Amtrak 7 hours and 25 minutes to arrive? And only one departure a day at 7:30am on weekdays. Oh, and Bolt or Megabus can get there in 6 hours nonstop for as low as $15, with better legroom than the airlines and better Wi-Fi than Amtrak or the Airline, yes, a bus beats the train e
        • My brother goes to school in Pittsburgh and has taken the buses back east, and you're full of shit. First of all, Bolt doesn't even go from Pittsburgh to anywhere. And Megabus most certainly isn't nonstop to Philadelphia, it's got a stop in Harrisburg. It is indeed cheaper and has more options (3 vs 1) to take the bus, but Amtrak is almost always on time or early (last time about half an hour) and Megabus is in his experience laughably late. He's taken Megabus a few times to Philadelphia en route to our gra

  • Great news! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Phoenix666 (184391) on Friday May 17, 2013 @02:02PM (#43755145)

    Train travel far exceeds air travel in the experience, especially if you get a sleeper compartment. You get your own TV, outlets, desk, toilet in your compartment, complimentary drinks, and access to all the first-class amenities. It's like travelling around in your little apartment or office. And there's something about working while the scenery flashes by that is mentally and creatively stimulating. When you get tired, you can lay down on a real bed. When you want to stretch your legs, you can walk the whole length of train if you want, without squeezing through the forest of elbows on the cattle cars they call "jumbo" jets.

    You also get to go from city center to city center, so the connections to the train station are always easier and cheaper than getting to the airport and getting your anal probe from the TSA. Japan and Europe have had high speed train travel forever, on land masses roughly the scale of the US (Japan, for example, is longer that California, Europe is bigger than the continental US), so it can be done.

    • oh yes, it's great if you want to spend $300 a night for a fold down bed in a closet with a bathroom down the hall that you need to reserve months ahead of time. What a great deal!
      • by kamapuaa (555446)

        Right, only Europe has nearly three times the population density, and Japan has nearly ten times the population density [infoplease.com]. Have you ever been in a train? They're slightly better than a cheaper airline, but I just can't imagine comparing the cramped quarters to an actual office.

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          Right, only Europe has nearly three times the population density, and Japan has nearly ten times the population density [infoplease.com]. Have you ever been in a train? They're slightly better than a cheaper airline, but I just can't imagine comparing the cramped quarters to an actual office.

          high speed trains have worse seating than the old trains over here.. because the seats are weight optimized and cheap(not much cushion..), this is in europe with european made trains(italians though, so they break every fucking winter).

          taking a train with complimentary drinks is bound to be more expensive than flying anyways, it only makes sense if you can get the company to pay for both the trip and your time spent doing the trip(provided train trip lenght would be more than 2 hours, at less than 2 hours i

  • I think Amtrack should for frequent travelers price match air travel (including non luxury rooms for multiple people). They need to romanticize rail travel again. Also probably work with travel agencies and cities with circular routes to popular destinations.

  • I think we'll all enjoy 4 seconds of free WiFi.
  • I used it a few days ago from Boston to NYC and back. The Wifi was very good - except the stretch between NYC and New Rochelle. When we couldn't get Wifi - the conductor told us we'd get a signal when we hit New Rochelle. Sure enough, he was correct. It was a very busy train, and connection speeds were decent. I was even doing things like yum installs and all worked very smoothly! :-)
  • What the summary fails to mention, and even TFA glosses over, is that Amtrak still doesn't have WiFi at all on many of its routes, and this upgrade does not include plans to add it to the ones that don't have it. Still, with luck this will be a significant improvement for the ones that do.

Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious animal on earth.

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