Talk:Rail travel in the United States

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Amtrak system map[edit]

Map of all Amtrak trains as of circa 2012. The thin line represents the discontinued Sunset Limited East of New Orleans
Another map with the focus more on frequency of service rather than geographic accuracy
Diagrammatic map with better use of color to distinguish frequency

This might be one image too many on the mainspace page, but it surely can't hurt on the talk page...Hobbitschuster (talk) 20:13, 23 July 2015 (UTC)

In an article such as this, I should think a map to be far more useful than any other image. Powers (talk) 21:03, 26 July 2015 (UTC)
This map has several issues, imho. For one it does not show frequencies (or the fact that some stations get one train per day at 2:17 AM). Another issue I have with this map is the way the route from New Orleans East towards Jacksonville (which has not seen a train in a decade now) is displayed somewhat awkwardly... Hobbitschuster (talk) 21:19, 26 July 2015 (UTC)
It may have a couple of issues, but surely it's better than no map at all. Powers (talk) 19:38, 27 July 2015 (UTC)
I shall raise no objection if you find a suitable place to integrate it into the article... However, chose between this map and the other I just uploaded. I think it might be better suited for our purposes but I ain't sure... Hobbitschuster (talk) 19:53, 27 July 2015 (UTC)
At article size, I'm not sure the line widths will be distinguishable. I find the first map more aesthetic. Powers (talk) 17:03, 28 July 2015 (UTC)
Neither is 100% the best possible option. For one the map would gain by color coding frequencies instead of hardly distinguishable thicknesses. And the whole sunset limited issue isn't satisfying either... Hobbitschuster (talk) 22:08, 28 July 2015 (UTC)
How about a map that uses color and line thickness to distinguish frequency? I like the diagrammatic approach of the second map; it's not as aesthetically pleasing as the first, to be sure, but it offers more information at-a-glance. PerryPlanet (talk) 23:45, 28 July 2015 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I like the new map a lot better (though journey times and/or speeds might be a good feature as well). Thanks for making it. However while aesthetic considerations may be a legitimate concern over here, they should not trump value added to the voyager... Best wishes Hobbitschuster (talk) 00:40, 29 July 2015 (UTC)

I think travel times and speeds would be too much info to put into that map. Besides, travel times are already listed in the list of routes on the page, and speeds are extremely variable (this is Amtrak, after all). PerryPlanet (talk) 02:18, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
From a short stretch of 150 mph and the "breakneck" speed of 110 mph (just 10% faster than a regional train in Germany) to the incredible 79 mph ;-). Still, having the information of whether you are in for a slow crawl or something slightly above that is certainly a good idea. But if it is already in effect mentioned in the routes, maybe there is no need for an extra map on that. We should however make sure that the numbers are correct especially if (when) route speeds are updated. I recently heard about Vancouver-Seattle and St. Louis - Chicago being upgraded to 110 mph... Hobbitschuster (talk) 15:17, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
Hobbitschuster, are you aware that it's common for long-haul Amtrak trains to arrive 8 hours late or more? We just don't spend remotely close to a sufficient amount on trains in the US. Ikan Kekek (talk) 21:12, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
Ikan has already pointed out how common it is for Amtrak trains to arrive late, but even more than that, 150, 110, and 79 mph are all top speeds — not average speeds, which is the more crucial indicator of how long a trip will take from a traveller's perspective, and which vary dramatically based on the section of the route, how heavy the freight traffic is, and how well Amtrak has been doing keeping their trains running on-time. PerryPlanet (talk) 21:22, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
I am well aware of the issues with Amtrak trains running late (most often, but not always due to a freight train blocking the single track). And I am also aware that the famed 150 mph only apply for a rather short section of tracks somewhere in Pennsylvania (or was it New York?). The funny thing is: I am also extremely familiar with German complaining about Deutsche Bahn, who gives (has to give, according to EU law) a 25% refund if the train is an hour late and a fifty percent refund if the train is two hours late. If that were the case for Amtrak, it would probably be even more bankrupt than it already is. In their defense though, Amtrak is seriously underfunded and has to maintain routes that only make sense from a political standpoint (If you run enough routes through enough districts, you make sure you get your funding). And their is one thing Amtrak does which has been almost entirely shut down in Europe: ultra-long-distance sleepers. True going from Madrid to Berlin would not take seventy hours in Europe. But there is no-one offering a single seat, much less a single sleeping car ride much less with daily departures. I would be very happy to see such a thing appear again in Europe. Even at Amtrak speeds. Hobbitschuster (talk) 21:44, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
"while aesthetic considerations may be a legitimate concern over here, they should not trump value added to the voyager" -- this is only opinion, not objective truth. To the extent that "the traveller comes first", aesthetics contributes to the value of an image in that it attracts the reader's attention and presents in the information in a more digestible form. Powers (talk) 23:36, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
The problem with the first map, however, is that aesthetics is really the only thing it has going for it; information-wise, it's actually quite misleading in presenting all Amtrak services as if they're equal. To paraphrase a favorite blogger of mine, it's as if you had a street map where every kind of road was labeled the same: it's not wrong, necessarily, but it is misleading. PerryPlanet (talk) 03:05, 30 July 2015 (UTC)
I emphatically agree with you - at least if you apply said logic to dense urban and regional networks. However, for long distance train networks it is often harder to find a map at all, as most people plan their trip when buying the tickets (the spontaneous need to know "what goes where" is not as big). That being said, even DB is able to make a (sub-par) map of their ICE routes Hobbitschuster (talk) 13:48, 30 July 2015 (UTC)
"However, for long distance train networks it is often harder to find a map at all, as most people plan their trip when buying the tickets"
Well, by that logic we don't need a map at all. But what you're describing is only true of European (and perhaps certain Asian) train systems, where buying train tickets is akin to buying plane tickets - the systems are so dense and frequent that you can be assured of finding multiple options, so you let the computer find the most direct or cheapest or timeliest route for you. With Amtrak, however, because it's spread out so thinly across the country and places a bigger emphasis on the individual routes (some of which are almost attractions in their own right), maps have always played a bigger role in illustrating where Amtrak goes. If there's one thing I can say for Amtrak over its European counterparts, it's that they use maps to much better effect. PerryPlanet (talk) 16:06, 30 July 2015 (UTC)
I agree with you. Furthermore in the - not so good - old days buying a train ticket would mean going to the counter and there you would talk to an actual human being who - if (s)he was so inclined - would explain routes and connections better than any map could. Of course if there is one train from Chicago to LA every day it is a different beast than if there are two trains from Hamburg to Munich every hour but there is also one connection every hour where you have to change trains in Frankfurt and than there is the reduced fare for the train leaving at 5:45 AM and than there is... My point is: if one system needs a map, it is probably Amtrak. The European and East Asian systems probably would need a map emphasizing speeds more than one emphasizing the availability of connections - It is safe to assume there is a connection. Hobbitschuster (talk) 16:19, 30 July 2015 (UTC)
I guess I don't see frequency as all that important to an Amtrak system map. It's far, far more important to Amtrak customers in general to see where a train goes; what does knowing that the train comes twice a day versus once a day provide as an advantage to them? Powers (talk) 18:55, 30 July 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I guess it seems obvious (to me) if one compares the extreme points: The Acela and the Sunset Limited. They are vastly different beasts and are used by vastly different people. And one of the things (besides speed and travel time) that is vastly different between them is frequency of service... Hobbitschuster (talk) 19:35, 30 July 2015 (UTC)

For me, the frequency of service is a huge deal. A train that runs twice a day suddenly makes certain trips possible where a train that only runs once a day doesn't. For instance, when I was living in North Carolina, I was able to take a day trip between Raleigh and Charlotte on Amtrak because there were a couple of trains running in both directions each day, so I could take one in the morning and get back in the evening. Had there been only one train, I likely would have had to spend the night. If you're in a place where a long-distance train runs only once a day, you're at the mercy of the schedule; if you're unlucky, your one train might only show up very early in the morning. Frequency, along with factors like speed and comfort, plays a huge role in the usability of a system: a train that runs multiple times a day offers you multiple options when you're scheduling your trip and is more forgivable in the event that, say, you miss your train, whereas a train that runs only three times a week is (in my eyes) next to useless as a serious transportation option. PerryPlanet (talk) 19:47, 30 July 2015 (UTC)
I could not agree more. Hobbitschuster (talk) 20:52, 30 July 2015 (UTC)
It's not useless if the times coincide with when you want to travel -- or if you don't care exactly when you travel. And the frequency information is useless without knowing the schedule. I'll concede the Acela issue but that's really an outlier in the entire system. Most of the network comprises daily long-haul trains. And even the frequency map can be misleading; for instance, the Lake Shore Limited travels the same route through New York as Empire Service does, but stops at fewer stations. So, for example, Rome sees 4 trains in each direction daily, but only three of them stop. Also, the schematic map doesn't accurately show routes, which further limits its utility outside the major cities.
I don't really have an objection to adding frequency data, but it's not useful enough to sacrifice the benefits of a more accurate and aesthetic geographic representation if we must choose one or the other.
-- Powers (talk) 14:37, 31 July 2015 (UTC)
I feel like we're not going to come to an agreement on this, so how about we just put up both maps on this guide? PerryPlanet (talk) 15:52, 31 July 2015 (UTC)
I think that for most Amtrak lines, planning anything based on the notional schedule or alleged frequency of service is a very poor choice. Routes that have frequent service can and should be covered individually. Ikan Kekek (talk) 20:15, 31 July 2015 (UTC)
Hey, as I said when this discussion started, any map is better than no map. Powers (talk) 23:51, 1 August 2015 (UTC)
I'd think everyone can agree on that! Ikan Kekek (talk) 06:29, 2 August 2015 (UTC)

The Sunset Limited east of New Orleans[edit]

In the geographic system map it is still shown. However as the last service was prior to Hurricane Katrina, I guess it's gone and not coming back. While pointing this out might make our guides look bad, not pointing it out does not serve the voyager. Probably the easiest thing to do would be to update the map... Are there users with the requisite graphic design knowledge? Hobbitschuster (talk) 22:35, 15 August 2015 (UTC)

A few frequency map issues[edit]

I notice a few issues on the map with regards to both frequency, layout accuracy, and layout clarity. Frequency issues: 1. Bakersfield-Fresno-Stockton has 7 TPD and should be red. 2. Vancouver-Portland has 6 TPD and should be red. Very soon, the entire Seattle-Vancouver-Portland segment will be as well. 3. Norfolk-Richmond(Actually Petersburg VA) is 1 TPD and should be blue.

Layout Accuracy issues: 1. Raleigh is not on the line from Charleston to Richmond. The Raleigh dot should be labeled Selma. 2. No segment from Orlando-Miami is only served by one train per day- The Orlando-Tampa-Miami Silver star provides service to every point along the Miami-Orlando line as well. Perhaps a blue line intersecting an orange line south of Orlando would be the clearest way to show this.

Layout Clarity issues: Doing a point map can cause issues if you don't include the junction cities. A lot have been added in the color version which makes it a substantially better map than the prior version, but there are a number which would really help for clarity. 1. Fort Edward NY- The Ethan Allen and Adirondack share a substantial route distance north of Albany, with 3 relatively busy stations. The current Albany dot is in roughly the right place for Fort Edward- Putting a new dot south of there for Albany would probably be the clearest way to show this. 2. Greensboro NC and or Raleigh NC- Both are important NC cities, showing them on the map would clear up this area a great deal. 3. Charlottesville VA- Would clear up the Cardinal in the VA area. 4. Battle Creek MI- Would show the significant overlap between Wolverine and Blue Water. 216.165.95.186 17:34, 19 October 2017 (UTC)

Thank you for informing us of those issues. I have raised the issue in the pub and hope someone who knows more about drawing maps than I do will address it in due time. Hobbitschuster (talk) 18:28, 19 October 2017 (UTC)
Whom can I tag, to draw some attention here? @Ikan Kekek:, @The dog2:, @ChubbyWimbus:, @AndreCarrotflower:, Template:ArticCynda, you all seem to have some knowledge of / interest in the US. I don't know who our maps experts are, but maybe you do. It would be nice to see to it that we deal this issue. Hobbitschuster (talk) 13:59, 20 October 2017 (UTC)
Unfortunately, I don't know how to draw a map, and neither have I taken the train in the US. My long distance travelling in the US has pretty much been done by car and by flying. The dog2 (talk) 18:13, 20 October 2017 (UTC)
I never learned how to draw a map, nor am I an expert on all of Amtrak's routes. Here's a map on the Amtrak site, which I would rely on as a source, though it doesn't include the Alaska Railway or non-Amtrak commuter routes. Ikan Kekek (talk) 22:08, 20 October 2017 (UTC)
Is User:PerryPlanet still active? Because it appears that the original map was made by that user. Hobbitschuster (talk) 11:43, 21 October 2017 (UTC)

Private railroad cars[edit]

So apparently this is a thing that exists (don't ask me how I found these links). If I am not entirely mistaken it is something like the railfan version of RVing... Only in much more time money and labor intensive, or so it would seem. While this seems like an interesting way to get around involving trains, I don't know whether it is within the scope of this article or WV in general... What do you think? Hobbitschuster (talk) 15:44, 23 November 2015 (UTC)

Or is it a more expensive and involved version of purchasing an automobile, which we don't cover? I'd say that if this is covered, it should be a very short afterword to this article at most. Ikan Kekek (talk) 15:48, 23 November 2015 (UTC)
I think mentioning that it exists is okay (though I guess we are out of our depth when it comes to creating a travel topic on it) and pointing to Amtrak (who moves these cars around) and the two associations (either we are dealing with the people's front of Judea here or this is a surprisingly widespread thing in the US) as better resources than we can possibly ever be on the issue. Supposedly you can also rent a private railcar if your pockets are deep enough... Hobbitschuster (talk) 15:52, 23 November 2015 (UTC)
OK, sure, mention it. 1 or 2 sentences should be all you need. Ikan Kekek (talk) 16:00, 23 November 2015 (UTC)
It seems to have slipped my memory to include this... Coming to think of it, maybe the talk page is the best place for it, after all ;-) Hobbitschuster (talk) 23:11, 12 December 2015 (UTC)

Changes coming to Amtrak? Err... Don't hold your breath[edit]

So apparently there are both changes to the Amtrak equivalent of frequent flyer miles and some "behind the scenes" changes, that may or may not affect travelers in years to come. Though, to be quite honest, I doubt much of anything will happen before this decade is out. If history has taught us anything, Amtrak is very good at just barely surviving and not moving very much in either direction - recent ridership growth notwithstanding. Hobbitschuster (talk) 23:10, 12 December 2015 (UTC)

Tipping[edit]

Should mention be made of what is customary to tip or whom to tip? (e.g. dining car meals, sleeper attendants) Hobbitschuster (talk) 03:26, 28 January 2017 (UTC)

Did someone copy from us or did we copy?[edit]

I just found this linked on the internet. It looks a lot like our article. Who copies from where there? Hobbitschuster (talk) 16:31, 19 October 2017 (UTC)

It links to us at the bottom, which seems to barely satisfy the legal requirements. Powers (talk) 02:34, 21 October 2017 (UTC)

Brightline Miami[edit]

So when Brightline first started service between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale it read decided that it shouldn't be mentioned here. Now they've added service to Miami. Does that change the picture? Hobbitschuster (talk) 14:54, 11 May 2018 (UTC)

I don't think so. It's still a small regional rail line like Caltrain or the South Shore Line, which are not mentioned either. If you want to list all the commuter rail systems in the U.S. in this article, that would be one thing, but I don't think it makes sense to highlight Brightline over all the others. —Granger (talk · contribs) 05:12, 12 May 2018 (UTC)
What when they add service to Orlando? Hobbitschuster (talk) 11:35, 14 May 2018 (UTC)
At that point I wouldn't object to a couple of sentences, given that it's a more significant distance and both Orlando and Miami are important tourist destinations. —Granger (talk · contribs) 13:50, 14 May 2018 (UTC)
AT this point it seems at least as relevant as the Antrak regional services in, say, California or the Midwest.Beeelb (talk) 02:18, 4 January 2020 (UTC)

Downeaster and Dome car 2018[edit]

Amtrak Great Dome Car. Between August 11 and September 22, 2018 will be available on the Downeaster. (I think the Dome car was built in the 1950's) This may be of some significance for railway enthusiasts. May want to verify and add to article for short time. -- Matroc (talk) 02:52, 24 July 2018 (UTC)

Is this something that happens with some sort of regularity or is this (almost) certainly a one-off? Hobbitschuster (talk) 19:07, 24 July 2018 (UTC)

Amtrak's political situation[edit]

The "Understand" section seems to be a bit bloated with discussion of Antrak's eternally precarious and ever-changing political and financial situation - I feel like that's more relevant to us Amtrak supporters than actual travelers, and better covered elsewhere - this article should be more about the currently existing experience of traveling on Amtrak, no?Beeelb (talk) 02:28, 4 January 2020 (UTC)

The politics affect and explain the travel situation... Hobbitschuster (talk) 04:01, 4 January 2020 (UTC)