Friday, December 18, 2009

Amtrak: Too quick or too slow?

For trips between Boston and New York, there is nothing like the Amtrak Acela Express. It is convenient to downtown in both cities, comfortable, reliable, and quick.

Well, maybe too quick.

Several days ago, I posted a comment on Universal Hub and a helpful person replied with the website for Amtrak customer relations. So, I sent in the following note:

I am worried about the driver of the 4pm NYC-Boston Acela train exceeding the speed limit on the segment between Providence and Rte 128. It is a running joke among the porters that he is always in a hurry to get home. I have now seen this happen several times on that train. Last week, when I took it (Dec 1), you could actually smell the asbestos in the back car as he had to jam on the brakes before going over one of the bridges. I hope someone looks into this before the NTSB has to do so as part of an accident investigation.

Here was the response:

Thank you for contacting us. We have forwarded your e-mail to our Customer Relations Department. They will contact you as soon as possible in the order that the e-mail was received. Due to higher than normal volume, please allow up to 4 weeks for a response.

Four weeks = 28 trains. Thousands of passengers. A potential safety hazard.

Four weeks?

Too quick, or too slow?


Anonymous said...


jessica lipnack said...

Have actually been taking the Bolt Bus of late. Has wireless. Costs $15. No asbestos.

catsandmusic said...

I took the regular Amtrak a couple of years ago and must have had that engineer, as I started making a good Act of Contrition (the prayer that Catholics are supposed to say just before death) shortly after we left Providence. I think Providence to 128 took about twenty minutes, tops. The earlier leg of the trip had been fine--maybe just like on the roads, they enforce the speed limit in CT!

I never called or wrote in to Amtrak, even though I still think of that ride every time I contemplate taking the train because it is "relaxing".

e-Patient Dave said...

Yeah, Bolt Bus is surprisingly good! And sometimes it's less than $15; their ticket purchase page adjusts prices automatically as the date approaches. I've seen tickets for $3.

HOWever, my wife won't take it any more, because the two drivers we had were both leadfoot drivers: push on the gas, heavy on the brakes, inducing a woozy feeling!

I wrote to them and had a great discussion with intelligent customer service managers, who said they'd pass it along, and I believed them.

p.s. Paul, did you try some other way to reach someone in power there? I'd call the ticket sales line and say "I think this is an emergency - this driver is going to cause an accident, and I'm trying to report it before it's too late. By the way, what was your name?" That tends to work. Nothing like some accountability!

Anonymous said...

I Love the limoliner!! It is pricy (about $180 round trip) but less expensive than Amtrak. This motor coach goes from Hilton Boston to Hilton NY (with an optional stop in Framingham). Wireless, a movie, a meal, snacks great service, clean and very reliable. A great option...and typically a very productive environment.

Dani B. said...

The stretch between Providence and Route 128 is the fastest track on the entire trip. This is the only location where conditions allow for the acela to crank up to it's limit of 150 MPH.

It is actually impossible for a train driver to speed within the Northeast Corridor as all engines are outfitted with a system that regulates the speed based on electronic-signals from the tracks. If he's driving it then it has to be allowable.

Anonymous said...

Reassuring, but still waiting for a similar response from Amtrak.