Tuesday, March 17, 2009
A Recession Silver Lining
Amtrak's daily Coast Starlight travels in both directions from Seattle to Los Angeles, and in the thirty years I've been taking it, the train has never arrived at its scheduled time. However, in the last month, I've hopped onboard the Coast Starlight in Oakland twice to visit family in San Luis Obispo, and on both occasions the train has not only been on time but has arrived at my destination thirty minutes early.
"What's up?" I asked one of the conductors. "Has the world spun off its regular axis?" He replied that the reason the Amtrak schedule has always been screwed up was because Union Pacific freight trains had first priority on all the tracks while Amtrak trains had to sit and wait for the freight to go through, which has always been a ridiculous state of affairs.
"Union Pacific has cut back their traffic by about sixty percent," the conductor said, which is probably an exaggeration (click here for an AP Transportation article and here for a Fort-Worth Star telegram about the company), but the current disastrous economy is definitely having an effect on rail freight which is good news for those who long for a more reliable passenger train network.
So if you've recently been thrown to the curb by your employer, consider a long train trip where you can share lovely meals with Taiwanese stewardesses on a cheap holiday.