December 21, 2004

Amtrak Guest Rewards Redemption System

Category: Transit

amguest.gifChicago: I was quite pleased to notice the other day that I had enough Amtrak points for a free trip to Chicago. So, the night before my trip, I logged onto the Amtrak website and went through the process to redeem my points. As part of the confirmation message after all was said and done, I read that my tickets would "be available for pickup in the station in 2 business days".

Lovely! So I actually have to wait for *paper* tickets to be delivered long after my actual planned date of travel. After a mind-numbing 20 minutes on hold I was told that not only is that the way things work, but it wouldn't do me any good anyway because the entire week is blacked out for redemptions. Obnoxious. The customer service person was nice enough to refund my points, but sheesh, these are the things an online booking system should explain before you go through the process.

Posted by Nick at December 21, 2004 4:46 PM


I would find taking the train utterly horrendous. The last time I took the train overnight I had to "wire" the door latch together with my shoe laces because the latch was broken and the compartment door kept rolling open. I think Amtrak should concentrate on providing service on the east and west coasts and let private carriers provide long distance "vacation style" service, if there is a market for it.

Posted by: Zee [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 28, 2004 10:13 AM

Agreed - however, the spur routes out of Chicago to Milwaukee and St. Louis (and a few other places) are short enough that they ought to be included in the concentration. Long distance trains are essentially subsidised tourist shuttles that should mostly be dropped.

Posted by: Nick Aster [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 18, 2005 1:55 PM

"Long distance trains are essentially subsidised tourist shuttles that should mostly be dropped."

Of course, road and air travel are even more heavily subsidized, both directly and indirectly (via artificially low energy costs, which benefit the less efficient road and air proportionately more than rail.) If Amtrak were subsized as generously as the other modes of travel, maybe it could fix and upgrade equipment, become more reliable in its schedules, and pay for decent customer service and sensible booking programs. That in turn could boost ridership, making a small dent in probably the most serious problem facing us today (global climate change), decreasing our dependence on foreign oil, and reducing social costs of highway congestion and accidents.

A good speech by James Coston, a member of the "Amtrak Reform Council" which was supposed to guide Amtrak towards self-sufficiency:

Posted by: Scrub [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 30, 2005 10:27 PM