Screw Amtrak!!!

The Boston Globe reports today that Amtrak is cutting Acela fares in the Northeast by up to 25 percent. What they neglect to mention though is that the federally subsidized transcontinental crawler remains the most overpriced and organizationally offensive way to hop up and down the coastline.

No doubt I’m a broke complainer who has for years made it a priority to bitch about the cost of Amtrak; I only use it occasionally to make traveling uncomfortable for businesspeople who think riders should be on library behavior regardless of whether they’re in designated quiet cars.

But for a company that relies on federal funding, I find their practices to be indefensibly prejudicial. Considering how commuter trains between Boston and New York take less than one hour longer than Acela trips, the only real difference is the price tag. It’s simple segregation; those who have enough means don’t have to shoulder up with middle class barbarians.

The news in this morning’s Globe article is infuriating; only now that companies are cutting back has Amtrak lowered rates. Furthermore, they’re only dropping prices on Acela trains, which normal folks don’t use anyway (and which, as Senator John Kerry argues, are a huge rip-off since infrastructure is in such poor repair that trains only reach maximum speeds for a few miles.)

I suppose that when you’re limping with a governmental crutch there’s no use devising real solutions – especially when such solutions would mean that professionals might have to share rails with laptop-stealing paupers. I have a profitable idea they might want to consider though: have a $20 party train with a DJ every night; not only would it reach capacity regularly but the booze sales would be through the tin.

Recently I asked a friend in corporate real estate – who was sitting on a number of vacant properties – why his firm is so loathe to lower prices dramatically in order to fill spaces. Not surprisingly, he had no real answer for why it makes more sense to let a $1 million-a-month office sit empty for years on end than to let a business pay half that.

The same mentality prevails at Amtrak, where Northeast ridership dropped nearly 12 percent in the past year. Screw them; as those of us who couldn’t and still can’t afford such boutique services have known for years – we can take the Bolt, Fung Wah, Lucky Star, or Megabus back-and-forth half-a-dozen times for the price of one lousy round trip on the bourgeois iron horse.

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