WASHINGTON, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA -- My luggage was left in Chicago. They delivered it to me on the next day, but my bag was torn. I called them, and they said that I should go back there and fill out a form. When I went back there, another employee said that I should mail them. I did it, and they do not answer any email, or call me.
UTICA, NEW YORK -- Took the Lake Shore Limited from Utica, NY to Chicago IL. Train was late but less than an hour. No biggie. Rode coach. Seats were fine and roomy for a non-superliner. Did not get much sleep but was pretty wound up anyway. Bathrooms were a little dirty but did not smell awful. Staff was fine, no problems. Enjoyed that leg just fine. Got into Chicago roughly on time. Once I found the Amtrak waiting area at the station I was fine but a rather confusing station. Wait for Southwest Chief was about 5 hours but that's the schedule and it's a once a day train and I was well aware that would be case. Comfortable waiting area but could use more restrooms.
Boarded Chief on time and was surprised how much room Superliner had in coach. If traveling with a companion I would have purchased sleeper but it's more than I was willing to spend traveling solo. Two outlets at every set of seats for electronics. Worked fine. The superliner cars in coach have 4 small and 1 handicap bathroom per unit. All were kept clean during trip and stocked well with soap, tissue and paper hand towels. One of the smaller bathrooms has a full-length mirror and a padded seat as a kind of changing room. Worked fine for sponge bath once a day and was able to wash hair in sink using paper cups (provided and kept stocked).
I did not use dining car as I packed a bunch of food and supplemented with lounge car chow. The staff on the Chief were all very professional and very nice. Chatted with some of them and none were rude. The lady running the lounge car food and drink was excellent and very informative. Lounge car afforded great views and was very clean. We did run into some heavy rain and the lounge car windows leaked but not bad and it was quickly spiffed up by train crew.
All in all, I had a great trip from Utica to LA. I hate flying and the return trip driving my buddies pickup truck was just awful compared to the train. Train travel may not be for everyone, I enjoy the ability to move around, meet new folks and use a bathroom whenever I wish. You won't be treated like royalty or pampered running coach on Amtrak but you can enjoy some great scenery and the unique experience of rail travel if you pack accordingly and expect a few bumps in the rail.
CHICAGO, CALIFORNIA -- I take the California Zephyr two to three times a year from Sacramento, CA to Elko, NV to visit family. I've been doing this for the past ten years. On my most recent trip, leaving Sacramento on 1/19/2016, I found the service beyond friendly, to my surprise. From the car attendant to the dining car personnel.
When we arrived at my destination, Elko, NV, in which we were twenty minutes early the conductor called me a cab because he had the number on speed dial. He also gave directions to the station over the phone to a parent of young teenager that was waiting for her ride. On my return trip 1/25/2016 to Sacramento the personnel were just as congenial. I know that AMTRAK gets its share of complaints but here is something positive from a regular rider that has seen a change in attitude.
ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA -- The Empire Builder experience? The conductor took my suitcase. When I detrained (delightful word), I asked her where it was. She said it was at the baggage claim. I walked all the way to the other end of Union Depot and waited for my suitcase, which never showed up. The man at the baggage claim said he never got it and I better run back because it's still on the train. Why he couldn't radio anyone to make sure the train didn't leave without my suitcase I have no idea. I ran back. The guys at the gate needed to be explained to. They let me go handle the situation myself. The conductor in question didn't even recognize me when I told her what happened.
We slowly tracked down the bag she had taken from me, hidden from me, and sent me on a wild goose chase after. When I asked her for an explanation, she threw me off the train. I've always preferred to travel slowly, by train, at least twice a year. Now, never again. You've alienated me forever, Amtrak. Goodbye.
HOUSTON, TEXAS -- My wife and I have taken the trip from Houston to New Orleans and back for a long weekend every year for the past 6 or 7 years. It is a relaxing (usually, if no loud kids) trip and we always enjoyed it. One of the big benefits was the free, ample parking at the Houston Station.
Well, needless to say, that has all changed. Now only 5 long term parking spaces at the station, otherwise you are on your own now. Why this change? Apparently, we don't have top security clearance to get an answer. Sadly, this will be our last trip on Amtrak. Over the past 6 years, we, too, have noticed a decrease in attentiveness and service (on top of the parking issue). Also, Amtrak's inability to reestablish service on the Sunset Ltd. to Orlando has been very disappointing.
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS -- Just a friendly reminder that no one should ever use Amtrak again. Their website will purchase authorize a ton of money out of your account, leaving you with holds on funds over $1000 for a $269.50 ticket since they attempt a purchase authorization each time you hit submit, and if your bank approves it, that does not mean Amtrak will approve it because if your billing info isn't the first set of billing info your bank returns (many accounts have primary, secondary and tertiary billing info, payment processors are expected to check all returned XML data, which Amtrak does not.)
Then they will refuse to help you in any way for hours on the phone, and claim that contacting your bank to help resolve the issue is "illegal" and attempt to blame the issue on you. As a web developer who interacts with payment gateways and payment processors and ACH processors, I know exactly what their website did, why it is wrong, and why it is their fault. The corporate bureaucracy involved with getting on the phone with a person that can help you is as follows:
Call. Press 0. Press 0. Ask to speak with a manager. Denied. Ask to speak with a customer rep, transfer + hold for 45 minutes, 4 hours on the phone explaining the situation (Monday), told it will be resolved by Friday, given exact instructions (step by step) for what to do when you call on Friday. Call Friday and follow steps and be told that everything you were told Monday you were not told.
Once again told it is illegal for a merchant to contact a bank to tell the bank that the transaction will not be processed (yeah, totally illegal guys, no merchant has ever contact a bank, ever, because of how illegal that is, right? Wrong, but hey, uninformed people probably buy that line all the time).
Finally have the person admit they were wrong and that it is just an internal policy, have them tell you they can offer you a travel voucher for your outgoing trip, but only after your bank denies the transaction one last time, bank denies the transaction and they say "it's your zip code, you aren't giving me the zip code correctly" and of course, I am SITTING AT THE BANK WITH THE BANK MANAGER WHO IS SAYING THAT IT IS THE ZIP CODE ON MY ACCOUNT.
Offer to put the bank manager on the phone, representative declines and once again says that the issue is with me, that no way could it be an issue with their system. Once again, while I am sitting at my bank, verifying the information as I speak it. Tell them once again you are not looking for anything FREE you are just not able to make the purchase, because they have already purchase authorized so much money out of your account.
Told once again it will be 3-5 business days and the transaction will fall off (it should have fallen off right away when they pinged the payment Gateway saying they were not going to pursue the transaction that was pre-authorized with the purchase authorization, but that is something the Amtrak programmer omitted). Explain to them that a mom and pop hair salon in rural Vermont has a better system that was designed for less than the purchase authorization holds and once again mention I do this for a living so STOP LYING TO ME PLEASE.
Told that a travel voucher for your outgoing trip will be made and that you can just hope and pray that the money is back in your account by Monday, because you are expected to show up at the train station with cash to pay for your ticket. Accept this, but tell them you want proof in an e-mail that this is indeed the case, that you have been ** around all week and do not trust that it is "in the system." They tell you they will send an email right away. Boom. E-mail sent. Call ended. Check e-mail, nothing about a voucher, just a bill.
Call back, ask the woman on the phone to confirm that it is paid. Woman says "it's in the system," ask for an e-mail with proof because you were told "it's in the system" on Monday, but when you called back Friday it was not. Mention that no less than 5 minutes ago, you were told by the customer relations person that they would send an email which would mention the "travel voucher."
Start to get attitude from the woman, ask her employee id number, refused. Ask her name, mumbled, ask her to repeat it and spell it, mumbled and subject change to transferring to customer relations. Ask to somehow not have to sit on another 45 min hold, or if there is ANY way to get some written proof that what is "in the system" is going to still be "in the system" the next day. Refused. Hung up on.
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS -- Our third AMTRAK trip to Chicago. 1st was Southwest Chief, 2nd was Empire Builder and last was California Zephyr. The first 2 were good experiences for my granddaughter to see the country. We always book a sleeping car and enjoy seating in the dining room with other people. There are always delays on Amtrak due to the whole rail ownership thing and we expect that. The Zephyr from Emeryville was no exception. It was late by 4 hours including 1 hour standing in the sun after the station guy told us to all go out and line up because the train would arrive in 5 minutes.
Once on board, it was past noon, so they said no lunch would be served. As a sleeping car passenger I figured they would provide free food from the snack bar, but no dice - we had to pay. Then we had a dinner reservation at 8 pm and waited and waited and waited until at 9 pm - they announced the dining room was closed. Quickly bought more microwave stuff at the snack bar. Next morning I jokingly asked the waitress if we were owed 2 lunches and 2 dinners - got a Mike Tyson response. Proceeded along and the scenery is great across the Sierras and Rockies. More delays due to flooding in Iowa and had to switch tracks, which meant waiting for a different train crew.
Finally on the last night they said they were out of food and our dinner was an Oliver Twist bowl of soup. I wondered what happened to all those lunches that were never served the first day - maybe packed up by the crew for the home freezer? Anyway we finally arrived in Chicago 13 hours behind schedule which created a whole host of other issues with hotel and rental car reservations. I love trains, but that crew based out of Chicago seemed to hate their jobs, the work and everyone they met - they only want the paycheck.
PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA -- Amtrak arrived about 40 minutes late. It was the night-train, going from Palm Springs, CA to downtown Los Angeles. Many seats were occupied by people who appeared half-rotten already due to a long trip from Texas, either trying to sleep, or perhaps comatose due to smells from the bathrooms. I seated myself, and the trip through the twilight route to L. Angeles began. To my detriment, the a/c was blowing freezing air into the compartment, mixed with smells of perfume and feces. Thank goodness I was prepared for catastrophic circumstances and had my artic-weather jacket with me.
Despite the jacket, the freezing air activated my bladder soon, and I had to go to the (infamous) Amtrak-toilet. Apart from the fact that it requires acrobatic skills to pee while the train moves at high speed and one is thrown around and has to grab something so one does not bang at the walls or sink, the smells and dirt are so gross that the Amtrak-horror finds its ultimate crescendo. To be repeated fairly soon, thanks to arctic climate control settings.
By the time the train arrived in Los Angeles, I looked and felt like old, wrinkled newspaper dunk in a used toilet. Amtrak is not for the faint-hearted. If you can tolerate "train-abuse", Amtrak is for you. Though, by all fairness, I have seen worse. So, be prepared for a rough ride and be grateful for arriving at your destination in one piece. Military personnel may love Amtrak, especially those who served in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Would I do it again? ONLY if I had absolutely no other alternatives, and I'd have a disinfectant spray with me for the bathrooms. One more thing, sleeping (well) on a rolling train is pretty much impossible. Count on arriving at your destination as a zombie in desperate need for sleep.
VIRGINIA -- My recent experience shows that Amtrak provides unreliable service, the trains are out of repair, and the customer service response is terrible. I bought two round-trip tickets so that my son and I could travel to Philadelphia to meet an important appointment of my son. For that reason, I bought tickets for an Amtrak train due to arrive at 12:15 pm. On Saturday, Nov 15th, after we arrived at the Alexandria station, however, we were informed that the 9 am train would not arrive which required us to take a train arriving at 10:45 am if we paid an additional $25.
If Amtrak had sent me an email notice prior to 9 am -- as I had requested when buying the tickets -- disclosing the problem with the first train we would have avoided the needless wait. Then we got on the second train (for which I paid an additional $25) and went to Union Station DC. That train, however, also had mechanical difficulties which created significant additional delay.
The train then proceeded on and I bought a Panini from the Amtrak food service. It has very soggy and hardly edible. At 2 pm (one hour and forty-five minutes after the scheduled arrival time), we arrived in Philadelphia on the second train. As a result of Amtrak's poor service, my son was agitated and a half hour late for his appointment.
I went on the Amtrak website and filed a complaint requesting a refund of one-half the price of my Amtrak tickets plus $25.00. Five days later I was contacted by an Amtrak representative that Amtrak would refund the $25 additional charge but none of the cost of one-half the tickets. No discussion about it and no apologies -- the representative refused to discuss why I would get no refund on the tickets. I then went to the Amtrak website to get the telephone number or email of Amtrak management to discuss the matter, but there is no way to contact them. Amtrak has very little concern about its customers.
In summary taking Amtrak was a terrible experience. Arrogant unfriendly personnel, dirty bathrooms, cold temperatures because A.C. Is turned up too high, dirty windows, too uncomfortable to get any sleep, trains don't run on time, for what they charge for a sleeper you may as well fly. I would never take Amtrak again, I would drive first. Read the story: Amtrak experience was terrible. We took the Southwest Chief from Chicago to L.A., CA, 2 Reserved Coach Seats, departed 09-JUN-10; 3:15 pm - arrival 11-JUN-10; 8:15 am. This is what we experienced on the trip to L.A.
We were assigned seats by an Amtrak employee before boarding the train. Our seats were #3 and #4 on the last car of the train. We had all of bags in place and were all settled in. Then about 20 min. after the train pulled out of the station, the attendant for our car whose name is ** told us that we could not sit in those seats, they were for her and that we had to move. I told her that we were assigned those seats at the station, she said that they didn't know what they were doing and we had to move. We were somewhat embarrassed in front of the other passengers, since ** made us feel like we were trying to get away with something.
So took our luggage and moved to the new seats. Shortly thereafter we decided to go to the observation car, we spent maybe an hour and a half in the observation car and returned to our seats. When we returned to our car there were 2 people sitting in the seats that ** removed us from. When I asked ** why there were people sitting in those seats she said they over booked the train so she had to seat them there. Well the train was not over booked.
The rest of the evening and next day ** sat in the seats across from this couple and spent a lot of time talking to them, I suspect they were her friends and she wanted them to sit in the back across from her and that's why she moved us. ** was arrogant and not very friendly, she seemed to be bothered if you asked her a question. She spent a lot of her time texting on her cell phone. Sometime during the second day she moved up to the car in front of us along with her friends. Some other people then sat in the seats she removed us from.
All of the windows on the train were dirty, the windows on the observation car were very dirty, we could hardly see out of some of the windows, very disappointing since that's one of the reasons for riding the train. The bathrooms were always dirty but by the second day the sinks were clogged up, water was to the top. Some were out of paper towels. I saw a passenger put paper towels in one of the bathrooms, I don't know where she got them from. I guess ** was too busy texting.
During the second evening my wife came back from the restroom and told me that when she passed the baggage area she didn't see one of my suit cases. I went down to the baggage area and could not find one of my suit cases. I was now almost frantic thinking of the things I had in my bag that would be lost. I informed one of the conductors that my bag was missing, he went down to the baggage area with me, asked me to describe my bag, I did, he then took me to another car, showed me a bag that was stored above a seat that had a passenger in it and asked me if that was my bag, and it was.
He told me that sometimes they move people's bags from the baggage area so that can have room for larger suitcases. How can they move people's bags without telling them? If my wife hadn't noticed that my bag was missing what would I have gone when we got to our destination. Amtrak has no consideration for its passengers. Forget about trying to sleep in coach. The seats are very uncomfortable, they give you a very small pillow about 12" by 8" and don't even think of asking for two. The temperature was freezing at night, they wouldn't turn off the air, grown men were bundled up in blankets and wore hoodies.
Also the aisle lights are so bright they keep you awake, I was lucky if I got an hour of sleep each night. No A.C. Outlets by the passenger seats. The only electrical A.C. outlets were 2 of them on the observation car, of course everyone and their brother wanted to plug in. We were almost an hour late leaving Albuquerque, N.M., the morning of our arrival the conductor told me we would be a good 45 min. late arriving in L.A. so I called my son who was picking us up that we would be about an hour late.
I don't know how the engineer did it but we ended up getting to L.A. around 45 min earlier than what our original scheduled time was. So of course we had a long wait at the L.A. Station for my son to pick us up. The return trip, Southwest Chief, from Los Angeles to Chicago 19-JUN-10; 6:55 pm -- arrival 21-JUN-10; 3:10 pm. The return trip was slightly better than the train going out. But again we had a rude, arrogant attendant named **. Again the air was turned way up and it was freezing at night.
Earlier in the day an elderly man asked ** if he could turn the air down since it was cold on the car, ** was almost rude to him and told him that he couldn't and wouldn't turn it down. That evening I asked ** to turn down the air, it was too cold to try to sleep, again grown men were bundled in blankets wearing hoodies. ** told me that if tried to turn down the air he might break it and then we wouldn't have air conditioning the next day, what kind of crap is that? Again about an hour's sleep all night. The other thing on this car was the guy running the snack bar would come on the P.A. System about every half an hour trying to sell his snacks, drinks and food, Very Annoying.
All the windows were again dirty. The bathrooms were kept a little better. This time we kept all of our bags with us. An attendant named ** did try and keep things cleaner than the first train, she was often going around with a vacuum. The train arrived about an hour and a half late to Chicago.