Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

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phop
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby phop » December 31st, 2015, 2:00 am

A train cannot be weaponized in the same way that an airplane can.

mplsjaromir
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby mplsjaromir » December 31st, 2015, 8:52 am

Also a train is made of steel on is on the ground, a plane is aluminum and in the sky.

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FISHMANPET
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby FISHMANPET » December 31st, 2015, 9:10 am

Plus, catenary wire and pantographs can't melt steal beams.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby mplsjaromir » December 31st, 2015, 9:16 am

FISHMANPET wrote:Plus, catenary wire and pantographs can't melt steal beams.
This is dangerously woke.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby mattaudio » December 31st, 2015, 10:22 am

FISHMANPET wrote:Plus, catenary wire and pantographs can't melt steal beams.
Neither can the temperature of a jet fuel fire.... CONSPIRACY ZONE!

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby mulad » December 31st, 2015, 6:56 pm

Don't forget that the Empire Builder makes 9 station stops in between the stations in St. Paul and Chicago (a total of 11 stops). While Amtrak's frequency and timeliness is a big problem, there aren't any buses in the corridor that make that many stops and manage the same travel time. Megabus only makes one intermediate stop (in Madison or Milwaukee) and still has about the same scheduled time (they also stop for food/rest, which extends the schedule vs. a nonstop trip). The only "local" buses that make multiple stops along the route have trips that take hours longer than the train's schedule.

Still, I think the express bus services are eating into Amtrak's share here. I'd love to quote you some statistics about how bus service has changed since Union Depot opened, but the federal government doesn't collect ridership data for intercity bus lines.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby FISHMANPET » December 31st, 2015, 7:36 pm

Anecdata, but I once took a Greyhound Express from Minneapolis (Hawthorne Transportation Center) to Chicago Greyhound station, which is a few blocks from the a a blue line station. The wifi didn't work, the seats were fine but not as big as on a train, and the ride quality is still a bus. It was cheap ($49 a person) but the group agreed we probably wouldn't do that again.
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Archiapolis » January 4th, 2016, 9:46 am

Travel between Chicago and Twin Cities:
Car v Amtrak (as currently configured) v Plane. Discuss...

Travel between Chicago and Twin Cities:
Car v High Speed rail (the planned line that Walker killed) v Plane.
Discuss...

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby MNdible » January 4th, 2016, 10:05 am

Generally, I'd say under the current scenario, plane wins most of the time.

Under the future scenario, I'd say that the train beats the plane if your destination is downtown Chicago.

The other variable to consider is whether having a car when you arrive will be a benefit or a hindrance -- and the answer to that probably depends on the purpose of your trip.

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jw138
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby jw138 » January 4th, 2016, 10:18 am

Don't forget about the bus as an option. I can't see high speed rail tickets being less expensive than current slow speed rail tickets. Many people who travel the corridor need an inexpensive option and the bus would still be cheapest option for them.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Archiapolis » January 4th, 2016, 10:34 am

jw138 wrote:Don't forget about the bus as an option. I can't see high speed rail tickets being less expensive than current slow speed rail tickets. Many people who travel the corridor need an inexpensive option and the bus would still be cheapest option for them.
All true. Complete oversight.

Car v Greyhound/Megabus v Amtrak v Plane. Discuss...

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby mattaudio » January 4th, 2016, 10:38 am

They all have their advantages, right? I've never taken an intercity scheduled bus (in America) but I hear they lack knee room - a big deal for me. If I'm going with a group and we have time to spare, we'll drive. If I'm going to Chicago for a night or two or have other time constraints, I'll fly. If wife and I have time to spare and want to relax rather than drive, we'll Amtrak it (at least until our 10 hour delay last time). But I'd say my default is to fly. I'm a rational actor in an irrational system - a system which highly subsidizes civil aviation for relatively short domestic journeys.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby VacantLuxuries » January 4th, 2016, 10:48 am

Depending on the bus, the knee room isn't terrible. Many of the seats have adjustable footrests on the back to make things less painful. The real problem is the seats start to get uncomfortable after an hour or two, and in most cases, you're not going to be anywhere close to your destination by the time you get restless.

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jw138
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby jw138 » January 4th, 2016, 11:15 am

I took Greyhound to Chicago in December and found it to have more legroom than any plane I've ever been on. I do seem to remember that not being the case when I was a teenager though. I think at some point they added significant legroom in order to compete with other modes of long distance transportation. It's been a few years since I took Megabus but I think it had ample legroom as well. It's been many years since I took Amtrak. How does it compare with legroom?

I didn't have any issues with comfort on the bus to Chicago. I did get a little restless though and stood whenever I could. That's where rail has a definitive advantage because you can walk between cars and hang out in the dining and observation cars. In terms of comfort I'd say travel by plane is the least comfortable if you're not in 1st-class. The advantage there is that the discomfort only lasts a short time.

Wifi and power are readily available and free on both Amtrak and the various buses. Here, airlines are at a disadvantage because wifi is not free.

All modes have on-board restrooms but the one on the bus is probably the least clean. I guess I can't speak for Amtrak since it's been a long time... anyone else?

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby mattaudio » January 4th, 2016, 11:19 am

Amtrak: Amazing legroom, freedom to move around/lounge car, no wifi, better bathrooms than air/bus.

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jw138
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby jw138 » January 4th, 2016, 11:26 am

mattaudio wrote:Amtrak: Amazing legroom, freedom to move around/lounge car, no wifi, better bathrooms than air/bus.
Ack! Maybe wifi was broken or disabled for some reason during your trip? According to this Empire service should have wifi:

https://www.amtrak.com/journey-with-wi-fi-train-station

Or, maybe it's only available on some cars?

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby LakeCharles » January 4th, 2016, 11:46 am

From a carbon perspective, bus is best, then amtrak, then driving, then plane, right? With plane being last by a mile, especially if you are driving with someone.

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mister.shoes
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby mister.shoes » January 4th, 2016, 11:49 am

Empire Service != Empire Builder. The former is in NY State.
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woofner
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby woofner » January 4th, 2016, 11:50 am

Greyhound's express buses have good legroom -- not quite Superliner but comfortable for anyone under 7' I should think. Most of the buses between Mpls & Chicago are express. Look for the little 'e' symbol when you're booking. I've found Greyhound to have much more reliable wifi than Amtrak, too.

Of course the train is more comfortable, and I take it when I can, but when I lived in Mpls and took trips out East I'd usually take Greyhound for the MSP-CHI leg. The price was always much better, the station location was more convenient (although I consider Union Depot more convenient than Midway because of the stroadiness of Transfer Rd), and even before the Bakken took off, the Empire Builder was never particularly reliable. Megabus is probably better for most since it stops right outside Chicago Union Station, but they never beat Greyhound's price and I kind of liked the half-mile walk through central Chicago.

I prefer ground transportation for environmental reasons (flying is one of the most impactful acts any individual can make), but I think that anyone who isn't obstinate and is willing to learn about options will consider HSR over air for MSP-CHI trips. There are already car rental options at Chicago Union station and they will of course expand when it becomes an HSR terminal, and the location is more convenient for a lot of trips in South Chicagoland. Air travel will not go away, even with an appropriate carbon tax, but HSR would put a dent into its mode share. A three-hour or so time advantage for air isn't that big a deal once your trip goes over a couple days, and airfares will go way up if a carbon tax is raised since the shuttle function will become less useful.
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jw138
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby jw138 » January 4th, 2016, 11:59 am

mister.shoes wrote:Empire Service != Empire Builder. The former is in NY State.
Doh! Thanks for the clarification.


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