Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Amtrak's Dying Diner

Yesterday morning I rode Amtrak's Crescent train from Charlottesville to Washington, DC. I've ridden this train many times over the past few years, and with much pleasure, since its 7AM arrival means I get to enjoy a hot plate of freshly-fried eggs, sausage and hash browns as gorgeous scenery--illuminated by the rising sun--passes by.

In my last post, I mentioned that Amtrak will soon eliminate its dining cars (except aboard the Empire Builder and the Auto Train)and replace full-service dining with airplane-style tray meals. Yesterday I learned from the waiter that this change will take place aboard the Crescent in April--sooner than I had expected.

Already, though, Amtrak--under pressure from critics, congressmen and many others--has gutted its dining service. It took a full hour for my meal to appear yesterday, and when it did, it wasn't what I had ordered, and it was chilly. I waited fifteen minutes more for a croissant and a coffee refill. I didn't care, since I love watching the scenery, but inside it wasn't a pretty sight as one waiter tried to serve everyone and an understaffed kitchen tried futilely to fill all the orders. If this is how Amtrak has cut its operating costs in recent months--by ordering things such that employees can't perform their jobs with accuracy, care or pleasure--then perhaps it's for the better that dining cars--and perhaps sleeper cars--be eliminated. Truth be told, the things I love about Amtrak simply aren't compatible with the deep budget cuts and the "self-sufficiency" ideology being peddled by economists and politicians. It's a sad, but all to true, conclusion.


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