To be, or not to be, on schedule

I wanted to go from Madrid to Seville by train. There were a couple of options for travel, but my big decision was if I would be going on the slow train ($) or the fast train ($$$). I don’t remember what the exact travel time was for each train but the speedy train would take me only a few hours versus the slow train which would take me the better part of a day.

I was told that there was a refund policy. Imagine that! If the train was more than five minutes, five!, late, the train company would refund my money. As a very budget traveler, I had been hoping it would arrive six minutes late, as I had splurged on the speedy train. Of course it wasn’t late, it was perfectly on time, just like I was promised.

Yet, just outside of NYC, there are still train delays today, more than 24, yes that is TWENTY FOUR, hours after a train derailment yesterday morning. Thankfully, no one was hurt. I understand the process of re-railing (un-railing? un-derailing?) a train is probably difficult and time-consuming, but this seems a little crazy.

Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor route services travelers from Boston to DC and beyond. New Jersey Transit’s trains heading into NY Penn Station are shuttling passengers on some of the same tracks on various routes from all over the state of New Jersey.

I should mention for readers unfamiliar with this area, that these tracks (the Northeast Corridor tracks) are likely the busiest in the nation as they connect major cities (Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC) all along the US Eastern Seaboard.

As a former New Jersey Transit Northeast Corridor commuter (Hamilton, NJ to New York Penn Station), I assure you, there are a lot of people being shuttled to and fro on these trains. Picture double-decker trains, with only standing room available. Every single day.

I no longer do this daily commute but I know many people who do. The tracks belong to Amtrak but New Jersey Transit uses them to shuttle commuters, travelers and tourists daily. Amtrak trains always have priority as they are Amtrak’s tracks. And because I use Amtrak sparingly, I can’t speak for Amtrak, but I know NJT trains are consistently delayed, thanks to Amtrak’s (much-needed) ongoing construction, track failure and other oddities that happen on a fairly frequent basis.

I don’t know how to solve this transit problem and I certainly will not pretend to know the answer, but there has got to be a better way. Even if the tracks in Spain shuttle fewer passengers, they obviously are doing something right if there is a refund policy for delays longer than five minutes. Shouldn’t the US get Spain’s best practices and follow suit?

Why Wednesday.


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