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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Why Amtrak Shouldn't Exist

By KAMEK - Top Koopa Keep HQ Manager on a coffee-fueled holiday binge.

It’s the holiday season! Even through the recovery of the horrible tragedy of Sierra Leone earlier this year, we all continue to keep holiday hours. It keeps spirits high and gives those in need a chance to acquire the goods they need for their families.

Ludwig is hard at work and tries his best to keep his royal nap time schedule. In an experiment I’m monitoring, Rawk is mirroring a circadian rhythm with the people of Japan. In doing so he plays the Japanese RPG Xenoblade Chronicles 2 to keep his mind off the horrible consequences of destroying his natural circadian rhythm, claiming that “I've got a good rhythm going!” Vortex, our international correspondent and musical talent, is probably the only one who has kept a natural sleep schedule. Wendy is on her PC and will glance at the Discord every now and then to make sure it isn’t on fire. I, Kamek, am taking care of HQ during the holiday season. This includes monitoring security, deploying our holly jolly defense unit on unsuspecting carolers, and playing Stardew Valley late into the night (effectively ruining my own sleep schedule).

In my coffee-fueled hyperactivity, stemming from my lack of sleep and disturbed sleep schedule, my associates have had to deal with my odd musings. This one being brought on by recent news:

Amtrak shouldn’t exist.

Amtrak is the better known national passenger railroad system for the United States of America, and has been in service since 1971 and has been causing issues since. There’s even a Wikipedia article devoted to accidents since their inception, in addition to there being numerous and even high-profile gross negligence cases resulting in huge amounts of damage and casualties. It’s not entirely Amtrak’s fault. There’s quite a bit that goes into railroading. Track maintenance, train engine maintenance, engineer maintenance, weaponized robot maintenance, and most importantly track switcher maintenance.

Star Fox 64 Mechbeth gif explosion hit the brakes can't stop it
Case and point.

All of this could be excused if they provided you with enough monetary incentive right? Sure it could! Money makes the world go round!

Animal Crossing GameCube Rover train You have money right
“You have money, right?”
I must, otherwise I couldn't afford to be on this train!

Well after doing some hands on research through Amtrak’s website, I found most round-trip tickets to be in the hundreds of dollars range depending on the day and place. It all seemed rather familiar…

Yes, Amtrak is well within the price range of airline flights for the same areas I examined. The fact that this is even true should be enough to discourage people from taking a train no matter what mode of transportation they usually choose.

Tom Nook GameCube official art render shopkeep
Just spent all your money on the train ride? Here have a mortgage!

Maybe it's accommodations then? Are trains nice enough for you to get on board the death machines?

Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door Excess Express poor Lakitu dreaming ride the train
Pictured: Two evil death machines: one black, one red and blue.

Much like their increasingly more attractive counterpart, airlines, Amtrak also has a tier-based class system. The top tier Amtrak railroading gives you an incredibly small room to sleep in and offers several nice extras like sinks and a toilet. Think of it as an airline bathroom with a window and a bed in it. Also, like an airline, it's incredibly expensive and can even occasionally hit $1,000+ if you're not careful. Mid-tier Amtraking, described as business class, gives you a large comfy seat in a passenger car that you share with others of your higher tier comrades, but you have a comfortable and respectable berth between you and them. Bottom tier, or coach, consists of average seats in close proximity to each other. Again, think airline seating but with the most minuscule more room.

All accommodations share the same free hackable WiFi, and, depending on the Amtrak car type, amenities such as a small snack/drink.

So? That doesn't seem so bad. On par or lower with an average flight, maybe even a ride in a personal vehicle! Well admittedly all of this is perfectly fine...would it not be for the most important factor to consider in a longer voyage: Time.

The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time Link riding Epona horse in Hyrule Field
At this rate, you might as well just go by horse.

All of these factors could be excused, all of them, if time was on your side when you hopped on a train. Unfortunately, time exacerbates the entire experience. If you plan on traveling from state to state, not only is it going to take several hours more, but it’s going to take days depending on where you’re going. Stop and think about everything we just went over.

No one likes long term travel, car rides are terrible and airplane travel is already well known for being an unpleasant experience. Train rides can last multitudes of hours. Most trips I looked up would go on for six or nine hours, across the country it would take twelve hours plus. Compounded that with even the top tier rooms we mentioned earlier and that is still a terrible proposition. Bowser help anyone stuck in coach accommodations who has to deal with an insufferable neighbor next to them.

The Legend of Zelda Redeads 64 Ocarina of Time Majora's Mask sitting crouching sad
The average commuter waiting on the next train.

To review, the train system is not cost effective to voyagers, it’s not the safest option by any stretch, it’s definitely not comfortable, and all of these are again exacerbated by the fact that it takes so long to get to your voyaging destination. So who on Earth would even bother to ride the train?

Animal Forest 64 Rover train scene
Please don’t sit next to me...
...Please don’t sit next to me...
...Please don’t sit next to me…

I’ve concluded there’s only two kinds of people that would take the train, excluding video game protagonists and their partners.

Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door Excess Express bound for luxurious Poshley Heights Toad conductor
I think I'll take the blimp instead.
  1. People who cannot fly
  2. People who don’t want to drive, but still want to experience the amber waves of grain.

Surely only these sorts of people would even consider taking the railways for their voyage. Somehow, these people have managed to leave Amtrak with enough money to continue their existence in the face of their own incredible disappointing offerings to transport.

In spite of everything written above, Kamek falls underneath the category of traveling across the country in a quiet railway car away from the responsibilities of Koopa Keep and the rest of the staff. He also asks you to share your preferred method of transport whether it be for business or pleasure. Disclaimer: Minimal research was done, and all information was haphazardly found and put together based on speculation and quick Googling.

The Koopa clan is fairly divided on whether or not it prefers flying or driving their own cars, but no one advocates the train.


  1. Replies
    1. Yup, with this article, the article of articles Kamek has written is now PLURAL!
      The Kamek articles!

  2. I have traveled to many different destinations including by car, plane and even once by Amtrak. I took Amtrak to Virginia from NY and it was a 6 hour ride.

    The ride was okay. I guess one advantage over a plane ride is that the luggage is with you and you do not have to go through baggage claim. I don't think terrorists would care to blow up an Amtrak in comparison to a train for Amtrak to change the baggage policy. However if someone is pressed for money, if there is a bus line like greyhound, Megabus, Bolt Bus or some other bus line, the travel time is usually similar for much less. I still have the receipt in the email so I know I paid 165.60 each for me and my husband with the total being $331.20. It might be possible to get plane tickets at a comparable rate if we paid early and it was not during a popular time. We traveled during August. I believe that Mega Bus was charging around $75 per ticket and I never went on an Amtrak and I always wanted to try it out, so we paid a bit more just for the experience. A disadvantage a bus may have over Amtrak is that the buses are at the mercy of traffic while Amtrak is not but Amtrak can be stalled by damaged rails or as said in this article derailment while a bus may eventually get out of traffic and try to find an alternate route. Buses of this nature also have a restroom on board so nothing to worry about there.

    We recently had a 6 hour car ride from NY to Maryland. The reason we did not choose a bus this time was because of THE BABY and we want to take a lot of baby necessities with me and buses have a limit of how much baggage we are allowed to take. Baby got so frustrated from staying in a car seat for so long even if we took many rest stops that she refused to sit on the high chair right away to eat after such a ride, another chair was already too much for her. We plane to make another major trip this April and use a plane this time and then rent a car when we are at out destination. We hope to let you all know how THE BABY reacted to being on a plane.

  3. I've never rode on a train. Or plane. All of my trips to vacation destinations have been by car. If it's a long trip, I end up just falling asleep. :p

    I also drive to school everyday, Even though I don't like driving, it's still nice not to have to ride a noisy school bus in the mornings. And traffic where I live isn't really a problem.

    1. By the way, I'm not the one driving during vacation trips. :p

  4. On a more serious note, taking a long train ride strikes me as one of those sorts of things people do once, in order to find out what it's really like and to say they had, then...yeah there's literally no good reason to ever do it again.

    1. That's what I did.

      I am sure the bullet trains in Japan are going to be a whole different experience though. I plan to use them whenever we take a trip there.

    2. Kamek totally forgot to mention bullet trains in this article!

      Is it fair to put bullet trains as a totally different category of transportation altogether?

  5. Whenever I take the train, it's usually intraregional with MARTA. Why? For starters, there is no age limit on MARTA, while for driving, you have to pay $20 to take a permit test for the opportunity to get a permit, $3 for gasoline, especially if you have to take the MPG into account (probably too much in my opinion), make a $10K purchase on a car, and God knows the car insurance rates.

    On the contrary, a MARTA ride only costs $2.50 per ride, and it includes the cost of two buses and a train! Accidents are seldom on MARTA, but yes, it does happen.

    Oh, and for being at a public education property, I get a discount for rides! It's fantastic that MARTA supports a majority of the Metro Atlanta area!

    1. (For anyone who doesn't know, that last sentence is a fantastic use of sarcasm.)

    2. Well, the Fulton County area.

      (Also, there's a station dedicated to CNN, so I'm sure you despise it already. I'll take a picture if anyone asks the next time I ride it.)

  6. I've only rode on an airplane once and a train a few times. We do not travel very often, so we usually just drive. Out of those two previous options, I would say that taking a plane is the more convenient and cost-effective option. While I'm not too fond of great heights, I can manage as long as I do not focus too much on the fact that I'm a couple thousand feet in the air. Train rides are mostly suitable if you are taking a scenic route such as through a mountain range like I did in Colorado years ago.


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