Here’s a letter I just sent to the Federal Railroad Administration. Hope they find it as entertaining as I think it is.


U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Railroad Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Grossly Inefficient service

March 27, 2021


It’s my sincere hope that a new Administration will do something to upgrade our country’s passenger rail service. No exaggeration, I wept bitter tears of envy from just watching You Tube  video of advanced rail systems around the world. Shinkansen and its ilk make my heart stop in awe and wonder. Just yesterday I found out about Acela. So USA actually has a miniscule  effort at modernization. But there’s no hint of modernization or anything like it here in Reno, Nevada.

I prefer train travel to car or plane. I don’t even need high speed. High speed would be wonderful, but all I want is a system that functions and doesn’t do to me what I endured going from Reno to Seattle.

Why does it have to be like this?

Dingy old train station in downtown Reno with noplace to park. One grouchy overworked clerk.  To go from Reno, NV to Seattle, or anyplace west of here,  one has to go through Sacramento, CA.  I guess something is perpetually wrong with the California Zephyr, as was the case every time I tried to take a train anywhere, so no chance of train travel from Reno to Sacramento. I had to take a 3 hrs 30mins bus which made every local stop in between.

Finally to Sacramento with the only good feature the wall mural which, I guess, depicts driving of the Golden Spike. Now to endure an endless wait until midnight – wondering for my safety in this part of town – sitting on miserable old uncomfortable wooden benches.

I am elderly and not very mobile. I approached one of the grouchy, overworked, personnel at the station who made it clear she had no time for me. I told her I couldn’t do the long march to the tunnels and the tracks. I saw some people on what I guess was a luggage wagon, and said could I ride that. Would she tell me how to access it.

Useless. I got a shrug and a blur as she ran off.

The train – I guess it’s the Coast Starlight –  was announced around midnight. No help anywhere. I managed a painful long shuffle to the track, lagging behind all the others. Nobody to help me hoist myself onto train. I grabbed what hardware there was by the door and managed, but it was uncomfortable and scary for me.

Then everything was fine. The ride was endless – I think over 24 hours – with countless local stops and slow, slow speed. I wonder if we ever went over 30mph. But all that was acceptable because of the comfort and many amenities.

Finally to Seattle. I had asked the conductor for help unboarding, but he was nowhere to be found, so I had to fling my bag onto the platform, then endure fear and unbalance as I got myself onto the platform.

Summary –Requests:

  1. Upgrade station houses and provide short and long term parking.
  2. Hire pleasant people. Hire enough people so they don’t get overworked. Train them in communications and customer relations.
  3. Have more frequent trains  so nobody ever again has to sit in Sacramento station for hours on end until midnight.
  4. Train all personnel to assist passengers, especially elderly like me. Teach them to listen, to respond to requests, to provide assistance as needed.
  5. Make sure somebody is on hand to help people on and off the trains.

This video is informative, but frustrating. Will Amtrak problems ever be solved?
Why The US Has No High-Speed Rail

Thank you for considering my comments.

Regards,Trish Swain