Monday, November 13, 2006

Amtrak is Advertising Again...And, Yes, I Will Nag

Because let's consider what has happened over the few years since Amtrak last advertised.

1. The familiar arrow symbol emblazoned on the side of equipment since American Travel by Track a-k-a the National Railroad Passenger Corporation had its inception in 1971 has been done away with, replaced with aerodynamic "whisps of air" meant to allude to the high-speed rail technology that Amtrak has embraced within the last decade (I'm not making this up--this was mentioned in the Amtrak's pamphlets that marketed the advent of Acela service). There're only a few problems with the new symbol and what it stands for. A. Outside of the Northeast Corridor, there is no Acela Express or Regional, just [Insert Corridor Name] Service/ Regional Service/Corridor. B. Outside of the Northeast Corridor and a few other beefed-up corridors (read: those which either don't run or don't run significantly on freight rights-of-way and therefore have actually been able to be beefed-up such as the Florida Corridor, the Texas Corridor, the Cali Corridor and North Carolina Regional Service), Amtrak rail service can hardly be regarded, by today's standards as high-speed: most of the same 79 mph speed limits imposed on trains pulled by the venerable F40PH's and GP40's a decade ago... gues what, they're still there! Sure, the shiny new P32's (AMD103's) et al. have taken over and some lines now top out at a whopping 103 mph, but, the way freigh railroads are running things, that 24 mph speed gain has been offset by more and more losses getting, literally, sidelined by mainline freights for which 79 mph is lightning. C. But last but not least, as I'm equally t'ed off at New York's MTA for changing the familiar "M" logo to "MTA" and US Air for changing the "US Air" to a stupid flag, why do transportation companies feel like they ever need to change logos--it's just one more way to alienate your longtime patrons who already feel alienated by switching up long-established route names and route numbers?

2. Which leads right into the next area of change: train names. Since Amtrak doesn't run with subway-frequency (or even commuter rail-frequency as compared to the likes of Metro-North, LIRR or Metra), hardened Amtrak riders took for granted that the company was able to name every single train, a throwback to the olden, and golden days of railroading. Sure, there was some overlapping: for example, trains out of Springfield in the 400's, that merged with their 100-counterparts from Boston in New Haven, bore the same name (e.g. Train 472, the Fast Mail, merged with Train 172, the Fast Mail at N.H. going South and split just the same going North). But overlapping train names for joint trains was forgiveable--what isn't is naming every single train Northeast Corridor train that doesn't continue on to Florida an or Acela Express or Acela Regional. And on other corridors, most trains are simply Keystone Service, for example--named after the corridor they work on. Sure, some names have survived--Northeast Corridor trains that continue all the way to Florida such as Auto Train and the Palmetto and East-West trains such as the Clockers and Sunset Limited have kept their throwback names. But why not all--again why alienate long-time riders?!

3. Which leads me to the commercial's content. Amtrak's old simple but catchy jingle was "All Aboard Amtrak," and no matter what corridor you rode on or in what type of equipment you felt like you were part of the nationwide Amtrak experience. Apparently Amtrak is new and improved to mentioned nothing of that. Outside of the Northeast Corridor--which, again, actually has Acela Service at all--this new commercial has very little appeal. It says nothing, as outline in point (1) of the infrastructure of the rest of the system, but you don't even have to venture that far--it says nothing of Acela Regional Service either.

So then, who, really, is the commercial appealing to: business people who still believe that Northeast Corridor train travel is still as antiquated as riding in a dusty old box car with smelly "vagabonds," or so a recent Capitol One commercial would have you believe. Make no mistake about it--this is all about business and capturing the eye of the business traveler who, with his/her company's Travel account funding his/her next trip wants to decide between Amtrak which, long before this commericals put out billboards and postcards proclaiming fast, convenient, amenable and comfortable downtown-downtown Northeast Corrdior service and flying airlines such as Delta, which has responded with an equally simple bilboard with a Delta plane's tail showing and a Amtrak Acela train tucked at the bottom proclaiming "Planes are Faster than Trains."
So then, where, along the Northeast Corridor, does that leave the casual traveler, family of four and college student who has come to find an almost equal balance between time, cost, convenience and comfort as the Acela Regional by driving, taking Peter Pan or *gasp* braving the Fung Wah--high and dry as usual. And outside of the Northeast Corridor: well, I think I've already established that the ad alienated the other 4/5 of the system from the get-go.

2 Comments:

At 11/15/2006 04:20:00 PM, Anonymous kbrubaker@elpc.org said...

As for naming trains, I'm pleased to report that new Amtrak trains in Illinois are all named: "The Saluki" along the Chicago-Carbondale corridor, the "Lincoln" along the Chicago-Springfield-St. Louis corridor, and the "Carl Sandburg" from Chicago to Quincy.

 
At 11/22/2006 01:49:00 PM, Blogger Train Mon! said...

Thanks for reading and thank you for the update and enlightenment. It's nice to see that many non-Northeast Corridor and affiliate trains have retained or continue to be named. Still... brinb back the Fast Mail and Merchant's Limited!

 

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