Archive for October 21st, 2009

Last year I took my first Amtrak trip.  A year later, I’m embarking upon my third.  Essentially it was curiosity that took me for my first trip.  Having used Germany’s ICE trains from Frankfurt to Berlin, Finland’s Bendalino and England’s commuter trains to and from Brighton, I wanted to see how Amtrak compared.

Despite the slower speed, 80 mph versus 155 mph of the ICE trains, the creature comforts are equal to if not nicer than the European counterparts.  The seating is spacious and the Amtrak staff far more pleasant than that of their European colleagues.  In fact, I’d have to say that a coach-class seat on Amtrak is a nice as Delta Air Lines Business Class to Europe!

Following my first Amtrak trip I decided to join the Amtrak Guest Rewards program which allows me to earn points towards future travel.  I tend to be very attuned to these types of programs – my past two trips to Europe were accomplished using points from my Sky Miles account.  I don’t necessarily go out of my way to earn points, but I’ve learned how to leverage my existing habits in order to do so.

One of the reasons I initially joined even though I hadn’t expected to be a regular Amtrak passenger, was to send a message to Amtrak that someone [else?] in Columbus is ready to embark upon enjoying reliable rail service – even if it means having to catch a train in Cincinnati or Cleveland.

There is a high probability that Amtrak will be serving Columbus very soon.  ODOT and Amtrak studies demonstrate the the 3C corridor will serve hundreds of thousands of passengers annually, most of whom will be Ohioans.   In preparation for the return of Amtrak service to Columbus why not sign up now and begin earning points towards your future travel.   By doing so, you too can send a message to Amtrak that more and more people in Columbus are ready to travel by train.

There are numerous ways to earn points prior to stepping foot onto a train.  Via the Amtrak Guest Rewards site, one can earn points by simply shopping for the things that one normally uses – a click-through service from the AGR site takes one to the merchants’ sites and there are over 150 every-day merchants to choose from.

Acela passengers (on North-East routes) receive extra points.  I’m also pleased to know that passengers flying on Continental can earn Amtrak points and with Cleveland as a Continental hub, this will be yet another attractive tie-in for Columbus residents.  I have to wonder why airlines in the North-East are still trying to compete with rail, when they could partner with Amtrak instead.

This coming weekend I return to Amtrak and this time I’ve booked accommodations to and from Chicago.  It was considerably more expensive than simply booking a coach seat though cheaper than flying at such late notice. I’ll admit though, that I’m looking forward to being fully horizontal during my night rides – as well as being able to arrive back in Cleveland fully rested so as to drive into work following my arrival.  I’ll be earning double points while I sleep!

I’ll rejoin you with an update following this trip and tell you more about the accommodations aboard Amtrak. In the mean time, have a look at Amtrak’s Capitol Limited photo pool on Flickr.

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