Sunday, July 30, 2006

An open letter to Amtrak

I just got on your website today to look up how much it would cost me to take my 3-year old daughter up to Portland to the zoo. I thought it would be fun to take the train and make a day of it. I was appalled to find that the round trip would cost over $60! Those prices are no way to encourage those of us who have cars to take the train as an alternative for short trips.

The distance between Eugene and Portland is approximately 111 miles. According to my calculations, in our moderately fuel-efficient car I would spend about $22 in gasoline, and that would take me straight to the zoo's parking lot (That's using a gas price of $3/gallon). Even if I were driving an SUV, with 14MPG, my fuel costs would still be around $40. So why should I take the train?

My prediction is that the gas prices are only going to go up. If they went up to $17/gallon, at your current pricing, the trip to Portland on the train would be worth it. But that will not be soon.

My advice to you, Amtrak, is to bring the prices down on the relatively local trips. They could be your cash crop - Right now you need something to pry people out of the convenience of taking their cars. If I got 1/2 price on the return fare, I'd take it, and that's not even being generous.

To sum it up: Cut those fares in half and agressively market the change. Make the changes convenient. I'm willing to be your customer, but I (and most of us in this economy) just can't afford it.