To begin with, I want to look at a few quotes from the article:
- "For generations, much of the nation has been forced to use cars, buses or pricey aircraft to travel to nearby cities."
- "Panyanouvong said he loves the idea of jumping on a train, turning on his computer and getting some work done on his way to Tampa, 'without having to worry about traffic or driving.'"
- "Soon, Americans might find themselves rocketing along ribbons of rails at 200 mph in sleek, painted passenger cars -- never stopping until they arrive at destinations awake and refreshed."
- "'The $8 billion investment in high-speed rail for America is just the beginning.'"
So flying is pricey, but just as pricey (if not cheaper) than taking a train. Keep in mind that Amtrak is a government-owned entity and receives government subsidies. So without those subsidies their prices would be even higher. And it is worse during holidays, when prices get jacked up to the $200 range.
As for doing work on the train: this is a great idea, but not really practical. First of all, you need the internet to do any type of work nowadays. The only thing in the Northeast that offers internet is the Acela, and the speed of said internet is nothing to brag about. Even if you do get good internet service, chances are you'll be in a car with someone on the phone the entire train ride. Even if you get in the quiet car, there's always someone who believes that the rules do not apply to them, and the train staff will rarely enforce said rules. In my humble opinion, getting work done on the train is not that feasible.
The third quote, if government-subsidized rail is any indication, is a pipe dream, plain and simple. Amtrak's Acela was supposed to be a 150 mph rocket that saved time for passengers going between Washington, New York, and Boston. In reality, the train spends the overwhelming majority of its trip under 100 mph and saves passengers 30 minutes between New York and Boston (for comparison: fifty years ago the New Haven Railroad made the trip in four hours as opposed to the Acela's 3.5.) Going from Washington to New York? Expect to save 15 minutes by opting for the more-expensive Acela. And the only reason you're saving that much time is that there are less stops.
Finally the fourth quote. It's accurate, but in a regrettable way. Amtrak (read: the government) invested $1.7 billion in the Acela. The Acela's lack of proper testing before being rolled out resulted in a major brake problem, causing the entire service to be shut down (at the cost of $1 million per week.) The Acela was out for months. There were other issues with the train that cause it to be taken out of service, as well. Add this to the crumbling infrastructure that Amtrak runs on, and it is clear that the government will undoubtedly continue to shell out taxpayer monies to run train systems.
I hate to sound like a Negative Nancy with this post, and there is no one in this country who would be more excited to ditch the bus for affordable high-speed rail than me, but the stark reality of government-subsidized rail in this country shows what a mess it is. It is a worthy investment, but it has to be done correctly. Amtrak, in a word, is a huge mess. High prices and average service are great components for mediocrity, which Amtrak does well. If the new generation of rail service is going to be anything like Amtrak, the government might as well save your and my money and not even attempt it because its current rail system is a money pit.