1 October 2023

An Amtrak experience from Washington DC to New York

The American train system is not like the efficient European transport network.

Let me continue my American saga. This time, I am writing from Gate B3 at Chicago’s Midway airport waiting for my Southwest flight to Seattle. Picking up where I left off, I headed from Washington DC by Amtrak train north to New York.

The train system is nothing like the ones that operate proudly across Europe. Here the trains are slow, stations intercity stations are nothing special and it doesn’t give you value for money. Bug bus companies like Greyhound are probably better options.

Despite the iconic Union square in Washington being quite impressive, you await your train in a room like a bus terminal you see in American movies. You then walk down a broken platform that is about three feet above the tracks. It was really odd. The train itself picks up at many stops and cruises at a top speed that is nothing to be boastful of. Likewise getting to New York terminal, the platform is no bigger or impressive than Town Hall, Sydney. Navigating the terminal to connect to the subway left the poor tourist in me lost! But either way, we got there in the end.

All the phrases about New York, like “the city that doesn’t sleep” is true. I got to my hostel in the late evening and then ventured out. I went on an organised night club tour with the hostel and just before midnight, in searching for “The Australian” (a pub) to watch the Rah-Rah game against South Africa, I discovered Times Square. Wow. It didn’t feel that late. People out, neon lights blaring brightly… Really felt like the early night, would have guessed 9pm.

“The Australian” was indicative of how many Australians are travelling. Packed out and going off. With so many Aussies touring, I’m beginning to wander who is actually at work back at home.

The subway runs 24 hours a day. Which is a great relief. Trains aren’t clean, although they are better than Paris. Stations usually named according to street names and generally routes run Uptown Manhattan and the Bronx (north) to Downtown and Brooklyn (south) – and vice versa. Lines are named either by number or Letter. Like Washington DC, streets are numbered and given prefix East/West and generally blocks are rectangular, making it easy to navigate. Stations aren’t far from their attraction, but connecting to a numerical line to an lettered line might cause you to walk quite a distance (just like the Tube in London).

Best way to travel New York is definitely using public transport. The city is designed with long one-way streets and parking looked close to impossible. In saying that, be prepared to do a bit of walking as well. Blocks are quite big on the west side of Manhattan. After walking and walking and walking, I discovered walking longer than 3 blocks is quite a fair way.

I’ll leave this post for now… Boarding time.
Sights of NYC to come!

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