Culture Productivity & Work

Would you rather be late or on time?

(Un)Acceptable lateness (image via Clem Onojeghuo)

Can you coax a train out of a tunnel? Probably not, unless you’re Darth Vader or a magician.

America is the land where trains are prone to lateness. So we find things to do to fill in the gaps like passing the yellow line to “lean-and-look.”

In contrast, trains in Japan run on time. If it’s late, the train will write you a note to pass on to your employer. It’s no wonder it’s acceptable for Japanese business folks to fall asleep in meetings; they don’t get to take advantage of the public transportation’s mistakes.

Would you rather be late or on time?

Bonus: Read more why the American rail is so backward.

Business Tech Video

Why train travel in the US sucks

amtrak vs sncf france trains

Trains suck in the US for more reasons than one. Here’s why America will continue to lag behind Western Europe and Japan.

  • America is too vast: There aren’t enough dense cities close enough to each other than East Coast, West Coast, and SouthWest.
  • Expensive/slow: It costs $40 to travel from DC to NYC, a 3 hour and 30-minute ride. The Amtrak Acela can get there in 2 hours and 50 minutes at a cost of $120. Conversely, it costs $30 and just a little over 2 hours to go the same distance from Rennes, France to Paris.
  • Weak demand: Amtrak runs 300 train journeys per day while France’s state-owned SNCF operates 14,000 train journeys per day.
  • Little Funding: Amtrak estimates that it will cost $151 Billion to build a high-speed track like France’s in the Northeast Corridor. But the government has other budgetary priorities. So Amtrak is stuck sharing the tracks with freight trains–Union Pacific and BNSF–who own a combined 98.6% of America’s railways.

Given other methods of travel – planes, buses, and soon to come self-driving cars, not to mention Elon Musk’s ‘Hyperloop,’ train travel is not going to get any faster, cheaper, and overall more convenient. However, at least Amtrak is upgrading the next important thing: WiFi.


The goal, Thomas says, is to create “a beautiful disruption into a daily routine.”

Nothing like viewing public art on the train commute to work. I wish Metro North did something like this.

The Amtrak Corridor


The Quiet Ones

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And so the volume has incrementally risen, the imbecilic din encroaching on one place after another — mass transit, waiting rooms, theaters, museums, the library — until this last bastion of civility and calm, the Quiet Car, has become the battlefield where we quiet ones, our backs forced to the wall, finally hold our ground. 

It’s amazing that in today’s digital age you’d think that the consumption on Internet devices would quiet people down. Instead, it’s made people ignorant and blind to the Quiet Car, the only bastion of public serenity we have left.