Today has turned out to be a rough day. And the worst part is that there was absolutely no reason for this to have happened.
When I have breaks and want to go home, I usually take Amtrak. Train travel is almost always superior to air travel in my opinion, mostly because of two reasons. First of all, the train system doesn't have the same odious, overly-invasive security that the airports do; that alone would be reason enough. On top of that, though, trains are usually more comfortable, providing a power outlet at every seat and much better food.
The downside is one that shouldn't even exist. The train takes considerably longer than an airplane does in transit, traveling much slower along a less direct route. Of course, if we had a functioning high-speed rail system (sorry Acela, you're not actually functional as a high-speed rail system, not like the Tokaido Shinkansen is), it would be a matter of an additional hour or two rather than the five or six is is today.
More importantly, though, trains have to be reliable and effective. The aforementioned Tokaido Shinkansen is a real competitor to air travel between Tokyo and Osaka specifically because it runs a metric fuckton of trains between the two cities (count them yourself) that are effectively always on time. The Acela cannot say the same, not even close. Not when they brag (!) about 10 weekday departures (and today is not a weekday), at least one of which, the Acela 2254, was quite severely late today.
They acknowledged it and apologized for the delay on the train, if nothing else, but that didn't help me catch the commuter rail I was planning on getting to. Had I made it, I could have been back two hours earlier than I actually managed. Looking back, I would probably have taken an earlier train anyway if I were to do today over, but the problem was and is that there weren't any other trains that went with my schedule.
The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, the people running the aforementioned commuter rail, did no better today. The commuter rail that I missed was at 8pm; the next available train? 11:30pm. Two trains in three and a half hours. I have the $4.75 in fares that I would have paid, and I would happily be giving that to the MBTA, but for the fact that there was simply no train available. And they still get the subway fare from me, for the privilege of riding on a two-car train that was overcrowded to rush-hour levels on a Sunday at nine in the evening.
It depresses me greatly that I know exactly why the MBTA or why Amtrak might be having budget problems. And everything I've laid out is not necessarily a strike against those companies themselves, who I honestly do believe are working as hard as they possibly can with the limited resources they are given. All I can say, though, is that until we work up the will as a society to properly fund transportation infrastructure, this crappy evening will repeat itself, both for me and the millions of other people that try to navigate the chaos that is American public transportation.