Amtrak says consumer complaints jumped 15 percent in 1988. The biggest gripe was over delays: 30 percent of Amtrak's trains were late last year—the highest level since 1980. And Amtrak's definition of late is, well, a bit lenient. Amtrak considers a train on time if it arrives within five minutes of schedule on a trip of 150 miles or less. For each additional 100 miles, trains are given another five minutes. On a 600-mile trip, a train could arrive 29 minutes late and still be "on time."
But train service slipped in other ways. Passengers complained of dirty trains, broken air conditioners, and clogged toilets. Some riders even found mice on board. Ross Capon, executive director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, told the Wall Street Journal, "If you leave food in your sleeping compartment, they're sure to show up."
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "And You Thought the Airlines Were Late".