I am writing everyone from a hotel room near the Denver and from my gate Denver International Airport. In case you didn’t see the update to the last post, my dream ride on the California Zephyr ended before it ever started, as it was cancelled last night for all destinations east of Denver. So, today I am flying home nonstop to Michigan instead and avoiding the transportation nightmare known as Chicago altogether.
It is not my intent to pick solely on Amtrak, but instead raise a concern with any transportation firm that depends on a single node in its hub-and-spoke network.
The whole transportation debacle that has evolved each time there is a nasty storm is the subject of this post. It is ridiculous for individual storms to wreck so much havoc on our nation’s transportation network and cause passengers to be stranded in airports, stations, hotels, and who knows where. Likewise, freight shipments get stacked up all over the nation.
Nearly all of Amtrak’s cross-country system is based on its primary hub/node in Chicago (see map above). If that node fails, the whole system is impacted – there are no reasonable or rationale alternatives. The same is true for any airline that relies on a single hub/node or a highway network that converges at one primary location. For the northern half of the United States, Chicago is most often the key chokepoint. In Canada, the choke point tends to be Winnipeg.
If I were the King of Amtrak, I would start developing a secondary system for cross-country train travel and pronto. They do a great job at short hauls, but my experience yesterday shows the weaknesses in their larger network. Likewise, it would be irresponsible for the head of an airline, freight railroad, bus line, or trucking company that depends on a single hub/node, not to consider back-up plans and build some form of redundancy into its system. Let’s put some logic must back into logistics!
Safe travels to everyone who has been impacted by this polar vortex. Hopefully, the transportation problems that have occurred will be addressed so future scenarios are more traveler friendly. The traveling public should expect nothing else.