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April 14, 1979 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-04-14
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The Michigan Daily-Saturday, Apri

Page 2-Saturday, April 14, 1979-The Michigan Daily
Amtrak fights to maintain status

By William
B EFORE THE advent of jumbo jets
and freeways, passenger trains
were a dominant means of transpor-
tation between cities. Now, however,
with travelers losing interest in trains
and many railroads dropping
passenger service, passenger railroads
are fighting to remain more than a,
refuge for those with smaller budgets or
a fear of flying.
Passenger railroads are now run
almost exclusively by Amtrak, a cor-
poration funded and administered by
the federal government. As Amtrak
desperately tries to maintain its status
with travellers, Congress meanwhile is
threatening budget cuts which could
render the cross-country railroad ex-'
"Amtrak's cost versus revenue gap is
widening annually," said Joanne Sloan
of the Department of Transportation,
which oversees Amtrak. "Those who
ride on Amtrak made up less than one
per cent of the traffic between cities."
Sloan said a report recommending
cuts in Amtrak service is now before
Congress. "There would be a cut in
route miles but it would retain service
to 90 per cent of the people who now ride
on Amtrak."
According to Bob Casey of Amtrak's
main office, the Amtrak corporation's
financial problems stem from its un-
stable beginning rather than a current
lack of popularity. "At the time Amtrak
was formed from the wreckage of the
passenger railroads, there had been a
23-year decline," he said. "There was
an increase in passengers from the
time it was formed and now there is a
surge in ridership."
Casey claims passenger trains have
started to re-establish themselves with
the American public. "In February,
there was an amazing increase of 14 per
cent of passengers on long distance

Budget cuts expected

general, there seem to be three types of
people," he said, "families, older
people and a great deal of students."
It is this diverse ridership which
makes Ann Arbor's Amtrak station one
of the area's busiest stations'according
to an employee who asked to remain
unidentified. "A lot of different kinds of
people take trains from Ann Arbor, not
particularly students," he said.
"t E HAVE THE second most
V passengers of any station in
Michigan," he added. "Only Detroit
has a little more. A lot of them travel to
the West Coast, to Seattle, San Fran-
cisco and Phoenix."
According to the employee, the Ann
Arbor station's success in attracting
riders should protect the station from
cutbacks. "They are talking about cut-
backs in Congress, but they won't affect
us here."
Casey also pointed out that Ann Ar-
bor's location between Detroit and
Chicago has resulted in better service
for the city. The three trains which con-
nect Detroit and Chicago daily pass
through Ann Arbor.
"You've got especially good service
there (in Ann Arbor)," said Casey.
"Amtrak has upgraded the track there
and trains can go about 80 miles an
Not all Amtrak customers in Ann Ar-
bor, however, are as enchanted with the
service as Casey. "I've never been on
time between Chicago and Ann Arbor
and I've taken the train a dozen times,"
said Fred Toppel, a Chicago area
native at the University.
"It's continually late but it's the poor
man's way of getting around the coun-
try. You can meet people on a train,"
Toppel added.
Other students expressed dissatisfac-
tion with Amtrak's limited east-west
routes through Ann Arbor. Amtrak
schedules no connections with routes
through cities such as East Lansing,
Flint, and Toledo.
"I can't take a train because there is
no direct route," said Denise
Radkowski, a Cleveland native. "I'd
have to go through Chicago or Niles
Yet, according to Amtrak represen-
tatives, cutbacks rather than service
increases are more likely to be in Am-
trak's future. "We don't have a big
budget now," says Casey, "and these
cutbacks threaten to reduce Amtrak
almost in half."

Amtrak's railroads, fighting to maintain
threats of budget cutbacks. Predicted
passenger service to be cut in half.
trains," Casey stated. "People are fin-
ding out that there is an Amtrak."
ASEY ATTRIBUTES the improve-
ment in Amtrak's business to in-
creased publicity and special offers
Amtrak has devised to attract
passengers. "There are a lot of good
round-trip deals and other deals which
are popular," he said.
The round-trip packages Casey cited

Daily photo by DAN OBERDORFER
n public interest, are facing Congressional
results of budget reductions may cause
feature discounts for passengers who
buy a round-trip ticket and return
within 35 days. Amtrak advertises that
these fares are up to 47 per cent less
than regular round-trip fares. A round-
trip ticket to Chicago costs $25 under
the plan, as compared to $39 for a
regular ticket.
Another popular program is the
"U.S.A. Rail Pass," according to
Casey. The holder of a rail pass can
travel on any Amtrak train for the
duration of the pass. Passes include the
14-day pass which costs $169, the 21-day
pass at $219 and the 30-day pass at $259.
Amtrak's increased popularity is due
also to its appeal to broader segments
of the public, according to Casey. "In

in expensive
to costly
U.S. hotels
and motels
S INFLATION hits everything from
A Twinkies to Lear jets, so it has
increased prices for domestic
travelling, including those for hotels
and motels. The cost of accom-
modations hacks off a major hunk of a
traveller's budget, but there are still
placles to stay that will leave some
change in your pocket.
Youth hostels dot the United States,
in major cities, and in rural and
recreational areas. The hostels vary in
the number or people they can accom-
modate, the fees per night, and
facilities provided. But close to 100,000
members of the American Youth
Hostel, Inc. (AYH) take advantage of
the economical $2.50 to $5 per night
"They're not posh," said one Literary
College sophomore, "but they're okay.
The ones I've been to on the East Coast
range from being pretty shabby to pret-
ty nice." Another student compared the
hostel he visited to "an old frat on cam-
Michigan has 28 hostels, more than
any other state. Fifteen of these are
"home hostels," which means that in-
dividual families offer to house one to
four students in their own homes. This
type of arrangement was the original
concept of AYH when it was founded in
1934, and. it has continued to be a suc-
cessful complement to the bigger
Although many hostels are located in
larger cities, near public transportation
and town centers, Michigan hostels of-
ten are locted in scenic and
recreational areas. "In Michigan, we
emphasize canoeing, biking, sailing,
and skiing," said Barbar Rising,
executive director of the metropolitan
Detroit area hostels. "It's more of a
club kind of thing because we're out of
the way for international visitors."
LL THE hostels provide a place
A to sleep, usually in large bunk
rooms, kitchen privileges, and
washrooms. Guests can stay one to
three nights and are expected to
cooperate to keep the hostel clean and
functional. "We are not staffed with
hotel crews," explained Bob Johnson of
AYH's national headqurters in
Delapane, Virginia.
"Everybody's got to pitch in," he ad-
All the hostels share what Johnson
called "common sense ground rules."
Guests are expected to share the work,
and there are restrictions against drug
use, Johnson said. Many hostels try to
enforce an evening curfew, according
to Johnson.
One University student, who has
visited several hostels, said, "It was
supposed to be lights out at 10:30, and
our main activity was trying to sneak
out after that."
Youth hostels are open only to AYH
members. Junior memberships, for
students under 18 years old, cost $5 per
year, while tsenior memberships for
adults are $11 per year. Family mem-
berships are also available for $12 and

By Alison Hirschel

organizations can obtain a group rate
for $25.
AYH members are eligible to use
their membership cards at 5,000 hostels
around the world because AYH is af-
filiated with the official Youth Hostel
organizations in every country. "Each
citizen gets membership in his own
country and can use it anywhere,"
Johnson said.
AYH also arranges trips to different
parts of the United States, which
brochures describe as "a chance to be
part of a small group which shares
responsibilities and good times in a
close-knit cooperative unit."


HESE GROUPS consist of seven to
Tnine members accompanied by a
trained AYH leader. The trips may in-
clude cycling, hiking, or skiing, and
they may utilize, public or private tran-
sportation. AYH develops the itinerary
and makes reservations for the group,
but, according to Johnson, enough
flexibility is allowed for side trips.
Members over 14 years old are
eligible to participate'in any AYH trip.
In addition, any group of seven to nine
people can ask AYH to plan their own
"Special Group Hosteling Trip" to
anywhere in the world. AYH brochures
warn that all trips are physically

demanding and,
different itinerar
degree of difficult;
AYH also offer:
program, in which
and Americans tr
buses for two to tl
tourists from Japa
Belgium, and the
ticipate in the
Groups in Mich
Scouts and
organizations, u
sington Metro F
Park, and Blue La
especially busy o
reservations are ri
are for all hostels.
Visitors to Det
See YOUTH 11


Or Compatible
12 Exposure FI
I20 g 24 Q49 3E I




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Cover photo by Andy Freeberg
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