Rail industry in peril

Leonie Muller, a German college student, quit living in an apartment and bought a pass that allows her to take any train, any time. She sleeps, washes her hair and works every day on the train, according to a recent Washington Post article.
There’s a growing worldwide fascination with train travel, especially as European markets begin launching high-speed service and exploring intercontinental travel to Asia. And with more high-speed train possibilities and increasing air-travel costs, the American rail industry has expressed special interest in millennials, the generation disregarding traditional commutes and seeking cheaper alternatives for travel and play.

Efforts, however, have limped. 
In 2013, Amtrak unveiled the Millennial Trains Project, which cloistered 25 millennials on a California Zephyr cross-country line, stopping along the route to work on social-leadership exercises. Last year, Amtrak attempted to spur interest with #AmtrakLive, in which 30 young entrepreneurs and social-media celebrities blogged while traveling from Los Angeles to Austin. The effort was little more than a publicity blip.
Amtrak also targets millennials in its blog “All Aboard,” using hashtags like “#ReasonsToRide” to spur social-media conversation. The problem?Amtrak’s blog reads like a substandard marketing campaign. Worse: Only one person in the entire country seems to actually use the hashtag #ReasonsToRide.
Amtrak’s marketing push looks sad, but its overall outlook is bleak. A 2015 Schullman Research Center study indicated 6 percent of baby boomers were opting to travel by train for summer vacations, while just 3 percent of millennials were taking the rails. 
A Chicago-to-New York ticket costs just over $100, and the ride eats up a full day. Cheaper tickets and higher speeds would be welcome by millennials — as would good Wi-Fi. Amtrak has attempted enhancements, but its Wi-Fi service remains poor across the country.
TRENDPOST: Millennials constantly seek cheap alternatives, convenience and seemingly unusual experiences they can share with others. Rail travel provides all, making it a ripe trend possibility. But Amtrak isn’t hitting the notes. The commuter giant is failing to respond to millennials’ needs. This paints a stark picture of the American rail industry’s future.

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