Rail service in the U.S. includes passenger rail and freight rail. Some of the salient aspects of the passenger US rail service are listed here.
- Travel Periods
National holidays, summer and other holiday periods are considered peak season periods, as there is a greater demand during these periods. US Rail Ticket prices are higher at this time.
- US Rail Timetables
Every operator publishes information about routes, timetables of trains, and the facilities provided on board the train. These can be obtained as brochures, or can be accessed online.
- US Rail Passes
Rail Passes provide unlimited travel, but have certain restrictions to ward off misuse. These passes are a very cost effective way to explore the area.
- US Rail Tickets
Tickets can be purchased at the stations from counters or kiosks, over the phone, on the Internet, through an agent, and via use of a PDA phone. Tickets are often priced in incremental lots that is as the seats get sold out, remaining seats keep becoming more expensive. Discounts are available to certain classes of travelers.
For shorter journeys, Amtrak offers a trolley service of light refreshment. On longer routes, a café or restaurant car that serves meals is available.
- On-Schedule travel
As the passenger trains use the privately owned freight trains routes, delays occur when precedence is given to a freight train.
Intercity service providers
This partly state owned passenger railroad covers an extensive network spanning 46 states in America, and even into Canada. The trains offer various classes of accommodation like business class, different sleeper classes, and coach class. Amtrak uses private freight lines for a large part, except for the Northeast Corridor, and part of the service near Chicago. Thus, in a large part, the services are affected by delays due to right-of-way. They offer up to 34 routes of travel that cover and connect the different parts of the country. Some popular routes are Capitol Limited, Empire Builder, Sunset Limited, Acela Express and California Zephyr.
- GrandLuxe Rail Journeys
This privately owned railroad offers a variety of themed trips, besides nine major routes. These trips are like touring packages ranging from four to ten days. Like the Amtrak, there are delays that cause the day-plans to be altered so as to stay on schedule. "GrandLuxe Limited" is a joint service between Amtrak and GrandLuxe Rail Journeys wherein the tours occur on typical Amtrak routes.
Commuter rail in US
- Short distance rail services in US that connect smaller towns to city hubs or the nearest business district are termed as commuter rail services. These US rail services are availed of by a large number of people on a daily basis, for purposes like work or education based commute.
- Regional governing bodies are largely in charge of commuter travel conditions, and are responsible for the operation of these services.
- Most commuter trains:
- are larger, having multiple bi-directional units
- have a three-and-two seating system
- run on diesel or electricity
- have scheduled services,
- share right of way with other trains
- carry the maximum number of people safely possible
- are relatively short distanced (9 and 111 miles)
- run on local standard gauge
- Commuter rail services in US are popular as hey are cost and time efficient, and dissolve the worries related to road travel, including parking trouble.
- In context to the present world conditions, they have the added advantage of being environmentally friendly.
Freight Rail in US
- Freight trains are basically a set of freight cars that transport cargo. These cars are pulled along by a locomotive that runs on diesel or electricity.
- Freight trains are more cost and energy efficient than roads when carrying large loads over long distances
- Today, most freight rail in the U.S. uses standardized ISO containers, which helps in reducing trouble when being moved around, and thus reduces transport and transshipment costs.
- Kinds of freight
- Double-stack containerization: when rail lines have enough vertical clearance, double stack cars that carry one container on top of another can be used. The Southern Pacific Railroad initiated the idea in 1977, and today it accounts for nearly 70% of freight shipment.
- Bulk: unpackaged dry commodities transported in large amounts are called bulk cargo. This includes coal, grain, ore, ballast, etc. Freight cars caller Hopper cars are used to transport loose bulk. These can be either covered ones, or uncovered ones.
- Special cargo: certain cargo like automobiles, steel plates, liquids, gases, goods that need specific temperatures, etc need specialized cars that respond to the characteristics of the goods being transported. This comes under special cargo.