Weekly News Roundup, 1/8

A quick news roundup for the week…

Idiots park running SUV on railroad tracks

A stupid couple started off the new year right by leaving their SUV on the railroad tracks just west of Fairfield station. As expected, alcohol played a part in the driver’s complete lack of judgement.

Branchville’s Whistle Stop Bakery

The Connecticut Post had a nice little interview with Lolly Turner, the woman that converted the old, “beat-up” and “falling apart” Branchville station into a successful bakery.

“We’ve taken a piece of history and turned it into a viable business. I think it’s a wonderful thing we’ve done.”

Schumer seeks to restore commuter tax benefit

It is always good to know that Schumer actually fights for something worthwhile every now and again.

The MTA’s App Contest

Hopefully I am not the only one that finds a little bit of amusement in the fact that the MTA is holding an “app contest” for useful transit-related smartphone apps. You know, since back in the day the MTA claimed that train schedules were their own intellectual property, and sent their lawyers after app developers. But it is true – the MTA is holding a contest, and the New York Times had a nice article about it this week.

Commuters get discount at local grocery store

If you commute in the Brewster/Southeast area and need to pick up a few things on the way home, you should definitely check out DeCicco’s, as they offer a 5% discount for Metro-North riders with monthly passes. I believe it applies only to the store in Southeast, right up the road from the station.

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Dear Amtrak: I hate you. The contest entry you’ll never see.

If you follow me on twitter, earlier this week I was rather bitter about being disqualified from Amtrak’s contest for no apparent reason. I’ve debated posting about this for a few days, but considering I am still a bit bitter, I will. And from this point forward, I will forget about it. For the record, if they were to give me a reason why every entry I submitted was rejected, maybe I’d be ok. It is the refusal to do so, or even to acknowledge me, that irks me. They should have just said, “our legal team said your idea was not feasible,” or, “your idea is too similar to another entrants,” (it isn’t), maybe, “your submitted image was too good, entrants using photoshop and voodoo are not permitted”, or even, “my neighbor’s daughter has entered this contest, and your idea is better than hers, so I don’t want you in the running.”

What was the contest, you ask? Incredibly lame. They couldn’t come up with what the contest should be, so therefore they decided that the contest would be for you to come up with what the contest should be. Did I want to win the contest? Of course, I wouldn’t have entered if I hadn’t. The top prize was a $3500 credit for Amtrak. And I knew exactly the first thing I would spend it on: my grandmother. She hasn’t been in the best health this year, culminating in open-heart surgery about a month or so ago. For the past few years she has wanted to go visit her 95 year-old sister-in-law (the jokes about in-laws do not apply here, they are practically best friends) in Florida. The catch is, she refuses to fly, and she doesn’t have the money to take the train. Of course, a one way Amtrak ticket is more expensive than a round-trip flight. I can remember my first Amtrak trip was with her, going down to Florida. I know that she really wants to go, but she doesn’t talk about it much because she simply doesn’t have the money to do it. But when she was in the hospital, I told her I would pay her way down to Florida when she was better, whatever method she wanted: a flight, Greyhound, or Amtrak. Had I won the contest, I would have at least been able to pay for a nice sleeper car for her, which considering the coach prices are already quite high, sleeper expenses are probably through the roof.

Nonetheless, I will be forgetting about this contest, now that I will be posting what my entry was… The entry you will not see on Amtrak’s site. If you do happen to read it, I invite you to tell me what part is plagiarized, lewd, or inappropriate, which violate the rules of the contest.

Photoshop and Voo-doo: Against the rules.

Title: Rail Pass Blogging Adventure

Description: Across the country, more and more people are creating blogs online and posting their photography and videos. My idea would be to use the power of the blogosphere to create the ultimate Amtrak rail adventure, and give viewers ideas of all the things across our nation that you can see by rail. Each entrant would create their own web site, blog, or social networking account to post their dream itinerary for a 30 day rail adventure. Possible subjects to include why they enjoy rail travel, previous trips on Amtrak, and their train photography. The bulk of the entry would be detailing their trip itinerary if they were to win a 30 day rail pass: what trains they would take, what cities they’d visit, and what activities they are interested in. At the end of the contest, the winner will get a rail pass to take the trip they suggested: and if they choose, update the blog they created detailing their journey.

Prize: A 30 day Amtrak rail pass, so the winner can actually take the trip that they proposed, and a digital camera to document the journey.

Why we should pick you: My idea is a great marketing opportunity: people can get ideas for their own trips, and follow along with the winner if they choose to continue posting to their blog while on their adventure. Instead of looking for a person skilled in a particular area (photo contest), truly anyone could enter and get the chance to live their dream. I personally write a blog about trains, and think it would be incredibly fun to do exactly what I suggested – my dream is to travel the country and world by rail.

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