I'm traveling at a choppy 80 m.p.h., watching the familiar farmland turn into ramshackle towns. It's the one thing I can do on Amtrak's quiet car when the WiFi gets spotty. After several attempts to work online, I decide to rest my head until we arrive at 30th Street Station. I sigh, out of ambivalence.

But not long after I drift into a light sleep, I'm awakened by a loud "Shoosh!" A curmudgeon is scolding a woman for talking quietly on the phone to tell a friend she's going to be late. For we are stuck in Thorndale, and will be for an hour. I sigh again, this time in disbelief.

The engine died just 25 minutes outside the Lancaster station, where I board for my job in Philadelphia. On most days, this is an hour-and-15-minute trip. But today, due to an unfortunate chain of events set off by Amtrak, it is going to take close to four hours.

At Thorndale, those of us headed to Philly transfer to Regional Rail - which doesn't reach major towns within reasonable commuting distance, like Lancaster. But just after the SEPTA train pulls out, it's stopped for 15 minutes.

Upon a very late arrival at 30th Street, I hop on the subway to get to work. Except this day, there's a bomb scare. Everyone has to get off and find shuttle buses said to be at 15th and Market. But an accident involving a Megabus has blocked off the whole length of Market. I decide it's time for my feet to get me the remaining blocks to work.

It's not that this is a common experience on my commutes. But I have often sat waiting for five-minute-turned-50-minute-delayed trains, forced to rearrange rides and cancel plans. According to an April article in National Journal, Amtrak's most punctual trains arrive on schedule 75 percent of the time. "Judged by Amtrak's lax standards," it said, "Japan's bullet trains are late basically zero percent of the time."

You may be thinking, "That's why we have cars." But passenger-train travel has increased more than 50 percent from 2001 to 2013, and its growth continues to outpace that of air travel, according to Amtrak.

And why not? For $293 a month, I have unlimited travel back and forth to the city, and no parking fees or Schuylkill traffic jams. But part of the appeal of Amtrak is that it's supposed to be more reliable and efficient than a big-city commute by car. Working people, especially those like me who are not reached by Regional Rail, have come to depend on it.

But now, my faith in that dependability has vanished. Just look at Amtrak Northeast's tweets dating back to September. Nearly all apologize for late trains due to downed overhead wires, bridge problems, snow, and rain.

When trains are consistently late, it becomes more than an inconvenience. It's a pattern of disruptive service that worsens Amtrak's reputation. What Amtrak needs most is investment in reliable infrastructure. But that battle is fought yearly and never seems to be resolved.

In June, just a month after the deadly Train 188 derailment in Port Richmond, the House passed a bill to cut Amtrak funding by about $240 million. Some lawmakers wanted even more reductions, claiming the line is a waste of funds. But money is necessary for investments in overdue updates that keep our trains - including the ones I rely on every day - reliable, efficient, and safe. Had the system called Positive Train Control been in place for Train 188, the accident would have been prevented, according to the National Transportation Safety Board - which every year since 1990 has listed PTC on its most-wanted list of changes. But the money is never there to solve all of Amtrak's woes.

So all I can do for now, when I close my eyes between Lancaster and Philadelphia, is dream - of traveling at a swift and safe 160 m.p.h., the summer sun shining through the windows of the Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train taking me to my job in - oh, let's say Tokyo. With a train every 10 minutes, this morning commute is the part of my day I count on for peace, relaxation, and reliability. I sigh in contentment.