Nobody can say Amtrak doesn't try.

Its latest effort that has come to our attention is its "quick reference timetable." It's formatted like the airline schedules that tell you every flight from Washington to all the cities on the airline's route network.

By scanning the Amtrak folder, for example, you can find the six trains that will take you each day to New York, the nine that will take you on various days (by changing trains from Penn Station to Grand Central Terminal in New York) to Albany-Rensselaer, N.Y. (where the heck's Rensselaer?) or the one daily train to San Francisco. It ignores those of us who might want to ride Amtrak to San Diego, the connections at Los Angeles apparently providing some confusion.

On the local scene, the timetable shows one Amtrak train we could catch to Capital Beltway station, near the Metro Orange Line terminal at New Carrollton, and five daily trains (plus one more on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday) to Alexandria. They're far faster than Metro.

Lest you want to ride any of these, however, consider the Amtrak fares: $3.75 to the Beltway and $3.05 to Alexandria, vs. a $1.60 rush-hour fare to either destination via Metro in rush hours (or 65 cents to New Carrollton or $1.05 to Alexandria in offpeak periods).