All Aboard

Over on Cinplify, I found a story on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about rail travel in the United States. I started quoting from the story, but I ended up copying nearly the entire thing. So just go and read it right now. It's not that long.

Okay, so here's one quote:

But as Amtrak's national ridership soars in spite of its flaws -- increasing now for the sixth year in a row, with 2 million more riders than last year -- it's time to ask: Can a better rail system fill in the gaps that airlines are leaving behind?
And I believe the answer is a firm: HELL YES.


Airline passengers now have to pay for every piece of luggage, every drink, snack, and bathroom break (okay, maybe not that last one) taken. Customer service goes down while prices go up (I realize that fuel is costly). Less flights mean more crowds, and more stopovers. But people take it anyway.

Flying becomes more and more of a pain in the ass as time goes on. Airlines have started to capitalize on a reality that has existed for decades: air travel is the best way to travel long distances, and there is no alternative that even comes close.

But what if there was an alternative?


We traveled to Milwaukee this past weekend for a wedding. Before the weekend, I had to figure out how to get there.

  1. Plane: I honestly didn't look into the flying option. Assuredly quicker, but assuredly hundreds of dollars for a single, round-trip ticket from CVG, unless I had bought the tickets months ago.
  2. Train: If you go to Amtrak's website now and search, you'll find that the train leaves Union Terminal at 1:10 AM, and arrives in Milwaukee some 13 hrs. later. Coming back is a bit faster at 12 hrs., as long as you don't mind arriving at 3:17 in the morning. Cost of ticket: not expensive, but not cheap, at $140 round-trip for one person.. Being able to do things on the train like sleep, etc. is nice, but those hours are just not friendly.
  3. Automobile: Google Maps pins it at about 6.5 hrs and 380 miles driving. I can get that far in just over a tank of gas. Rounding down, that's two tanks of gas at about $90 for 1-4 people, and 13 hours of time, round-trip.
Balancing all the factors, you just can't beat driving.

Residents of the East Coast between Boston and Washington D.C. will rave about the train systems. (Just ask Joe Biden.) Then, when you get to your destination, there's often the local subway or train to get you to your final destination. But us in the Midwest apparently lose out.


valereee said...

If you plan ahead, you can save a bit. The same fare for a trip next February is $122 round trip. For one person traveling alone, it's probably close to a wash given that you were rounding down on the gas and didn't count wear-and-tear on the car. For two, it's cheaper to drive, but of course you aren't taking environmental impact into the equation or the fact that gas it still cheaper than it really should be. If we were paying the true cost of gas, I think the train might win every time.

hellogerard said...

Valereeee, you're right on all accounts. Hopefully, I got my tone across, in that I /want/ to take the train, if only it was a bit closer practically to driving.

I for one hope that gas prices continue to rise to their real cost, in order to affect behavior such as mine, and then in turn the rail companies and federal infrastructure.

Lastly, in truth I could have saved a lot of money if on either flying or rail if I had planned ahead. But I've never been good at that.