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(Salon)   Amtrak, the Prius of long-distance travel   (salon.com) divider line 220
    More: Cool, Prius, Amtrak, ejector seats, Metra, Swiss Army  
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8059 clicks; posted to Main » on 19 Feb 2014 at 11:31 AM (30 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-02-19 09:45:11 AM
Where did she get a train ticket that was 1/3 the cost of a plane.  I've always found the train to cost almost as much if not more than a plane ride for anything that wasn't so short a train wouldn't have been more effective anyway.
 
2014-02-19 09:53:57 AM
I live in a New York City apartment with tinier-than-normal energy-efficient appliances, I bike or take public transportation most places, I compost, the bulk of our food comes from the local farmer's market, I live walking distance to work, I fly only rarely. However, when I needed to go to the Ragdale Artists Colony in Lake Forest, Ill. (an hour outside of Chicago) to finish my novel, I took a look at the University of California, Berkeley's carbon calculator to see how much the short-ish flight would set the planet back.

the pretentiousness... it burns!
 
2014-02-19 09:54:59 AM
Why not just buy a carbon offset? You can purchase 2.4 tons of carbon offset from carbonfund.org for about 25 bucks. Or spend the extra I dunno 12 hours you'd save off the plane planting trees somewhere.

Sure OK you're saving money but time is money. And being on a train for 19 hours sucks balls. And like the previous poster said I've never seen a round trip train ticket 1/3 the cost of airfare.
 
2014-02-19 09:57:17 AM
Wow the smug was huge with that article, plus Amtrak from Atlanta to DC costs the same as a flight from Atlanta to DC.  She is spot on about security and baggage though, I used to have to transport large trade show displays from Atlanta to DC and when I did I always took Amtrak.
 
2014-02-19 10:01:25 AM

Tom_Slick: She is spot on about security and baggage though, I used to have to transport large trade show displays from Atlanta to DC and when I did I always took Amtrak.


Is it still pretty much no1curr about bags?  Haven't been on a train in awhile, but the Amtrak stop closest to here resembles a bus stop with a little kiosk.  The train pulls up, you get on, you go.

Amtrak:  Travel with your weed!  We don't give a shiat.
 
2014-02-19 10:07:03 AM

nekom: Tom_Slick: She is spot on about security and baggage though, I used to have to transport large trade show displays from Atlanta to DC and when I did I always took Amtrak.

Is it still pretty much no1curr about bags?  Haven't been on a train in awhile, but the Amtrak stop closest to here resembles a bus stop with a little kiosk.  The train pulls up, you get on, you go.

Amtrak:  Travel with your weed!  We don't give a shiat.


Pretty much, except for long distance trains with baggage cars for oversized items these are handled by Amtrak personnel so in theory you should keep contraband out of that .  Your personal stuff you are taking to your seats is not checked, although now that all trains are completely non-smoking don't toke up on board.
 
2014-02-19 10:21:55 AM

bdub77: Sure OK you're saving money but time is money. And being on a train for 19 hours sucks balls


I guess it depends on which route you're taking. Up the East Coast, it's easier and less harrowing than driving and the time is comparable to flying.

If you're crossing the Appalachians, though, it sucks balls. The only real advantage is for places like DC or NYC, it plops you down in the middle of the City with quick access to public transit. Of course, the scenery is nice, but it would be nice to see it at 55, 65 or 100 mph, instead of 25.
 
2014-02-19 10:25:11 AM
Tom_Slick:
Pretty much, except for long distance trains with baggage cars for oversized items these are handled by Amtrak personnel so in theory you should keep contraband out of that .  Your personal stuff you are taking to your seats is not checked, although now that all trains are completely non-smoking don't toke up on board.

Last time I took at train, probably 98 or so there was only one car you could smoke in, they had a little lounge in the bottom of one car.  Glad I gave up cigarettes, can't really smoke anywhere these days.
 
2014-02-19 10:28:56 AM
I took the Texas Eagle from Dallas to Chicago and back in 2011. The sole reason for the trip was to catch a Flaming Lips show at the Aragon. A few close Farkers decided to come up as well to make a weekend of it.

The trip to Chicago was one of the WORST travel experiences of my life. It started with a freight derailment between Dallas and Longview which caused us to be loaded onto buses that took us to Longveiw. We had a roomette sleeper and found the accommodations to be quite comfortable. The cabin attendant was a very nice guy and told us newbies to relax and enjoy the rest of the trip. Supper that night was delicious and we met some really great people. Back to the cabin for bed which was fairly comfortable and I slept quite well until 4am when I heard "buses"...I woke up and looked outside and were in Little Rock. Turns out there was another freight derailment and we had been sitting still for who knows how long. The buses finally got moving around 7:30 for a two+ hour ride to Bugtussle (Walnut Ridge) Arkansas....as we were pulling in to Bugtussle, I noticed buses just leaving heading south. As it turns out the southbound train had just arrived and they had to get things turned around and rehabbed as best they could before we could board and continue.  Away we go...and we were told that we were going to take an alternate route to try to make up time...however there was a lot of freight traffic getting rerouted as well so we spent a lot of time sitting still. By the time we got to Chicago 11 hours late, coach was like a third world country, the sleeper was not as up to standard as the first train, the food was dwindling, the crew was tired  and to top it all off we missed the Lips show. On a side note we met a man who had just retired and he present to himself was to take every overland route that Amtrak offered and he "had been on the rail for the last 30 days and this was the first bad experience that (he) had." It made no difference to us...the first impression had been made.

We made the most of the rest of the weekend (LOVED Chicago!) but were very apprehensive about the return trip...we almost punted and flew home but we had "packed for train and not for plane" so we toughed it out.

The return trip was one of the BEST travel experiences of my life. Left on time, the only stops were scheduled and we pulled into Dallas within 15 minutes of scheduled arrival. Food was great, crew friendly and attentive and the train clean and comfortable. When we told the cabin attendant that we were kind of snake bit he knew that we had been on the Eagle that was so delayed and told us that he would do everything he could to make the return trip as comfortable as possible and followed through.

Would I do it again? Hell yes! (mamarita notsomuch) Planning on it this summer. BUT, if I'm going with the intent of being at my destination for  a scheduled event, I will book with a day's lead in mind...and I'll pack more booze.

/csb
 
2014-02-19 10:33:00 AM

Tom_Slick: Pretty much, except for long distance trains with baggage cars for oversized items these are handled by Amtrak personnel so in theory you should keep contraband out of that . Your personal stuff you are taking to your seats is not checked, although now that all trains are completely non-smoking don't toke up on board.


They frown on drinking at your seat too. Now on the other hand, if you have a berth, feel free to get hammered.
 
2014-02-19 10:34:16 AM

Angry Drunk Bureaucrat: Tom_Slick: Pretty much, except for long distance trains with baggage cars for oversized items these are handled by Amtrak personnel so in theory you should keep contraband out of that . Your personal stuff you are taking to your seats is not checked, although now that all trains are completely non-smoking don't toke up on board.

They frown on drinking at your seat too. Now on the other hand, if you have a berth, feel free to get hammered.


The bar car from Atlanta to DC is usually wonderfully empty.
 
2014-02-19 10:34:20 AM

FlashHarry: I live in a New York City apartment with tinier-than-normal energy-efficient appliances, I bike or take public transportation most places, I compost, the bulk of our food comes from the local farmer's market, I live walking distance to work, I fly only rarely. However, when I needed to go to the Ragdale Artists Colony in Lake Forest, Ill. (an hour outside of Chicago) to finish my novel, I took a look at the University of California, Berkeley's carbon calculator to see how much the short-ish flight would set the planet back.

the pretentiousness... it burns!


The best part will come when someone informs her that the flight she decided not to take still took off without her aboard.
 
2014-02-19 10:37:57 AM

Tom_Slick: Angry Drunk Bureaucrat: Tom_Slick: Pretty much, except for long distance trains with baggage cars for oversized items these are handled by Amtrak personnel so in theory you should keep contraband out of that . Your personal stuff you are taking to your seats is not checked, although now that all trains are completely non-smoking don't toke up on board.

They frown on drinking at your seat too. Now on the other hand, if you have a berth, feel free to get hammered.

The bar car from Atlanta to DC is usually wonderfully empty.


Too many Baptists worried that someone will recognize them?
 
2014-02-19 10:46:45 AM
I've got a nephew going to Kansas from New York on a train today, as it so happens. Ticket is $150 and takes something like 17 hours. He could get there in just a few hours by plane for $180. He says he is going by train because "his friends are going by train", but does not have a good reason for why they are traveling that way. I'm pretty sure I figured it out in about 12 seconds: no TSA means he can bring as much weed and whatever else he is using these days with him. Which, if that is the reason, seems like a much better reason than not liking the results dialed up on Berkley's carbon calculator.
 
2014-02-19 10:47:01 AM
So, Amtrak can't drive for sh*t, either?
 
2014-02-19 10:48:48 AM

Three Crooked Squirrels: I've got a nephew going to Kansas from New York on a train today, as it so happens. Ticket is $150 and takes something like 17 hours. He could get there in just a few hours by plane for $180. He says he is going by train because "his friends are going by train", but does not have a good reason for why they are traveling that way. I'm pretty sure I figured it out in about 12 seconds: no TSA means he can bring as much weed and whatever else he is using these days with him. Which, if that is the reason, seems like a much better reason than not liking the results dialed up on Berkley's carbon calculator.


There is one more pretty good reason:  It's a thing in itself.  You miss a lot at 35,000 feet.  Riding Amtrak is an experience.
 
2014-02-19 11:10:39 AM

nekom: Three Crooked Squirrels: I've got a nephew going to Kansas from New York on a train today, as it so happens. Ticket is $150 and takes something like 17 hours. He could get there in just a few hours by plane for $180. He says he is going by train because "his friends are going by train", but does not have a good reason for why they are traveling that way. I'm pretty sure I figured it out in about 12 seconds: no TSA means he can bring as much weed and whatever else he is using these days with him. Which, if that is the reason, seems like a much better reason than not liking the results dialed up on Berkley's carbon calculator.

There is one more pretty good reason:  It's a thing in itself.  You miss a lot at 35,000 feet.  Riding Amtrak is an experience.


If that was his reason, I'm pretty sure when he was asked why he was going by train, he would have said something like: "Well, I've never seen that part of the country." But he has not offered any real reason. So, no, I'm pretty sure it's the drugs.
 
2014-02-19 11:15:56 AM
Train to visit my parents: $500-600 and 20+ hours
Plane to visit my parents: $200-300 and 2 hours
 
2014-02-19 11:23:31 AM

nekom: Three Crooked Squirrels: I've got a nephew going to Kansas from New York on a train today, as it so happens. Ticket is $150 and takes something like 17 hours. He could get there in just a few hours by plane for $180. He says he is going by train because "his friends are going by train", but does not have a good reason for why they are traveling that way. I'm pretty sure I figured it out in about 12 seconds: no TSA means he can bring as much weed and whatever else he is using these days with him. Which, if that is the reason, seems like a much better reason than not liking the results dialed up on Berkley's carbon calculator.

There is one more pretty good reason:  It's a thing in itself.  You miss a lot at 35,000 feet.  Riding Amtrak is an experience.


Also, it's a biatch to get into Manhattan from the airports or (Lord help you!) by car. Amtrak lets you off in Penn Station.
 
2014-02-19 11:38:44 AM
What a bunch of AGW-apologist suckers... Hahahaahahaah

You all know that you are talking about "Carbon credits" because Maggie Thatcher wanted to bust the coal miner's union, right?

Why not go swimming in all of that extra ocean (lower sea level) that's allegedly hiding in Australia?
 
2014-02-19 11:39:51 AM
i live on the georgia and south carolina border. if i want to go south towards florida or west i have to go via washington dc and it is more expensive and slower then the bus. f-u amtrak.
 
2014-02-19 11:40:11 AM
is it as dorky looking as the Prius?

/DNRTFA
 
2014-02-19 11:41:05 AM
A few years ago I priced a trip from Illinois to Texas for the wife and I see see her parents. The train was comparable in value to the plane and both were less expensive than driving with an overnight in a hotel. However, the train still took as long as the car ride because Amtrak moves over on the siding to allow freight trains to go by. There is no incentive to taking the train if you don't live on the coasts.
 
2014-02-19 11:41:13 AM

devildog123: Where did she get a train ticket that was 1/3 the cost of a plane.  I've always found the train to cost almost as much if not more than a plane ride for anything that wasn't so short a train wouldn't have been more effective anyway.


This has been my disappointing experience. Like Charlie Brown with the football, I keep looking for train trips.
 
2014-02-19 11:41:45 AM
I checked out Amtrak for a family trip (My spouse, 2 spawn and myself). The tickets would cost as much as taking a plane (plus food and beverages) and would take as long as driving. The only benefits over driving would have been that I could sleep during the trip and the kids could move around a bit. Of course, then I would need to rent a car at the destination.

I am anxiously awaiting any real competitive alternative to airlines. I really hate air travel at this point.
 
2014-02-19 11:42:36 AM
I enjoy riding Amtrak but the cost isnt great.

I do love that the MBTA extended my line all the way down to where I grew up.  Train travel is convenient and affordable for me.
 
2014-02-19 11:43:14 AM

bdub77: And being on a train for 19 hours sucks balls.


Depends on the train.  If you're going to a con, I heartily recommend taking the train.  I've been to PAX twice, and taken Amtrak both times.  38 hours each way, surrounded by fellow nerds and their favorite games... tons of fun.
 
2014-02-19 11:43:26 AM
Douchebuggies.

/obscure?
 
2014-02-19 11:43:52 AM

Angry Drunk Bureaucrat: bdub77: Sure OK you're saving money but time is money. And being on a train for 19 hours sucks balls

I guess it depends on which route you're taking. Up the East Coast, it's easier and less harrowing than driving and the time is comparable to flying.

If you're crossing the Appalachians, though, it sucks balls. The only real advantage is for places like DC or NYC, it plops you down in the middle of the City with quick access to public transit. Of course, the scenery is nice, but it would be nice to see it at 55, 65 or 100 mph, instead of 25.


I tried for some years to find a reasonable amtrak route from Memphis to WV. 11 hours, a trip to chicago first, and i think it only got as far as bowling green kentucky, and then I'd have to drive the remaining 3 hours.
 
2014-02-19 11:44:11 AM
FTA:

"What if, instead of the automatic move to buy a plane ticket for mid-distance travel, I took public transportation to get there?"

So are we pretending now that airlines, which are highly subsidized by the government, aren't "public transportation?" I mean...its not like you are getting the plane all to yourself.  You have to sit in there with other people...which means its public, right?
 
2014-02-19 11:44:43 AM
Ridden the Amtrak to Chicago a few times. Wouldn't be so bad except it's late getting there to pick you up, and freight traffic is priority so you get to sit around wishing you'd driven. The rural scenery is nice but is sort of ruined by riding past many buildings whose backyards are choked with scrap and junk.

Nowadays since we got the service it's Megabus all the way. Faster, with wifi on board. No driving. Whee!
 
2014-02-19 11:44:54 AM
I traveled from Seattle to Saint Louis years ago by train due to an injury that prohibted me from flying for a while.  The trip was really long but the cab with the beds allowed some privacy and a place to sleep in peace.  The author is spot on though talking about the social aspect.  On the long ride people chat, play cards, and eat together and it is generally a more relaxed atmosphere.  I have traveled by plane a lot and planes, especially those filled with people travelling for work, are filled with angry, upset people who are in to much of a hurry for my tastes.
 
2014-02-19 11:45:10 AM
Skipping the airport, saving the planet: My 19-hour carbon-saving jaunt across America


i.imgur.com

Damn hippies
 
2014-02-19 11:46:40 AM

FlashHarry: I live in a New York City apartment with tinier-than-normal energy-efficient appliances, I bike or take public transportation most places, I compost, the bulk of our food comes from the local farmer's market, I live walking distance to work, I fly only rarely. However, when I needed to go to the Ragdale Artists Colony in Lake Forest, Ill. (an hour outside of Chicago) to finish my novel, I took a look at the University of California, Berkeley's carbon calculator to see how much the short-ish flight would set the planet back.

the pretentiousness... it burns!


Yep, I'm fine with the train trip, but why do they feel they need to be bragging pretentious assholes when they do it?

/Praying that one day there will be a cure for these pretentious assholes
//make sure to tell your doctor if you suffer from Hyper Involuntary Panic Stress Tension Elevation Response or HIPSTER in short
 
2014-02-19 11:47:52 AM
I'll take the train whenever it makes any sense at all, it is just a much better experience than flying or driving a longer distance.

It only really makes sense when heading to cities in the 8-12 hour driving distance though, unless I want a two day train trip to be part of the fun (for example a train through through the mountains is really nice).

At those distances, flying and the train cost about the same price.  Driving over 8 hours is a waste of a day, because I'll always get there exhausted.   Flying those distances takes 4 - 6 hours  (thanks to security and delays), while the train will usually take longer than I can drive the distance.  However the extra time on the train is worth the extra comfort of being able to stretch out, walk around, or sleep without interruption.
 
2014-02-19 11:49:10 AM
I want to like Amtrak but man those seats are uncomfortable, the train I was on had those seats that end at your shoulder so there's no headrest.
 
2014-02-19 11:49:12 AM
When I was in school I took Amtrak from Boston to Albany.  The trip took 8 hours versus 4 by car or 6 by bus and then it dumped me in Rensselaer where i need a car to get into the city.

Just this morning I was planning a backpacking trip to the Lake Placid area.  Amtrak proudly states they have a station in Lake placid.  It has no building, no ticket serves and most importantly no train service.  Only after reading print schedules was I able to find that a stop on the NYC to Montreal train that connects with bus service.  When I put in my local station to this stop I go an error, seems I have to book New Haven to NYC, NYC to Westport and the bus each separately.  Their booking system wouldn't do connections.

/Prius is latin for drives like a-hole in left lane
 
2014-02-19 11:49:14 AM
Los Angeles to San Antonio:

Air fare, round trip, coach, about $375 for a 3hr flight (2h45m W-E, 3h15m E-W), non-stop.

Amtrak, round trip, coach: About $1200 for about 37 hours each way, three trains with extensive layovers between each.

Maybe if I was doing something far shorter and single-leg it may pan out closer, but not for a 1400-1500 mile trip.
 
2014-02-19 11:49:17 AM

FlashHarry: I live in a New York City apartment with tinier-than-normal energy-efficient appliances, I bike or take public transportation most places, I compost, the bulk of our food comes from the local farmer's market, I live walking distance to work, I fly only rarely. However, when I needed to go to the Ragdale Artists Colony in Lake Forest, Ill. (an hour outside of Chicago) to finish my novel, I took a look at the University of California, Berkeley's carbon calculator to see how much the short-ish flight would set the planet back.

the pretentiousness... it burns!


Logged in just to post the same thing.  That has got to be the most pretentious sentence I've ever read.
 
2014-02-19 11:50:30 AM

Angry Drunk Bureaucrat: Also, it's a biatch to get into Manhattan from the airports or (Lord help you!) by car. Amtrak lets you off in Penn Station.


Meh, theres viable public transportation to all three of the major airports.. wouldn't qualify it as a "biatch".  If you have a shiat ton of luggage you might have to suck it up and take a car, but then a shiatton of luggage is also a "biatch" to throw on a subway and lug into penn station too.
 
2014-02-19 11:51:39 AM

Angry Drunk Bureaucrat: bdub77: Sure OK you're saving money but time is money. And being on a train for 19 hours sucks balls

I guess it depends on which route you're taking. Up the East Coast, it's easier and less harrowing than driving and the time is comparable to flying.

If you're crossing the Appalachians, though, it sucks balls. The only real advantage is for places like DC or NYC, it plops you down in the middle of the City with quick access to public transit. Of course, the scenery is nice, but it would be nice to see it at 55, 65 or 100 mph, instead of 25.


I understand what you're trying to say, but being plopped down at Penn Station is not an advantage.
 
2014-02-19 11:52:05 AM
Also, I flying was cheaper and more convenient than trains when I ilved in Europe - and their train system is more developed than ours... I think I'll stick with quick travel.
 
2014-02-19 11:52:16 AM

Angry Drunk Bureaucrat: Tom_Slick: Pretty much, except for long distance trains with baggage cars for oversized items these are handled by Amtrak personnel so in theory you should keep contraband out of that . Your personal stuff you are taking to your seats is not checked, although now that all trains are completely non-smoking don't toke up on board.

They frown on drinking at your seat too. Now on the other hand, if you have a berth, feel free to get hammered.


I've taken the train back and forth between Albany and Buffalo many times, and that's never been my experience.  They frown on getting shiathoused and rowdy in your seat, not necessarily the drinking.  I've brought a six-pack with me on several occasions and never had a problem.
 
2014-02-19 11:52:22 AM
Amtrack is the Prius? Meaning riders of Amtrack saves more money on condom purchase than on gas purchase?
 
2014-02-19 11:52:50 AM

nekom: Is it still pretty much no1curr about bags? Haven't been on a train in awhile, but the Amtrak stop closest to here resembles a bus stop with a little kiosk. The train pulls up, you get on, you go.

Amtrak: Travel with your weed! We don't give a shiat.


Sure is.  Last time I carried on a backpack, a rolly bag, a bag full of con swag, and a grocery bag full of snacks.  Nobody gave me a second glance, despite that you're technically only allowed 2 carry-ons; hell, one of the porters helped me with them.  And this was at a full-fledged station (Seattle), so yeah.
 
2014-02-19 11:53:14 AM
if you want a REAL experience travel like i do and hop in an empty box car.
 
2014-02-19 11:53:49 AM
I once took the train from Oakland, CA to DC, because I had the time and just wanted to.  I was by myself, but booked a family sleeper room (had its own bathroom and shower), and it was an amazing trip.  I'd like to do it again some day.  The accommodations were comfortable, the food (included in the price of the sleeper ticket) was decent, and the people were friendly.

I brought two books, a bottle of 21 year-old Lagavulin, and didn't finish any of them during my four day trip.  Sitting on the equivalent of a sofa behind a large picture window and watching the country go by was profoundly soothing.
 
2014-02-19 11:54:03 AM

Draskuul: Los Angeles to San Antonio:

Air fare, round trip, coach, about $375 for a 3hr flight (2h45m W-E, 3h15m E-W), non-stop.

Amtrak, round trip, coach: About $1200 for about 37 hours each way, three trains with extensive layovers between each.

Maybe if I was doing something far shorter and single-leg it may pan out closer, but not for a 1400-1500 mile trip.


Thing I hate is that it isn't all Amtrak's fault, for the long trips they use commercial lines and the commercial shipping trains get priority. Unfortunately we don't have the money, nor the political willingness to make a high speed nationwide rail system that could effectively compete with airlines.
 
2014-02-19 11:54:04 AM
Not having to go through security-molestation theater ALONE is worth the cost and time of taking Amtrak.
 
2014-02-19 11:54:06 AM

devildog123: Where did she get a train ticket that was 1/3 the cost of a plane.  I've always found the train to cost almost as much if not more than a plane ride for anything that wasn't so short a train wouldn't have been more effective anyway.


That's been my experience as well.  A couple of years ago I was traveling from NYC to Rochester NY.  Both Amtrak and Greyhound cost many times more than the plane.  So I flew.
 
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