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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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8147 clicks; posted to Main » on 19 Feb 2014 at 11:31 AM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-02-19 12:37:41 PM  

Mikey1969: redmid17: Anything more than a 6 hour drive or train ride is going to be tilted in favor of flying in my experience as long as you're not either coming from or going to a place more than an hour away. That obviously shrinks if you have to rent the car for the duration of the vacation. I priced out a drive to Nashville in a rental car from Chicago vs a flight + cab to downtown. Flying won out. It was cheaper, and no one wants my girlfriend driving places she hasn't been to before (least of all me) and not at night. I can drive for 8 hours straight but why would I want to when I can fly there in 2 hours and we can actually enjoy a three day weekend versus driving overnight?

Yeah, we have to drive for our Az trip every year because we can't afford to fly 5 people down and back, but I sure as hell don't want to burn half my trip with a drive if I can avoid it, at least the train provides a scenic trip everyone can enjoy, but I agree that you still lose a lot of your time travelling. Flying is quicker, but sure is a great way to miss large swatches of America.Nothing is truly a win-win, I guess...


Haha high-speed rail would be close, and obviously if you're taking 5 people, those plane tickets rack up quickly.  Train would be OK by me in that case if you can get the tickets cheaper. I'd be glad to take a train if I had a decent schedule. I've taken the train to Milwaukee a few times for work. It was easy and I even worked/dozed off as appropriate, but I doubt I'd have done that if my client weren't downtown. MY GF and I drove down to Indy a few weeks before Christmas to see my parents, go to an IU game (at conseco), and just show her around. Amtrak would have been perfect. We were staying downtown a few blocks from the station and it's only about 3:30 hours, but the schedule was horrible and we rented a car. Lucky that we did though. We drove down to Bloomington one day to see my grandpa and show her around the ole alma mater.
 
2014-02-19 12:41:15 PM  
Why do you need to go somewhere to write?
 
2014-02-19 12:42:29 PM  

Fish in a Barrel: I hate flying (actually, I hate airports), so I'd really like to travel by train.  Every time I've investigated it, though, Amtrak would have cost a fortune, taken days, and involved long lay-overs.  It's just not a feasible option.


That's me too. I generally enjoy the thrill of riding in a plane (my inner 3 year old is kicking your seat!), but I detest airports.
 
2014-02-19 12:43:07 PM  

jrkeenan65: The laws of phisics would say that it would take the same expenditure of energy to get you from point A to point B no matter how you do it. The same amount of fuel would be used weather or not your on a plane or train.


In a frictionless vacuum, maybe(and even then, only if you were transporting identical mass).
 
2014-02-19 12:44:12 PM  

Iszael: Enigmamf: Isz

Enigmamf: Iszael: I don't get it.  The fuel tank in a 737 can only have 20 tons of carbon in it, and that's in the long-range model.  You probably don't load (or burn) all 6800 gallons just to go 3000 miles.

Are they saying there was only 8 people on the plane, and a headwind?  How else do you get 2.4 tons of carbon per passenger?  Any bigger plane would have many more people on it or it wouldn't be flying.  Any smaller plane would burn less fuel.

It's impossible to emit 2.4 tons of carbon per passenger on a commercial transcontinental flight.

It's probably 2.4 tons of CO2 - each 6 grams of carbon from the fuel results in 22 grams of CO2 exhaust.

No, the math still doesn't work out.  Typical transcon flights are full, that's 110 to 140 people per 737, even 60 tons of CO2 divided by that many people is less than half a ton per person.

Also, did Amtrak get a whole hell of a lot faster than it used to run?  I didn't know they could average 160 MPH.  Kind of cool, I guess, but I'll take 500 MPH in a plane instead since the "carbon footprint" isn't anywhere near as bad as they say.


I don't think it's per person. I think the 2.4 tons is just for the flight itself. The author doesn't say anything to indicate that she's referring to a per person figure. Although, I tried plugging a single 733 mile flight into the carbon calculator the author linked to and it said 0.3 tons, so something fishy is going on.
 
2014-02-19 12:49:02 PM  

redmid17: Train would be OK by me in that case if you can get the tickets cheaper. I'd be glad to take a train if I had a decent schedule.


Then there is another issue... Sadly, trains only go where the tracks are... In this part of the country, it's east-west, I can't go form Salt lake to Phoenix, or I would in a heartbeat. Hell, Amtrak won't even let me fark around and plan one where I go through somewhere like Sacramento first, I have to make it 2 separate trips, which increases the cost. It's a self-perpetuating loop, trains cost money, nobody wants to put money into rail systems unless they see a profit, they can't make a profit if they don't have an infrastructure, etc....
 
2014-02-19 12:51:14 PM  

ikanreed: jrkeenan65: The laws of phisics would say that it would take the same expenditure of energy to get you from point A to point B no matter how you do it. The same amount of fuel would be used weather or not your on a plane or train.

In a frictionless vacuum, maybe(and even then, only if you were transporting identical mass).


Even if we ignore friction, it also depends upon how you accelerate.  1N of force for 10 seconds to start, then the same to stop is less energy than 100N for 20 seconds to start/stop.  The second case will get you there faster, though.
 
2014-02-19 12:51:17 PM  

SigmaAlgebra: Angry Drunk Bureaucrat: 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.

So spend 14 more hours on a train to save an hour at the end of the trip by not having to take public transit from Newark or LaGuardia. That makes sense.


Yeah, but I also don't have to be probed by TSA, crammed next to a crying baby, strapped into a seat, etc. etc.

The tradeoff here is usually between the train and driving: whether I want to do 10 hours on the train and rest or 6 hours in the car and actively drive. The flight to NYC from PIT is like an hour (and leave more frequently), so if I have to get to NYC in a hurry I'm obviously going to fly. If I can take my time, I'm going to take the train or drive.
 
2014-02-19 12:51:55 PM  

Enigmamf: jonnya: That sounds really inexpensive for Amtrak. I've seen them regularly charge more than that for a non-acela ride from NY to Boston. That's one of the reasons I dislike them- such arbitrary pricing, and they always raise the price as departure time arrives, even if the train has plenty of unsold seats. Seems like a gouge to me and I dislike them for it. I only take the train here and there now. I'd do it a lot more often if they had consistent and reasonable pricing.

All modes of transportation do that, because it encourages you to book early, which helps them plan things further in advance, which is cheaper for them.


I know airlines do that, but flying is a much bigger deal as far as prep, TSA bullshiat, and airline compliancy. But Amtraks are trains that are en route anyway with a fair amount of empty seats. How much more prep time do they need to punch my ticket at the gate and tell me to enjoy my ride? Wouldn't they make more profit if they sold those empty seats as opposed to pricing ridership out? I guess not, but as a casual rider I resent the policy. I won't even get into my own personal experience where I had a pre-paid ticket, but I missed Train A and they wanted to charge me nearly double for train B, which was just a few hours later. They treated it like I was walking up to the ticket booth with no prior ticket/reservation.

I'd like it to be more like a bus, subway, or commuter rail in that regard. They have fixed fares/rates. Doubling pricing at departure time would be unacceptable.
 
2014-02-19 12:57:19 PM  

Enigmamf: Angela Lansbury's Merkin: Train to visit my parents: $500-600 and 20+ hours
Plane to visit my parents: $200-300 and 2 hours

BS. You spend more than 2 hours checking bags, going through security, checking in for boarding, and waiting for bags when you get off.


Fine, let's add a whopping 3 more hours for the trip (Although I rarely get to the airport more than 1 hour before my flight, and rarely check bags).  We are now looking at 5 hours vs 20+ hours on the train, and at 1/2 to 1/3 the cost.
 
2014-02-19 12:57:50 PM  
Several years back, my now-ex-wife tried taking Amtrak from Orlando to New Orleans and back. On the way there, the trip took about four or five hours longer than it would have to drive (you can drive it in about 10 hours).

On the way back, the train got so far behind schedule that they actually forced everyone off the train before they got to Orlando and put them on buses because the train had to start going back the other way.

So, thank you, but no. I'll drive. And if I don't want to drive, I'll fly.
 
2014-02-19 01:00:43 PM  

mike_d85: FTFA: But, as the sun set, I smugly pulled out a half-bottle of wine as well as the Swiss army knife needed to open it.

And before that you smugly worked on your novel on the train, smugly ate an apple, smugly boarded a train, and smugly announced to anyone that would listen that you're saving the planet by taking the train.

I'm all for doing things that save the environment but can we just list practicalities without waxing poetic about olden times?  Yes, the train is less damaging emissions-wise than planes and yes, taking them should be encouraged for that reason.

/I'm looking into a trip from SC to Boston in March by Amtrak.
//EVERBODY LOOK AT ME!!
///I'M GOING TO TAKE A TRAIN TO SAVE YOU ALL!!!
//also to have sex on a train.


Yeah, I checked the prices.  It's a toss up.  $100 more and the trip takes A night and a day (11PM to 7PM) or $100 less and the trip takes a full day (8AM to 4PM).
 
2014-02-19 01:02:31 PM  

Fish in a Barrel: ikanreed: jrkeenan65: The laws of phisics would say that it would take the same expenditure of energy to get you from point A to point B no matter how you do it. The same amount of fuel would be used weather or not your on a plane or train.

In a frictionless vacuum, maybe(and even then, only if you were transporting identical mass).

Even if we ignore friction, it also depends upon how you accelerate.  1N of force for 10 seconds to start, then the same to stop is less energy than 100N for 20 seconds to start/stop.  The second case will get you there faster, though.


Er, I suppose, yeah.  I forgot that piece.  I was treating it like an orbital problem, which is, of course, silly.  So basically, "the laws of physics" say nothing of the sort.
 
2014-02-19 01:03:50 PM  
When I'm in Europe I take the train everywhere. It's awesomesauce in every way, absolutely fantastic.

When I'm in the US it's drive or fly. Trains rarely make any sense.
 
2014-02-19 01:04:38 PM  

Headso: 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.


Compared to the matchboxes that airline bean counters call seats these days, an Amtrak seat is downright luxurious.
 
2014-02-19 01:06:25 PM  

Lee Jackson Beauregard: Headso: 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.

Compared to the matchboxes that airline bean counters call seats these days, an Amtrak seat is downright luxurious.


Tell me about it.  I'm a fairly big dude, but not morbidly obese, and coach plane seats are hell on me; my knees go right up against the seat in front of me, and I really have to squeeze into the seat.  Amtrak, on the other hand, is nice and comfy.
 
2014-02-19 01:09:22 PM  

Jument: When I'm in Europe I take the train everywhere. It's awesomesauce in every way, absolutely fantastic.

When I'm in the US it's drive or fly. Trains rarely make any sense.


Trains in Europe are not particularly awesome either, and are generally not any cheaper than flying.
 
2014-02-19 01:12:03 PM  

derpy: udhq: I'm in Minneapolis, and if I'm going to Chicago, or the Pacific NW, it's Amtrak all the way.  Why?  Four words: "glass-roofed bar car."  Most trips I've taken have turned into moving parties.

also, this


Totally.  When I told my grandparents that I took the metra every day they lit up and told me how much they enjoyed it when commuting to the city every. They said they would hang out in the smoking car and play euchre to and from work with essentially the same group of people every day.  I don't get to enjoy it, but I imagine that random socialization is alive and well on amtrak trips.
 
2014-02-19 01:14:03 PM  
I did a double-take: the single NYC-Chicago leg alone would add 2.4 tons of carbon to the atmosphere

I believe the plane still flew and 2.5 tons of carbon was added to the atmosphere (someone flushed the toilet in First Class).
 
2014-02-19 01:15:20 PM  
I'm traveling from Philly to Pittsburgh in a couple of weeks to begin a long business trip.
Cheapest airfare, $158 - through Dulles taking about 6 hours including showing up early for check in.
Cheapest Amtrak, $55 Direct. 7 hours. No baggage fee, practically no baggage limit, no security, more legroom, more comfortable seats, free internet, and I can get up and walk around without having to squeeze past people in the aisle.

I find this to be the case quite a lot.

No contest.
 
2014-02-19 01:19:47 PM  

andersoncouncil42: I'm traveling from Philly to Pittsburgh in a couple of weeks to begin a long business trip.
Cheapest airfare, $158 - through Dulles taking about 6 hours including showing up early for check in.
Cheapest Amtrak, $55 Direct. 7 hours. No baggage fee, practically no baggage limit, no security, more legroom, more comfortable seats, free internet, and I can get up and walk around without having to squeeze past people in the aisle.

I find this to be the case quite a lot.

No contest.


Flying from Philly to Pittsburgh is just a bad idea anyway. It's what a 4-4.5 hour drive?
 
2014-02-19 01:22:21 PM  

ikanreed: jrkeenan65: The laws of phisics physics would say that it would take the same expenditure of energy to get you from point A to point B no matter how you do it. The same amount of fuel would be used weather or not your on a plane or train.

In a frictionless vacuum, maybe(and even then, only if you were transporting identical mass).


The train would probably weigh more, but don't forget to calculate in how much fuel is burned in a plane just to provide lift and also to accelerate to cruising speed. The train doesn't have to account so much for gravity, but the friction produced by all the moving mechanical parts needs to be overcome, including the wheels against the rails.

/The CO2 figures are very questionable, for both the train and the plane.
 
2014-02-19 01:23:54 PM  
Last year I priced out a round trip from San Jose to San Antonio.  Amtrak would have been more expensive, particularly if I wanted a place to sleep that wasn't a coach seat, but might have been worth the convenience of having an actual room to myself.

The deal-breaker was that the "Texas Eagle" trains that serve San Antonio (endpoints are Los Angeles and Chicago) only run three days a week, and they all arrive in San Antonio at about 3am.

jonnya: Enigmamf: jonnya: That sounds really inexpensive for Amtrak. I've seen them regularly charge more than that for a non-acela ride from NY to Boston. That's one of the reasons I dislike them- such arbitrary pricing, and they always raise the price as departure time arrives, even if the train has plenty of unsold seats. Seems like a gouge to me and I dislike them for it. I only take the train here and there now. I'd do it a lot more often if they had consistent and reasonable pricing.

All modes of transportation do that, because it encourages you to book early, which helps them plan things further in advance, which is cheaper for them.

I know airlines do that, but flying is a much bigger deal as far as prep, TSA bullshiat, and airline compliancy. But Amtraks are trains that are en route anyway with a fair amount of empty seats. How much more prep time do they need to punch my ticket at the gate and tell me to enjoy my ride? Wouldn't they make more profit if they sold those empty seats as opposed to pricing ridership out? I guess not, but as a casual rider I resent the policy. I won't even get into my own personal experience where I had a pre-paid ticket, but I missed Train A and they wanted to charge me nearly double for train B, which was just a few hours later. They treated it like I was walking up to the ticket booth with no prior ticket/reservation.

I'd like it to be more like a bus, subway, or commuter rail in that regard. They have fixed fares/rates. Doubling pricing at departure time would be unacceptable.


Another solution there would be for Amtrak to offer last-minute deals, just like airlines and hotels do.  If there are any unbooked seats or rooms, and there are only a few days before departure, offer a steep discount so that the seat or room isn't a total loss for that trip.
 
2014-02-19 01:24:07 PM  

lilplatinum: Jument: When I'm in Europe I take the train everywhere. It's awesomesauce in every way, absolutely fantastic.

When I'm in the US it's drive or fly. Trains rarely make any sense.

Trains in Europe are not particularly awesome either, and are generally not any cheaper than flying.


Depends on the circumstances. The high speed trains were much nicer than the slower ones. IIRC you lived in Germany. The ICE trains were night and day compared to the IC trains, which I would equate to the local METRA stuff here in Chicago. I traveled a bunch in Germany, so I plumped for a DB 50 card. It pretty much paid for itself on one trip to Munich. Most travel I did was via Easyjet or Ryanair. I went to a few places in France on the train, but it was because they were close enough I'd still have been in the air by the time I'd have arrived by train.

I'd not want to travel around by train in Europe if I didn't have to.
 
2014-02-19 01:29:22 PM  

redmid17: The ICE trains were night and day compared to the IC trains, which I would equate to the local METRA stuff here in Chicago. I traveled a bunch in Germany, so I plumped for a DB 50 card. It pretty much paid for itself on one trip to Munich. Most travel I did was via Easyjet or Ryanair. I went to a few places in France on the train, but it was because they were close enough I'd still have been in the air by the time I'd have arrived by train.


Yeah, Hamburg to Berlin was fine on the ICE because it was quick as shiat and you could just get bombed in the bar car.  Hamburg to Munich is 9-10 hours on the ICE and was pricier than a shiatty germanwings flight.

Similiarly, train to Amsterdam was 6 hours and not much cheaper than a sleazyjet or pikeyair ticket.

Easyjet and Ryanair suck, but you aren't going to have to be on them long enough for it to matter.
 
2014-02-19 01:32:07 PM  
I used to be a regular on the lake shore limited between Syracuse and Cleveland back in my college days... needless to say, as soon as I was able to have a car at school, I just drove the 6 or so hours back and forth.  It seemed like the train was delayed an hour or more on 75% or more of my trips.  Often times 3 to 4 hours late either arriving to pick me up or arriving at my destination.  I think the worst was about 9 hours.  Just had to take the lake shore again from Chicago to Syracuse during one of the snowstorms after my flight was cancelled.  It was actually a really pleasant experience until we hit a malfunctioning switch signal with about 1.5 hours to Syracuse.  Spent 2 hours slowly chugging at 25 MPH next to the thruway while people sped by at 75 MPH, aggravating to say the least.  Ended up arriving 2.5 hours behind schedule.

I'm all for rail, but holy shiat, you've got to be able to predict with reasonable accuracy/confidence when you're going to arrive.  I understand freight has the right of way, but have no idea how we can fund high speed rail/dedicated passenger lines.  Amtrack isn't winning any customers or getting a high speed rail movement started by getting people to their destinations several hours behind schedule.  Re-branding themselves to be more about the experience might work, but I don't really know that many people that would want to burn vacation days sitting on a train... to each their own I guess.
 
2014-02-19 01:40:54 PM  

redmid17: andersoncouncil42: I'm traveling from Philly to Pittsburgh in a couple of weeks to begin a long business trip.
Cheapest airfare, $158 - through Dulles taking about 6 hours including showing up early for check in.
Cheapest Amtrak, $55 Direct. 7 hours. No baggage fee, practically no baggage limit, no security, more legroom, more comfortable seats, free internet, and I can get up and walk around without having to squeeze past people in the aisle.

I find this to be the case quite a lot.

No contest.

Flying from Philly to Pittsburgh is just a bad idea anyway. It's what a 4-4.5 hour drive?


My transport is taken care of on the trip for the next few weeks. I can't leave my car in Pittsburgh.
 
2014-02-19 01:41:59 PM  

redmid17: lilplatinum: Jument: When I'm in Europe I take the train everywhere. It's awesomesauce in every way, absolutely fantastic.

When I'm in the US it's drive or fly. Trains rarely make any sense.

Trains in Europe are not particularly awesome either, and are generally not any cheaper than flying.

Depends on the circumstances. The high speed trains were much nicer than the slower ones. IIRC you lived in Germany. The ICE trains were night and day compared to the IC trains, which I would equate to the local METRA stuff here in Chicago. I traveled a bunch in Germany, so I plumped for a DB 50 card. It pretty much paid for itself on one trip to Munich. Most travel I did was via Easyjet or Ryanair. I went to a few places in France on the train, but it was because they were close enough I'd still have been in the air by the time I'd have arrived by train.

I'd not want to travel around by train in Europe if I didn't have to.


Seriously, I don't know what you guys are talking about. Perhaps as a tourist it makes more sense to travel by train. I've done extensive train travel on 4-5 Europe trips and it has been amazing. Walk up to the train station, get on the next train. No muss, no fuss. Many routes are fast, trains are usually quite spacious, etc. Even if flying is the same price, how do you plan to get to the airport, what about the extra time for security, etc? And why bother when the train station is probably in the center of town and your hotel is walkable from it?

I will grant you that flying probably makes sense for long distance travel, but since Europe isn't all that big most trips are short hope.

FWIW I'm talking about western Europe. That's where all of my trips have been. Mostly UK, France, Italy, some travel in Germany, Netherlands, etc.
 
2014-02-19 01:49:05 PM  
The cost difference between rail and air really depends on your proximity to a decent sized airport. For example, I live in Connecticut, so a trip to, say, Boston by air would have to include the costs and time of travel to LGA (by limo, which is the only reasonable way), plus the trip from Logan to downtown Boston.
Yes, I could travel via HPN, but this usually increases the cost of the air fare.
 
2014-02-19 01:52:57 PM  

ikanreed: I was treating it like an orbital problem, which is, of course, silly.  So basically, "the laws of physics" say nothing of the sort.


Trying to get a train into orbit is going to involve all kinds of issues that make a 737's carbon footprint look like a fart in a hurricane. :)
 
2014-02-19 01:54:18 PM  

Jument: redmid17: lilplatinum: Jument: When I'm in Europe I take the train everywhere. It's awesomesauce in every way, absolutely fantastic.

When I'm in the US it's drive or fly. Trains rarely make any sense.

Trains in Europe are not particularly awesome either, and are generally not any cheaper than flying.

Depends on the circumstances. The high speed trains were much nicer than the slower ones. IIRC you lived in Germany. The ICE trains were night and day compared to the IC trains, which I would equate to the local METRA stuff here in Chicago. I traveled a bunch in Germany, so I plumped for a DB 50 card. It pretty much paid for itself on one trip to Munich. Most travel I did was via Easyjet or Ryanair. I went to a few places in France on the train, but it was because they were close enough I'd still have been in the air by the time I'd have arrived by train.

I'd not want to travel around by train in Europe if I didn't have to.

Seriously, I don't know what you guys are talking about. Perhaps as a tourist it makes more sense to travel by train. I've done extensive train travel on 4-5 Europe trips and it has been amazing. Walk up to the train station, get on the next train. No muss, no fuss. Many routes are fast, trains are usually quite spacious, etc. Even if flying is the same price, how do you plan to get to the airport, what about the extra time for security, etc? And why bother when the train station is probably in the center of town and your hotel is walkable from it?

I will grant you that flying probably makes sense for long distance travel, but since Europe isn't all that big most trips are short hope.

FWIW I'm talking about western Europe. That's where all of my trips have been. Mostly UK, France, Italy, some travel in Germany, Netherlands, etc.


I lived in Germany twice. The trains aren't bad but they are still slow as fark unless you plump for high speed, and those are just as expensive as a plane flight, usually more. Train is fine for short trips or trips where the airport is an hour away. I flew to Prague, Milan, Dublin (obviously), Budapest, and a few other places. The train would have taken a very long time to get there. Shorter trips to Lyon, Munich, Epernay, Basel, Zurich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt were all done by train. Most of those trips weren't much different than my drive from Chicago to Indy for the holidays. The other ones were more equivalent to going to the East coast from Chicago.

If you're a tourist not traveling from a fixed location, the trains make a lot of sense. You hop on in Berlin travel to Munich then Vienna then Budapest and on. If you're taking the train directly from Berlin to, say, Paris, you're doing it wrong. It takes over 8 hours and costs ~200 Euro for one way. To do the same thing from minor Berlin airport (even with checked bags), it probably going to cost half the price and take half the time.
 
2014-02-19 01:57:27 PM  
I looked into Amtrak for a trip to San Diego. About the same cost as flying and 41 hours including transfers. That's 26 mph!
 
2014-02-19 01:58:27 PM  
Angry Drunk Bureaucrat:

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 been able to drink at my seat on all my recent trips in NY State and on the NorthEast Corridor.  As recently as a month ago.  Purchase at the cafe car and carry back.  Where did you get this information?
 
2014-02-19 02:02:18 PM  

redmid17: andersoncouncil42: I'm traveling from Philly to Pittsburgh in a couple of weeks to begin a long business trip.
Cheapest airfare, $158 - through Dulles taking about 6 hours including showing up early for check in.
Cheapest Amtrak, $55 Direct. 7 hours. No baggage fee, practically no baggage limit, no security, more legroom, more comfortable seats, free internet, and I can get up and walk around without having to squeeze past people in the aisle.

I find this to be the case quite a lot.

No contest.

Flying from Philly to Pittsburgh is just a bad idea anyway. It's what a 4-4.5 hour drive?


11hr drive..
 
2014-02-19 02:02:30 PM  
The problem with Amtrak is that it uses essentially the same infrastructure that it did in 1890.  It still takes days to get cross-country for a wide variety of legacy reasons. It only makes $$$ sense if you're doing short hops between DC and Boston.

And don't believe any of the Acela hype.  As fast as they say the train goes, it only goes about 20 miles an hour faster than the regular train and only for a fraction of the trip.  You save like an hour if there are no interruptions, but they charge you a premium.  Save that for when your company is picking up the tab.

I'd love to see a properly engineered system that made flights between say Chicago and New York redundant.  Or like Atlanta and DC.  If DOT could do that, that would be money well-spent.  Instead the money is spent on maintaining jobs at small stations in the middle of the prairie and failing routes that are mostly tourist curiosities.
 
2014-02-19 02:03:04 PM  

Mikey1969: redmid17: Train would be OK by me in that case if you can get the tickets cheaper. I'd be glad to take a train if I had a decent schedule.

Then there is another issue... Sadly, trains only go where the tracks are... In this part of the country, it's east-west, I can't go form Salt lake to Phoenix, or I would in a heartbeat. Hell, Amtrak won't even let me fark around and plan one where I go through somewhere like Sacramento first, I have to make it 2 separate trips, which increases the cost. It's a self-perpetuating loop, trains cost money, nobody wants to put money into rail systems unless they see a profit, they can't make a profit if they don't have an infrastructure, etc....


The basic problem is that airplanes have a MUCH higher startup cost (because you have to build the multi-billion dollar airport.), while trains have a much higher per-MILE cost because you have to build tracks everywhere.

So if you're in Europe, and you have that nice central population corridor only a few hundred miles across with towns every couple of day's ride on horseback, yes, go nuts with trains.

cache.eupedia.com

Whereas if you have the entire Mountain West time zone with less people in the entire time zone than NYC, AND the stupid thing is covered in mountains (and all your major cities are a couple hours drive apart at minimum once you leave the East Coast, and they're much more spread out cities to boot, which makes city center to city center mass transit less useful*), which are apparently their own special class of pain...  That's not to say that rail in America is useless, just that outside of few corridors, it makes a lot LESS sense than it would in say Europe.

www.mapofusa.net

i.imgur.com


*Seriously, did a cross-country drive from Detroit to SF via OKC.  When the biggest city you pass through on the third day is Flagstaff, your country is empty.
 
2014-02-19 02:06:18 PM  

styckx: redmid17: andersoncouncil42: I'm traveling from Philly to Pittsburgh in a couple of weeks to begin a long business trip.
Cheapest airfare, $158 - through Dulles taking about 6 hours including showing up early for check in.
Cheapest Amtrak, $55 Direct. 7 hours. No baggage fee, practically no baggage limit, no security, more legroom, more comfortable seats, free internet, and I can get up and walk around without having to squeeze past people in the aisle.

I find this to be the case quite a lot.

No contest.

Flying from Philly to Pittsburgh is just a bad idea anyway. It's what a 4-4.5 hour drive?

11hr drive..


Are you driving to DC and then going to Pittsburgh? It's taken me just over 5 hours to drive across the state on my last two round trips, and I was going within 5 miles of the speed limit. PA state troopers do not fark around.
 
2014-02-19 02:12:20 PM  

FlashHarry: I live in a New York City apartment

the pretentiousness... it burns!


What's pretentious about living in a NYC apartment?

I live in a NYC apartment.  It has tiny appliances because it is a tiny apartment.  I normally bike to work, but since I broke my knee back in july, I've been taking public transportation until I'm fully healed.  Have't owned a car since the mid 1990's, and my drivers' license expired in 1998.  I work for an international environmental organization, and in my free time, I do volunteer work with local environmental groups.  But when it comes to traveling, I take the plane since it saves me time and money.  And after doing a trip from NYC to Durham by bus once, I vowed to never travel by bus in the US ever again!  Except for short trips.  Then the bus is fine.
 
2014-02-19 02:14:30 PM  
redmid17:
Are you driving to DC and then going to Pittsburgh? It's taken me just over 5 hours to drive across the state on my last two round trips, and I was going within 5 miles of the speed limit. PA state troopers do not fark around.

No they do not, especially on the turnpike.  Having a CB radio helps more than you might think.  Even a handheld or a radio scanner that can pick up ch19 (27.185MHz) is enough to listen in.
 
2014-02-19 02:15:52 PM  

meyerkev: Whereas if you have the entire Mountain West time zone with less people in the entire time zone than NYC, AND the stupid thing is covered in mountains (and all your major cities are a couple hours drive apart at minimum once you leave the East Coast, and they're much more spread out cities to boot, which makes city center to city center mass transit less useful*), which are apparently their own special class of pain... That's not to say that rail in America is useless, just that outside of few corridors, it makes a lot LESS sense than it would in say Europe.


This.  A friend visited from Cambridge.  We drove the Pacific Coast Highway for most of the length of California, and it wasn't until the second day - when we got to SF - that it really hit him how large the US is.  California is almost exactly the same size (physically) as the UK.  He was thinking that LA-SF was like London to Oxford, when it's more like London to Glasgow.
 
2014-02-19 02:16:22 PM  
Yeah, I made it as far as "to finish my novel" before I rage-closed that article.
 
2014-02-19 02:22:45 PM  

meyerkev: So if you're in Europe, and you have that nice central population corridor only a few hundred miles across with towns every couple of day's ride on horseback, yes, go nuts with trains.

That's not to say that rail in America is useless, just that outside of few corridors, it makes a lot LESS sense than it would in say Europe.


Thank you. I've been saying similar things for years, every time I hear somebody lament (yet again) that we don't have the highly-developed passenger rail infrastructure that you find in Europe or Japan. Many people don't seem to realize that France (the largest country in Europe by area) is smaller than Texas. Germany is smaller than California or Montana.

Relatively small areas, with relatively high population densities, are very conducive to effective rail transit. This is why rail is actually somewhat effective in the Northeast Corridor. It is also why subways work in cities.

Vast swaths of empty land, on the other hand, are NOT conducive to rail when there are other options.
 
2014-02-19 02:24:13 PM  
Amtrak like a Prius?  That means that either Toyota is taking over Amtrak, or a Prius has achieved
an on-time record of .000 - either way, it's bugler blow taps.
 
2014-02-19 02:24:54 PM  

meyerkev: Mikey1969: redmid17: Train would be OK by me in that case if you can get the tickets cheaper. I'd be glad to take a train if I had a decent schedule.

Then there is another issue... Sadly, trains only go where the tracks are... In this part of the country, it's east-west, I can't go form Salt lake to Phoenix, or I would in a heartbeat. Hell, Amtrak won't even let me fark around and plan one where I go through somewhere like Sacramento first, I have to make it 2 separate trips, which increases the cost. It's a self-perpetuating loop, trains cost money, nobody wants to put money into rail systems unless they see a profit, they can't make a profit if they don't have an infrastructure, etc....

The basic problem is that airplanes have a MUCH higher startup cost (because you have to build the multi-billion dollar airport.), while trains have a much higher per-MILE cost because you have to build tracks everywhere.

So if you're in Europe, and you have that nice central population corridor only a few hundred miles across with towns every couple of day's ride on horseback, yes, go nuts with trains.

[cache.eupedia.com image 643x643]

Whereas if you have the entire Mountain West time zone with less people in the entire time zone than NYC, AND the stupid thing is covered in mountains (and all your major cities are a couple hours drive apart at minimum once you leave the East Coast, and they're much more spread out cities to boot, which makes city center to city center mass transit less useful*), which are apparently their own special class of pain...  That's not to say that rail in America is useless, just that outside of few corridors, it makes a lot LESS sense than it would in say Europe.

[www.mapofusa.net image 608x346]

[i.imgur.com image 850x619]


*Seriously, did a cross-country drive from Detroit to SF via OKC.  When the biggest city you pass through on the third day is Flagstaff, your country is empty.


Yeah, I know... It's funny... To us, a 6 hour trip is nothing. Everyone I talk to from anywhere in the Midwest or the East, and they freak out over something like a 6 hour drive. I think it's because to them, 6 hours is like 3 or 4 states, and out here, 6 hours gets me just barely to the border of the state. I like it, but there's a reason that I carry my gun when travelling that I also don't think some people understand, when you're out there, you're REALLY out there. I once did the drive on Route 50 through Nevada without even realizing how desolate the area was until later. When you can stop to take a leak and you don't even have to pull the car over, you're definitely in the back-of-beyond.
 
2014-02-19 02:26:29 PM  

Mikey1969: meyerkev: Mikey1969: redmid17: Train would be OK by me in that case if you can get the tickets cheaper. I'd be glad to take a train if I had a decent schedule.

Then there is another issue... Sadly, trains only go where the tracks are... In this part of the country, it's east-west, I can't go form Salt lake to Phoenix, or I would in a heartbeat. Hell, Amtrak won't even let me fark around and plan one where I go through somewhere like Sacramento first, I have to make it 2 separate trips, which increases the cost. It's a self-perpetuating loop, trains cost money, nobody wants to put money into rail systems unless they see a profit, they can't make a profit if they don't have an infrastructure, etc....

The basic problem is that airplanes have a MUCH higher startup cost (because you have to build the multi-billion dollar airport.), while trains have a much higher per-MILE cost because you have to build tracks everywhere.

So if you're in Europe, and you have that nice central population corridor only a few hundred miles across with towns every couple of day's ride on horseback, yes, go nuts with trains.

[cache.eupedia.com image 643x643]

Whereas if you have the entire Mountain West time zone with less people in the entire time zone than NYC, AND the stupid thing is covered in mountains (and all your major cities are a couple hours drive apart at minimum once you leave the East Coast, and they're much more spread out cities to boot, which makes city center to city center mass transit less useful*), which are apparently their own special class of pain...  That's not to say that rail in America is useless, just that outside of few corridors, it makes a lot LESS sense than it would in say Europe.

[www.mapofusa.net image 608x346]

[i.imgur.com image 850x619]


*Seriously, did a cross-country drive from Detroit to SF via OKC.  When the biggest city you pass through on the third day is Flagstaff, your country is empty.

Yeah, I know... It's funny... To us, a 6 hour trip is ...


I have yet to meet someone from the midwest who'd freak out over a 6 hour drive.
 
2014-02-19 02:26:31 PM  

lilplatinum: 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.


Public transportation to LGA sucks donkey balls. And to JFK it's not much better I believe.

Amtrak to Boston has been much better, in my experience, than flying.
 
2014-02-19 02:27:00 PM  

Jument: Seriously, I don't know what you guys are talking about. Perhaps as a tourist it makes more sense to travel by train. I've done extensive train travel on 4-5 Europe trips and it has been amazing. Walk up to the train station, get on the next train. No muss, no fuss. Many routes are fast, trains are usually quite spacious, etc. Even if flying is the same price, how do you plan to get to the airport, what about the extra time for security, etc? And why bother when the train station is probably in the center of town and your hotel is walkable from it?


Well I lived there for 5 years and travelled quite a bit, and found that trains are slower (often significantly), pricier, and generally more of a hastle.   Most cities have public transportation between a train and a hotel, or they have these cars that take you somewhere for a fare.

Trains can work if you happen to want to go from point A to point B that are conveniently connected by a high speed train (or if you are some backpacking kid on your "find yourself in western europe tour" and are the type willing to sleep in bedbug infested hostels).    Once you try to find some less convenient routes or are on any sort of schedule, they break down quickly..

Hamburg to Paris

Car-  8 hours
Train - 11.5 hours
Plane - 1.5 hours

Hmm, tough choice.
 
2014-02-19 02:29:40 PM  

Debeo Summa Credo: Public transportation to LGA sucks donkey balls. And to JFK it's not much better I believe.


LGA has an express bus thats $12 to Port Authority, Grand Central, or Penn Station - hardly that much of a hastle.

JFK you get on the subway.

What do you want, a helicopter ride?
 
2014-02-19 02:38:57 PM  

Mikey1969: meyerkev: Mikey1969: redmid17: Train would be OK by me in that case if you can get the tickets cheaper. I'd be glad to take a train if I had a decent schedule.

Then there is another issue... Sadly, trains only go where the tracks are... In this part of the country, it's east-west, I can't go form Salt lake to Phoenix, or I would in a heartbeat. Hell, Amtrak won't even let me fark around and plan one where I go through somewhere like Sacramento first, I have to make it 2 separate trips, which increases the cost. It's a self-perpetuating loop, trains cost money, nobody wants to put money into rail systems unless they see a profit, they can't make a profit if they don't have an infrastructure, etc....

The basic problem is that airplanes have a MUCH higher startup cost (because you have to build the multi-billion dollar airport.), while trains have a much higher per-MILE cost because you have to build tracks everywhere.

So if you're in Europe, and you have that nice central population corridor only a few hundred miles across with towns every couple of day's ride on horseback, yes, go nuts with trains.

[cache.eupedia.com image 643x643]

Whereas if you have the entire Mountain West time zone with less people in the entire time zone than NYC, AND the stupid thing is covered in mountains (and all your major cities are a couple hours drive apart at minimum once you leave the East Coast, and they're much more spread out cities to boot, which makes city center to city center mass transit less useful*), which are apparently their own special class of pain...  That's not to say that rail in America is useless, just that outside of few corridors, it makes a lot LESS sense than it would in say Europe.

[www.mapofusa.net image 608x346]

[i.imgur.com image 850x619]


*Seriously, did a cross-country drive from Detroit to SF via OKC.  When the biggest city you pass through on the third day is Flagstaff, your country is empty.

Yeah, I know... It's funny... To us, a 6 hour trip is ...


When I was 6, my mother drive me, my little brother (who was 4), my crazy aunt (mom's sister) and three cousins (oldest a 14-yr-old-boy) from Louisiana to British Columbia, Canada for summer vacation. It was...interesting. I still remember how empty so much of the country was and when we saw a thunderstorm on the plains many, many miles away.
 
2014-02-19 02:41:40 PM  
meyerkev:
So if you're in Europe, and you have that nice central population corridor only a few hundred miles across with towns every couple of day's ride on horseback, yes, go nuts with trains.

Whereas if you have the entire Mountain West time zone with less people in the entire time zone than NYC, AND the stupid thing is covered in mountains (and all your major cities are a couple hours drive apart at minimum once you leave the East Coast, and they're much more spread out cities to boot, which makes city center to city center mass transit less useful*), which are apparently their own special class of pain...  That's not to say that rail in America is useless, just that outside of few corridors, it makes a lot LESS sense than it would in say Europe.


Yup. And this is one thing that Europeans forget when they laugh at the US and our love affair with the automobile. Population density is far lower here in the US and we have way more ground to cover when we go places. The standard American road trip vacation will often be the equivalent of a European going three nations over... and the American is only one time zone away from home and still driving.

When translated into rail travel, there's just so much more that can go wrong when you have to traverse that much track. An airplane can go point to point and just fly around weather issues. A train has to stay on the rails and if there's another train that broke down, a weather problem, or some other issue, it all gets backed up. As much as I'd like rail travel to be worthwhile in the US, outside of very specific cases (northeast corridor, maybe southern California) it just isn't that practical.
 
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