We already know that train travel is better for the environment and is more fuel-efficient than other modes of transportation. If it’s broken down to the common denominator of the passenger mile, an Amtrak train uses about half the energy of an airplane and can carry twice the number of people.
Furthermore, the train covers shorter inter-city distances in equal or better time than airplanes, assuming you’re traveling from city-center to city-center, as most of us do. But, compared to flying, the train can also be cheaper. Often a lot cheaper.
From Travelers Notebook, here are just a few examples, comparing the cheapest available economy fare from the airlines with the lowest coach fare on Amtrak:
New York to Philadelphia: plane - $362, Amtrak - $86
Seattle to Portland: plane - $165, Amtrak - $56
Los Angeles to San Diego: plane - $245, Amtrak - $68
Baltimore to New York: plane - $193, Amtrak - $122
Now let’s look at somewhat longer distances. Here, clearly, plane beats train if you’re traveling with a short deadline. But if you have some extra time and want to travel relaxed and in comfort, you can save money here, too.
Toronto to New York: plane - $398, Amtrak - $184
New Orleans to Memphis: plane - $411, Amtrak - $100
Washington to Chicago: plane - $229, Amtrak - $174
Los Angeles to San Francisco: plane - $165, Amtrak - $96
So will someone tell me once again why it is that the federal government has, for so many years, insisted on funding Amtrak at a near-starvation level? And, while you’re at it, tell me why this country isn’t launching a crash program to improve and expand our national passenger rail system?