Yes, it's true: trains really can effectively compete with the airlines ... even for business travel. That’s already happened on the east coast where Amtrak is now carrying some 75% of the traffic between New York and Washington.
And it makes perfect sense. You get on an Acela in mid-town Manhattan and get off literally within sight of the Capitol three hours later. That simply cannot be done by plane … not with airports so far from those city-centers, not with the security hassle, and not with flight delays. What’s more, the cost is comparable when you add in those expensive cab rides to and from the airports.
But now business people are also discovering that the train makes sense when traveling intercity for meetings and sales appointments.
If you’re in Washington and have a meeting to attend in Atlanta, how about taking Amtrak’s Crescent instead of flying? You’ll leave Washington at 6:30 in the evening, have a nice meal in the dining car, review your notes in your private roomette, get a good night’s sleep in a comfortable berth, and arrive refreshed in Atlanta at 8:15 the next morning. Total cost, including dinner and breakfast, from $250 to $400, depending on when you travel.
Oh … you say the meeting is in Chicago? No problem. Hop on the Capitol Limited this afternoon at 4:05 and you’ll be in Chicago at 8:45 tomorrow morning. Same deal: dinner, breakfast and a comfortable bed included … all for about $350.
And the train-instead-of-plane concept isn’t limited to the east coast. Here’s a story from the New York Times about a businessman who needed to travel from Tucson to Houston and discovered that cut-backs in airline schedules turned a two-hour flight into a full day of wasted time, plus the additional expense of a night in a hotel. Later, he realized that same amount of time could have been spent on Amtrak’s Sunset Limited.
Here’s the point: More and more, all across the country, train travel is becoming a practical alternative to the airlines and to the automobile. So just imagine if the travel times now offered by Amtrak were cut in half! That would indeed be the case if these and other major cities across the country were linked by high-speed rail.
Everywhere else in the world, they understand that. The Europeans have had it figured out for almost 40 years. The Chinese have just inaugurated the longest ever high-speed rail line. Spain has linked all their major cities with high-speed rail. And – Oh, yes – they’re building a new high-speed rail line in Uzbekistan!
Meanwhile, here in the U.S., we’re still being subjected to people blathering that high-speed rail is “just another government boondoggle”.
Well dadgummit ... it’s time we started ignoring the yahoos.
It’s time to get moving!