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Flygskam (Flight Shame)

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Matthew H Fish

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It would certainly be a nice change.
I don't know if people need to feel "shame", but maybe a few moments of reflection about what the do is a good thing.
Because in the United States, there is such an assumption, even cooked into popular culture, that flying or private vehicle is the "normal" way to travel. I mean, it is even the stereotypical comedy topic "What's the deal...with airline food".
I wasn't raised middle class, really, and I didn't fly until I was 15. I have only flown twice after 9/11, and both of those were international trips that I couldn't do otherwise. It still seemed natural to me to take a bus for a trip under a day, rather than a plane. But for people who were raised flying, the just assume that even a day trip on a bus is a preposterous idea.
So I guess rather than "shame", people should just think about their prejudices in regards to travel?
 

jebr

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It certainly doesn't help that the US' public transportation infrastructure is rather poor. There's smaller towns where their only obvious non-private automobile link to the outside world is via EAS-funded flights (International Falls and Thief River Falls are two in Minnesota that have this; the only other links are via shuttle buses from the transit agency that aren't obvious to out-of-town travelers and aren't always timed well to connect to intercity transit.) Even if a town is served by bus or rail service, the connection may be poor. For example, Minneapolis to St. Louis is about a 9-hour drive, or an hour-and-a-half direct flight. However, there's no direct bus or rail service, and any option either requires a full overnight on the bus, or arrives/departs either Minneapolis or St. Louis in the middle of the night. All that for maybe a $20-each-way savings over flying direct.

Without substantial investment in improving those links between cities, I don't see the equation changing anytime soon. It's still far easier/cheaper to drive a private automobile, especially if you own one already, and if time is important a flight will almost always win without costing all that much more than the ground transportation options.
 

Devil's Advocate

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It certainly doesn't help that the US' public transportation infrastructure is rather poor. There's smaller towns where their only obvious non-private automobile link to the outside world is via EAS-funded flights (International Falls and Thief River Falls are two in Minnesota that have this; the only other links are via shuttle buses from the transit agency that aren't obvious to out-of-town travelers and aren't always timed well to connect to intercity transit.) Even if a town is served by bus or rail service, the connection may be poor. For example, Minneapolis to St. Louis is about a 9-hour drive, or an hour-and-a-half direct flight. However, there's no direct bus or rail service, and any option either requires a full overnight on the bus, or arrives/departs either Minneapolis or St. Louis in the middle of the night. All that for maybe a $20-each-way savings over flying direct.
If this thread is about climate change then what rational reason was there to focus our nonexistent funds and long since expired timeline on tiny dwellings in the middle of nothing? If these people wanted better connections to the rest of society they wouldn't live in Bumblefork, MN.
 

Matthew H Fish

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If this thread is about climate change then what rational reason was there to focus our nonexistent funds and long since expired timeline on tiny dwellings in the middle of nothing? If these people wanted better connections to the rest of society they wouldn't live in Bumblefork, MN.
I think I have only been on this forum for two weeks, so I don't think I should get too far into my labyrinthine views about the demographics and settlement patterns of the United States, but I believe that there are two different issues being discussed here:

First is rural and (this is the technical USDA term:) FAR, or frontier and remote America. These are areas where mass transit, either within a city, or between cities, is not always feasible because of low populations or population densities.

The second is suburban and exurban America, and even big parts of what could reasonably be considered urban America, and the fact that there is just a cultural attitude there that transit, either intracity, or intercity, isn't present. These cultural attitudes either are caused by a lack of infrastructure, cause the lack of infrastructure, or both.

So there is one question about why Butte, Montana or Bismarck, North Dakota or Amarillo, Texas don't have train service. Those are small places that are distant from other places. There are real logistical difficulties there.

But it is another question as to why there isn't daily train service in Cincinnati or Indianapolis or Houston, or why there isn't any train service in Nashville, or why there isn't any train service between Little Rock and Memphis, or Indianapolis and St. Louis, or Cincinnati and Cleveland, or Atlanta and Memphis...all places where the population density and terrain would seem to be very easy to be connected by rail. (Or, for that matter, why isn't mass transit popular in most of those cities?)

So to me those are two different questions: I am not going to wonder why someone in Pocatello, Idaho doesn't consider mass transit to be a viable option. But I do really wonder why people in suburban/exurban areas consider private vehicles and air travels the only "real" form of travel.

I hope that didn't get too rambly there.
 

neroden

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I think I have only been on this forum for two weeks, so I don't think I should get too far into my labyrinthine views about the demographics and settlement patterns of the United States, but I believe that there are two different issues being discussed here:

First is rural and (this is the technical USDA term:) FAR, or frontier and remote America. These are areas where mass transit, either within a city, or between cities, is not always feasible because of low populations or population densities.

The second is suburban and exurban America, and even big parts of what could reasonably be considered urban America, and the fact that there is just a cultural attitude there that transit, either intracity, or intercity, isn't present. These cultural attitudes either are caused by a lack of infrastructure, cause the lack of infrastructure, or both.

So there is one question about why Butte, Montana or Bismarck, North Dakota or Amarillo, Texas don't have train service. Those are small places that are distant from other places. There are real logistical difficulties there.

But it is another question as to why there isn't daily train service in Cincinnati or Indianapolis or Houston, or why there isn't any train service in Nashville, or why there isn't any train service between Little Rock and Memphis, or Indianapolis and St. Louis, or Cincinnati and Cleveland, or Atlanta and Memphis...all places where the population density and terrain would seem to be very easy to be connected by rail. (Or, for that matter, why isn't mass transit popular in most of those cities?)

So to me those are two different questions: I am not going to wonder why someone in Pocatello, Idaho doesn't consider mass transit to be a viable option. But I do really wonder why people in suburban/exurban areas consider private vehicles and air travels the only "real" form of travel.

I hope that didn't get too rambly there.
I agree that these are two different questions. I will point out that the Amarillo metro area has a population of 309,000, which is large enough to support substantial intercity train service for sure. Bismarck is 133,000 and Butte is a mere 35,000. Certainly Cincy (2.1 million) and Indy (2.0 million) and Houston (7.0 million) are much bigger, and there it really must be a question of attitude.

In the case of Cincinnati in particular, there's been a constant fight between pro-rail and anti-rail forces; unfortunately the anti-rail forces control the state government. Cincy, Columbus, and Cleveland are generally pro-rail, but Ohio is more rural than the US average, and the farm-dwellers always vote to prevent the major cities from getting rail service.

But there's more to it than that. While the rural percentage is actually a pretty good predictor of whether a state will support train service (more urban == more support for trains), there's an obvious cultural difference between Masachusetts (more support for trains) and Rhode Island (less support for trains), even though both are extremely urban. Likewise, you can see much higher support for trains in North Dakota and Montana than in iowa and South Dakota and Wyoming (all very rural); much more support in California than in Texas (both very urban); and more support in Arkansas than in Mississippi (neighbors and similarly rural).

https://www.icip.iastate.edu/tables/population/urban-pct-states
https://www.dailyyonder.com/how-rural-are-states/2012/04/03/3847/

Ohio and Indiana have had notoriously anti-rail state governments, while Minnesota, Michigan, and Pennsylvania have had pro-rail state governments; and the demographics aren't that different. Part of it may be gerrymandering. Part of it is probably cultural.
 

Willbridge

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I agree that these are two different questions. I will point out that the Amarillo metro area has a population of 309,000, which is large enough to support substantial intercity train service for sure. Bismarck is 133,000 and Butte is a mere 35,000. Certainly Cincy (2.1 million) and Indy (2.0 million) and Houston (7.0 million) are much bigger, and there it really must be a question of attitude.

In the case of Cincinnati in particular, there's been a constant fight between pro-rail and anti-rail forces; unfortunately the anti-rail forces control the state government. Cincy, Columbus, and Cleveland are generally pro-rail, but Ohio is more rural than the US average, and the farm-dwellers always vote to prevent the major cities from getting rail service.

But there's more to it than that. While the rural percentage is actually a pretty good predictor of whether a state will support train service (more urban == more support for trains), there's an obvious cultural difference between Massachusetts (more support for trains) and Rhode Island (less support for trains), even though both are extremely urban. Likewise, you can see much higher support for trains in North Dakota and Montana than in iowa and South Dakota and Wyoming (all very rural); much more support in California than in Texas (both very urban); and more support in Arkansas than in Mississippi (neighbors and similarly rural).

https://www.icip.iastate.edu/tables/population/urban-pct-states
https://www.dailyyonder.com/how-rural-are-states/2012/04/03/3847/

Ohio and Indiana have had notoriously anti-rail state governments, while Minnesota, Michigan, and Pennsylvania have had pro-rail state governments; and the demographics aren't that different. Part of it may be gerrymandering. Part of it is probably cultural.
At the first ever national meeting of state rail planners (in December 1975) every state was invited to send someone. The only states that responded from the ICC Western Region were Minnesota, South Dakota, Oregon and the host, Wisconsin. That puzzled everyone, but we did have the failing Milwaukee Road in common. We also had bad winter driving conditions.
 

Anderson

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Well, South Dakota lost its last passenger train in either 1968 or 1967, and even freight rail is pretty thin...so I can't blame them for not being inclined to bother. They're bedeviled by a lack of transcons: All of the lines either went through ND or through Nebraska (or further south).

Wyoming is a bit of a different animal but I can also see it as being "a place a train may go through" more than anything. Ideally the state would support it more (at least as something they could "free ride" on after the loss of most bus service).
 

Willbridge

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Well, South Dakota lost its last passenger train in either 1968 or 1967, and even freight rail is pretty thin...so I can't blame them for not being inclined to bother. They're bedeviled by a lack of transcons: All of the lines either went through ND or through Nebraska (or further south).

Wyoming is a bit of a different animal but I can also see it as being "a place a train may go through" more than anything. Ideally the state would support it more (at least as something they could "free ride" on after the loss of most bus service).
The transcon Milwaukee Road ran through SD, but missed some of the (relatively) major points. The SD interest in state rail planning was mainly in regard to their freight branch lines. Their situation was similar to other granger states/provinces, in that their highway system did a great job of killing prairie rail LCL freight, passenger, mail and express service, but it would sink into the mud if bulk agricultural commodities were shifted from rail to truck. So they had to identify lines that should be subsidized in order to protect the highways!
 

Siegmund

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There is a flip side to the "flight shame" thing.

I've felt something similar on some of my off-season Amtrak trips: feeling a bit bad about the resources involved in having 6 crew members and ~450 tons of equipment serving about 20 of us, on the leg between Spokane and Portland.

Though, even at that load factor, we were getting the same gas mileage as if we had driven in our own cars (a modern diesel runs 500 to 600 ton-miles per gallon, so we were getting about 25 passenger-miles per gallon.)
 

Barb Stout

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If this thread is about climate change then what rational reason was there to focus our nonexistent funds and long since expired timeline on tiny dwellings in the middle of nothing? If these people wanted better connections to the rest of society they wouldn't live in Bumblefork, MN.
I guess you don't believe in eating. Just in case you weren't aware, food grows on farms which are in rural areas. Food does get planted, tended, and harvested by humans with the ample help of machines, but self-reliant robots are not yet in use for the entire stream of food production. Many humans live near where they work. Therefore, humans do need to live in rural areas.
 

Devil's Advocate

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I guess you don't believe in eating. Just in case you weren't aware, food grows on farms which are in rural areas. Food does get planted, tended, and harvested by humans with the ample help of machines, but self-reliant robots are not yet in use for the entire stream of food production. Many humans live near where they work. Therefore, humans do need to live in rural areas.
Some of my relatives are farmers and I'll be happy to admit that we still need humans living in rural areas if you're willing to admit these people rarely leave the state/decade in which they were born. Building trains for farmers doesn't help most of us and it doesn't help most of them. If we're going to fund more passenger trains then I think we should put them where the people who want to travel actually live.
 

Willbridge

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There's an interesting article in Berliner Zeitung that uses the photo of Greta Thunberg riding on the floor of an oversold DB ICE train to discuss the Bahn's problems. If you don't read German, the picture is also worth a visit:

https://www.berliner-zeitung.de/wirtschaft-verantwortung/greta-weckt-die-diskussion-ueber-den-deutschen-bahnverkehr-li.3376

This happened to me in March 1970 on the TEE Ile de France, as the Dutch did not control boardings. I've been a standee in Amtrak coaches and in European Second Class and did not complain, but on extra fare services it makes a lasting bad impression.
 

PRR 60

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There's an interesting article in Berliner Zeitung that uses the photo of Greta Thunberg riding on the floor of an oversold DB ICE train to discuss the Bahn's problems. If you don't read German, the picture is also worth a visit:

https://www.berliner-zeitung.de/wirtschaft-verantwortung/greta-weckt-die-diskussion-ueber-den-deutschen-bahnverkehr-li.3376

This happened to me in March 1970 on the TEE Ile de France, as the Dutch did not control boardings. I've been a standee in Amtrak coaches and in European Second Class and did not complain, but on extra fare services it makes a lasting bad impression.
DB issued an apology, then retracted the apology. Seems the young lady and her party had reserved, first class seats.

AP News
 

neroden

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Yeah, they'd reserved first class seats (which are not very premium); the train they were scheduled to be on was *cancelled*; they were put on the next train, which was therefore overcrowded, so she had to sit on the floor until something like 2/3 of the way through her trip. Which she was totally OK with.
 

slasher-fun

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There's an interesting article in Berliner Zeitung that uses the photo of Greta Thunberg riding on the floor of an oversold DB ICE train to discuss the Bahn's problems. If you don't read German, the picture is also worth a visit:

https://www.berliner-zeitung.de/wirtschaft-verantwortung/greta-weckt-die-diskussion-ueber-den-deutschen-bahnverkehr-li.3376

This happened to me in March 1970 on the TEE Ile de France, as the Dutch did not control boardings. I've been a standee in Amtrak coaches and in European Second Class and did not complain, but on extra fare services it makes a lasting bad impression.
It's worth mentioning that all trains in Germany (there are only a few exceptions) *don't* have mandatory seat reservation. Which means that it's not because that you have a ticket for a particular train that you'll be sure to have a seat if you didn't reserve a seat (free in 1st class when booking the ticket or €5.90 afterwards, €4.50 in 2nd class)
 

jis

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Indeed the fact that you don’t have to get reservation on a specific train and can just get an open ticket from point A to point B and use it on a large number of trains is one of the better features of German and even the British rail system.
 

slasher-fun

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That's not what I meant there. Of course you can buy a full fare ticket valid for any train from A to B, but you can also buy a ticket at a reduced fare, only valid for a specific long-distance train (i.e. "only valid on ICE 77 between Hamburg 12:24pm and Frankfurt 4:00pm on January 3rd" for example), but still, decide not to buy a seat reservation with it, and so have a chance not to find a seat on that only train your ticket allows you to ride.
 

Anderson

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Well, the issue is the "didn't put in for a seat reservation" crowd can crash straight into the "bought a flexible ticket" crowd. To be clear, I'd take the ability to buy an open ticket (and sort out the seat situation on the day of travel if I feel like it) over Amtrak's recent wild hare over seat assignments.
 
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jis

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Well, the issue is the "didn't put in for a seat reservation" crowd can crash straight into the "bought a flexible ticket" crowd. To be clear, I'd take the ability to buy an open ticket (and sort out the seat situation on the day of travel if I feel like it) over Amtrak's recent wild hare over seat assignments.
That is what I have alluded to in the past. reserved assigned seat is good provided it does not apply to every seat on the train. That out allows for almost every issue that has been raised as an argument against having any reserved assigned seat at all. The Germans and the Brits get it and do it right.

Of course there will be situations where there will be standees, sometimes many standees, not an uncommon thing in the UK these days on busy routes on busy days. That is the price that one occasionally pays for additional flexibility, something that is possible on trains and not on planes.
 

Anderson

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That is what I have alluded to in the past. reserved assigned seat is good provided it does not apply to every seat on the train. That out allows for almost every issue that has been raised as an argument against having any reserved assigned seat at all. The Germans and the Brits get it and do it right.

Of course there will be situations where there will be standees, sometimes many standees, not an uncommon thing in the UK these days on busy routes on busy days. That is the price that one occasionally pays for additional flexibility, something that is possible on trains and not on planes.
Well, and there's a case for occasionally going all-reserved or requiring reservations. Thanksgiving Wednesday comes to mind. But that should really be limited to "extra fare" trains or "unusual peak periods" so you don't run into situations of having to leave pax on the platform because of safety concerns.

(Mind you, "adequately equip the trains to avoid regular standee crisis situations*" or "allow open ticket but you have to 'slot in' when you get to the station" are also options here.)

*Based on what I've heard, the last few years of unreserved Regional service coincided with the Warrington "let's skip maintenance and deadline 'surplus' equipment to make the Acelas happen" phase.
 
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