Is an Amtrak sleeper the safest way to travel in pandemic times?

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Nick Farr

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Dec 25, 2019
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Normally I take Amtrak from Michigan out to Reno for projects I'm involved in out there and then fly back.

Given how cramped an airplane is, the number of people I could come into contact with at an airport going through two major hubs (usually MSP, SLC) AND potential exposure during gas stops (along with driving fatigue) I figured a return on the train in a sleeper car was the safest thing to do.

So far, it's been great. Everyone is wearing masks when going about the train (not required in your room, though). The bathrooms have been consistently cleaner than I remember. I can wash my hands whenever I want and throughout the whole round trip I've come into closer than momentary contact with maybe 5 people.

It's much easier to socially distance in CUS than the airports....

...so, how is sleeper car travel NOT the safest way to travel cross country right now?
 

Exvalley

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From a physical social distancing perspective, absolutely! But overall the level of risk depends on the design of the HVAC system, I suppose.
 

Lacunacoil

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I'm on train from nyc to chicago regular seats its fully packed few people wearing masks employee says they only need mask when walking around
 

20th Century Rider

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Jan 26, 2020
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Probably the only 'safer way', as far is contagion is concerned, would be to travel in your own recreational vehicle, with your own food...
Clear advantages to both... in the comfort of your roomette you have complete privacy... can look out the window or nap, and you never have to worry about directions. But with that comes limitations on the freedom to wander where you want; stop and linger at a viewpoint; take time to 'smell the flowers.' More food choices on a road trip. And with the rail trip you are on foot when you get to your destination unless someone is picking you up.

Costing with a car isn't to different from the sleeper in the train. If you're like me... purchasing a newer model used car, then driving it for 15 + years, depreciation isn't much of an issue. Stay at mom and pop hotels; enjoy your own bathroom; bring along a small pressure cooker and make just about anything... not a bad way to go. If you like to wander aimlessly and only drive a short distance each day... that's what makes car tripping unique and pleasurable.

Both modes are a great way to go! 🤠
 

PVD

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There are some pretty nice smaller RVs out there for rent that eliminate the need to overnight in a hotel, with toilet shower and mini kitchen onboard. They are pricey, and in great demand right now. Trip planning is important as there are limits as to where they can overnight and be serviced, but they really cut down exposure.
 

20th Century Rider

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There are some pretty nice smaller RVs out there for rent that eliminate the need to overnight in a hotel, with toilet shower and mini kitchen onboard. They are pricey, and in great demand right now. Trip planning is important as there are limits as to where they can overnight and be serviced, but they really cut down exposure.
I've thought about that but the price is high and with the pandemic they are in great demand which pushes the rental rate higher. There is also en route maintenance for the 'plumbing.' But am also concerned about staying in hotels these days... the virus can linger on surfaces so to be sure one must bring their own disinfectant to be sure. I have no plans to travel until they come up with the vaccine.
 

anumberone

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I don't think the price Is outlandish on Amtrak compared to driving or flying. Driving straight to Chi. From Los Angeles, food, gas and lodging is for sure the price of roomette for two. $638 Amtrak on the Chief. Starlight to Seattle, Builder to Chi. $ 938 That's cheaper than driving for sure. Today's airfare is cheaper than usual. But, were talking riding the rails and that in itself is what we all like.
 

20th Century Rider

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I don't think the price Is outlandish on Amtrak compared to driving or flying. Driving straight to Chi. From Los Angeles, food, gas and lodging is for sure the price of roomette for two. $638 Amtrak on the Chief. Starlight to Seattle, Builder to Chi. $ 938 That's cheaper than driving for sure. Today's airfare is cheaper than usual. But, were talking riding the rails and that in itself is what we all like.
Still lots of rail options LAX to CHI; you could take the Texas Eagle which is the longest route on the system... 4 days / 3 nights; or you could take the Starlight to Emeryville and connect with the Zephyr; or as you suggested... Starlight to Seattle; overnight, then the Empire Builder. Also, connecting to the Empire Builder via PDX is a better connection and you can use the lounge there. You could even do a circle trip out one way and back on another. The only thing that 'bugs' me is missing those angus burgers for lunch and the steak dinner which has been replaced with flex food; which also devalues the experience.
 

Nick Farr

Train Attendant
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Dec 25, 2019
Messages
90
I'm on train from nyc to chicago regular seats its fully packed few people wearing masks employee says they only need mask when walking around
In the coaches, I noticed an uneven implementation of this policy on the CZ that regularly changes conductor crews.

Some crews we're adamant about it at all times, including one who forced a passenger off in the middle of nowhere. Other crews made announcements but were not as aggressively enforcing it.

In the sleepers, I've only noticed people forget their mask when leaving the dining car
 

Nick Farr

Train Attendant
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Dec 25, 2019
Messages
90
From a physical social distancing perspective, absolutely! But overall the level of risk depends on the design of the HVAC system, I suppose.
I can't say for certain, but it seems like everything coming into the car is fresh air. I don't see any air intakes in the car itself.
 

Maglev

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I would travel in a Bedroom, but wouldn't like sharing a bathroom during a pandemic.

I recall a post here that said that air recirculation was 80% in Superliners, and below -10˚ F outside it was 90%.
 

anumberone

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Still lots of rail options LAX to CHI; you could take the Texas Eagle which is the longest route on the system... 4 days / 3 nights; or you could take the Starlight to Emeryville and connect with the Zephyr; or as you suggested... Starlight to Seattle; overnight, then the Empire Builder. Also, connecting to the Empire Builder via PDX is a better connection and you can use the lounge there. You could even do a circle trip out one way and back on another. The only thing that 'bugs' me is missing those angus burgers for lunch and the steak dinner which has been replaced with flex food; which also devalues the experience.
Yes your right, I was just sort of comparing prices from other methods of traveling. I wish you hadn’t told me no more Angus Burgers, my go to lunch also. Guess I’ll just have to take more wine and cheese. That boiled in a bag stuff they’re serving for dinner may taste alright, sure don’t replace the steak.
 

dlagrua

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Nov 24, 2009
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The way I understand it you get Covid-19 by inhaling or getting minute water droplets on you from an infected person who is coughing or sneezing. Then you touch your face, the germs get in your eyes or up your nose, and you may get the virus. If such is the case then the mask and hand cleansing will protect you but social distancing in a sleeper may add to your protection. The only thing that I do not understand is that Corona germs can be in the air as microbes that are millionths of an inch. I doubt if any cheap mask sold at retail wil stop that. Overall I firmly believe that train travel is a safer way of public transportation, especially now that airlines are filling all seats.
 

PVD

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Masks won't stop the virus itself, nor will most forms of filtration, as the virus is smaller than most filters can stop. But it usually gets in the air "riding" on exhaled droplets, those are much larger, and face covering does a decent job of stopping them from getting out or going too far. That's the whole point of asking everyone to use them, people with no symptoms, or very mild ones can be walking around infecting other people. The face covering helps to reduce that.
 
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