Why trains instead of planes for long distance?

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dande

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Sep 30, 2019
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Just curious as to why folks prefer the trains for long distance as opposed to planes
 

Gemuser

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1) More room & walking around space. DVT not likely to be a problem on trains, can't ne ignored on 14/16 hour sectors, let alone the coming 22 hour sectors.
2) Much better scenary.
3) Often more convient arrival/departure time.
4) Arrives/departs closer to home.
5) No security lines.
6) Less baggage hassels.

Just off the top of my head.
.
 

Tom Booth

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Jul 5, 2019
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1) More room & walking around space. DVT not likely to be a problem on trains, can't ne ignored on 14/16 hour sectors, let alone the coming 22 hour sectors.
2) Much better scenary.
3) Often more convient arrival/departure time.
4) Arrives/departs closer to home.
5) No security lines.
6) Less baggage hassels.

Just off the top of my head.
.
Better departure times more true near major cities, not all. See Salt Lake, Cincinnati, Cleveland and lots more. Agree with the rest though.
 

AmtrakBlue

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Scenery, seeing parts of the country I otherwise would not see, better travel times eastbound (recently flew to Chicago then took a train the rest of the way since I had the time to arrive a day later).
 

dlagrua

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All of the above, plus I can take my cooler, bring liquids, use the cell phone and easily go online. All this contributes to what we call the comfort factor. The train is like a hotel on wheels, a relaxing way to travel, and far more friendly to the environment. Most people don't realize it but a six hour cross country airline trip will consume 20,000 gallons of aviation fuel for a passenger load of maybe 150-200 passengers. Talk about saving the environment, that's absolutely horrible pollution.
 
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Qapla

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  • Don't like heights ... don't fly
  • Can bring my own food and drink even in coach
  • My brother has flown ... his observation, "friendlier passengers in coach on the train"
  • If I decide to get off sooner than the final destination I can ... try that in an airplane
 

Railroad Bill

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In many cases of bad weather, the train can make it through while planes will be grounded and nightmare rescheduling...etc.
Scenery is fantastic, most people on a train are friendly. Lots of options for routes to go to the West.
We use the train to get us to a destination close to National Parks or other events, rent a car, stay a week or so and then get back on the train to return home.
 

keelhauled

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Oct 3, 2014
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just a thought - if there is an accident, on a train you might fall 30 ft; on a plane you fall 5 miles - enuf saido_Oo_Oo_O
I suggest you don’t look too closely at comparative fatality rates in the US between trains and planes. They don’t paint so nearly an optimistic picture.
 

MARC Rider

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1. If you're flying between 2 cities less than 300 miles apart AND both have reasonably major airports, AND there's good Amtrak corridor service, it's probably just as practical to take a train than to fly. This is particularly true for northeast corridor trips, especially those 300 miles or less.

2. If you're flying to or from a small town or a city where the airport has a "fortress hub" (i.e. monoploy airline), airfares may be really, really expensive.

3. If you are flying or connecting to/from somewhere that only has commuter airline service (aka "puddle jumpers"), you might want taking the train (if available). I avoid commuter airlines, as bouncing around in rough weather scares the C*** out of me, and I am led to understand that they're not as safe as the mainline air service, they have more inexperienced pilots, etc. Thus if I'm flying to somewhere that only has commuter airline service, I will only fly only as far as the nearest major airline hub and take surface transport the rest of the way. (This usually means renting a car, but if there's train service, I'd use it.)

4. For rural towns along the route of a long distance train, the train gives you a convenient one-seat ride directly into certain major metropolitan areas into which most would prefer not to drive unless they absolutely has to because of the bad traffic and expensive parking. (I'm talking about you, LA, Chicago, Washington, New York, etc.) This could be preferable to flying, even if the train has a longer total trip time.

5. There are reasons that a small, but still considerable subset of the American public can't fly for medical reasons. Aside from phobias, if you've been scuba diving, for instance, you have to wait a certain period before you can fly, unless you want to get the bends at 30,000 ft. I had a former colleague of mine who had eye surgery and was told that he couldn't fly. He had a family vacation planned to Orlando. The rest of the family flew down, he took the Silver Service.

6. Trains will take you to suburban locations as well as into downtown.

7. I, for one, happen to like the experience of riding a train for a long distances. The rocking of the cars is relaxing, the seating is more spacious than in airline coach, it's easier to meet and talk with people, and I like seeing the scenery unroll before my eyes as I pass through it. Also, minimal TSA presence and the trip is less regimented despite the existence of occasional Amtrak staff who are Parris Island Drill Instructor wannabes.
 
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Agree. For some of us, The Journey Is The Destination.
I also agree - I’m coming to the States from the UK in part just for the fun of riding the trains (Texas Eagle then Coast Starlight) I could easily have flown from Austin to Seattle in a day for sure but decided a trainride would be a good way for me as a solo traveller to see parts of the States I otherwise wouldn’t see and meet people I wouldn’t otherwise meet hopefully in a safe environment.
 

Just-Thinking-51

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Last train trip the reason was it got me home faster.

My home station is Utica NY, the closest airport is Albany.

To get home from Dallas, I hoped a late in the day flight (after work) out of DFW to Chicago, we were late to Chicago almost 7:30pm arrival at gate, but made it to the train station in time to grab some food. Only thing open was McDees. Jump on board with the Coach pax’s and arrived the next day into Utica around 1pm. The earliest flight the next day, had me leave at 5am from DFW and arriving at 2pm at Albany.

I travel Amtrak because I need to get someplace. Someday maybe I will take a train just for the experience, but I am pretty sure it going to be in the Swiss Alps. Not here in the US.
 

Barb Stout

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Mar 13, 2019
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1. Not as bad on climate change as is flying.
2. I don't have to take my shoes off and unpack a bunch of stuff going through TSA and thus don't have to put up with other passengers (or TSA) getting mad at me when I'm slow.
3. Passengers and crew aren't as cranky on trains as they are on airplanes.
4. I haven't gotten any respiratory sickness (or any other) during/after train trips which I do about 50% of the times that I have flown. I attribute that to the sardine-like nature of packing into the planes.
5. Trains are roomier. Even this tiny person has troubles on a plane; I just can't imagine what a tall person goes through.
6. I don't have to pay extra to check my luggage. I'm small and don't like to lug a lot of things around, so I always check my baggage when flying.
7. If I'm taking a sleeper, I get a massage all night long.
8. I like the aspect of being "forced" to share a booth with other people during meals. This encourages my introverted nature to practice conversation with others. I have met a number of very interesting people because of the diner car.
9. I LOVE gazing at the scenery. We have such a beautiful country.
10. I get to walk around as much as I like and climb stairs to try to stay in shape.
11. Often when I take a plane, my sinuses experience pain during the ascent and descent due to the sudden air pressure changes. Although, sometimes my ears pop when going up and down in the mountains on the train, there is no associated pain with that.

These are the reasons that first came to my mind; there may be others that are a bit more buried in my brain. Overall, I would say riding a long distance train is a treat whereas flying is a unpleasant burden.
 

Eric in East County

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This radio announcement, which originally aired on December 5, 1949, nicely sums up why we choose to take the train rather than fly.

“Think of what you get when you buy a railroad ticket. A ticket on a railroad train buys for you a lot more than just transportation from one place to another.

It buys you, for one thing, comfort and relaxation. You don’t have to keep an eye on the traffic light. You don’t have to watch out for other drivers on the highway. The conductor and the engineer will run the train and all you have to do is to relax and ride and watch America roll by your car window.

And your railroad ticket buys you spaciousness. On the train you don’t have to keep your seat, stay in one place, or even in one car. There are lounges inviting you to a sociable visit with your fellow passengers . . . and dining cars where you may enjoy a snack or a regular meal.

And when night comes, there are sleeping cars with berths and rooms inviting you to slumber . . . all as you ride.

And when you buy a train ticket, you buy dependability, for the trains run in all kinds of weather.

Most important of all, your ticket buys you safety. Safety to a degree which, year in and year out, is not even approached by any other form of passenger transportation in America.

So when you buy a railroad ticket, remember what else you are buying besides transportation.

You are buying relaxation and enjoyment. You are buying a look at your country as you travel through it. You are buying a chance to read or to write . . . to work or to talk with your fellow passengers. You are buying spaciousness and reliability and safety . . . all for the price of a railroad ticket.”

Eric & Pat
 

Qapla

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I suggest you don’t look too closely at comparative fatality rates in the US between trains and planes. They don’t paint so nearly an optimistic picture.
That is true. If you look closely you will find that the number of those killed by rail are, on average, higher than those killed by plane - or are they ????

When a commercial passenger plane crashes it makes big news - especially when all on board are killed. But, that does not happen all that often.

On the other hand, numbers seem to show that people are killed by trains far more often that those newsworthy commercial passenger planes accidents.

But, let's go ahead and look "closely":
  • Train deaths are all lumped together
  • There is no separation of those who die on passenger trains from those killed on/by freight trains
  • Plane crash numbers are those of actual passengers who die or those who die in a passenger plane crash
  • Military plane deaths, crop dusters, small plane crashes and any bystander killed by accident are not included in the numbers
  • The majority of those killed in train accidents each year were not "on" the train
  • People in cars, on bikes and even walking account for the largest number of those killed "by" trains
  • Those killed at train crossings are usually not the fault of the train and seldom cause death of train passengers
So, yes, we should not look too closely at comparative rates of trains vs plane deaths.
 

Sauve850

Lead Service Attendant
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Jan 9, 2014
Messages
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Never seems to take too long to get a little off topic. Oh well, I’m not concerned about which method of transportation is safer.

I take the train simply because I can. On my way home each summer from out west I take three trains to get back to Florida. I ride in a sleeper, enjoy the relaxation, the time for reflection and the scenery of our country.
 

lordsigma

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Sep 15, 2017
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I suggest you don’t look too closely at comparative fatality rates in the US between trains and planes. They don’t paint so nearly an optimistic picture.
It’s certainly statistically more likely to be in an accident involving fatalities on the train. However if you do get into one you probably have more of a chance of not being one of the fatalities (while many airplane crashes are 100% no survivors) not to mention a likely quicker death if you are than the sheer terror of knowing death is coming for possibly minutes or more on a plane.
 
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keelhauled

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Oct 3, 2014
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That is true. If you look closely you will find that the number of those killed by rail are, on average, higher than those killed by plane - or are they ????

When a commercial passenger plane crashes it makes big news - especially when all on board are killed. But, that does not happen all that often.

On the other hand, numbers seem to show that people are killed by trains far more often that those newsworthy commercial passenger planes accidents.

But, let's go ahead and look "closely":
  • Train deaths are all lumped together
  • There is no separation of those who die on passenger trains from those killed on/by freight trains
  • Plane crash numbers are those of actual passengers who die or those who die in a passenger plane crash
  • Military plane deaths, crop dusters, small plane crashes and any bystander killed by accident are not included in the numbers
  • The majority of those killed in train accidents each year were not "on" the train
  • People in cars, on bikes and even walking account for the largest number of those killed "by" trains
  • Those killed at train crossings are usually not the fault of the train and seldom cause death of train passengers
So, yes, we should not look too closely at comparative rates of trains vs plane deaths.
Why don't you use data instead of pulling your claims out of thin air? If you want straight fatality numbers, the DoT breaks down the numbers in exactly the ways you say they don't--they have categories for actual accidents, grade crossing collisions, and pedestrian strikes. They furthermore give the split between freight and passenger trains if you want it.

If you want to compare passenger miles, you can get those numbers too--rail passenger and airline passenger data is available. If any mode is getting unfairly represented it's airlines, since scheduled cargo and passenger airlines are both certified under the same code and their statistics are rolled together, while the rail data is for passenger trains only
 

lordsigma

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Sep 15, 2017
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842
Let's not forget both are infinitely more safe than driving your own vehicle which all of us do routinely. But for most people fear of flying isn't about rationality its about lack of control and the inability to escape in a situation where you aren't in control. Rail being on the ground gives you at least a more perceived chance of being able to escape than being 30,000 feet in the air. Im not saying its rational, but its still a very real thing when you have it. And take this from someone who does have discomforts with flying. I know it isn't rational, I know statistically its safest, but for me its still the scariest.
 
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