Why trains instead of planes for long distance?

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ehbowen

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Absolutely. A very valid response. Another.... I hate to fly, another valid response. I'm afraid of heights. Valid. I love to see the country. Valid. My entire point of entering this thread was the non valid responses that were down right mis-information. I ride trains because planes burn 10 times as much gas. Not Valid. Transcontinental flights burn 20000+ gallons fuel to cross the country. Nope. I ride trains long distances to save the environment. Debatable. I ride trains because i'm giving up a whole day so why not give up another day and a half. (I still dont understand that one) I ride trains because the TSA takes so long and coach class on the airlines is like cattle, so I'm going to pay 5x as much for a roomette. ( have you perhaps tried a more premium airline product)
I've flown first class exactly once (it was a complimentary upgrade, else my company would never have paid for it). The bigger seat was nice, but there really wasn't that much difference over coach (of course, I was smaller then...). On board a train, OTOH, the upgrade from Coach to Sleeper is like the difference between night and day (quite literally...). As far as the "travel days" argument goes, in my case it's just to demonstrate that aboard a train a lot of what would be "dead time" in air travel can be used productively. Yes, a lot of times when I was a merchant seaman (early 90s) I would wake up at four in the morning to get to the airport to take a six am flight, and be on the ship and at work by two in the afternoon (transfers from airport to seaport can take a while).

But when I'm on my own nickel...you know what? I don't LIKE waking up at four in the morning! And with TSA, you can't reliably count on making a six am flight with an hour lead time (because everyone else is trying to make the same flight), so that's a THREE am wake-up call! So push back to a more reasonable hour of the day...and the TSA lines get longer, and the traffic to the airport gets worse (on both ends), and before you know it the entire day is basically shot.

Now, of course, it depends upon how far I'm going. We had an Alaska cruise out of Vancouver planned for September 2017 (Hurricane Harvey had other plans). And, yes, we would have flown to and from that cruise although it would have been possible to take Amtrak from Houston, to L.A., to Seattle, overnight there, and continue on Amtrak to Vancouver. And to take the Alaska Railroad and Marine Highway back! If I'd had unlimited money and time I would have done exactly that, but shoehorning that and an eleven day cruise/tour into a two-week vacation period just doesn't fit. So I would have gritted my teeth, woke up at three am (actually, would have paid extra for a hotel room at the big airport...extra night and expense to the trip), and suffered through airline coach for the duration (and much worse than that for the return from Fairbanks via Anchorage and Seattle). But when I was planning to travel from Houston to L.A. for a convention in May 2018, I didn't even seriously look at the airlines even though I now live within walking distance of Hobby Airport (well...hiking!). Much better to leave downtown at dinner time, spend a day relaxing aboard the Sunset Limited, and arrive L.A. before breakfast the second morning...at least as far as I'm concerned.

Rail travel doesn't work for all trips, obviously. But for certain city pairs it can be competitive in all respects. Depart Houston at lunchtime and arrive St. Louis immediately after breakfast the next day, spending less (for a Roomette shared two ways) than it would have cost to buy even the cheapest ticket available on Southwest Airlines at the time? A no-brainer, again as far as I'm concerned. I do agree that I'm cherry-picking my cases...but I also think that with a bit of wise management and consistent investment that there could be a good bit more cherries on dat tree....
 

crescent-zephyr

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I ride trains because i'm giving up a whole day so why not give up another day and a half. (I still dont understand that one)
That’s not at all what I said. I said the difference between flying is not 4.5 hours vs. 2 days. To me it’s the difference between 1 travel day and 2.
 

Barb Stout

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That’s not typical. A transit via SLC wouldn’t have been too far out of the way and is available.
Much of the time when I fly to Columbus Ohio from ABQ, I have been routed through Atlanta. I do choose my flights based on price, so maybe if I paid more, I would get a more sensible hub. I have not seen any direct flights from either Phoenix or ABQ to Columbus in all the decades that I have been flying there (early '80s). I am starting to see some transfers through Dallas in the last couple of years, which is only a little out of the way and one doesn't encounter weather situations there as much as going through Denver in the winter.
 

keelhauled

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When I flew out of Logan Airport a couple months ago, I was through security in less than ten minutes, without any airline priority (based on status or onboard class) or TSA precheck/CLEAR. It probably would have been a bit longer a few hours earlier at the height of the morning rush, but I can’t remember the last time I had a line for security more than half an hour at any time of the day.
 
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crescent-zephyr

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I've flown first class exactly once (it was a complimentary upgrade, else my company would never have paid for it). The bigger seat was nice, but there really wasn't that much difference over coach (of course, I was smaller then...). On board a train, OTOH, the upgrade from Coach to Sleeper is like the difference between night and day (quite literally...)
The difference between domestic coach and domestic first class is the same type of night and day difference for me. I would encourage you to give it another try.
 

jis

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Actually IMHO comparing a Domestic air FC with an Amtrak Roomette is somewhat apples and oranges. A domestic flight is seldom longer than 6-7 hours, which is equivalent to a longish Amfleet I kind of ride on a corridor service. It is not like an overnight ride. So an appropriate comparison should be between Amtrak Business Class and Domestic First Class in air.

An Apples to apples comparison with Roomette on an east of Mississippi Amtrak LD would be with a 10 - 15 hour international flight with lie flats up front. I think a roomette falls somewhere between a lie flat pod in most airlines and a First Class Suite on the likes of Emirates.
 

ehbowen

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The difference between domestic coach and domestic first class is the same type of night and day difference for me. I would encourage you to give it another try.
For you, perhaps. But I no longer travel as a condition of employment; at least, not presently. All of my travel is on my own nickel and for my own enjoyment. And, to me, airline first class is not worth the upcharge. Amtrak sleeper service is.
 

jloewen

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At least when I lived in NJ, the existence of NJT service definitely helped Amtrak, and sometimes even helped the airlines too, since I often took NJT from either Short Hills (on M&E off the NEC) or Metropark (on NEC) to either Trenton or Newark to catch LD trains, and incidentally to Newark Airport too, to catch flights. Metropark parking lot was much cheaper than Newark Airport lots even taking into consideration the RT fare on NJT between MET and EWR. Buying tickets pretty much became a non issue since I could buy them at my leisure on my Smartphone.
Well, back to what was perhaps the original thread (lost in the sands of time ...), I use shorter long-distance trains for business, to get from Washington, DC, where I live, to engagements in such overnight places as Chicago, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Savannah, Jacksonville, and, when there was a sleeper, Boston. For such trips, Amtrak is definitely competitive. Re Chicago, for example, no need to figure out how best to get from ORD to downtown, no need to rent a hotel room, just get on at c.3:45PM and enjoy the scenery along the Potomac, then have dinner and sleep and shower and breakfast and get off in the Loop. You have to sleep anyway, so why not multitask and move while sleeping?
Now, WAS to Seattle is a different matter!
Another idea: when I had to speak in Glendive, MT, it was simply easier to fly to MKE, then take the Empire Builder to Williston ND, then rent a car, compared to the four different flights required from WAS. Most people, especially business travelers, never think to take the plane TO the train, but often it's the best way. For another example, from Boston to Oxford, MS, required departure after 5PM, it was more efficient efficient to fly to Midway, then taxi to Homewood, then City of New Orleans to Memphis, arriving in time to speak/work before 10AM. Could not be done any other way.
Of course, on-time performance is required for business travel....
 

crescent-zephyr

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For you, perhaps. But I no longer travel as a condition of employment; at least, not presently. All of my travel is on my own nickel and for my own enjoyment. And, to me, airline first class is not worth the upcharge. Amtrak sleeper service is.
Either way I’m paying for personal space. In first class I don’t have to worry about sitting next to a stranger that prohibits my ability to sit in a comfortable position for a few hours. The extra leg room and service is a nice bonus but just like an Amtrak roomette, I’m not paying for the food, I’m paying for the personal space.

But everyone is different, in the past I never paid to upgrade to business class on corridor trains on Amtrak, was a waste of money I said. Then I rode on a train from Carbondale in coach with a group of just released inmates on the way back to Chicago..... after that business class became worth it! Plus the 2-1 seating is great on the trains that have it.
 

Bluejet

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Actually IMHO comparing a Domestic air FC with an Amtrak Roomette is somewhat apples and oranges. A domestic flight is seldom longer than 6-7 hours, which is equivalent to a longish Amfleet I kind of ride on a corridor service. It is not like an overnight ride. So an appropriate comparison should be between Amtrak Business Class and Domestic First Class in air.

An Apples to apples comparison with Roomette on an east of Mississippi Amtrak LD would be with a 10 - 15 hour international flight with lie flats up front. I think a roomette falls somewhere between a lie flat pod in most airlines and a First Class Suite on the likes of Emirates.

The point I was making is the money aspect. Comparing a $200 basic economy fare to a roomette or bedroom which can be more then a thousand dollars isn’t apples to apples. If you are willing to pay for the roomette why not splurge on a first class ticket which usually affords you amenities like expedited boarding, larger luggage allotments, and expedited security. That’s all, I realize the hard products are not similar, though for the duration of time you’re exposed to them they really don’t have to be.
 

Bluejet

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Either way I’m paying for personal space. In first class I don’t have to worry about sitting next to a stranger that prohibits my ability to sit in a comfortable position for a few hours. The extra leg room and service is a nice bonus but just like an Amtrak roomette, I’m not paying for the food, I’m paying for the personal space.

But everyone is different, in the past I never paid to upgrade to business class on corridor trains on Amtrak, was a waste of money I said. Then I rode on a train from Carbondale in coach with a group of just released inmates on the way back to Chicago..... after that business class became worth it! Plus the 2-1 seating is great on the trains that have it.
I don’t often upgrade to buisness on Amtrak because I’m usually on sub 2 hour trains. Where I have and always do is in Europe. The buisness class upgrades on OBB, Bahn, and Trenitalia is night and day. Far less crowded, far more space, and a very reasonable up-charge.
 

Qapla

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I have not traveled in a roomette on Amtrak - but I have ridden in coach from Fl to NY (17+ hour ride) - this has been primarily due to the cost of a roomette over the cost of coach.

I realize that to travel from Jacksonville to Los Angeles is much different. By plane it looks to take 8-10 hours in the air while it would take about 90 hours on the train.

Cost wise, the flight looks to run about $250-$320 in a seat and by train it would run $295 in coach to $1377 in a roomette.

For me - I would not be going to LA if I did not have sufficient time to enjoy myself. I have no reason or desire to got here for business. So, since I do not fly, I would have no problem taking Amtrak coach both ways and save the extra $1,000 each way that a roomette would cost.

Now, if they discontinued LD trains - I would just never go to California - since I am not going to fly.


I might add, if they would reinstate the route from Jax to NO - it would take about 35 hours off the trip by train.
 

AmtrakBlue

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I realize that to travel from Jacksonville to Los Angeles is much different. By plane it looks to take 8-10 hours in the air while it would take about 90 hours on the train.
In the air time is not 8 - 10 hours. There doesn't appear to be any direct flights from JAX to LAX, so the times you're seeing include layovers. Philly to Los Angeles can be done in just over 6 hours on a direct flight
 

Qapla

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Like I said, I don't fly ... so, I don't know the intricacies of schedules - I just did a Google search of JAX to LAX and the results showed those times ... the results did not specify layover times.

The 90 hours on the train also included layover times ... so, essentially, I was comparing trip vs trip times - I did not include any travel to airport/depot times or waiting times at point of origin or security times ... just the trip.

Regardless ... I would still take the train - I don't fly!
 

Bluejet

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Like I said, I don't fly ... so, I don't know the intricacies of schedules - I just did a Google search of JAX to LAX and the results showed those times ... the results did not specify layover times.

The 90 hours on the train also included layover times ... so, essentially, I was comparing trip vs trip times - I did not include any travel to airport/depot times or waiting times at point of origin or security times ... just the trip.

Regardless ... I would still take the train - I don't fly!
Why not?

Ironically my best friend in the world is the same way. His sister in law just announced she’s getting married... in California. We’re in Connecticut. His phobia of flying is so great that he’s going to likely take Amtrak or drive. Heck, I’ve given him opportunities to even occupy cockpit jump seats to alleviate his fears, he won’t do it. It is what it is, some people just won’t fly even when their best friend can get them darn cheap business class seats.
 

Qapla

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I can't take heights.

I've had offers to go up for free. I have a friend that flies private twin engine jet ... the guy he works for has one that seats 8 if I remember ... he flies from Ocala, Fl to Jackson, Wy several times a week and I was invited to go with him all expenses paid... but, I do not like heights!

I have been 35 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean in a 24' boat with a Chevy 400 engine and a MerCruiser stern drive and I have also been down 95' in the Atlantic .... but then, boats and going under water don't bother me. I always wanted to go down in a sub ...

Have no desire to go up in a plane.
 

Bob Dylan

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I can't take heights.

I've had offers to go up for free. I have a friend that flies private twin engine jet ... the guy he works for has one that seats 8 if I remember ... he flies from Ocala, Fl to Jackson, Wy several times a week and I was invited to go with him all expenses paid... but, I do not like heights!

I have been 35 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean in a 24' boat with a Chevy 400 engine and a MerCruiser stern drive and I have also been down 95' in the Atlantic .... but then, boats and going under water don't bother me. I always wanted to go down in a sub ...

Have no desire to go up in a plane.
As someone who's done both,( I am a Private Pilot) Nowdays I'd rather go down in the Sub than put up with the hassles @ the Airport and the discomfort aboard Airliners!
 

neroden

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I like both of those thoughts, and I wish that we lived in a world where "both/and" was a viable option. I'd hate to lose through service to San Antonio, El Paso, Tucson and the Phoenix metro area especially at a time when all are booming, but I think that daily service over the old California Special route might be a wiser use of Amtrak's limited equipment than the currently struggling triweekly Sunset.
Well, FWIW, the political obstacles to Denver-Texas service are twofold:
1. Coal traffic south of Denver; have to buy off the freight railroads, though it gets chapter every year as coal traffic declines.
2. Apathy and unwillingness to spend money on rail in Texas at the state level and in the smaller cities (like Amarillo and Lubbock).

Overcome these two problems and I think that line could be established on its own (not cannibalizing anything else). The Colorado end has advocacy and local government support, while the Texas end has capacity on the tracks and a fairly friendly potential host (BNSF).
 

neroden

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Absolutely. A very valid response. Another.... I hate to fly, another valid response. I'm afraid of heights. Valid. I love to see the country. Valid. My entire point of entering this thread was the non valid responses that were down right mis-information. I ride trains because planes burn 10 times as much gas. Not Valid. Transcontinental flights burn 20000+ gallons fuel to cross the country. Nope. I ride trains long distances to save the environment. Debatable. I ride trains because i'm giving up a whole day so why not give up another day and a half. (I still dont understand that one) I ride trains because the TSA takes so long and coach class on the airlines is like cattle, so I'm going to pay 5x as much for a roomette. ( have you perhaps tried a more premium airline product)
Paying for any airline product premium enough for my girlfriend with arthritis to be comfortable in a plane means a lie flat seat at minimum. The pressure change due to altitude inherently makes arthritis worse, so the hard product has to be better than Amtrak to provide a comparable experience medically.

There are very few lie flat flights in the domestic US market. They are more expensive than Amtrak roomettes, by a lot (with the exception of the Hawaii routes) and they do not travel where I am going anyway. Remember, I am starting from central NY, Ithaca. The planes departing from Ithaca are puddlejumpers, and those departing from Syracuse are at best narrrowbodies. The airlines DO NOT OFFER a premium experience from my starting point.

You can get recliner first class from Syracuse, with a hard product comparable to coach on Amtrak, for a substantially higher price than an Amtrak roomette. Suddenly Amtrak looks like the better deal if you are not in a rush.

Again, your failure to consider the smaller-city markets is what is blinding you here. Would I fly lie-flat first class from NYC to LA? Sure, but I am not starting in NYC!!!

Likewise, when I quit flying, there was no way around the TSA abuses, and departing from Ithaca or Syracuse, there probably still isn't. They are too small for "express precheck" lines. (For me it was not the time in the TSA lines but the arbitrary and capricious changes of rules. I have to pack expensive custom toiletries and food for medical reasons and I do not like randomly having to throw part of it out on TSA whim.)


BTW, when you start looking at the pricing of premium airline products, things get interesting. A lie flat air trip from NY to London is much more expensive than a sea trip on the Queen Mary 2 -- though much quicker, of course. I am going to be talking to Cunard's about how to buy a return ticket, since they seem to blindly assume that people will want to fly back...
 
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Siegmund

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A lot of the recent posts in this thread have been leaping to comparing airline first class with roomettes.

Let me remind you that *in coach* you can get a seat that actually reclines, a legrest, 52-inch seat pitch, a big window next to every row, a guarantee you'll never be in a middle seat, and a lot less engine noise. (And the ability to get up and move around, and the use of the lounge car, etc etc.)
I have often said with tongue only partially in cheek that domestic airlines offer only fourth and fifth class.

I sleep quite comfortably in coach, as long as I bring my own blanket pillow and blindfold with me - which I can as there is no strict baggage allowance.

On the money front, the times I get my work to buy me a roomette are the times that my train trip is replacing a flight *and* a night in a hotel.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Actually IMHO comparing a Domestic air FC with an Amtrak Roomette is somewhat apples and oranges. A domestic flight is seldom longer than 6-7 hours, which is equivalent to a longish Amfleet I kind of ride on a corridor service. It is not like an overnight ride. So an appropriate comparison should be between Amtrak Business Class and Domestic First Class in air.

An Apples to apples comparison with Roomette on an east of Mississippi Amtrak LD would be with a 10 - 15 hour international flight with lie flats up front. I think a roomette falls somewhere between a lie flat pod in most airlines and a First Class Suite on the likes of Emirates.
It’s apples to apples as they both get you across the country in reasonable comfort.

When I’m comparing modes of transit to get to California, I’m comparing roomette vs. domestic first class. I’m never comparing a roomette to California to a first class seat to another continent.
 

jis

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Hey it’s a free country. You are free to compare whatever you like [emoji1]
 

MARC Rider

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I can't take heights.

I've had offers to go up for free. I have a friend that flies private twin engine jet ... the guy he works for has one that seats 8 if I remember ... he flies from Ocala, Fl to Jackson, Wy several times a week and I was invited to go with him all expenses paid... but, I do not like heights!

I have been 35 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean in a 24' boat with a Chevy 400 engine and a MerCruiser stern drive and I have also been down 95' in the Atlantic .... but then, boats and going under water don't bother me. I always wanted to go down in a sub ...

Have no desire to go up in a plane.
I don't mind the heights, especially when enclosed inside an airplane, it's the roller-coaster ride during turbulence that freaks me out. Looking out the window seeing the wings flexing doesn't help, either. I know it's (mostly) safe, and the real danger from turbulence is getting hit by stuff flying around the cabin, not the plane falling out of the sky, but my inner ear and I really don't like the sensation of free fall.

Also, as a human male getting on in years, the fact that you may have to spend significant portions of the flight with seat belts fastened and unable to use the lavatory makes flying less pleasant for me than it used to be. (It's one of the reasons why I specify aisle seats when I can, even though I do like to look out the window and see the clouds and scenery.)

As for being at sea, I've seen some You Tube videos of large cruise ships rolling around in some pretty heavy seas, and stuff like the bow of a large freighter getting totally submerged by a 50 ft. wave, and I think if I were on board, I'f be pretty freaked out at that too.

Heck, I've been a little freaked of lying in my Superliner berth when it rolls at 79 mph over a bit of rough track and bounces around like it's going to fly off the rails. The Acela going at full speed does that occasionally, too. But it's never quite as bad as bumping around in a turbulent flight. I'm in fight or flight mode from the moment drive up to the airport until the moment the plane touches down at the end of the flight. However, I've learned to relax a little bit, and not get too upset unless I hear the pilot say, "flight attendants, please take your seats and fasten your seat belts."
 

crescent-zephyr

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That could happen just as easily on Amtrak. A podcast I listen to had a similar altercation in first class on delta.
 
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