Why trains instead of planes for long distance?

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Devil's Advocate

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When I fly I can usually reduce meals and hotel nights by traveling faster and having more control over the departure, connection, and arrival times. I also have more options for the first and last few miles of my trip. If my flight leaves really early or arrives really late it's because that's the flight I chose to take. I can usually select another flight with a different schedule for significantly less than an extra hotel room plus meals. With the train I often can't control which day of the week I depart, let alone specific times and routing options. I truly wish we had more trains with denser schedules and improved calling times, and I'm only too happy to lobby and vote for more services in the future, but in a strictly practical sense taking the train almost always adds to the cost and duration compared to flying or driving. When I do take the train it's because I went out of my way to do so.
 
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JRR

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When I fly I can usually reduce meals and hotel nights by traveling faster and having more control over the departure, connection, and arrival times. I also have more options for the first and last few miles of my trip. If my flight leaves really early or arrives really late it's because that's the flight I chose to take. I can usually select another flight with a different schedule for significantly less than an extra hotel room plus meals. With the train I often can't control which day of the week I depart, let alone specific times and routing options. I truly wish we had more trains with denser schedules and improved calling times, and I'm only too happy to lobby and vote for more services in the future, but in a strictly practical sense taking the train almost always adds to the cost and duration compared to flying or driving. When I do take the train it's because I went out of my way to do so.
The only further comment I would make is that to further divide the LD into short segments will make the LD travel even more difficult to schedule, make connections etc., and effectively end LD travel experience.
 

jis

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Why not? I’ve had to purchase hotel rooms at airport hotels the night before an early morning flight. Many “generic travelers” would understand that concept and cost.
But if you happen to be flying cross country you don’t have to buy three hotel nights, i.e. the number of nights you’d be on the train. That is the point I was making. If you are making a different point about buying one night for convenience, that is of course your choice and you are arguing a different point. But that is not a necessity for the trip as Ryan has pointed out.
 
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MARC Rider

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I found LD train ride to be practically competive for a bunch of DC - Ann Arbor trips I used to take when I was working. I'd ride the CL to Toledo, pick up a rental car at the airport. once i took the Ambus to/from Ann Arbor, and I didn't even need to book a hotel room for my one day trip. Furthermore, the contract carrier airfare at the time was more expensive than a roomette on the CL.

When I traveled for business, I nearly always planned to arrive the day before my business. Sometimes the bosses would whine about the extra night in the hotel, but I would point out all the times the cheapskate road warriors would try to fly out on the day of the meeting and miss most of the meeting due to flight delays. At least the CL comes into Toledo so early in the morning that even if it's a couple hors late, I'm still on time.
 

jis

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I think, in many cases LD trains will be found to be very desirable when compared to offerings of airlines, when one is traveling from Podunk Town 1 to Podunk Town 2, provided of course that the two are served within reasonable distance by LD service.

OTOH, one would be hard pressed to find a favorable situation for LD trains when two major cities that are a large distance apart and are served by a major airline - specially with a non-stop route, are involved. MARCRider will point out that there are exceptions, and indeed there are. For me Orlando to Raleigh is one such. Of course additionally in specific cases, one could appeal to personal tastes, fears and other extenuating factors to try to tilt thing more to the favor of LD even in these case. Like for example, I have to stay in a hotel before an early morning flight, etc.

And then there are situations in between which will have different attractiveness depending on the specific situation of where the train stations and airports are located relative to the origin and destination and how those are served, involving how many changes and the nature of such connections, etc.
 
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crescent-zephyr

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But if you happen to be flying cross country you don’t have to buy three hotel nights, i.e. the number of nights you’d be on the train. That is the point I was making. If you are making a different point about buying one night for convenience, that is of course your choice and you are arguing s different point. But that is not a necessity for the trip as Ryan has pointed out.
Oh yes that I agree with. 3 nights on a train doesn’t equal 3 hotels. To me first class air vs. roomette has to work out sensibly, unless I’m taking the train just for fun and if I’m doing that I’ll go to Durango or something ha.

Airport hotels exist for a reason, they are very much a necessity for many travelers.
 

jis

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Oh yes that I agree with. 3 nights on a train doesn’t equal 3 hotels. To me first class air vs. roomette has to work out sensibly, unless I’m taking the train just for fun and if I’m doing that I’ll go to Durango or something ha.

Airport hotels exist for a reason, they are very much a necessity for many travelers.
Yup. But that additional hotel night is case specific and holds equally in cases where there is an early departure of a train from a station 70 miles from home that might cause one to bunk down in a hotel close to the station of departure for the night before the journey. My point regarding that was that such convenience additions to an itinerary are not peculiar to the use of airline flights alone.
 

anumberone

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Whatever fits is the best way to go. 1st class air, LD train roomette, coach plane or train. Time and money play a huge part. Some want to get there while some have to get there. It's a silly argument.
 
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jis

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Whatever fits is the best way to go. 1st class air, LD train roomette, coach plane or train. Time and money play a huge part. Some need to get there while some have to get there. It's a silly argument.
That is what we live and die for on AU and indeed on almost all Web Forums. :p
 

crescent-zephyr

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OTOH, one would be hard pressed to find a favorable situation for LD trains when two major cities that are a large distance apart and are served by a major airline - specially with a non-stop route, are involved. MARCRider will point out that there are exceptions, and indeed there are. For me Orlando to Raleigh is one such.
I think the Florida trains in general compare very well with flying. The 2 night western trains will always take a full day longer than flying no matter how you slice or dice it (and in some cases 2 days), so you have to want to take the train for whatever reason there. (But of course said trains also provide 1 night trips to various destinations that can compare more favorably).

But yes there are so many variables. How close you live to an airport vs. a train station, flight times vs. train times, even how efficient your airport is all factor into someones decision.
 

jis

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I think the Florida trains in general compare very well with flying. The 2 night western trains will always take a full day longer than flying no matter how you slice or dice it (and in some cases 2 days), so you have to want to take the train for whatever reason there. (But of course said trains also provide 1 night trips to various destinations that can compare more favorably).
The problem with Florida to Northeast travel though is that there are many dozens of flights with ridiculously low fares from virtually every major airport in Florida to every major airport in the Northeast. Trains don't have a chance against those in time and fare, even though trains have timings that could work for many city pairs. Afterall Florida - Northeast is one of the busiest air corridors in the US, if not the busiest.

I am a pretty typical traveler who travels Central Florida to Washington DC or NY/NJ area, and truth be told, I seldom find trains to be a persuasive alternative, and heck I like to travel by trains. But when I can usually snag a lie flat seat and including one pretty reasonable meal for a fare that is equal to or lower than a Sleeper fare on a train, and takes two hours instead of seventeen or nineteen hours overnight (to Washington DC), it is hard to make an argument in favor of trains. Suffice it to say that in spite of all that I do take the train at times like I am for going to the RPA Meeting in Alexandria late March this year.

But, if I was traveling to say somewhere like Columbia SC or Rocky Mount NC or even Richmond or Petersburg VA, the train would come out ahead I think even with the overnight.
 
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Samsbigtrip

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As we can't see what happened prior to the actions of the man it's hard to judge how annoying she had been, but his behaviour really is appalling :-( I have four US Domestic flight in May so I shall certainly bear in mind the problems posed by reclining, and how to deal with it - so thanks for posting those links!
 

DonNewcomb

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I think, in many cases LD trains will be found to be very desirable when compared to offerings of airlines, when one is traveling from Podunk Town 1 to Podunk Town 2, provided of course that the two are served within reasonable distance by LD service.......
You might believe this but you also have to consider the time of day that the towns are served. Many years ago I thought about taking the Sunset between Gulfport, MS (kind of podunkish) to DeFuniak Springs, FL (really podunk) and had to give it up because the train arrived in DeFuniak about 03:30 and it was just too unreasonable to arrive at that hour. One problem with LD trains is that 50% of their routes are run at night and a significant part of the time at hours that would be considered unreasonable to most people. The majority of airline flights occur during the day and evening hours.
 

crescent-zephyr

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You might believe this but you also have to consider the time of day that the towns are served. Many years ago I thought about taking the Sunset between Gulfport, MS (kind of podunkish) to DeFuniak Springs, FL (really podunk) and had to give it up because the train arrived in DeFuniak about 03:30 and it was just too unreasonable to arrive at that hour. One problem with LD trains is that 50% of their routes are run at night and a significant part of the time at hours that would be considered unreasonable to most people. The majority of airline flights occur during the day and evening hours.
So what did you choose for your mode of transit?
 

jis

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You might believe this but you also have to consider the time of day that the towns are served. Many years ago I thought about taking the Sunset between Gulfport, MS (kind of podunkish) to DeFuniak Springs, FL (really podunk) and had to give it up because the train arrived in DeFuniak about 03:30 and it was just too unreasonable to arrive at that hour. One problem with LD trains is that 50% of their routes are run at night and a significant part of the time at hours that would be considered unreasonable to most people. The majority of airline flights occur during the day and evening hours.
Apparently in your enthusiasm to respond you did not carefully read what I said. ;) I said that my statement is true in many cases (that is it is not necessarily true in all cases). Apparently your single example is not one of them and that in no way contradicts what I said. :D I did already account for those exceptions you mention.
 

toddinde

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A couple of points. Those who live in large cities tend to think only in terms of end to end trips. Amtrak’s own statistics show that is a minority of travelers. There are tons of flights, hourly in fact, between Chicago and LA or New York and Miami. For those travelers, the train i has to be an affirmative choice. They want to relax, aren’t in a hurry, want to see the country, they’re fearful of flying, have a disability, etc. Those are all perfectly valid reasons, and reason enough for Amtrak’s tiny subsidy. But those aren’t most travelers. I put my son on the train yesterday for a 24 hour trip from Tucson to Austin, Texas. The train made sense. When I take the train from Benson, Arizona, there are always people getting on to go to El Paso. Same when I lived in Wisconsin and would go from the Dells to Milwaukee or Chicago. The point is the long distance trains serve a huge number of markets. A bunch of little stub trains won’t work. They just increase costs of maintenance facilities and shut off a number of longer trips. As for serving communities late at night, I lived in Fargo, ND for awhile, so I can relate. It is doable. However, adding a second daily frequency, or additional routes, would economically solve that problem. Building mini corridors is incredibly expensive. Look at the NEC or the Midwest corridors. Expansion based on improvements to the long distance network, increasing capacity, partnering with the railroads in projects that improve reliability, and adding some strategic routes, is the way to go at a cost the country can afford. In the meantime, the low hanging fruit corridors will likely be developed by private interests.
 

Lacunacoil

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I take train from nyc to los Angeles 2 times a year ...originally fear of flying, and needing last minute free change option.... I tried to get over it by watching u tube, and I realized seats shrunk in half from my last flight 23 years ago. I hate having men touching me, I'm a guy, but I just dont want a man's arms smooshing into me. Greyhound seats seem to be bigger and a in shape guy was rubbing into me, and he wasnt even fat. So I cant fly ever
 
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I take a trains instead of planes for long distance to decompress before getting to destination. Both taking train to a destination and a return train are great buffer period to get ready for what is waiting for me at the end of the trip. And I enjoy the time on the train. It is a time to slow down and enjoy the trip.
 

tomfuller

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Apparently in your enthusiasm to respond you did not carefully read what I said. ;) I said that my statement is true in many cases (that is it is not necessarily true in all cases). Apparently your single example is not one of them and that in no way contradicts what I said. :D I did already account for those exceptions you mention.
In early February I was going from Chemult OR (Podunk) to Yuma AZ (not as Podunk). Since I didn't want to get off in YUM at 4AM, I stayed on until Tucson and got my rental car there. I still had to wait over half an hour for Enterprise to open 9AM Arizona Time. At least I had a seat to myself to try to sleep more after we went through Yuma.
I have a Facebook friend that I met on the Maple Leaf in October 2001. He worked in one of the WTC buildings but was late to work on 9/11/01.
 

jis

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A similar experience for me was when I took the Silver Star from Orlando/Kissimmee to Columbia SC to see the Solar Eclipse. It arrived very very early in the morning. I hung around the station until the time the hotel shuttle started operating, and then took it to the hotel. I could have taken Uber, but why bother. It was a lovely star filled night and there were places to sit and wait. I could not have checked into the hotel anyway, without paying for an extra night. But on the whole it was still more convenient and cheaper than trying to fly there.
 
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