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Old 08-02-2010, 10:51 PM   #1
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Default On travel by rail, generally...

Recently, I happened to be watching any one of the several James Bond films in which 007 travels by train across Europe in order to advance the plot by affording the appropriate villain an opportunity to ambush him and whichever girl he happens to be dragging alongside at the moment.

For whatever reason, it occurred to me that rail transit was, and continues to be, an actual mode of transportation by which people traverse great distances, and not merely a fictional construct. And I've never been on a train.

I don't mean commuter trains / subways / elevated rail or what have you. If you count those, I've probably logged more time between the turnstiles than at least 90% of the earth's population. But it sort of piqued my curiosity to explore the practicality of it all as a means on long-haul travel.

I typically fly home to Florida at least once or twice a year to visit the family, and always around Christmas time. So I decided to use that as my test case. As a control, I first looked up flights from SAN (my home airport) to RSW and SRQ, the two nearest airports to PGD which can actually be reached by scheduled service. Putting aside any redeyes, one-way fares departing 15 Dec averaged $130-$200 RSW, $200-$250 SRQ.

Ok, on to Amtrack.com. The nearest major terminal to me here is LAX, and nearest my destination is ORL (MCO in airline-speak.) Both are rather further out of my way than the airlines, but what the hell.

Departing Dec 15 LAX, the total fare is $290 to arrive ORL on December 20, FIVE DAYS LATER. And that's for a coach seat, mind you.

Let's say that I wanted an actual bunk to lie down on, at least for the 69 hour leg from LAX to CHI. The very cheapest option, a "Superliner Roomette," would add $623 to the ticket price, a total of $913. And it's not like you get a sink, shower or toilet, either- that's just a cubicle measuring 3'6" x 6'6" with two chairs that convert into a bed, with another bunk that folds out of the wall above it.

And let's say that at some point between 6:40 PM on Dec 18 and 12:55 on Dec 20 I wanted to lie down as well? Well, that's two segments, one from CHI to WAS (17 hours 30 minues) and one from WAS to ORL (17 hours 25 minutes), both overnighters. The aforementioned roomette would run me $228 for the second leg, and $261 for the third leg. So if I were to decide that I actually wanted to lie down and sleep in a small cubicle both nights, my total ticket price would be $1,402, ONE WAY.


Seriously? Does anybody actually do this?
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Old 08-02-2010, 10:58 PM   #2
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So a shittier form of transportation takes 5 times longer and costs about 4 times more. wow can't wait to ride a train to the other side of USA. lol
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Old 08-02-2010, 11:02 PM   #3
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I know people who take trains to Chicago or whatnot (I'm up in the Twin Cities). I guess it's acceptable for things like that, most of them end up paying a bit less than they would for the airlines.
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Old 08-02-2010, 11:25 PM   #4
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Amtrak around here is advertising their services as a replacement for driving. They say that it's a more scenic route from Portland to Seattle, and obviously with no traffic they get there (consistently) in something like 3.5 hours. Without traffic it'll take me about 3 hours driving, depending on where I am in PDX, and where I'm going in Seattle. The train trip costs $37, gas to get up there costs about $17.4, which is using a conservative figure of 30mpg, when in actuality I averaged something like 33 last time I went, so more like $15.81 in gas.

So for less than half as much, along with the freedom to stop as much as I want, listen to whatever I want, leave when I want, jack it when I want, and have the freedom to drive around once I'm there? Yeah, I'll take the risk of driving. Plus the $37 is for an evening ticket only, and if I leave at the same time in my car there won't be any traffic. To leave during the day risks traffic in the car, and costs another $12 on the train.
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Old 08-02-2010, 11:30 PM   #5
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They've excluded them selves to people who just like to ride the train and have no real obligations. The only thing I can say about the train is the food was decent in the more expensive suite's
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Old 08-02-2010, 11:48 PM   #6
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Amtrak has received several infusions of cash from the government, haven't they? Not surprising, really, that it's the USPS of travel.
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Old 08-02-2010, 11:51 PM   #7
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America has never lent itself to anything other then driving or flying. There are not enough useful train lines, so it takes way to long and cost way to much. As here it more common to have a car so people can just drive and that means less people riding the trains, therefore they have to shut down more and more track to cover cost. Unlike oversea were it more common to not have car and use trains to travel from town to town.

It is just another one of those, good/bad oddities of America.
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Old 08-03-2010, 12:01 AM   #8
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how interesting.

I was just looking at train schedules today.

From Riomaggiore to Nice. 6 hours worth with two transfers.

Then I think a quick jaunt to Monte Carlo for some Baccarat and maybe a flirtatious drive on some cliffside highway with my ladyfriend, after which I will extract two martinis from the center console arm rest.
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Old 08-03-2010, 12:22 AM   #9
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I took the chunnel or whatever when I was in europe a few years back. It was definitely a nice experience although there wasnt much of a view (I feel like I was in one of the various tunnels for half the time, the other half you're going so fast you cant see much), but it was overall nice. Dont remember the cost though as it was packaged into my trip
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Old 08-03-2010, 12:39 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mgeoffriau View Post
Amtrak has received several infusions of cash from the government, haven't they? Not surprising, really, that it's the USPS of travel.
Side note: Your sig pic is AWESOME! So cool!
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Old 08-03-2010, 12:51 AM   #11
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There's no such things as "quick jaunt" when it comes to Amtrak. I loathe Amtrak.
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Old 08-03-2010, 12:56 AM   #12
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Wow, with prices like that, it would almost make one think that it was just another mismanaged, wasteful, failing government entity. Devoid of any common sense and on the verge of bankruptcy... oh wait. Nevermind.
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Old 08-03-2010, 02:06 AM   #13
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Trains in the US are slow expensive and pointless, I would never use on unless I had ABSOLUTELY no other option. Here in Europe on the other hand... Trains are a relatively cheap mode of travel they're almost always on time, fairly quick unless you're trying to get to some tiny little town in which case sometimes it may take a while.

There are a few small airlines over here (such as Ryan Air) that are EXTREMELY cheap. I just looked up a flight from Frankfurt to Dublin a few nights ago and it's going to cost me somewhere around 25 euro when its all said and done. If it's more than a 5-6 hour drive or train ride, it's most likely better to fly, even over here.
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Old 08-03-2010, 02:46 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wildfire0310 View Post
America has never lent itself to anything other then driving or flying. There are not enough useful train lines, so it takes way to long and cost way to much. As here it more common to have a car so people can just drive and that means less people riding the trains, therefore they have to shut down more and more track to cover cost. Unlike oversea were it more common to not have car and use trains to travel from town to town.

It is just another one of those, good/bad oddities of America.
Its actually a great conspiracy. I'm not kidding, nor am I wearing a tinfoil hat.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_A...eetcar_scandal

Hunter S Thompson wrote a great article early in his career (that I'm having a terrible time trying to find online, but it was pre fear and loathing) comparing air vs. rail travel, and air travel kicked rails ***. But this was also when Air travel actually had amenities, and people weren't treated as cattle. I think theres alot of criticisms of rail in Hunters time that could be applied to air now.
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Old 08-03-2010, 04:02 AM   #15
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In September I have a conference up in Philly and I decided I'm gonna take Amtrak. I booked the round trip for $81. It says the trip will take 1 hr 50 mins each way, and presumably that's with one stop (Baltimore I'd guess) because I was too cheap to book the $99 each way fare that was non-stop but only ten minutes faster. So my $81 round trip is a hell of a lot cheaper than flying, and will also be faster if you consider how long it takes to get to the airport and clear security.
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Old 08-03-2010, 05:08 AM   #16
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There are trains and there are trains. For example, the train I have been weekly-commuting with cross Sweden (Left old job this Friday and have 5weeks payed vacation, FTW! Starts new really cool job 1st of Sept, FTW-again) is considered an old among modern high speed trains. It still does a steady 220km/h and each seat have a power connection + VLAN. It takes me 530km across Sweden in just under 3h.

Then there is the German ICE-V trains, who does 330km/h as standard, but are capable of going up to 400km/h.

But... they would still have to speed up a bit to compete with air travel. At least here, flying isn't very expensive either.
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Old 08-03-2010, 11:38 AM   #17
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I hopped on an Amtrak from Vancouver to Seattle a couple years ago, and it was only $25 for that 4 hour trip, definitely more cost effective than a flight. On the flip side, I spent a couple weeks rambling around the UK last year, and it was cheaper (by a couple hundred Pounds) to rent a car + fuel it up than it was to buy rail tickets to get around. The cost of one unlimited-access 2 week rail pass was more than the car rental itself.
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Old 08-03-2010, 12:20 PM   #18
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Rail travel works on the east coast a bit but only for short distance because you get to circumvent traffic and airline security. Trains are un-American considering we are defined by the open road and 2335lb of turbocharged iron blazing through a landscape, unbridled by a rail or a station. Trains are great for short distance commuting in heavily congested areas, but I'm American enough that rather than give my federal income tax to a rail system, I'll buy fuel for my iron chariot and go it alone, when and where I want.



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Hunter S Thompson wrote a great article early in his career
I have this printed out from microphiche in my highschool library.
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Old 08-03-2010, 12:32 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nagase View Post
Side note: Your sig pic is AWESOME! So cool!
Thanks! Not sure if my neighbors thought I was so cool, though, setting my up camera on a tripod in the driveway, and pausing every few minutes while I swapped wheels to walk over, remove the lens cap, and carefully take another photo.
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Old 08-03-2010, 12:34 PM   #20
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I've railed in Europe a few times and it was a great way to get around.

On the other hand I bought a car in San Louis Obispo a few years ago. I figured I'd take the train "up the coast" and drive my new car home. The drive usually takes me 4 hours, this train ride although beautiful, took 14 hours! The ticket was 70 some bucks, but they had well over a hundred out of me by the time I got off (beer).

I met many people who train frequently, and they ALL said "do not take the train if you have any schedule at all" it's only for meandering old folks who have nothing better to do than sit there and look out a window.
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