Thursday, April 13, 2017

Flying or riding Amtrak

Observation car traveling California coast west of Santa Barbara.

Large cuts being proposed to Amtrak just in time for that video of the guy being dragged off the United Airlines flight to go viral. Unfortunate timing.

I guess Amtrak is less efficient than airline travel cause it takes much longer to get there. Longer duration of trip equals more use of staff time per passenger mile. Amtrak does get a federal subsidy. Airlines get some of that also; the air traffic control system and airports. Most countries do subsidize their transportation systems.

Amtrak costs less, in terms of energy use per passenger mile, but the high cost of labor "Trumps" the low cost of energy, in economic thinking and Trump is proposing the big cuts to Amtrak in his budget request. For environmental thinking; another story. The true cost of energy matters for the environment.

Then there is culture. The trip on an airline is often thought of as something to endure just to get to the destination. Maybe this doesn't have to be the case, but as the United Airline situation illustrates, airlines are getting leaner and meaner.

Amtrak isn't perfect either, but it's a bit of a different philosophy. The trip can be part of the experience. Takes longer, but more comfortable. Train travel can be an enjoyable social setting as passengers mingle in in places like the observation car. The view is sometimes interpreted by a volunteer naturalist who comes on board.

Being more in the slow lane of life, myself, I haven't had occasion to fly since the 1980s. Did enjoy the bird's eye view, however, on a small plane from Seattle to Pullman where every seat was a window seat. I've ridden Amtrak quite a few times more recently, in connection with my bicycle travels.

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