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All Aboard Amtrak


Setting aside the politics and much of the economic silliness that comes with politics, does rail service offer anything to compete with air travel? This guy took a train and liked it:

Everyone we met, from trainmen, conductors, and attendants to counter clerks, security personnel, and our fellow passengers were, if not downright happy, at minimum in a good mood. Unlike the aggravated, anxious, aggressively rude misanthropes at the airport, from packed waiting rooms to the exclusive waiting rooms to the sightseeing car, people were polite, relaxed, and smiling. The security matched that of the airport—without the striptease: the ticket clerk asked for a photo ID.

Like most of our railway conversations on the train and in the waiting rooms, it didn’t take long before someone asked, “Why are you taking the train?” On the Limited, roughly a third were on business, a third were on vacation, and the rest were traveling for a multitude of reasons, from a new job to a family emergency. Regardless the reason, almost everyone expressed a hatred of flying. Not fear of being up in the air, just a seething  dislike of anything related to the airlines. The only time I saw people getting truly cranky is when they started talking about their last airline experience. And then they would go silent, look out the window, and let the passing scenery soothe them.

Train travel not only gives you time for one last pass through the presentation before delivering you relaxed and refreshed, said one business traveler, it also gives you time to contemplate what you’re doing, to make sure it fits well in the grand scheme of things.

I, too dislike flying. The actual sitting in a chair in the sky part is pretty neat. But all the other stuff stinks. When I have time to travel without the speed of airliners, I prefer to drive. Driving soothes me like the view from the train window. And when I get to where I am going I do not need to rent a car.

Trains are slower than driving, too. At least for the trips I like to take. If there was a better passenger rail network the balance might shift a bit toward trains. But building that network brings in economics and political silliness. It just isn’t right to make someone else subsidize my leisurely and nostalgic ride on the rails.