Who travels cross country via Amtrak when it costs almost as much or more than flying?

Question by Seth D: Who travels cross country via Amtrak when it costs almost as much or more than flying?
Do an experiment by entering in the same distant cities on the Amtrak booking site and then on a search engine for airfare. You often pay about as much to travel via train than you do to travel via aircraft. What market does Amtrak have, then, for long distance travel?

Best answer:

Answer by ken k
people that want to see the country up close

Add your own answer in the comments!


11 Responses to “Who travels cross country via Amtrak when it costs almost as much or more than flying?”

  1. PMack says:

    People who have a fear of flying, for one.

    I doubt if there are many people going all the way across the country via train, if you look at one cost as being point a the the other point z, it’s more a to b, b to c, c to d, not a lot of people going from a to z.

    My best guess

  2. AsYLum dRiVeR says:

    I was recently in need of transportation from one end of the US to the other. Amtrack allowed much, much, more luggage for the same price (3 carry on of a good size and 3 checked bags up to 3x3x3 feet) A train trip is (supposedly) more comfortable and less stressful, but the difference in time spent traveling is much greater. The train trip allows frequent smoking at stops, has a bar and restaurant in some cases, and does not ever leave the ground. (on the good trips) There is also a romance to train trips to some people. (while air travel is often viewed as inconvenient)

  3. fishtrucker says:

    For people who travel cross country the trip itself is enjoyable, not some hardship that needs to be endured.The journey is the experience . You see the country as it passes by. The towns ,the farms,the forests,the people,they’re all out side your window .Dinner in the diner , nothing could be finer .Watching the sun rise from the dome car as you cross the prairies is something never forgotten . And you can keep your shoes on when you board the train

  4. Wolf Harper says:

    Amtrak fills the trains all summer and during the holiday seasons. Sleepers are filled all year.

    And … have you ever actually TRIED flying?

    It’s a positively nasty experience in every regard. First, they stick airports out in Timbuktu, not downtown, so you have to GET TO the airport. You’d think parking in Timbuktu would be cheap – oh no! They stick you for $ 10, $ 20 a day, and it’s all private companies. Security is poor, too, so don’t leave a GPS on your dash.

    Or you can take a cab, but the airport is so far that you’re probably looking at $ 50-$ 75. Worse, many cities don’t allow cabs to pickup at the airport unless he has an airport medallion, so this cabbie may be driving home empty.

    So you’ve got to this building. Guess what – it is probably the largest building in your metro area. It’s quite possible to walk a FRICKING MILE inside an airport. With luggage! (though they usually take your checked bags off you early. Oh, checked bags will cost you extra, by the way.) At least you’re indoors.

    Now security. Guess what! People who have innocently left penknives in their carryons have found one of two things happen: Either they are detained and miss their flight and must buy another ticket; or security misses their penknife and they find themselves on the plane with it. You will take your shoes off and walk on ground everyone else walked on. Happy atheletes foot. You will be interviewed and hassled and generally have your 4th amendment rights reamed and cored. You may already be banned from flying, or at least put on the “hassle everytime” list, likely because of a mistake on their part.

    Next you get the privilege of paying $ 3 for a bottle of water or $ 7 for a fast food burger. Captive market, same as the parking. YOU CAN’T BRING FOOD/DRINK WITH YOU. It might be a bee-oh-emm-bee. Oh yeah, no first amendment rights either, nor fifth, nor assumption of innocence.

    Why is airport security annoying? To be effective? No. To be theater. To make people feel safe. That’s wrong, just ask the Israelis. They’ll say “Watch the people, not their stuff.” Amtrak has no need for security theater, and certainly can’t afford it, so they embraced the Israeli methods. Your chance of seeing an Amtrak security guy is remote, unless you are doing something you shouldn’t.

    And you walk into the airport and find you are not surrounded by glamorous travelers, but by the salt of the earth. Regular folk. Closer than you wanted too – those seats are small.

    And you get on the plane and you go zoom, right? Maybe. I once sat 6 hours on the tarmac at Dulles. This is longer than the worst delay I ever had on Amtrak, except the Amtrak delays were 30 minutes here, 15 minutes there, not a hell-sit. The pilot was livid, because they weren’t telling HIM anything. And there was nowhere to stand up, nowhere to go, just 6 hours of butt-numbing “sitting there” watching a marathon of Kathy Griffin, which was the best thing on 30 channels. THANK GOD the plane got one of the few servicing spots on the tarmac, and they were able to service the toilets.

    In whole, the flight experience is about being treated like cattle – that’s what you are, because you paid lowball price for that transportation. When you count the days it takes to regain your dignity, Amtrak is actually faster.

    So, pop over to Amtrak. For slightly more than airflight, Amtrak gives a classy, dignified travel experience in which you are treated like a person. The train stops downtown in the big city (with good public transit connections) and also at a suburb where you can park for free. The walk with luggage is quite short. Nearly unlimited baggage is free. Security is unobtrusive.

    The clientele is upscale and friendly. Seats are huge and tip way back for sleeping. You not only can walk around, you are encouraged to. Bathrooms are ample. Food is priced like 7-11. On overnight trains there’s a full service dining car priced like Applebees. Service is roughly “business class plus”. Unless you’re in first class, then it’s, well, first class and meals are free.

    So what market do they have? They’re maxed out. Full. They need more equipment.

  5. Samurai Hoghead says:

    Wolf has said it all, and with flare… Too bad I can’t give him more than one thumbs up.

    My wife and I are traveling to see relatives in Kansas next year and we’ll be avoiding the airport TRAFFIC on our way to the Amtrak depot… and yes, we’ll be paying a chunk more to ride with a sleeper. So, is the extra cost worth it?

    How much is your sanity worth to you?

  6. Rango says:

    Wolf has given you a very clear well thought out answer, not much I can add.

    Ridership is up on almost every sector of Amtrak, and they are looking at adding several routes.

    Apparently price is not the only consideration for a great many people.

    Safety, fuel conservation, comfortable civillized means of travel, actually seeing the country, nicer classes of people . . . . . the list is endless.

  7. Mariano says:

    Michelle Malkin

  8. PennyLeeD2 says:

    Wolf has the perfect answer. Just give him the best answer.

    I travel Amtrak cross-country. Many times, in fact. (I travel by sleeper for free with my frequent train miles. Fantastically relaxing, a hotel on wheels. I travel quite often Boston/NYC/Harrisburg, annually or so to the West Coast.)

    But other than the sleeper passengers, very few people are traveling the whole way at once. Amtrak goes through many big cities and small towns. Boston to NYC is faster downtown to downtown by train than by car or plane. NYC to Philadelphia the same. Philadelphia to Harrisburg is a breeze. These segments are always packed solid. In the West, the train is often the only option between a big city and a small city. People there take the train to go shopping or go to a football game. I’m always surprised at how many people get on and off at small stations. At Raton, NM I saw hundreds of Boy Scouts get on to go home from Philmont. (They were pretty smelly.) Minot, ND has an air base.

    Amtrak is often best for trips up to 500 miles. Over that, planes are faster. But between the airline’s hub and spoke system, winter weather, overbooking, security lines, layovers… the train is a much better ride. I’ve seen Jet Blue passengers and crew taking the train when the airports were suffering weather delays. (Half of them were saying they’d take the train in the future.)

    Long distance trains are less about end-to-end than about the 30 stops in-between.

  9. Dave says:

    Amtrak doesn’t have much of a market in long distance travel. Its less than 1% of total passenger miles I think. Sure, It is the best way to see some scenery and a bit less hectic, but most Americans today have no desire (or time) for that and most fly. But yes, most of the travel on those long distance trains is done by folks heading from Whitefish, MT to Spokane or Denver to Salt Lake City and not necessarily from Chicago to the west coast. Even then though, its often slower than driving! We used to have a world class passenger rail system in the US, maybe someday we will again, we sure dont right now though.

  10. Cheree46 says:

    Ill always be halting back

  11. Mariah422 says:

    The gross heathenism of civilization has frequently destroyed character, and poetry, and all that’s non secular.