Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

16 Apr

I’m going back to DC on Monday and there are a few ways to get there from Pittsburgh. Most of them wholly undesirable for a number of reasons.

1. Bus: Greyhound is the only bus service that runs, at this point, between DC and Pittsburgh. A one way ticket costs $39 for a seat on an uncomfortable bus for 6.5 hours. The last time I took this bus route a woman rapped on my head three times to indicate she wanted to share my seat and then fell asleep on me.

2. Train. Amtrak is $6 more expensive and one hour longer than Greyhound.

3. Rideshare: So far, no one seems to be going to the same place at the same time.

4. Renting a car: Not really an option for me because I let my license expire since I don’t plan on driving ever again.

5. Airplane: I’m not going to spend that kind of money and get hopped up on that much jet fuel for such a short trip. Plus the process of going to the airport, invasive security procedures and additional waiting means that planes are less convenient and slower than they’ve been in the past.

6.  Bicycle: I forgot to include my favorite vehicle, the bicycle! It doesn’t work for this trip since I will only be away for five days and it takes nearly that long to ride on the glorious Great Allegheny Passage.

Which is the best option?

Unfortunately the way our transportation system is presently organized, the most time and cost efficient way to travel is by car for this particular trip. A tank of gas costs approximately $25 for a compact-ish (3,000 lb) car, plus $8 in tolls. This is not a heavily traveled route so there isn’t much traffic and the trip takes 4-4.5 hours.

I prefer to ride the train because it is scenic and lovely. The route winds through gorgeous mountains and has a cafe car with windows from floor to ceiling for sightseeing. There are tables and comfy chairs that are perfect for writing, reading, drawing, anything you can think of, all while being chauffeured in the most comfortable setting with superb views. It’s pretty glamorous, actually.

Who in America has the time for such an extravagant trip? We are busy people!

Hey there, Mr. LaHood, you seem to be brimming with sound ideas. What about improving some of the current train routes so we don’t have to wait decades for high speed rail? I don’t need a bullet train everywhere, but the train should be at LEAST as fast as a car or we will never be able to move people away from that individualistic mode of transportation.

Traveling by Amtrak in the Northeast Corridor is the only quick route, faster than driving, by far, and it is always packed. There is clearly a high demand for trains, but trains that are faster than cars.

I want to support trains, I love taking the train.

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6 Responses to “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”

  1. Romel April 16, 2010 at 13:39 #

    Actually, I like that trains are slower – if they were bullet trains for most corridors and things were fast, niceties like the cafe car might be removed because they’re not “cost effective or necessary” for a quick trip kinda like what happened to the service on non-stop cross country flights. Gotta keep in mind that rushing around at “only” 100mph through a mountain pass doesn’t happen for trains, they’d dig a tunnel and the awesome views would get replaced by ugly underground lighting.

    • Laura Walsh April 16, 2010 at 13:49 #

      I am a slow moving type of lady myself and I don’t mind the limited speeds, to a degree. I don’t need a train to go 100mph, but 50 would be nice. It’s sort of frustrating sitting on the train and knowing that you can walk faster which is actually true for much of the route.

      Last year I took the train from Chicago to DC which was scheduled to take 17 hours but took over 20. The train just sat in place for over an hour right across the tracks from my house in Brookland before heading the last few miles into Union Station. I wanted to hop off and jump the fence but I had too much luggage. That degree of inefficiency turns away vast numbers of potential riders, even plenty of people I know who would be much more enthusiastic about taking a train. Many people simply do not have the time.

      I’m taking it anyway.

  2. ellyblue April 16, 2010 at 13:43 #

    There’s always the fine art of hitch hiking. Easier said than done, I know. I haven’t had the balls to try in about a decade.

  3. Adam April 16, 2010 at 14:57 #

    The other problem with the train (at least the Capitol Ltd, riding eastbound from Pgh-DC) is that there’s only one a day, and it leaves at 5 in the morning. Not the best way to encourage ridership in the corridor.

    • Laura Walsh April 16, 2010 at 15:44 #

      That, and it would be immensely beneficial to offer fast and affordable service between DC and Baltimore. I know the Marc is just a “commuter” train but there are people who commute during the weekend too. besides work, it would stimulate a tremendous cultural exchange between the two cities. i would have gone to the American Visionary Art Museum on a very regular basis!

  4. Cullen April 18, 2010 at 18:38 #

    The train is a decent option… as is Greyhound.

    The stations are next door in both downtown Pittsburgh and DC.

    The one-a-day service on Amtrak makes it less useful.. but it’s certainly more comfortable. Good luck!

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