Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Low Speed Rail

Engineer At Front Of Steam Engine

        Amtrak provides what I call "Low Speed Rail" (LSR) service between Portland, Oregon and Sacramento, California. I call it low speed because it takes 16 hours for a trip that takes only 9 hours by automobile.
        People will only leave their cars if the trip is more comfortable or significantly faster or both. The low speed Amtrak train does take people out of their cars because 9 hours of driving is too much for most folks who would rather take a break with a motel lay-over half way through the trip. Amtrak allows you to sleep on the train, so eight hours of that trip are used for what you would normally be doing anyway, sleeping.
        Also Amtrak has 110 volt power outlets by each seat so you can keep your laptop or tablet charged and watch movies or videos during your waking hours. Or you can do like I did, and catch up on those novels I have been reading --these days on my kindle.
        Finally Amtrak has two doors in each car so that boarding and off-boarding ware often very quick. You never have to wait behind anyone pulling down luggage. In fact you can make you way to the exit door while the train is still pulling into the station. Try doing that on an airplane.
        Of course, if you're in a hurry you would fly. But flying is more of a bother than you might realize. Not only do you have to drive to the airport and park there, but you also are required to arrive at least 45 minutes ahead of the flight time to check in and get through security. Once on the flight you are not allowed to use electronics until you are in the air and must shut them down before landing. Finally, you often have to wait to off-board while those ahead of your pull luggage off the overhead bins. Then you have to get from your arrival airport to downtown or your destination, usually by taxi or van, but sometimes by public transit.
        Just for a complete look a the alternatives, also consider "High Speed Rail," like that being constructed in California.  Just like Amtrak, boarding and off-boarding are easy and fast with no security check. You board already downtown, and off-board already downtown. You can read, use the Internet, and watch movies while on board, even while stopped at a station. Plus HSR is very, very fast.
        For example, consider a trip from Downtown Portland, Oregon to Downtown Sacramento, California. A trip of about 581 total miles. Low Speed Amtrak takes 16 hours. An automobile trip (driving straight through) takes 9 hours. A plane trip (including early arrival and transit to and from the airport) takes 3 hours. High Speed Rail would take 2 hours.
        In general, I would take LSR rather than drive, and only fly in an emergency. If HSR were available, I would never fly and would travel to Seattle or Portland or San Francisco or Los Angeles far more often.