The first thing that needs to be said is that the US Rail Transportation system is not used as frequently for passenger transportation as in other parts of the World, like Europe for example. After all, who in their right minds would want to use trains when they can simply fly there? But, what if you are more interested in sightseeing the US countryside, would the trains be an advantage? What about the cost? There are many variable factors which would need to be kept in mind to tackle these questions.
Let us start with pricing. Say that you wanted to visit New York and Washington. Both lie on the opposite ends and you will have to cross the whole mainland. Here is a curious comparison of the times it would take to go through them using Trains and Airplanes. The figures may vary in reality, but they will give us a pretty accurate idea.
As you can see that for the above routes the savings are there, but clearly the San Antonio – Dallas trip would not be worth the savings, as it would take a lot of time. However, for the New York to Washington Trip a lot of savings can be had, which can then be spent on the accommodation and other expenses. Plus, it would give you a very good idea about the countryside as well.
The savings using Amtrak can be compounded even more, if you use their day passes, which depending on your choice can be issued for a specific number of trips or a specific time period. That is ideal if you wish to travel frequently only spending a day or two at the destinations.
Once again, there are a lot of variables that need to be accounted for. But, the major ones include the overall time for travel and your budget. Long flights tend to be generally hectic, when compared to long train commutes. The main reason is that you are advised to remain in your seat in the Airplanes, but you can walk around freely on the train. There are other advantages too. Usually long routes on the trains have comfortable seats even in the economy sections, which can be reclined back fully to sleep. And if you are booked in the sleeper car, then it isn’t very different from a hotel. Then there are the dining and lounge cars. Plus, they have free Wi-Fi on board which means you can stay connected on the go.
You can ensure an even better experience if you take the necessary items with you on the train. These would include light hand carry luggage, a few toiletries, your phone charger, a power strip – if you plan on using multiple devices and having them at full charge, books, and anything else which you need. Most of these, including the bag and power strip, can be bought at really cheap prices using these coupons from Groupon.
Is it viable?
Generally speaking the trains have much going in their favor, except for the overall time taken. And despite my love of trains, even I would not venture to take an 8 hour journey to Dallas. Well not unless, I had a lot of time. If you do have time then even the longer trips can be fruitful. You can watch the beautiful country side or just binge watch Game of Thrones, before the upcoming season 6. So, in conclusion, the train system is not outdated in the US and is ideal for some trips. But on others, it just wouldn’t make sense to spend about 12 hours, if you can fly there in 3.