We live in a nation that is dominated by automobiles, with over 80 percent of Americans using personal vehicles like cars to go to work or go on trips. We often can’t imagine going anywhere without cars, or in the case of long-distance, travel planes. Yet, this automobile dominated industry was not always the norm. There was once a time where trains were the main way that people traveled around, either for work-related reasons or just to visit new places that they’d never seen before. Nowadays, trains have fallen into disuse, with most people choosing personal vehicles. Not only are they much safer than cars, but there’s something special about boarding a well-kept train, a sort of wonder and excitement about hearing the ‘hoot hoot’ of the whistle and the ‘all-aboard’ from the conductor. Instead of letting them fade away, trains must be brought be back stronger than ever.
More than anything, trains offer a sense of comfortability that other modes of transport don’t have. Being stuck on a six-hour car ride, there isn’t that much space to move around and oftentimes one’s stuck in close quarters with their fellow passengers. On a train however, that same six-hour ride is a breeze, with enough leg room to do a split and for the restless, an opportunity to walk around and see what else is on the train. Try doing that in the backseat of a car or an economy seat on a plane.
There’s also the undeniable charm that trains have in comparison to cars or airplanes. When imagining cars or planes, there’s often a sense of boredom associated with them. Images of traffic or long lines at airports come easily to mind. In fact, people are gonna have to get to used to traffic as congestion is projected to increased dramatically as time goes on. On the other hand, talk about trains can often trigger thoughts nice scenery and a polite conductor that punch tickets with a big smile. There are very few stories about train congestion in places where they are valued and treated as important modes of transportation. Instead, charming and pleasant stories dominate the discussion about trains.
When talking about prices, trains are also a nice alternative to the skyrocketing prices of airline tickets. In a trip from New York City to Orlando, prices from airline companies like American Airlines can range from $278-297 and that’s most likely for an economy seat. Yet a ticket on Amtrak train routes can be as low as $146, with the added bonus of beautiful scenery and leg room that most people crave when travelling by air. That’s more than a $100 difference which can often determine whether someone will be able to afford a trip or not.
There are of course some negatives to train travel. For one, while riding by train in Europe or Asia may be nice and comfortable, the United States has allowed the quality of the train industry to fall with the rise of cars. So while the charm may be there for many, the reality is that various American trains are rusty and in poor condition. Additionally, trains are much slower than their transportation counterparts. A trip that may take a couple of days by train could be achieved by a plane in only a few hours.
Yet it is not too late. With enough love and perseverance, the future of trains could still be a positive one, where they can be revered as worthy alternatives to the bustling and dreary automobiles and planes rather than remain a relic of the past.
Photo courtesy of the Mises Institute