Why trains instead of planes for long distance?

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by dande, Oct 13, 2019.

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

  1. Oct 14, 2019 #51

    SarahZ

    SarahZ

    SarahZ

    Conductor

    Joined:
    May 9, 2011
    Messages:
    7,898
    Location:
    KAL
    Jeb summed up my position really well. I use whichever mode of transportation works best with my schedule and finances. I usually only take a train long distances when it's part of my vacation and I'm doing it for the scenery. It's much more convenient to fly.

    As far as regional trips, I have a lot of frustration with the current Michigan Services schedule. I find myself driving to/from Chicago and Detroit more often than not. I would prefer to take the train, but the schedule simply does not work for me.

    I feel the same way about traveling to the east coast. As much as I'd love to take the train, the schedule is terrible. If I could board at 9 a.m. and be there around 9 p.m, I'd be all for it.
     
  2. Oct 14, 2019 #52

    Bluejet

    B

    Bluejet

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2019
    Messages:
    5

    Again, I don't disagree that trains CAN be more efficient, but the quote I was responding to was giving skewed data to the argument and was just flat out wrong. The 35000lbs of JET-A is a typical westbound, not eastbound, fuel burn at 100% load factor. Eastbound the fuel burn will be about 5000lbs less with typical tail winds. The current generation amtrak P42/superliner combo is quoted by Amtrak as getting roughly .4 MPG. (that's all long distance, i did not give a fuel credit to the likely lighter east of the chicago trains) Doing some math, the original poster was incorrect to assume that the jet airliner burned a significant amount of fossil fuels above what's being used today by long distance trains, in fact its quite the opposite, the jet is often more efficient then trains on longer segments. The train burns 7000 gallons of Diesel both ways, the jet is burning 5000 gallons westbound and 4300 gallons eastbound. While yes it is possible to make trains close to zero emissions, that would involve billions of dollars in capital infrastructure to upgrade our rail lines outside of the northeast corridor to use overhead catenary, which is never going to happen. Obviously freight rail handily destroys air freight on tonnage cost, but between lack of investment, onerous safety regulations that prohibit or at the very least discourage the use of lighter weight off the shelf equipment, the jet is not only competitive on fuel burn, but might down right beat the train on segments greater then 1000 miles.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2019
    RSG and daybeers like this.
  3. Oct 15, 2019 #53

    jiml

    jiml

    jiml

    Lead Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2019
    Messages:
    420
    Location:
    Toronto area
    This is a point well-taken. There was a study several years (maybe 20?) ago that statistically 60% of aircraft "events" happened during take-off, 35% during landing and the remaining 5% covered all other causes including mid-air collision, decompression and terrorist attacks.

    There isn't much point in debating whether rail or air travel is safer; they're both so much safer than taking your car to the corner store.
     
  4. Oct 15, 2019 #54

    Bluejet

    B

    Bluejet

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2019
    Messages:
    5
    Interestingly enough one of the main causes of cruise accidents has been high altitude aerodynamic stalls. Air France 447 is one of many examples of pilots being taught wrong technique for many years. In years past with statistics like you posted, the FAA and NTSB were far more concerned about low altitude stalls rather then high altitude stalls. Jet engines have far higher thrust output and airframes have far higher normal operating ranges at lower altitudes then higher ones. The FAA taught pilots to essentially maintain attitude and "power out" of stalls. Thats fine and good at low altitudes where you have excess thrust to deal with, but at higher altitudes it proved to be deadly. Having under wing mounted engines, the pitch moment of the wing with relation to the engines wants to push the wing into a greater angle of attack, and actually can deepen aerodynamic stalls. When a stall deepens the wing tips on swept wing jets are the first to stall, leading to a lack of controllability. The NTSB had to intervene and push for new stall recovery training for all swept wing jets at altitude which tells operators to push the nose over and reduce power, ergo inducing a pitch down moment and allowing the airplane to decrease angle of attack. During the next 3 years every airline pilot in the united states will undergo multiple hours of stall training in simulators in these regimes to correct what was unfortunately poor training protocol ordered by the FAA.
     
  5. Oct 15, 2019 #55

    Qapla

    Qapla

    Qapla

    Lead Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2019
    Messages:
    422
    Location:
    Gator Country Florida
    Ain't that the truth ... Jax used to have a downtown depot years ago ... that building is now a Convention Center. The Amtrak station is not in the most convenient location and the signage to find it by car, if you don't already know where it is, does not make it easy to locate - you could drive right past the drive back to the building.

    And that is the case with either Navy Base ... if you are going to NAS the train goes right past the main entrance but there is no stop there like there once was. The town that once stood across from NAS no longer exists ... today, the next stop from JAX is Palatka.
    There is not much left of the old depot. When I was young the building still existed. These days, all that's left is the slab. My brother and sister were born in the old hospital at NAS ... back when Yukon was still considered a town ... their birth certificates had them listed as being born in Yukon, Fl.

    Mayport is even further.


    Anyway - back to the thread ...
    That's me! Just the thought of getting into a plane that is going to take me that far up keeps me from trying it.

    Even though I know that, statistically speaking, I am much more likely to be involved in a car crash than a plane crash - it doesn't bother me at all to get into a car/truck and drive down a busy Interstate ... but, get in the plane - not on your life!

    The train is right in between - even though I know that a train is mega-tons of steel and people hurdling along at speeds up to 80MPH (outside the NEC) on steel wheels riding on steel tracks that are only 4'8½" apart with nothing but gravity holding it down - it doesn't bother me like thinking about being up in a plane does.
     
  6. Oct 15, 2019 #56

    Paul CHI

    Paul CHI

    Paul CHI

    Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2008
    Messages:
    137
    So easy to board the train. Comfortable seats. Great views, though I also enjoy seeing the country from the air (but more and more flyers are closing the shades so they can watch movies). By and large, though, planes are more on time and cheaper than sleepers. Either can be affected by severe weather, just in different ways.
     
  7. Oct 15, 2019 #57

    Way2Kewl

    Way2Kewl

    Way2Kewl

    Train Attendant

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2019
    Messages:
    41
    Location:
    Dallas
    With regards to feeling safer on a train vs plane…
    My thoughts are that anyone that gets in a car should not be concerned at all about taking a train or a plane.

    There was an article publishing comparable statistics a few years back.
    It listed deaths per Billion miles:
    Motorcycle 217 per Billion miles
    Cars & Trucks 5.75 per Billion miles
    Commuter rails & Amtrak 0.47 per Billion miles (does not distinguish between rail crossings vs. passengers.)
    Subway & Metro rail 0.24 per Billion miles
    Bus 0.14 per Billion miles
    Plane 0.06 per Billion miles
    Reference: https://money.cnn.com/2015/05/13/news/economy/train-plane-car-deaths/

    This Wiki lists references American Railroad Accidents with a bit more detail of each.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_American_railroad_accidents#21st_century

    Here are some DOT hard statistics on the DOT website.
    https://safetydata.fra.dot.gov/OfficeofSafety/publicsite/Query/TenYearAccidentIncidentOverview.aspx
    Filtering “Railroad Group“ to “AMTRAK AND COMMUTER RAILROADS” and then “Generate Report” lists Passenger Rail Deaths.
    I can’t find any distinction from rails crossing accidents vs. riding passengers here either.
    Amtrak Deaths.jpg
     
    mitako likes this.
  8. Oct 15, 2019 #58

    Duane Witte

    D

    Duane Witte

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2019
    Messages:
    12
    I have flown a couple dozen times (all for work, all before 9/11) in my life but due to my size it was uncomfortable. With the extra security and small seats you wont get me on a plane unless it's an emergency. Usually if I can't drive there I don't go. Thursday I leave on my first long distance train trip we'll see how that goes.
     
    F900ElCapitan and daybeers like this.
  9. Oct 15, 2019 #59

    v v

    v

    v v

    Conductor AU Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2012
    Messages:
    1,112
    Location:
    UK / France
    I don't dispute any of your data and must point out I wasn't comparing US trains with flying. Read a comprehensive article last week about the self same planes verses European high speed trains vs European electric trains vs diesel trains. The shock was that diesel trains (in Europe) were not as markedly efficient compared to planes as I thought. Electric trains on local to moderate distance trains were definitely a bit more efficient, but the high speed (200 mph) trains were so much more efficient and they carry a higher passenger load than say a regular express train either diesel or electric.

    I wasn't comparing like with like as of course this is a US forum so not a fair comparison from me, but I would say that if the US built a real high speed rail network it would make it very tough for airlines to compete on environmental grounds.

    Noticed above that someone wrote that a high speed rail network will never get built in the US, it can't be available space compared to Europe and Japan for example, anyone know the reason(s)?
     
  10. Oct 15, 2019 #60

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,341
    Location:
    Virginia
    Generally, my rule (as of a few years ago) was this: I live in VA. If I'm going somewhere east of the Mississippi* (and not in Canada), I take the train. Otherwise, I fly. It's really down to distance/time.

    Now, things are rather squirrely at this point because of the Starvation mess (killing that as an SB option to Florida and making the prospect of juggling an overnight connection at New York or Albany *ahem* problematic) to say nothing of the Meteor's situation. But VA is also well-placed to run overnight in either direction (once 66/67 gets its sleeper back I'll probably use that to/from the Adirondack), so I've taken the train to/from Chicago, Iowa, Ohio, Florida, and Georgia on "pure" overnight trips (i.e. no intermediate stays in hotels).

    With the axing of the Meteor's diner, however, I am in a painful spot since I'm to the point that I can (in terms of service amenities) comfortably route ORF/RIC-JFK-Florida and get a good meal en route on Delta. It isn't that I demand great food (the Amtrak steak was always quite enough), it's that I want edible food with a decent presentation, etc.
     
    neroden likes this.
  11. Oct 15, 2019 #61

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,341
    Location:
    Virginia
    Worth noting is that on the NEC (where grade crossings mostly don't exist), Amtrak went something like 28 years without a passenger fatality (the derailment outside Philly was the first passenger-fatal Amtrak crash since early January 1987, and that incident was due to a Conrail locomotive team that was high at the time). There has never been a fatality on board an Acela train, for example.

    Replicating the conditions of the NEC elsewhere would be...tricky, at least in terms of closing grade crossings, but it does seem that trains can be substantially safer than the other methids under the right operating conditions (and that the failure of those conditions, if established, is likely to be much less deadly than...oh, I dunno, a malfunctioning autopilot system).
     
    neroden likes this.
  12. Oct 15, 2019 #62

    railiner

    railiner

    railiner

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2009
    Messages:
    7,350
    Location:
    South Florida
    Wow, another airline pilot on AU...welcome to our forum!
    How many does that now make?:)
     
    F900ElCapitan and Willbridge like this.
  13. Oct 15, 2019 #63

    Willbridge

    Willbridge

    Willbridge

    Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2019
    Messages:
    174
    Location:
    Denver
    I might be called a "geography fan" so I like the view and the people of rail and some bus travel better than air travel. Exceptions have been the interesting low-altitude circling of Chicago due to air traffic and circling divided Berlin for the Army's low-budget method of getting photos of our opponents.

    I've noticed that the anecdotes about Vietnam veterans being abused often take place in airports. Coming home to Oregon from Berlin in 1971 the only rudeness I experienced was in JFK airport. On my rail journey through the chaos of early Amtrak I was treated to "no tip, please" by a NY cabbie and people bought me drinks and meals. The station master in Portland arranged for my family to be on the platform to greet me, just like in the movies.

    When working for Oregon DOT, my colleagues noticed that train passengers wrote the most literate comments about their travel experiences and needs!
     
  14. Oct 15, 2019 #64

    Willbridge

    Willbridge

    Willbridge

    Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2019
    Messages:
    174
    Location:
    Denver
    In the past year I've met two TSA staffers on western transcons (Trains 3 and 11). Not sure what that means!
     
    oregon pioneer likes this.
  15. Oct 15, 2019 #65

    Bluejet

    B

    Bluejet

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2019
    Messages:
    5
    That’s interesting that there are a couple. I will say I tend to use the train a fair bit lately. I live on the southeast Connecticut shoreline so to Boston or New York it sure beats the drive.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2019
    railiner likes this.
  16. Oct 15, 2019 #66

    basketmaker

    basketmaker

    basketmaker

    Train Attendant

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2018
    Messages:
    57
    Location:
    Brighton, CO (DEN or FMG-Preferred)
    Been flying since infancy (dad had a plane) and then 45 years in the aviation industry. Everything passenger and cargo except pilot (but including being a flight attendant). I avoid commercial aviation like the plague. I abhor TSA security checks (not the TSA!) and sitting in a seat that is like a rock and too small (and I'm scrawny) with my knees in my chest. Then staring out the window at just the "pretty white clouds". Now I do enjoy flying if it is in a small plane like a Cessna or Piper and my favorite aircraft the venerable Douglas DC-3. Give me a train any day of the week!
     
    neroden, RSG, F900ElCapitan and 3 others like this.
  17. Oct 15, 2019 #67

    railiner

    railiner

    railiner

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2009
    Messages:
    7,350
    Location:
    South Florida
    As an AA retiree, (not a pilot, I was a bus driver), I have used my free flight benefit to ride trains....like last year's Coast Starlight detour over Tehachapi. And I have concluded two recent cruises by coming home on first the Crescent, next on the Meteor, and in January will use the California Zephyr, part of the way, and then fly...
    We have at least three other airline pilots that are member's of our forum, that make valuable contribution's sharing their professional knowledge over on the non-rail threads...:)
     
    basketmaker and Bob Dylan like this.
  18. Oct 15, 2019 #68

    plane2train

    p

    plane2train

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2015
    Messages:
    10
    Whenever I travel by train, I always combine it with air travel. Often, I will fly one way and return via train or vice-versa. I love taking the train long-distance and seeing our beautiful country. Being in ATL, however, I really can only use it to go to NOL, WAS or NYP. The cities I visit in North Carolina only have Crescent service in the middle of the night. When in California or New Mexico, however, I often try to get one trip in just to see the scenery. Nothing like seeing nature in the absence of an interstate.
     
  19. Oct 15, 2019 #69

    basketmaker

    basketmaker

    basketmaker

    Train Attendant

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2018
    Messages:
    57
    Location:
    Brighton, CO (DEN or FMG-Preferred)
    Were they working/on-duty? I know Reno Police Drug Task Force does the CZ #5 between RNO and TRU and pretty sure they do #6 as well. As I was "profiled" as a drug/money runner on one trip. Which I absolutely loved and fully support their efforts. Seems since I booked a roomette from FMG to SAC the night before and the return the following connection after an overnight I guess I fit the description to the computer system. I was in the trans/dorm but rarely stayed in the room. But they hunted me down finally in the lounge. SCA said they were driving her nuts! She said they wanted my description which she gave them. She apologized for it and I told her no worries whatsoever and glad she did.

    Well I was sitting in the lounge taking pics when a bearded guy came up behind me in a tattered t-shirt and cut-off shorts and ask me if I was Karl Innes and I said I was. He lifted his t-shirt and showed me his Reno PD badge clipped to his waistband. My first thought they thought I may have taken a picture of some illegal activity and wanted to maybe see my camera to review. But he explained that he was a member of the Drug Task Force along with 4 other officers onboard. And that my name hit because of my last minute quick round trip. He asked if I had any issues with them checking my baggage and belongings. Which I had no problem with at all. Told him I was in the trans/dorm and we headed that way. He radioed another officer to head up too. Got to the room and he again asked if okay to search and if I had anything illegal they should know about. Said oh hell no problem at all. Then a quick frisk (for weapons I guess)? Since I only had one small overnight bag and a camera bag. He looked through them and of course didn't find anything. He and the other officer both apologized to me for the trouble. Just like I told the SCA that it was no bother whatsoever. And I very glad and grateful for the job they do. One of my more memorable Amtrak journeys!
     
    oregon pioneer likes this.
  20. Oct 15, 2019 #70

    MARC Rider

    M

    MARC Rider

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2011
    Messages:
    1,352
    Location:
    Baltimore. MD
    Oh yeah. None of this business with the "fasten seat belt" sign on for 20-30 minutes while you're bouncing around over a thunderstorm, and you really, reall have to go. Also, fasten seat belt sign keeping you strapped into your seats for the 20 minutes after leaving the airport and the 20 minutes before arrival.

    Not to mention the fact that an Amfleet 2 car has 2 restroom per ~60 passengers, whereas the Southwest Boeing 737s that I'm most familiar with have only 3 restroom for about 150 passengers.
     
  21. Oct 15, 2019 #71

    MARC Rider

    M

    MARC Rider

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2011
    Messages:
    1,352
    Location:
    Baltimore. MD
    "Restaurant grade food?" Ah, you must have just popped through a time warp from the previous decade. :)
    But they still let you bring on the Swiss army knife. In fact, I do it to, as I find it useful to cut up the fine cheese I bring aboard to enjoy with my choice of wine that I can also bring aboard. (NOTE: Applies to sleeper passengers only.)
     
    RSG and oregon pioneer like this.
  22. Oct 15, 2019 #72

    Siegmund

    Siegmund

    Siegmund

    Train Attendant

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2018
    Messages:
    90
    Location:
    northwestern Montana
    A good rule of thumb for modern locomotives is 500 ton-miles per gallon. That would indeed come out somewhere near 0.4 mpg for the heaviest long-distance trains (~140 tons per engine and ~80 tons per superliner) - if it is a 12-car train you'd at least hope it has something closer to 400 than 200 people aboard.

    I tend to agree with your point that the fuel efficiency issue is about a wash, in the case of an off-season or more lightly patronized train.

    I think a lot of us believe that we could quite easily fill 2 trains per day with several hundred riders on most of the routes, given good on-time performance, good equipment, and good onboard service. Just need someone willing to make that investment -- rather than building expensive but very low-capacity Acelas.
     
  23. Oct 15, 2019 #73

    keelhauled

    k

    keelhauled

    OBS Chief

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2014
    Messages:
    836
    Location:
    Camorr
    Unless Amtrak Police happen to spot it. Then they will confiscate it.
     
  24. Oct 15, 2019 #74

    oregon pioneer

    oregon pioneer

    oregon pioneer

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2011
    Messages:
    2,134
    Location:
    near Seneca, Oregon
    A lot of the above applies to me, though I am not afraid of heights. In fact, I kind of enjoy looking down from planes when I do have to fly. I far prefer trains, though. In addition to the scenery, comfort, someone else doing the driving, and 24 hour progress, my big thing is the ability to do what I want while watching the landscape roll by, including:
    • knitting or crocheting
    • reading
    • work on my computer (one trip, I wrote the timeline and script for a five minute video. I always write details for a trip report as stuff happens)
    • sipping a hot beverage in the SSL while watching scenery, wildlife, backyards, and other trains
    • keeping warm inside while it snows outside the train, and not having to worry about road conditions
    • sleeping, and waking up every now and then to see where we are
    So, while I will fly when I need to (for reasons of time or distance), I much prefer the train. I have a feeling of luxury every time I step on the train because the journey is, in fact, a large part of my vacation.
     
  25. Oct 16, 2019 #75

    dlagrua

    dlagrua

    dlagrua

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2009
    Messages:
    3,054
    Location:
    Hillsborough, NJ
    I read different stats on how much fuel a plane consumes as opposed to a train. Diesel engines also pollute far less than Jet engines. Go near an airport and you can smell the stench. Thinking farther the equation must consider the amount of passengers that a train will carry in a cross country trip. Very few passengers go starting to end point and get on and off the train all along the way. If you factor that in, the train makes far less pollution per rail passenger. Now with hybrid locomotives are being introduced the efficiency will skyrocket.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2019

Share This Page



arrow_white