Sick of flying? Consider the train for travel in the Northeast
It’s been a hell of a summer for air travel. FAA staff shortages, flight cancellations, delays and overcrowding…combined with airfares that are higher than the planes themselves. Is this a way to travel?
Steve Fainer thinks not. He’s a “train guy” whose passion makes me look like a wannabe.
“I chose to be car-free for over 15 years,” he tells me proudly. Originally from Connecticut (although he now lives in Northampton, MA), he enjoys senior fares on all manner of buses and trains, traveling almost daily.
“I belong to a group called Trains in the Valley which advocates for trains in the western MA region and in particular the ‘knowledge corridor’ which includes Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield.” Almost daily, he visits a local station to measure the punctuality of Amtrak’s “Valley Flyer” trains and count the number of passengers boarding and alighting. A bit corny, right?
But last weekend he had to attend a family wedding in Washington, D.C. and, true to form, he skipped the airport and took the train, detailing his trip on Twitter (@SteveFainer).
Because the Hartford line (trains from New Haven to Springfield) is closed for summer construction work, he ended up taking more buses than trains, but he went all the way to Washington and back. without ever getting into a car.
Northampton to Springfield by express bus cost him 75 cents (compared to $11 by train). Then another bus to New Haven ($6.25 although his ticket was never picked up) and a connection to Amtrak.
Because he booked weeks in advance and took advantage of one of Amtrak’s occasional “flash sales,” his coach fare to DC was only $29 (compared to the regular $82). The train arrived in Washington five minutes early and was about full, typical for a Friday.
From Union Station in Washington, he hopped the DC Circulator bus ($1 vs. $22 for an Uber) to get to his Air B&B. The next day was a quick ride to the wedding and back.
His return trip on Amtrak cost $56 (also pre-purchased) and took eight hours door-to-door versus about 6.5 hours if he was driving, not accounting for Sunday traffic. Total cost for the round trip: $87.75
Admittedly, being retired, Fainer is a bit obsessed with saving money and finding bargains. Booking in advance always saves on ticket prices…assuming you have the flexibility to do so. But even without the senior discount and “flash sale,” taking public transit saves money. Plus, taking the train is stress-free compared to driving.
Fainer says he doesn’t miss owning a car. “As I haven’t had a car in 15 years, it’s hard to put a figure on how much I’m saving, but I’m sure it’s in the thousands considering gas, repairs, taxes, fuel, etc. insurance, registration, parking fees, etc. . etc.”
So the next time you travel to the Northeast, consider your options. You could end up saving money and a lot of travel stress if you try to take the train.