Since I moved to Vermont a year ago, I’ve both driven my Tesla Model 3 and taken an Amtrak train to visit family in Pennsylvania. Here’s why I prefer to take the train in the Northeast Corridor – the busiest railroad in North America.
Convenience. Taking the Amtrak Vermonter from VT to PA is a lot more convenient than driving a car – four out of five of the top cities with the worst traffic in the US are in the Northeast.
When I take the train, I dodge traffic jams on main arteries like Interstate 95, the George Washington Bridge, or the New Jersey Turnpike. If you hit no traffic, it’s an eight-plus hour drive as it is, including stops to charge the car, eat, and take a rest.
And one of the best things about taking the nearly nine-hour train ride is that I can travel on a weekday and work. The free wifi is decent, and if it temporarily falters, then I just hot spot. Plus, the views are wonderful.
However, driving my Model 3 works in a pinch. The Supercharger network on that route is pretty great. Kudos to the New Jersey Turnpike for having fantastic amenities and hosting Superchargers literally right off the route.
Energy efficiency. According to the 2021 US Department of Energy Data Book, Amtrak is 46% more energy efficient than traveling by car and 34% more energy efficient than domestic air travel. The train I take runs from Vermont to New Haven, Connecticut, on a diesel engine, then it switches to electric. The latter produces significantly fewer emissions than cars – even EVs.
Diesel is far from ideal, but diesel trains transport many passengers at once, which means that the emissions per passenger are lower than they would be if each person were driving a car because the majority of people are still driving gas cars. Diesel trains also produce way less emissions than planes.
And this impact matters a lot: In 2020, emissions from transportation accounted for about 27% of total US greenhouse gas emissions, making transportation the largest contributor of US emissions.
Comfort. Amtrak is comfortable, and that’s important to me, as I suffer from chronic pain, so I need to move and stretch a lot. The seats are roomy, I can get up as much as I want, and legroom is fantastic, especially when I snag a bulkhead seat, which isn’t that hard to do.
Luggage size isn’t an issue, and I don’t have to go through the hassle of going through security and putting my toiletries in small plastic bags. You just get on and sit down.
I like that I can go to the dining car to get a drink or a snack whenever I want and that I can sit down at a table and enjoy the passing scenery. I don’t have to wait for a flight attendant to move out of the way with the cart in order to go to the bathroom.
Cost. I can’t argue that my train trip costs less than driving my Model 3, but hear me out.
A round-trip economy ticket on Amtrak between my home in Vermont and my destination in Pennsylvania is $264. Parking at my home station is free, and it’s only three miles from my house.
I estimate a single full charge on my Model 3 with an average 0.25 kWh electricity cost at nearly $13. It’s around an 800-mile round trip drive, so I estimate total Supercharger trip costs to be around $53. Throw in the toll charges (I used TollGuru, and I have an E-Zpass) and round-trip, it costs around $156, excluding food and drinks.
But here’s why I still feel Amtrak is worth the extra cost: I’m a remote worker, so I can work on the train. The time I spend working is a more efficient use of my time than driving, as time is money. Plus, I don’t have to travel on my days off, so I can spend more time with family.
Safety. The 2021 odds of dying as a passenger on a car trip were 1 in 103, and the lifetime odds of dying as a passenger on a commercial airline flight in the US were 1 in 188,364, according to the National Safety Council (NSC).
While I couldn’t find the odds of being in an Amtrak train crash, I did find that there were six passenger fatalities on Amtrak trains in total in the US in 2019 – so the odds of dying are extremely low.
My worst nightmare is getting into a fender bender on the George Washington Bridge. I’m a lot more chilled out on the train in general because it’s safe.
What do you think of Amtrak train travel in the Northeast or in other areas of the US where it’s available? Let me know in the comments below.
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