I’ve gone from New York to Boston four times since starting this job. I took Amtrak twice. I flew twice. Amtrak wins hands down. Here’s why.
On Amtrak, it’s one and done. I get to South Station and get on the train. That’s it.
Compare to: Getting to the Airport, getting my boarding pass, going through security, getting to the gate, waiting to board during the right zone, wondering if the flight might be delayed (50% chance as far as I can tell). Stressful? Just a bit.
On Amtrak, I start and end in the best place: downtown. I go from the middle of Boston into the middle of New York City.
Compare to: “Arriving” in NYC, and being faced with two options. A $30-$50 cab from La Guardia or JFK. Or a ridiculously long ride on public transportation. I’m sure it is fine by itself, but — call me crazy — when I arrive at my destination, I kind of just want to be there. Not take another trip after my initial trip to get there.
On Amtrak, I can get work done the whole way and even make phone calls!
Compare to: The stop and go of flying. It kills me. More specifically, it kills productivity. Turn all your electronics off for take-off. Okay, we’re at cruising altitude, you can turn them on again. But work quickly! Because in a mere 30 minutes, you will have to turn them off again. Would it really crash the plane to send a text? Or finish that document? Or listen to music? I doubt it.
On Amtrak, I don’t have to listen to unnecessary rules.
Compare to: Listening to (really, tuning out) instructions on how to use a seat belt. Yes, I know it’s a law. But it’s also 2010. Are there really that many people that don’t grasp the concept of a seatbelt? If you haven’t used a seatbelt, maybe just ask the guy next to you. I think the other 149 people on the plane have probably figured it out. Just sayin’…
On Amtrak, I can be comfortable when I want, for as long as I want.
Compare to: We’re taking off, please ensure your tray tables are stowed and return your seatbacks to their full upright and locked position. Okay, we’re at cruising altitude — relax, get comfortable. We’re landing, put everything back. Again, the stop and go thing!
So, clearly, the only thing planes have going for it is that they’re so much quicker and cheaper. Except….
On Amtrak, to NYC, it takes the same amount of time. Wait what?!
Yup. I actually have empirical data to prove this. In December, I flew from NYC to Boston to get home. I left my hotel in NYC at 9:14AM, and arrived back home at 2:03PM. Alternatively, that same day, I could have left at the same time, taken a 10:03AM train, and arrived in Boston at 1:42PM. That puts me back home at 2:15PM. Twelve minutes longer? For that much less stress? Yes please.
On Amtrak, the reservation prices are comparable to planes.
No joke. Booking two weeks out, one-way on Amtrak ranges from $49 to $109. One-way on a plane ranges from $65 to $700. Yes, for $700, you could fly a real one-way United flight on February 17 that includes a layover in Philly. Or, for $700, you could fly roundtrip to Costa Rica. You know. Your choice.
(For those curious, the $700 BOS to LGA flight is United 1959 connecting with United 2994.)
My basic point is that – though taking to the air still scores me a free non-alcoholic beverage of my choice – I’m never flying to New York from Boston ever again. Although, for personal trips, I’d probably just take the Bolt Bus.