It’s been a terrible summer for air travel. FAA staff shortages, flight cancellations, delays and overcrowding…combined with plane prices rising higher than the planes themselves. Is this any way to travel?
Steve Feiner thinks not. He is a “train guy” whose passion makes me look like a lover.
“I’ve chosen to be car-free for over 15 years,” he tells me proudly. A native of Connecticut (though now living in Northampton, MA), he enjoys high fares on all types of buses and trains, traveling almost daily.
“I belong to a group called Trains in the Valley that advocates for trains in the western MA area and specifically the ‘knowledge corridor’ that includes Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield.” Almost every day he is at a local train station measuring the on-time performance of Amtrak’s Valley Flyer trains and counting the number of passengers boarding and disembarking. A little nervous, huh?
But last weekend he had to attend a family wedding in Washington, DC and, true to form, he skipped the airport and took the train, detailing his journey on Twitter (@SteveFainer).
Because the Hartford line (trains from New Haven to Springfield) is closed for summer construction, he ended up taking more buses than trains, but he made the entire round trip to Washington without ever getting into one. car.
Northampton to Springfield on an express bus cost him 75 cents (versus $11 by train). Then another bus to New Haven ($6.25 although his fare was never collected) and a connection to Amtrak.
Because he booked weeks in advance and took advantage of one of Amtrak’s occasional “Flash Sales,” his ticket to DC was only $29 (vs. $82 regularly). The train arrived in Washington five minutes early and was very sold out, typical of a Friday.
From Union Station in Washington he took the DC shuttle bus ($1 vs. $22 for an Uber) arriving at the Air B&B. The next day was a quick walk to the wedding and back.
His return trip on Amtrak cost $56 (also purchased in advance) and took eight hours door-to-door versus about 6.5 hours if he drove, not including Sunday traffic. Total cost round trip: $87.75
Admittedly, being retired, Fainer is a bit of a stickler for saving money and looking for 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 mass transit is a money saver. Plus, taking the train is stress-free compared to driving.
Fainer says he doesn’t miss having a car. “Since I haven’t owned a car in 15 years, it’s hard to put a dollar figure on what I’m saving, but I’m sure it’s in the thousands when factoring in gas, repairs, taxes, insurance, registration, parking fees, etc. . etc.”
So the next time you’re traveling to the Northeast, consider your options. You could end up saving money and a lot of travel stress if you try taking the train.