Oct 7, 2008

Trains: A Green Alternative for Travel

As American’s we don’t often think of traveling by train. It’s something that Europeans take for granted. The idea of a trip comes up and we immediately think of planes or cars. It’s easy and it’s what we’re used to.

A few weeks ago my husband and I needed to go on a business trip to Chicago and drive a moving truck back. Usually when we go we get a round trip plane ticket and have to waste the return portion of the ticket. I started thinking about my business trip a couple of years ago when I took the Amtrak from New York City to Boston to Philadelphia to Washington, DC. It was so much better than flying and trains have tons more room.

Actually, train travel is financially more beneficial as well. Our plane tickets would have cost at least $500 per person for a round trip ticket and ironically even more for a one-way ticket. Our train tickets cost $100 per person with a $244 upgrade for our private room, for a total of $444 for both of us.

The more I thought about it, the more excited I got. I was really looking forward to a romantic trip with my husband (who happens to be 6’5” so he fits in the train a lot better than a plane). We had the best, most relaxing trip. We chose to get a private sleeping room since the trip was going to be 16 hours.

We left Jackson, MS at 6:00 pm and got to Chicago at 10:00 am…well, we were supposed to. One of the drawbacks of trains in the United States is that they don’t really run on time. We were about three hours late, but we didn’t mind. We had a wonderful steak dinner on Thursday night and went back to our room to watch a movie on my laptop. After a very good night sleep (the chairs folded out to a bed), we ordered breakfast and brought it back to the room to watch the scenery and read. All in all, it was the most relaxing trip I’ve taken. No cell phone, no internet, just spending time enjoying the ride.

It wasn’t until I was reading my new Mother Earth News magazine that I realized how green the trip was. There was a column called “Green Your Getaway”. It says, “This lower-carbon alternative lets you relax and enjoy the scenery on the way to your destination while releasing fewer greenhouse gases than flying or driving.” I had never really considered the idea of train travel, but after this wonderful experience and given the fact that it actually is better for the environment, I fully intend to use this alternative when ever possible.

The trains do have limited coverage in our area, but there are stations in Lake Charles, Lafayette, New Orleans, Jackson, MS and Marshall, TX. You can check out the routes at Amtrak. You can get a full sleeper room with a private bath, a smaller sleeper room with a bathroom down the hall or just a seat in the general cars. The general seats are very large and recline with a foot stool. The restaurant/bar is very good. We took the City of New Orleans which featured great Cajun food. We even ended up sharing a table with a great guy who was traveling with his two small kids to meet his wife.

I would like to encourage everyone to think about taking the train for your next trip. Instead of fighting traffic, being stuck on a monotonous interstate and paying ridiculous gas prices, you can put the driving in someone else’s hands and sit back and enjoy the view from the large picture windows while helping the environment and seeing the countryside as your great-grandparents probably did. You might even come home with a new friend or two.

You can also check out “Tips for Eco-friendly Travel” at Mother Earth News. Happy traveling and maybe we’ll see you on the train!


Sirpa said...

Thanks for the information. I will have to take the train here some time! I didn´t somehow even realize that it is possible here. I miss traveling by train. At home in Finland we took trains all the time, even for local transport. Last summer we took a train in Finland with my husband and my little son. The trip lasted for several hours but even my son was entertained because they had a special area in the train for children with a slide, play train and books. The parents had an opportunity to have their seats by this area for observing their children at play comfortably from their seats if they liked.

Jean said...

Thanks for the info too. I hope to take a trip to Chicago next May so I will definitely check this out.