The efficiency of trains

Hello again friends!  I’m back stateside, and wanted to follow up on this note from a couple of months ago.  At the time I talked about how I took the train from Boston, Massachusetts to Syracuse, New York.  The train ride was about 10 hours, about 5.5 hours longer than the equivalent car ride.  As I reflect back on the experience, I can’t help but admire how efficient a mode of travel the train is.  Below I try to articulate this.

Taking the train is more expensive than driving or flying, but

The simple cost equation:

Travel by car: My car needs premium gas, and it takes about a full tank to make a one way trip.  The total cost of that (in November 2011) would be about $55.00 for one way, $110.00 for the round trip

Travel by train: Amtrak’s tickets were about $80.00 for one way, or about $160.00 for a round trip.

So far, taking the train is costing me more by $50.00

However the benefit of the train is that I could work during part or most of the ride.  What does that math look like…

Assuming that I was able to work seamlessly for 75% of the time, and that had I taken the car, I would have been able to work for those extra hours that I would have been in Syracuse instead of the train.  So basically it comes down to how many hours in between the two.  Let’s say I was productive for 7.5 hours out of those ten, and had made it to Syracuse I would’ve worked for about 5 of those hours (assuming a small break).  So basically we are talking about a difference in productivity of 2.5 hours, and assuming.  Assuming an hourly rate of anything above $20 per hour, then it’s worth taking the train.

I can report that my hourly rate is greater than $20.00 therefore it makes a lot of sense for me to take the train.

It doesn’t stop there…

The reality is that after driving 4.5 hours (especially during the holiday season).  It is virtually impossible to work for 5 hours.  In addition, the stiffness and stress that you develop from driving, I find, only tires you more, and makes you stiff for a couple of days.

Finally, one of the most amazing parts of taking the train (well from Boston) is that it literally took me 30 minutes to get from my house to the train using the MBTA.  So effectively I was able to pack my bags, head out, and arrive at the train station 20 minutes before the train left the station, and thus was able to hop on board immediately and continue working (no stowing of electronic devices as we taxi and take-off).

Overall, the train is a fantastic means of transport, something that I look forward to doing more.  From Boston there are a number of cities around that I could easily visit, and am hoping to experiment with this more of transportation more.

Moving towards a sustainable life!  What do you think?

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