So I was listening to NPR today and there was a discussion on how this summer is pretty much the end of airline travel as we know it... higher prices, cut in flights, commercial travel to some midsize cities completely cancelled, and so on. This leads me to the natural conclusion that people are going to start relying on trains more and more. As someone who has travelled extensively on rail in both Europe and Japan, I have seen how smoothly and efficiently trains can function... but the regional rail system in the US is pitiful in comparison and I personally don't think can pick up the airlines slack as it is right now. As an example: I was recently looking to take a train between two destination which are about 3.5 hours away if driving. The amtrak train was almost 200 dollars and it took almost 7 hours! Taking a bus cost 20 dollars TOTAL and was the same travel time.
Compare that to this: this summer I will be taking the TGV from Paris to Nice, France. To take the train is 5 hours, which is HALF THE TIME it takes to drive (9 hours)... and it costs less then the above mentioned trip for triple the distance. Yeah that's right... 3X the distance of the train in the US, and yet it is 2 hours quicker than the trip in the US and it's cheaper.
Sorry to rant a little bit, but even though I can afford to take a $200 dollar train and sit around for 7 hours, many people cannot and with airlines becoming more expensive, those people will be out of luck. When the technology is out there, and other countries are literally lapping us, I think it is time to step up to the plate and rework the system. I would love to hear your opinions, or hear from some people in the field whether or not I am way off base.