The Amtrak train from Chicago to Seattle has been averaging 3-5 hours late recently, in no small part due to Warren Buffet’s influence at stopping the building of the Keystone XL pipeline. He controls the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad. A recent derailment caused Amtrak to have to reroute a train with a 12 hour delay.
Let’s say I wanted to go from Charlotte to Chicago in the train in a few days. Here is what Amtrak proposes:
I can catch the train from Atlanta to Washington DC at 1:30 AM – in one of the few neighborhoods I would not want to drive into during the day. I would arrive in Washington DC in mid morning, with a six hour layover (assuming the train arrived on time). Around 4 PM, I catch the Capital Limited routed via the old B&O mainline through West Virginia through Pittsburgh and arrive in Chicago after 17 hours, a travel time of around 31 hours. The only seat available is a roomette, which would cost me $934.
If I hop in my car, it’s about a 13 hour drive going through Cincinnati and Indianapolis.
Let’s say I didn’t own a car and rented one from Enterprise. A three day one-way rental would be around $450, plus gasoline of course.
If I find somebody on Uber to drive me to the airport, I can be in Chicago in two hours (plus TSA delay). My hypothetical trip is on the 24th, so my one way fare would be $315.
If I push my hypothetical trip out for a month to July 24
Amtrak is $283
Rental car stays around $450
Airplane is $161
To their credit, Amtrak just decided to withdraw from the silly plan to develop a common train for use on the Northeast Corredor and on California’s high-speed train to nowhere.