We recently returned from a vacation in the New England area. The trip is estimated at 10 hours by plane, once you drive to the airport, check-in, go through security, experience United’s latest brouhaha, have a layover at a hub airport, arrive and retrieve your luggage.
It’s about the same time to drive, plus you have the joy of driving through New York City traffic, half a dozen or more pit stops, gas stops, and just being stopped in traffic.
Either one is likely to ensure you arrive with a generally bad attitude.
Then there’s the train. Coach seats offer more room than first class on an aircraft. You’ve got 110-volt outlets near the seat and access to the internet—a pathetic access, but access nevertheless. You can also go to the café car and buy a snack or a drink. It’s also less expensive than flying.
All three are dependent upon our infrastructure—the airport and access to it, the highways with their ubiquitous construction zones, and the rails upon which the train rides. Just accept that the deck is stacked against you, regardless of your choice.
We chose the train, drove 30 miles to the train station; there’s a local train station, but only some of the trains pass through Norfolk, necessitating either a bus ride (on a particularly nasty bus) or driving to Newport News. Suffice to say, we drove. The train arrived. We boarded, traveled about 50 yards, were told that due to a derailment in Richmond, the tracks were blocked and our train was cancelled.
Now, you have to remember that Virginia has many unusual laws, rules, regulations, and traditions. This is mainly due to our having had various legislative bodies for over 400 years, giving the politicians ample time to muck up the works. One rule is that freight trains have priority over passenger trains, so when a CSX freight train derailed, Amtrak was entitled to equal inconvenience. In a commonwealth, if you don’t have wealth to share, you share frustrations.
Since we had the car, we made a mad dash to Richmond, hoping to get to the other side of the derailment. We got there after our reconstituted original train had left. To make a long story short, instead of arriving at 7:30 in the evening, we arrived at 5:30 the next morning.
The bottom line? Sooner or later, the politicians are going to have to forego the convention centers, the sports stadiums, and other exotica and spend the money on roads, bridges, rails, sewers, flood protection, and other boring things.
Not a chance.