trains over planes

Our local Amtrak office doesn’t open ’til 9 p.m., and the commuter rail heading west departs at a crushing 5:40 a.m.

The rep who answers my call is crusty and rude. I want to check on my reservation. “Well,” he says after a sour pause, “What do you want to know?”

Obviously, significant policy and practice remedials are called for. Will Amtrak (or private investors) seize upon air travel’s increasing woes from exploding oil prices and climate concerns?

I’m banking on a bail-out of some sort to reshape rail into a workable option for the masses. Here’s some specs (thanks, Bill!) from the Vancouver Sun, via Post Carbon Cities:

Two factors mean the end of air travel as we know it

The world is starting to be affected by the twin challenges of climate change and peak oil, but many involved in transportation planning are looking the other way. Richard Gilbert and Anthony Perl say that planning around airport development is folly for cities.

In crafting policy around air travel, governments both here abroad are flying by the seat of their pants.

The world is starting to be affected by the twin challenges of climate change and peak oil, but many involved in transportation planning are looking the other way.

In fact, it’s easy to believe air travel will keep on expanding, given all the jam-packed airplanes, delayed flights and crowded airports. But cracks are appearing.

In the first two weeks of April, the following airlines went belly up or sought bankruptcy protection: Aloha Airlines; Oasis Hong Kong Airlines, ATA, Skybus, Frontier Airlines and Champion Air.

For now, it’s the budget and regional carriers that appear most vulnerable. But Italy’s national carrier Alitalia is in dire straits, and Delta, reacting to high fuel prices, this week announced a merger with Northwest Airlines.

Air travel is facing static on two fronts. In terms of climate change, air travel – a relatively small industry worldwide — burns kerosene jet fuel that accounts for between four and nine per cent of all climate change on the planet, according to the David Suzuki Foundation.

Britain’s Stockholm Institute at the University of York back in 2004 identified increased air travel as one of the most serious environmental threats facing the planet. It recommended travellers be required to use public transit to access airports and that they use rail for any journey under 400 miles.

On the peak oil front, with a projected decline in global oil reserves, airlines are finding themselves unable to keep up with fuel costs.

This is my first venture on rail in about 15 years. I was put off by the travel times and caustic reception, but once I got on board, I was sold.

At $3.80 gas, I’m saving money on what is for me a regular trans-Texas trip. And what could be more freakin’ relaxed that rumbling over the country, with a book or plugged in laptop, chatting via cell, or just meeting fellow travelers hanging out in the dining car?

Check out view from the “window car.” On my return, I’ll be shooting pics over Lake Amistad…

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2 responses to “trains over planes

  1. I love the rails. Ya meet interesting people. You get to relax and not worry about traffic.

    The traffic on IH 35 from SA to Austin will make your eyebrows sweat and your voice drop to a grumbling of profanities.

    They’re gonna eventually have to come up with some sort of mass transport for that corridor. Thanks again, developers…let’s just see how far we can stretch this urban sprawl thing, shall we?

    Rails would be ever so cool.

    Have fun on your trip and get yer butt back here soon. You’re my favorite environmental hoodlum. Get back to work.

    Menopausal Mick


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