Saturday, May 26, 2007

Come On Ride The Train...

Well, I'm getting ready to head out to NYC today. And this time, I am taking Amtrak. I calculated that, after gas, tolls and parking, it's actually about the same cost to drive up as it is to take Amtrak's otherwise high-priced trains. In fact, I get more for my money if I spend an extra day - at $50 to park per day in New York (that's on cheap end), it's not cheap to park up there. And it is convenient to just hop on public transportation and wind up in a major world city. One coworker who is originally from Queens tells me it's the only way to go between Baltimore and New York - he does it all the time.

And the best part of this Amtrak stuff? I do not have to drive into the city. I don't know if Mayor Bloomberg's toll on entering Manhattan has gone into effect yet (they have a similar system to reduce congestion in London and San Fran), but it is not fun to drive in Manhattan or Brooklyn - less so Manhattan. No disrespect to any readers from the Big Apple, but you have to be aggressive in a way you just don't here. For example, if I am trying to change a lane, here (for that matter, in Cali, too) I wait for an opening in traffic and then change lanes. But in New York you cannot get away with that - you have to push your way into traffic. And it's not being overly aggressive, because you are expected to do this, too. The first time I drove up I learned this the hard way, but I adapted. And I didn't enjoy it.

Also, not doing Acela - it shaves 15 minutes off of a 150 minute ride for $50 extra each way. I'd just as soon save the $100 and take the "slow" train.

There are some advantages of taking the train over the plane, too. Even though it's more expensive, you can exchange tickets with little if any penalty - I changed my return ticket twice and had to pay nothing more than the difference. Planes are definitely cheaper, but only if you buy well in advance. If you try to fly a few days before, you will pay an arm and a leg to fly. With Amtrak, you only pay an arm - but never a leg. Maybe an arm and a toe or two if you wait (one ticket was $14 more two days after I bought it - glad I bought it when I did). Unless it's the Acela Express. The security measures worry me - I'm not sure if there are any. I don't know, I'm the kind of person that feels safer if everyone has to go through the metal detector.

Two more advantages of the train: you can use your cell phone and other electronics for the duration of the ride (not so on a plane, where your phone must be off and electronics must be shut down at the start and end of the flight); and they have snack cars! I'll tell you about the snacks on the Amtrak. They sometimes have pizza, from what I hear. I just hope this isn't your typical elementary school cafeteria menu. Only with alcohol. Ooh! Do they have beer?


Rachel said...

Have you ever tried taking the chinatown buses to NYC? they are like $30 and really fast.

Baltimore Snacker said...

You know, I discovered something about that very thing! Only problem was, I was already on the train between Aberdeen and Wilmington :(