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May 11, 2010

Why Rail In America Sucketh

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I’m thinking about taking a trip to San Diego in July. I can ride my motorcycle: it would be a not-too-difficult two-day ride (1300 miles one way) and cost about $200 in gas plus two nights hotel (~$60 per) or room/sofa bummed with a friend.

Flying? About $350 round-trip plus dealing with transportation while in San Diego. Non-stop, 2.5 hour flight plus travel to airport plus hour advance check-in: 4 hours.

Train? There is no direct train from Seattle to San Diego and the Amtrak reservation system isn’t smart enough to suggest how to get there: it simply tosses out an error message.

Amtrak Reservation

Try To Book Train From Seattle To San Diego

Amtrak Error

The reason for the Amtrak reservation error: you need to change trains in Los Angeles.

Guess what, it’s 35 hr, 15 min to get from Seattle to LA by train and about $100. But if you want to reserve a “roomette” to sleep, tack on $348.00!

It’s only $31.34 (business class seat) for the train from LAX to SAN, but total travel time from Seattle is 39+ hours (9:45 am, Wednesday to 12:50 am, Friday). You can get the fare down to about $400 one way by reserving the roomette from Eugene OR to Oakland CA (5:10 pm, Wednesday to 8.35 am Thursday).

So … two days and about $350 (hotel plus meals plus wear) on the bike … a half-day and about $350 plus rental car/taxi by air … or two days and almost a grand (meals are included with the roomette) on Amtrak, assuming you want to bed to sleep in. (There’s a 10% discount with AAA card that I have not factored into this price.)

Oh, Europe, I miss your rail service.

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