Railway transit has an important part in U.S. history but we are lagging behind the rest of the world.
In the United States, railway travel is unique, somewhat expensive, and not very realistic for most travelers unlike in other countries.
In Europe, Asia, and other eastern countries, railways are the best way to travel. Hopping on a rail from London, you can visit just about any city or town in the U.K. You can also visit 33 countries across Europe by rail and that is impressive.
In the United States, you can hit all of the states but Hawaii, still, it isn’t a popular mode of travel. The question is why? There are many reasons including cost. Traveling by rail overseas is a lot cheaper and safer than it is in the United States.
Recent news has revealed that a high-speed rail will connect South Florida to Tampa Bay with a stop at Disney in Orlando. Will that entice more travelers to use the system outside of business? That will depend on the price.
The biggest hindrance to traveling by rail is the price, especially if you are traveling with your family. There is no family rate and some destinations can cost as much as a plane ticket. That brings us to another reason.
In Europe, it is often a lot easier, quicker, and cost-efficient to travel by rail as opposed to by air. In the U.S. almost every city and many smaller cities have regional airports that support travel from state to state and within the state. Prices can sometimes be cheaper depending on where you fly from.
Of course, in the U.S. there is the advantage of driving. Larger families take to the roads and it is sometimes just as easy to drive as it is to fly and in some cases, quicker. Two years ago I flew to Orlando from NC. All told, with stops and layovers, it took me eight hours. That trip was a one-stop flight from Fayetteville, NC to Charlotte and then straight to Orlando. Last year, I opted to drive to Orlando and made the same trip driving in 7 1/2 hours. It also cost a lot less.
Another reason that the U.S. hasn’t embraced railway travel is that we tend to travel with our entire house. An exaggeration but have you ever seen the back windows of a family van on the highway? Notice you can’t really see through the luggage?
We tend to overpack for even the smallest of trips. That doesn’t often happen in other countries where clothes are pretty much the start and finish of their packing. We pack coolers, ice packs, food, blankets, bring our own pillows, enough clothes for two weeks on a four-day trip, extra pairs of shoes for that “just in case” situation, and whatever else we can fit into a suitcase. It’s also why we tend to pay the extra luggage charges on flights.
While California and Nevada continue to work towards a high-speed rail that will connect the outskirts of L.A. and Las Vegas, most American’s are content with driving and flying without ever looking at the rail system as a realistic means of travel.
Someday, maybe that will change but it will take far cheaper pricing points to entice Americans to get out of their cars and let someone else do the driving.