Train travel makes for easy trips

Many people traveled over the recent holidays. Some went by train, including me.

It was the fourth time I made my way to upstate New York by riding the rails. And it appears I’m among a growing number of people who are choosing that mode of transportation.

The fall 2012 edition of the Ohio Passenger Rail News I picked up in the Cleveland train station featured the big headline “Amtrak ridership up 49 percent since 2000! Ridership nearly doubles, subsidy halved since Amtrak began.”

The story goes on to say that “Amtrak carried 31.2 million passengers in fiscal year 2012 ending Sept. 30, marking the highest annual ridership since the passenger rail company started in 1971.”

It also points out “Amtrak has overtaken Greyhound (Bus) in ridership and is larger than all but five airlines.”

The train that I take, the Lake Shore Limited, starts in Chicago and runs to New York City and Boston daily. That line registered a 4.3 percent increase in passenger trips in fiscal year 2012 over the previous year.

For me, there are many advantages to taking the train versus flying, especially in the winter. And I wouldn’t even think of driving, given the very real possibility (as we saw this year) of Old Man Winter making a frightening and sudden arrival, particularly in areas prone to lake effect snows.

The only downside is the drive to Toledo or to Cleveland (my point of departure for the first time.) Fortunately, without any bad weather, that wasn’t a significant problem. Although a closer station, as was proposed a few years ago, would be nice.

The biggest advantage, I believe, is that the train is significantly less effected by weather than planes. Prior to making the switch, I flew three times and had problems twice at the Philadelphia airport. Once on the way back, I wound up driving from Cleveland to the Columbus airport when an ice storm prevented my flight from making it to the Cincinnati Airport. (There’s a full column in that experience alone!)

Once on the train, I find the trip more enjoyable, given the comfortable conditions inside the cars — the reclining seats, the ability to walk around, and the availability of food in the dining and cafe cars.

There are even sleeper cars available to those who want to step up to the higher cost. And the total time on the train is comparable to flying, when you consider all the aspects of plane travel today.

The train cars offer plenty of leg room and electrical outlets for electronic devices, which are quite common these days.

The executive director of the Ohio Association of Railroad Passengers, Ken Prendergast, pointed to a growing decrease in airline flights shorter than 500 miles, especially less than 250 miles. He writes “Amtrak wants to provide more and faster trains in the Chicago-East Coast travel market — one of the most populous in the world. Amtrak needs more trains. And it needs more track capacity so its trains and busy freight traffic can peacefully co-exist. Those are reasonable requests considering the growing demand for passenger rail, just as it was for publicly funded airport improvements over the past century. Fortunately, this new and compelling reason for passenger rail is one of the strongest yet for our region.”

Maybe someday we’ll have a train station close to our area. In the meantime, we have to be content to use those located in Cincinnati and across the northern part of Ohio.

Contact me at Darryl.Bauer@cmgohio.com or 328-0341.

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