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Published on August 25th, 2010 | by ziggy

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4 Reasons to Travel By Train Other Than Lower Carbon Emissions

It’s widely understood that travel by train is perhaps the most eco-friendly way to get around, other than walking or biking. It’s certainly more efficient and less polluting than flying or driving a car. There are many travel calculators out there that will tell you exactly how much carbon you’ll be responsible for spewing into the atmosphere depending on your choice of travel, and all are in favor of the train. But what are the other benefits to taking the train, other than fewer carbon emissions?

Other Train Travel Benefits

Despite how much longer it takes to get anywhere on the train, there are many benefits to train travel other than reduced carbon emissions.

  1. Do you look forward to the tedious security before even getting near the airplane? No such thing with the train. There are no overbearing security officials or long lines at the metal detector. They just don’t exist. It’s incredibly less stressful to take the train: no sliding your bags through an x-ray, removing your belt and shoes just to be able to enter the waiting area, or the overall constant bombardment of security measures.
  2. Do you frequently suffer from jet lag? Although the train is slow, you have time to relax and adjust to changing time zones. Zooming across the country in a plane is a disorienting experience of being suddenly transported thousands of miles in a matter of several hours. Train travel is at a more natural pace and allows passengers to naturally adapt to changing time zones and landscapes.
  3. Speaking of landscapes… no such thing on a plane! Unless you count specks in the far, far distance below. Train travel allows for great views of the land as you journey from one destination to the next. In fact, there are several lines renowned for their amazing views, such as the California Zephyr. The Zephyr will transport you all the way through deserts and canyons, through the Rocky Mountains, to Donners Lake and the Sierra Nevadas and more. Stunning! It’s an amazing opportunity to see much of the country while being able to recline in your seat at the same time!
  4. The train travel experience seems ultimately more enjoyable and social than the plane. You have ample time and opportunity to socialize and chat with other passengers, unlike on the plane, where many people rather not be bothered to converse and instead stare straight ahead and otherwise ignore everyone. When I am on the train, I often have the opportunity to meet people and share stories, and I notice many other people tend to socialize more openly in their long travels. Something of an ephemeral community tends to develop on those train cars during the hours of riding…

Every winter, I take the train from Illinois to New York to visit family. It is a two day journey. However, I never worry if my train is going to be delayed, or if I will be harassed by security officials. When I sit on the train, I can sleep and relax, and watch the sights. The whole experience is incredibly less tense than taking a flight. (Did I mention the seats are roomier on a train, too?)

Ultimately, the choice is yours. Consider the benefits of the train other than a smaller carbon footprint the next time you are traveling!

(Here in the US, passenger train travel is provided by Amtrak. Unfortunately, the US rail system is quite underdeveloped compared to those of other countries — Japan, and all over Europe, especially — but most major cities are served by Amtrak. Check out Amtrak’s website for route information and price details. They typically have special deals advertised on their website, so you may find that your travel is discounted, as well.)

Image credit: Lawrence Whittemore at Flickr under a Creative Commons license



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About the Author

I'm a 26-year-old currently living at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in northeast Missouri, an intentional community devoted to sustainable living and culture change. Things you might find me doing here (other than blogging) are building with natural materials, gardening, beekeeping, making cheese, candlemaking, and above all else, living simply. You can read about my on-going natural building projects at: http://www.small-scale.net/yearofmud



4 Responses to 4 Reasons to Travel By Train Other Than Lower Carbon Emissions

  1. David says:

    Car and train – the only 2 ways I travel now. Amtrak is fantastic across the country, which I have done several times now. 3 meals a day, a bedroom, and a great bar. Way better than flying, and way more eco-friendly (since flying isnt eco-anything!).

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  3. Zach Shahan says:

    Some good reasons here. I would also add that you get a ton more space on trains. All the leg room you could hope for.

    I had heard a number of horror stories about US trains before I first used them, but the times I’ve used the trains in the US, I have had a wonderful experience.

    Trains are a great way to go, in my opinion.

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