The Joys Of Flying!

Most people living in the U.S. fly in airplanes to get to places of major distances. That is completely different than in most industrial countries. Train travel is the norm throughout Europe, Japan and even less-developed countries. High-speed trains that have great luxury are available in the industrial countries. I've heard that Japan is even trying to adopt the American technology of magnetically levitated trains (Maglev). These trains float over the rails, propelled by a linear induction motor.

Today, air travelers must arrive at airports hours early, just to get through security to get physically checked and baggage x-rayed. Security checks require individuals to almost undress in order to get scanned. There are recently established limitations on the quantity of liquids security allows to be transported in carry-on luggage. Airports are usually a long drive from residential areas. They must be in low-density population locations because of noise restrictions. New airports must be built, but these airports will be even further outside the cities. Today it has become commonplace to find airplanes late or baggage lost. All seats are usually sold. Cartoonists frequently show standard-fare passengers sitting as packed cattle. It is not unusual for planes to sit on the tarmac waiting to take off in a long lime of other airplanes or having landed and waiting for an arrival gate to open. Then there is another long wait for the airplane door to open and to exit when there is room to depart down the center aisle.

The assumption is that air traffic in our country will increase greatly during the next decades. Airports today already have difficulties with the traffic that currently exists. Weather problems near a hub city often cause all air traffic to be delayed. Waiting time can grow from minutes to hours. Passenger movement within airplanes also has its difficulties and limitations, especially on long flights.

Why is travel by train so unpopular in America? Before the mid-twentieth century, traveling on American trains was equal to, if not better than the best train travel in the world. Trains with sleeping accommodations, i.e. Pullman Cars, were used to get across the country. Today, express, regular-speed trains between New York City and Washington are equal in travel time for business travelers who ride trains instead of flying. These train travelers need not travel out to an airport and wait through security and take off in late planes. The current trouble with train travel is the terribly poor conditions of trains along with the poor food service. Traveling by train is just a little better than traveling by airplane.

Train travel would be successful if the U.S. government or a private transportation company invested in high-speed trains between Boston and Washington, with stops only in New York and maybe Philadelphia. Total travel time would be significantly cut and scheduled on-time travel assured. Business people could eat and talk in comfort if dining cars were once again installed. High-speed trains between Los Angeles and San Francisco would also be successful.

Think about how many flights would be eliminated, including the reduction of pollution that air traffic emits. What a savings in time there would be for other non-business travelers at Logan, Kennedy/LaGuardia and Regan airports. It would be only a short walk for most business people in New York and Washington.

Why doesn't this transition from air to train travel happen in the United Sates? The explanation is simple. Air travel had such a huge lobby to make people switch from trains to planes. Aircraft companies added to the lobby. But with air travel conditions rapidly deteriorating, the switch to train travel has to occur. What adds to train travel convenience is that hotels are still close to the train stations.

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