train travel http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/9304/all en-US 24 Train Hacks From an Amtrak Veteran http://www.wisebread.com/24-train-hacks-from-an-amtrak-veteran <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/24-train-hacks-from-an-amtrak-veteran" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/businesswoman-train-travel-dv2047006-small.jpg" alt="train travel" title="train travel" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Amtrak isn't easy to love, and yet so many of us do.</p> <p>The pleasure of watching one region of the country transform to another before our eyes &mdash; without having to keep those eyes on the road or stay strapped into seat belts &mdash; makes up for our rail system's failings. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/heres-why-bus-travel-is-cheaper-easier-and-more-awesome-than-you-think?ref=seealso">Here's Why Bus Travel Is Cheaper, Easier, and More Awesome than You Think</a>)</p> <p>This summer, my husband and I took our three children from Chicago to Oakland by rail &mdash; 2,729 miles on the Southwest Chief and Coast Starlight. Along the way &mdash; and on some of our past Amtrak adventures &mdash; we learned these hacks to help make American train travel cheaper and more comfortable.</p> <h2>Cost</h2> <p>Travel by train isn't as cheap as we would like it to be &mdash; here's how to cut the price.</p> <h3>1. Coach Ticket Prices Can Vary Depending on When You Book</h3> <p>Try buying your ticket 11 months in advance. If the price goes down at any time after that, call Amtrak and <a href="http://discuss.amtraktrains.com/index.php?/topic/43091-cancel-and-rebooking-at-lower-price/">ask them to adjust your fare</a>.</p> <h3>2. You Probably Qualify for a Discount</h3> <p>AAA members get 10% off. For our trip, that discount was more than the cost of the AAA membership fee, so I joined, even though I <a href="http://carfreemom.com/">don't own a car</a>. Discounts are also available for <a href="http://www.amtrak.com/discount-train-fares-for-kids-seniors-military-students-and-more">military, seniors, and other organization members</a>.</p> <p>Up to two children (age 2-12) ride half price, per paying adult.</p> <h3>3. Sign Up for Amtrak Guest Rewards</h3> <p>Amtrak's <a href="https://amtrakguestrewards.com/">rewards program</a> is like frequent flyer miles, except that you earn points based on how much you spend, not how far you travel. I earned enough on our summer trip for a free local trip.</p> <p>Not only can you earn points to spend for future travel, but you can buy points. Why would you want to do that? Because for a few routes around the country, it's <a href="http://www.nonstopawesomeness.me/2011/07/hack-amtrak-legally-immediately-save-76-percent/">cheaper to purchase points and use those to pay</a> than it is to simply buy coach tickets. I learned about this hack on the blog Nonstop Awesomeness, but the <a href="http://www.nonstopawesomeness.me/2011/07/hack-amtrak-legally-immediately-save-76-percent/">numbers in that post</a> are out of date. It still works though. For example, to travel from Vancouver, BC, to Eugene, OR., costs $88 for a coach ticket, if you pay with cash or credit card. Or you can pay for it with 1,500 points, which you can <a href="https://amtrakguestrewards.com/">buy from Amtrak</a> for $41.25. That's more than 50% off!</p> <h3>4. Check for Special Offers</h3> <p>If you are leaving in one to two weeks, check the <a href="http://www.amtrak.com/rail-deals-every-week-25-off-amtrak-fares-across-the-us">SmartFares section</a> for 25% coach discounts.</p> <h3>5. Consider a Rail Pass</h3> <p>The <a href="http://www.amtrak.com/california-rail-pass">California pass</a> gets you seven days of travel within three weeks for $159, and the <a href="http://www.amtrak.com/take-the-trains-across-america-with-usa-rail-pass">USA pass</a> has 15-, 30- and 45-day options. Compare the pass cost to a straight coach fare; for our trip, booking individual tickets was more affordable.</p> <h2>Upgrading to Sleeping Rooms</h2> <p>Sleepers are a <em>lot</em> more expensive than coach. For instance, if I were to book two tickets from Chicago to Los Angeles for next week, getting a two-bed sleeping compartment would add $587 to the price. That's $293 a night &mdash; pretty pricey for a tiny room without a private bath.</p> <p>But if you don't sleep well without lying flat, or if you're easily awakened by lights and sounds, it's worth trying to find a good deal on a sleeper for overnight trips. Keep in mind that the cost of the upgrade to a room includes meals in the dining car &mdash; which cost a fortune if you pay the menu prices.</p> <h3>6. Book Far in Advance</h3> <p>Amtrak bases its sleeper prices on availability, so the more beds available, the cheaper they are. When I tried booking the same trip mentioned above 11 months in advance, Amtrak quoted me the same price for the coach seats &mdash; $169 each &mdash; but the bedroom was only $461 extra for the trip, or $230.50 for the night.</p> <h3>7. Book at the Last Minute</h3> <p>This strategy only works if you are okay with sleeping in coach if you fail to snag a last-minute upgrade.</p> <p>After having a hard time sleeping in coach on the first leg of our cross-country trip, I started checking sleeper prices for the second leg, an overnight from Williams, AZ., to Los Angeles. The website showed the same high prices as a month before departure. However, it also showed that plenty of rooms were available, so I suspected a last-minute price drop might occur.</p> <p>When I called Amtrak several hours before departure, I was quoted a lower price &mdash; just $221 extra for one night in a family bedroom. That's a steal! The same bedroom, for a trip several months from now, is currently priced at more than $500 above coach. Warning: If you are using a discount like a AAA membership, you might lose it if you change your ticket less than three days in advance.</p> <h3>9. If You Don't Like the Price Now, Price the Trip Again Later</h3> <p>Some travelers report that prices dip on Thursdays and Fridays, or early in the morning. Be aware that if you ask to change rooms, the price might go up, because the room you are already holding <a href="http://trn.trains.com/sitecore/content/Home/Railroad%20Reference/Passenger%20Trains/2006/06/The%20scoop%20on%20sleeper%20pricing.aspx?sc_lang=en">decreases the availability</a> on the car as a whole.</p> <h3>10. If the Website Won't Let You Book the Room, Call</h3> <p>We have five people in our family, but the two younger kids are both pretty small. According to the Amtrak website, family bedrooms are only for four people. But when I called a reservation agent and asked for the family bedroom, she was able to book it &mdash; and when we got on board, there was plenty of room for all of us.</p> <h3>11. You Probably Can't Upgrade Onboard for a Discount</h3> <p>In the past, some passengers have reported being able to snag a cheap sleep if any bedrooms were empty after the train departed. I asked the conductor about this on the Southwest Chief, and he said this is no longer allowed. The reason he gave is that too many conductors were pocketing the money!</p> <p>Other passengers reported <a href="http://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?4,3052299">as recently as 2013</a> that you could book a sleeper onboard, but at the same price as online.</p> <h3>12. Check the Price of a Bedroom for Daytime Trips</h3> <p>The price might be similar to coach, and riding in the bedroom is more private. You might even get a meal if you travel at the right time.</p> <h2>Baggage</h2> <p>Trains are good at hauling freight &mdash; even if it's just your luggage.</p> <h3>13. Check Your Baggage Up to 24 Hours in Advance of Departure</h3> <p>If you plan on touring a city before getting on the train, you don't have to pay for lockers &mdash; just drop off your bags at the check-in window. This can also make boarding time much less hectic.</p> <p>I couldn't find the 24-hour rule listed on the Amtrak website, which notes only that baggage must be checked a minimum of 45 minutes to one hour before departure, depending on the station. But when I called an agent, she told me that you can check bags 24 hours early systemwide. Still, it's not a bad idea to call and verify that your particular station's baggage claim is open and willing to take your bags before making a special trip.</p> <p>Note that if you do this, your bags might reach your destination before you do. But unlike airlines, Amtrak will check your claimcheck before handing over your bag, so they should be safe waiting for you there.</p> <h3>14. Don't Stress Over Carry-On Restrictions</h3> <p>No one looked twice at the mountain of luggage our family dragged on board. In fact, the train staff happily helped us pile it onto the abundant shelving. This is also good to keep in mind if you miss the cut-off for checking in luggage, or if you're taking a route that doesn't allow checked bags.</p> <h2>Food</h2> <p>There's no denying the elegance of the dining car and there's no denying how costly it can be.</p> <h3>15. Bring Plenty of Food</h3> <p>On our summer trip, the longest leg of which was two days, we limited ourselves to a small soft-sided cooler and a grocery bag of shelf-stable food. Next time we will bring much more food, including a rolling cooler. There was plenty of room onboard, and prices in the dining car are high &mdash; like $7 for a kid's hot dog and $16 to $26 for adult dinner entrees.</p> <h3>16. The Cafe Is Much Cheaper Than the Dining Car</h3> <p>It's only microwaved pizza and such, but it'll get you through the day if necessary.</p> <h3>17. Get Free Hot Water in the Cafe</h3> <p>The cafe will not microwave your food, but if you bring instant noodles or anything else designed to be warmed up with hot water, you're golden.</p> <h3>18. Buy Food in Stations or the Neighborhood on Longer Stops</h3> <p>The staff will let you know when the train will be stopped for 15 minutes or even half an hour. This is the time to dart outside and forage.</p> <h2>Comfort and Enjoyment</h2> <p>Traveling by train isn't exactly speedy. You'll have a lot of time to ponder the nature of existence, to read a good book, or to interrogate your fellow travelers.</p> <h3>19. Bring Supplies to Hack your Environment</h3> <p>Clothes pins or safety pins can hold your curtains closed so the light doesn't wake you up at dawn. Duct tape can secure any squeaky wall panels &mdash; or any holes in your baggage.</p> <h3>20. Bring Earplugs and Eye Shades</h3> <p>In coach, there are always some lights on for safety, and I wouldn't have slept a wink without my eye mask. Despite posted rules, some passengers on our train persisted in taking phone calls and watching movies without headphones well past 10 p.m. And there are always station announcements in the wee hours.</p> <h3>21. You Can Probably Get Away With Bringing Your Own Booze</h3> <p>I heard the cafe car attendant admonish one passenger who was drinking a beer in the lounge that he could not have alcohol not purchased onboard outside the bedrooms. However, it's not like anyone's searching your bag. My husband and I brought a good bottle of bourbon and subtly enjoyed a nightcap without a problem.</p> <h3>22. Make Friends With the Staff</h3> <p>Being on good terms with the staff can help with many of these hacks. Plus, friendly staff members will let you know when an upcoming stop will afford enough time to get off and walk around, and keep you posted on how much time remains before your stop.</p> <p>In the sleepers, your car attendant can make or break your trip. Ours' was so kind that he went to the 6 a.m. serving of breakfast and got five to-go plates for us so that we would be able to eat in our room before getting off the train. (Yes, they accept tips!)</p> <h3>23. Expect Delays</h3> <p>Download the Amtrak app to for updates on when your train will really depart. If you are not taking the train from the beginning of the line, you can also call Amtrak the day before to ask if the train is running behind. Keep in mind that they can make up time along the way.</p> <h3>24. Enjoy the Trails and Rails Program</h3> <p>If your train is part of this program, you can hear National Park rangers make presentations in the lounge about the parts of the United States you're crossing. This program &mdash; in which we learned about the Santa Fe Trail &mdash; added hours of entertainment to our trip.</p> <p><em>Do you have any Amtrak Hacks (Am-Hacks?) that weren't covered? Let us know in the comments!</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/carrie-kirby">Carrie Kirby</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/24-train-hacks-from-an-amtrak-veteran">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-5"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/travel-on-amtrak">Travel on Amtrak</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/these-15-road-trip-snacks-make-it-all-about-the-journey">These 15 Road Trip Snacks Make It All About the Journey</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/25-hotel-hacks-from-professional-travelers">25 Hotel Hacks From Professional Travelers</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-to-save-on-smartphone-costs-while-traveling">8 Ways to Save on Smartphone Costs While Traveling</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/alternatives-to-flying-other-ways-to-get-from-here-to-there">Alternatives to Flying: Other Ways to Get From Here to There</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Travel amtrak railroad train travel travel hacks Tue, 14 Oct 2014 09:00:07 +0000 Carrie Kirby 1233184 at http://www.wisebread.com Alternatives to Flying: Other Ways to Get From Here to There http://www.wisebread.com/alternatives-to-flying-other-ways-to-get-from-here-to-there <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/alternatives-to-flying-other-ways-to-get-from-here-to-there" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/IMG_3528_1_1_0.jpg" alt="plane engine" title="plane engine" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="192" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>With the advent of budget airlines offering unbelievably low airfares and our maniacal desire to get from A to B as quickly as possible, flying is usually the only option we consider when traveling. But there are alternatives to flying &mdash; ways to get from here to there that might actually save you time and money.</p> <h2>Flying Myths</h2> <p>Perhaps flying is your go-to travel option because you assume that it's the <em>best</em> way to travel. Let's tackle some of these flying myths.</p> <h3>Myth #1: Flying Is Faster</h3> <p>Although your actual flight time might be a few measly hours, how long does it take you to get to and from the airports on either side? How far in advance of your flight do you have to arrive to navigate the long check-in and security lineups? And how long do you wait for your luggage to arrive on the conveyor belt (accompanied by profuse sweating and a series of <em>please lord, let my bags have made it on the plane with me</em> mantras)?</p> <p>The last time I flew, <strong>my three-hour flight was actually a ten-hour exercise from door to door</strong>. And everything went smoothly; imagine how much longer it would have been if there were delays or complications (as there so often are).</p> <h3>Myth #2: Flying Is Cheaper</h3> <p>Boy, you can&rsquo;t beat those budget airline prices. Or can you? Keep clicking through the check-out screens online, and soon enough you&rsquo;ll have doubled or tripled (or more) the initially quoted price after you add in various airport taxes and fuel surcharges, additional costs to check your luggage, and the price of any food or drinks you purchase on-board (or before). Budget airlines make their money on these incidentals, and &mdash; worse yet &mdash; catching you with luggage that&rsquo;s slightly over the weight restrictions then levying steep penalties.</p> <p>Next, you must factor in the cost of getting to and from the airport which either involves the cost of gas and parking, or the airport bus or train. None of which is cheap.</p> <h3>Myth #3: Flying Is Healthier</h3> <p>Okay, I don&rsquo;t think anybody could argue that flying is a healthy way to travel. You&rsquo;re filed into a carpeted tube with dozens (nay, hundreds) of other people breathing recycled air. If one person is ill, chances are you will be subjected to their germs.</p> <p>Even if you can stave off illness, you&rsquo;re at risk for cramping and circulation problems from sitting in such a small space for long periods of time, and I don&rsquo;t believe that transporting between time zones with no way for the body to adjust is particularly healthy. <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-naturally-reset-your-sleep-cycle-overnight">Jet lag</a> is a perfect example of how hard flying can be on our bodies.</p> <h2>Alternatives to Flying</h2> <p>Having said all this, sometimes flying is unavoidable. It&rsquo;s still the most logical and effective way to navigate really long-haul travel over oceans and between countries over long distances (and if you&rsquo;re smart and do it with <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-travel-hacking-cartel-fly-around-the-world-for-almost-free">frequent flyer mile strategies</a>, it doesn&rsquo;t have to break the bank). But if it isn&rsquo;t entirely necessary for you to fly, check out some of these alternatives.</p> <h3>Car</h3> <p>An obvious option is to hop in your car or get a <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-travel-in-style-for-free">rental car</a>, travel at your own pace, and have wheels to get around at your destination. But be aware: in addition to the obvious costs of driving (gas, insurance, and rental charges if applicable), other expenses of taking the car (like wear and tear,repairs, and parking) can throw your <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-budget-and-track-expenses-for-your-next-vacation">travel budget</a> off-line.</p> <p>Let&rsquo;s explore some alternatives to flying (and driving) that are a little <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-easy-ways-to-be-nicer-to-the-environment-and-your-wallet">easier on the wallet &ndash; and the environment</a>.</p> <h3>Car Pool</h3> <p>People have been car pooling to work for ages now, so why not expand on the concept? With various car pooling (also known as ride sharing) networks and websites, you can find somebody going your way with whom you share the driving, cost of gas, wear and tear, etc. You even have built-in company for the ride, and possibly a new friend or two out of the deal. You have less freedom in making stops along the way than if you drive yourself, but more freedom than you would with public transportation.</p> <p>It pays to do a little due diligence in finding a ride, such as planning to meet in a public place before you hop in the car destined for horizons unknown, and letting a friend or family member know where you are headed. As an additional security measure, in using some of the larger car pooling services like <a href="http://www.erideshare.com/">eRideShare</a>, you can correspond with your potential ride without giving out your personal information.</p> <h3>Bus</h3> <p>Long distance bus travel is far from luxurious, but with more and more bus services providing free wifi on-board and more comfortable seats, it&rsquo;s not a terrible way to go.</p> <p>Most bus stations are centrally located in town (hence, no need to hoof it out to a remote airport), and you can arrive half an hour in advance of your departure and still get a good seat. You can pack as much into your luggage as you wish (within reason), and rest assured that it&rsquo;s along for the ride.</p> <p>Buses also make regular rest stops for you to stretch your legs and grab a snack if you wish. And if you&rsquo;re on a budget, you can&rsquo;t argue the price of taking the bus.</p> <h3>Boat</h3> <p>If there&rsquo;s a big body of water between you and your destination, your only option other than flying is to take a boat. Short hauls (journeys up to about 24 hours) can be easily navigated by ferry, and are often both reasonably priced and comfortable.</p> <p>Longer journeys such as overseas travel can be accomplished by taking an ocean-liner cruise (which is super expensive, but luxurious), or freighter. Although you might think that hitching a ride on a cargo ship would be inexpensive, it doesn&rsquo;t measure up in comparison to flying. At $90-130 per day &mdash; and most overseas trips lasting between two weeks and two months &mdash; it&rsquo;s not cheap, but the journey is an experience in and of itself, especially if you like being on the high seas.</p> <p>Here&rsquo;s a website with a few <a href="http://www.shipsandcruises.com/freightertravel.htm">freighter travel resources</a> to get you started.</p> <h3>Train</h3> <p><a href="http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/2010/09/international-train-travel-an-evangelist%25E2%2580%2599s-rant/">Train travel</a> is my favorite way of getting from here to there, hands down. Having grown up taking the train 400 miles from Toronto to Albany NY every summer to visit my grandparents, the long journeys have embedded themselves fondly in my memory.</p> <p>Similar to bus travel, you&rsquo;ll find train stations centrally located, and rarely do you encounter luggage restrictions or complications. The price quoted is the price quoted, and depending on the route you can sometimes get wifi access on-board.</p> <p>Trains have a few additional advantages over buses; more often than not there&rsquo;s ample leg-room and comfortable seating, you can get up and walk around, and there are usually power-points available to charge and operate any electronics you have with you. These perks create a more luxurious and relaxed pace to the journey, which to me is well worth any extra cost over taking the bus.</p> <p>Not only that, but because of the relaxed and generally comfortable style of travel that the train offers, you tend to meet and engage with interesting people enroute. Take my recent <a href="http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/2010/12/taking-the-indian-pacific-train-across-australia-part-one/">11,000km journey across Australia and back</a> as an example.</p> <h2>Your Overland Travel Resource</h2> <p>One of my favourite sites and an excellent resource for overland travel is <a href="http://www.seat61.com/">The Man from Seat 61</a>. In an effort to reduce his own reliance on air travel and illustrate the alternatives, this Londoner created a website demonstrating how to get from London to anywhere and everywhere &mdash; overland. His preference is for trains, but wherever there aren&rsquo;t train routes, he shows how accomplish the travel task via bus and boat.</p> <p>Since its humble beginnings over 10 years ago, Seat61 has turned into an award-winning worldwide resource with valuable information on trains, buses, and ferries. You can find out exactly what to expect from each &ldquo;class&rdquo; of travel, what the prices and schedules are, and how to get a good deal if there&rsquo;s one to be had.</p> <p>Whenever I travel (and <a href="http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/">for me, that&rsquo;s a lot</a>), <a href="http://www.seat61.com/">Seat61</a> is my first point of attack in researching my options. Even if I can&rsquo;t save time on the journey, I&rsquo;m happy to take the train anyway; as opposed to flying, with the train I arrive relaxed, with a full immune system, and <a href="http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/2010/12/taking-the-indian-pacific-train-across-australia-part-one/">so many stories to tell</a>.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/nora-dunn">Nora Dunn</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/alternatives-to-flying-other-ways-to-get-from-here-to-there">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/travel-on-amtrak">Travel on Amtrak</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/24-train-hacks-from-an-amtrak-veteran">24 Train Hacks From an Amtrak Veteran</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/heres-why-bus-travel-is-cheaper-easier-and-more-awesome-than-you-think">Here&#039;s Why Bus Travel Is Cheaper, Easier, and More Awesome Than You Think</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/top-5-travel-reward-credit-cards">5 Best Travel Reward Credit Cards</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-ways-to-travel-when-you-have-student-loans">6 Ways to Travel When You Have Student Loans</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Travel airefare alternatives to flying bus travel overland travel train travel Mon, 28 Mar 2011 11:00:17 +0000 Nora Dunn 508631 at http://www.wisebread.com The good life on less energy--even in the US http://www.wisebread.com/the-good-life-on-less-energy-even-in-the-us <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-good-life-on-less-energy-even-in-the-us" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/bicycle-on-rural-road.jpg" alt="Bicycle on rural road" title="Bicycle on Rural Road" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="185" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Whenever I write a post about energy, I point out that we know it&#39;s possible to have a high standard of living while using less energy--people in European countries do, so it must be possible.  That always draws comments from people who say that things are different here.  When it comes to opportunities for saving energy, that&#39;s simply not true.</p> <p>Oh, sure, the Europeans have a much better train system.  In the US we&#39;ve spent that money on airports and highways.  But we do have <a href="/travel-on-amtrak">passenger rail</a>, and it&#39;s actually a pleasure to ride.</p> <p>Many European cities are also more compact than many US cities, making it easier to get around on foot or by bicycle.  But there are plenty of nice, compact US cities.</p> <p>Mass transit is spotty in the US compared to Europe, but there&#39;s <a href="/high-tech-for-mass-transit">good mass transit</a> in many US cities.</p> <p>Many European cities are more friendly to bicycles than many US cities, but there are plenty of cyclists in the US, and many US cities are bicycle-friendly.</p> <p>So, all these things exist in the US; <strong>they&#39;re just not widely distributed.</strong></p> <p>I&#39;d like to make two points in relation to that observation.</p> <p>First, as fuel prices continue to rise, all these energy-saving advantages that the Europeans have will become more widely distributed in the US as well.  As long as you live in a town or city (as opposed to a <a href="/rural-living-in-a-world-with-expensive-fuel">rural area</a>), these advantages will come to you eventually.</p> <p>Second, you can choose where to live:  In a compact, bicycle-friendly city that&#39;s on an Amtrak line and has good mass transit, or someplace else.  </p> <p>Making a drastic change like where you live is not something to be done lightly.  Doing it smoothly may require a long lead time.  There may be jobs to find--even careers to change.  There may be houses to sell.  There may be elderly relatives that you&#39;d rather keep in their long-time home than move to another city.  There may be children who&#39;d much rather graduate from school with their friends then at some new school where they don&#39;t know anybody.  But, even taking all that into account, you still choose where to live--now and in the future.</p> <p>I&#39;d like to gently suggest that waiting for these advantages to come to you is probably the wrong choice, for three reasons.</p> <p>First, you miss out on the advantages in the meantime.  You&#39;ll be having to buy more fuel than people who live in communities that support efficiency. </p> <p>Second, as those advantages come to more and more places, you&#39;ll be stuck paying for them.  If you move someplace where these advantages already exist, you&#39;ll be taking advantage of ones that have already been paid for.  If you stay where you are, you can expect taxes to go up to pay for bringing rail and mass transit to you.  No doubt the costs will end up being spread around--but that just means that the people who get these advantages last will have been paying longest for everyone else.</p> <p>Third, these advantages will increasingly be reflected in property values.  It&#39;s already started.  A couple decades ago, being on a bus route was a negative.  (It brought undesirables--i.e. poor people--to the area.)  More recently, it&#39;s been pretty much a neutral.  (Even poor people have cars, so who cares?)  Just very recently, though, it&#39;s begun to boost property values.  (Quick test:  look in real estate ads and see if they&#39;ve started mentioning being on a bus line as a positive.  They&#39;ve always done it for apartments.  Now they&#39;re doing it for houses too.)  Property values in communities without these advantages haven&#39;t suffered much yet, because communities that provide no services can have low taxes.  But as the taxes go up anyway, the lack of services will drive property prices down.</p> <p>As fuel prices continue to rise, these &quot;European&quot; advantages will spread.  But they&#39;ll spread pretty slowly.  The US has spent trillions of dollars on infrastructure that really only useful for cars and planes.  Things like nationwide passenger rail and citywide mass transit systems don&#39;t just pop up overnight--they&#39;ll cost trillions of dollars as well (although a just a few billion will bring us much closer to the Europeans).</p> <p>Some of you--probably many of you, given the sort of people who read Wise Bread--already live someplace that has some or all the advantages that Europeans have enjoyed for decades.  As I see it, the rest of you can move to where you have these advantages as well, or you can stay where you are.  But, if you make the latter choice, you&#39;ll not only lose out on the advantages, you&#39;ll do so while still having to pay taxes to provide them for everyone else, and then you&#39;ll have to sit back and watch as your property values decline and the values of the properties in places that have them go up, making it more and more expensive to move in the future.</p> <p>Is your local area on the leading edge for any of these things?  Are you on an Amtrak line?  Do you have a good bus system?  Are there places to live that are within walking distance of shopping and jobs?  Are the roads safe for bicycles?  If you&#39;ve got some of these things, and the rest are coming, then you may be set already.  If not, be sure your plan for the future includes not just higher prices for fuel, but also higher taxes to pay for the infrastructure improvements your area needs.  If that doesn&#39;t appeal, be sure your plan includes moving to someplace that supports a lower-energy lifestyle.</p> <p>We know there are ways to have a high standard of living while using less fuel.  The Europeans have demonstrated one for us.  We&#39;re heading that direction as well--our present course simply isn&#39;t going to be affordable much longer.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/philip-brewer">Philip Brewer</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-good-life-on-less-energy-even-in-the-us">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-best-cities-for-going-car-free">5 Best Cities for Going Car-Free</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/cut-your-electric-bill-with-solar-panels">Cut Your Electric Bill With Solar Panels</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-hidden-advantages-to-getting-rid-of-your-car">7 Hidden Advantages to Getting Rid of Your Car</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/better-cars-are-not-the-answer">Better cars are not the answer</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/is-infrastructure-destiny">Is Infrastructure Destiny?</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Cars and Transportation Green Living Real Estate and Housing bicycling bike buses clean energy conserve energy energy mass transit rail save energy train train travel walk walking Thu, 10 Jul 2008 12:18:50 +0000 Philip Brewer 2227 at http://www.wisebread.com Travel on Amtrak http://www.wisebread.com/travel-on-amtrak <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/travel-on-amtrak" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/union-station-pillars.jpg" alt="Steps into Chicago Union Station&#039;s Great Hall" title="Steps into Union Station" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="192" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>With each move by the airlines to claw back a bit of the profit that has vanished into the twin maws of competition and higher fuel prices, and with each move by the government to increase &quot;security,&quot; air travel has become a little more dreadful.  I&#39;m glad we have a rail alternative.</p> <p>The town where I live has Amtrak service.  (This is not purely a matter of luck.  Although my wife and I each moved here for ordinary reasons--job opportunities and personal connections--Amtrak service is a non-trivial part of the reason that we&#39;ve stayed here.)</p> <p>Since, for a lot of trips, rail travel is more appropriate than air travel anyway, I&#39;m pleased to report that Amtrak service is pretty good--especially when compared to air travel.</p> <p>All the things that have become most dreadful about air travel are better on the train:</p> <ul> <li>Security is minimally intrusive--they checked our photo IDs when we picked up the tickets the day before the trip, and we didn&#39;t need to dig out our drivers licenses again after that.  There were no x-ray machines and no hand searches.  We kept our shoes on the whole time.</li> <li>The seats are wider, recline further, and have more leg room.  The luggage racks offer space for five or six times as much luggage as the overhead compartments on a plane.  The aisle is wide enough to squeeze past a person coming the other way.</li> <li>I wasn&#39;t trapped in my seat by the &quot;please fasten seatbelts&quot; sign--there was no such sign.  (There weren&#39;t any seatbelts, either.)  I was not only free to &quot;move about the cabin,&quot;  I was free to walk a few cars ahead and buy a snack in the lounge car.</li> <li>I didn&#39;t need to get to the station an hour or two before my train departed.  We like to get there a bit early, but 20 minutes was plenty of time.</li> <li>Multiple entrances made getting on and off the train quicker and easier.</li> <li>Tickets were cheap.  (With two people traveling, it probably would have been slightly cheaper to travel by car.  Flying, if one were insane enough to fly such a short distance, would have been four or five times as expensive, athough admittedly a bit quicker.)</li> <li>We weren&#39;t delayed by the weather, even though there was considerable thunderstorm activity.</li> <li>At both ends of the trip, we ended up right downtown at the train station, rather than way out at the airport--very handy for the people taking us to the station and picking us up.  (As a bonus, the Kalamazoo station and Union Station in Chicago are beautiful old buildings, and the Champaign station is a beautiful new building.)</li> </ul> <p>Everybody has their own preferences.  Traveling by car may be cheaper, especially if there are several people traveling together.  Traveling by plane may be faster, especially if you&#39;re going more than a few hundred miles.  Personally, I find the trade-offs favor rail travel, if Amtrak goes where you&#39;re going.</p> <p>Of course, this last is a key point.  From Champaign I have good service to Chicago to the north (and several towns in between), and good service to New Orleans to the south (and several cities and towns in between).  But if I want to go east or west, then the train is a pretty poor choice, unless it makes sense to change trains in Chicago.  (There is good <a href="/7-reasons-to-take-the-bus">bus service</a>.)  </p> <p>I&#39;m sure readers from Europe would laugh--train service in the US is a pale shadow of what it should be--but it does exist, and where it provides service, the service is great.  if you haven&#39;t tried it, you really should.</p> <p><em>[Written on the Illini, enroute from Chicago to Champaign, June 8th, 2008.]</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/philip-brewer">Philip Brewer</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/travel-on-amtrak">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/24-train-hacks-from-an-amtrak-veteran">24 Train Hacks From an Amtrak Veteran</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/heres-how-the-major-airlines-determine-when-and-how-you-board">Here&#039;s How the Major Airlines Determine When and How You Board</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/alternatives-to-flying-other-ways-to-get-from-here-to-there">Alternatives to Flying: Other Ways to Get From Here to There</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/23-airport-hacks-to-remember-before-your-next-flight">23 Airport Hacks to Remember Before Your Next Flight</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-8-scariest-things-probably-coming-to-air-travel">The 8 Scariest Things Probably Coming to Air Travel</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Frugal Living Cars and Transportation Travel air travel airlines amtrak bus travel train travel Wed, 11 Jun 2008 10:45:52 +0000 Philip Brewer 2162 at http://www.wisebread.com