Jeremy Stein - Journal

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Train versus Car

We visited Tara’s parents between Christmas and New Years. As something of an experiment, we took the train rather than driving.

The train pretty much follows the thruway (and goes about the same speed), so taking the train is about as long as driving without stops. However, with a toddler and an infant, we definitely do stop. The 5 hour trip probably increases to 7 or 8 depending on how the kids do. Thus, I thought that one advantage of the train would be speed. It turns out that it is faster, but not as much as I thought. There’s the travel time to the train station. Plus you want to get there a little early, just in case. And then, in addition to waiting until the train’s scheduled time, you have to wait 30 minutes or so for the train to actually arrive (although that can vary considerably). All this means that the actual door-to-door time is not much shorter with the train. However, the train certainly does motivate you to get everybody together and out the door. The car trip would be much longer if you considered how much past our planned time we actually departed.

Two adults, one child. The infant was free. AAA discount. The total was about $300 for the round trip. If it really does cost 30ยข/mile in gas and wear, then with the tolls it probably costs about $200 to drive it. Convenience food is about as pricey for both modes of travel. The train seems to offer more motivation for bringing your own in that you can’t use dining as an excuse to get out of the car, and besides, the food is worse.

As Tara said, the nice thing about the train is that when the kids are upset, you don’t stop; and the problem with the train is that when the kids are upset, you don’t stop. You really don’t want to change a diaper in the train bathroom. And there’s only so much you can do to console an infant on a train who is fed and clean but unhappy. However, if you can get past those, it is a great relief to be able to read to the toddler and feed or play with the infant at the same time as you travel.

Being able to interact with the kids during the travel was the biggest motivation for the experiment. That was certainly better on the train. I think it was worth the extra cost, but I wonder what we’ll do when we have to start paying for 2 child tickets.

January 4, 2005 3 Comments.


  1. Disgruntled Amtrak traveller replied:

    You forgot to take into account how we felt listening to your crying baby, not to mention six hours of Richard Scarry and various Bible stories.

    January 4th, 2005 at 1:30 pm. Permalink.

  2. R. Scarry replied:

    Do you have a problem with Lowly?

    January 4th, 2005 at 9:22 pm. Permalink.

  3. Duane Girdner replied:

    What a zippy little web site I happened on to.

    January 29th, 2005 at 7:28 pm. Permalink.

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