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Transportation

Why More Northeast U.S. Travelers Take the Train Instead of a Plane, in 2 Charts

In-vehicle travel time is more productive and less stressful travel time.
Holiday travelers scurry through Amtrak’s Union Station in Washington, D.C.
Holiday travelers scurry through Amtrak’s Union Station in Washington, D.C.AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Just in time for the busiest travel day of the year, we get a great chart from Camille Kamga, director of the University Transportation Research Center at CCNY, showing Amtrak's gradual conquest of the air-rail market in the U.S.'s Northeast Corridor. In 2000, passenger rail captured about 37 percent of this market between New York and Washington, and 20 percent between New York and Boston. By 2012 those figures had reached 75 percent and 54 percent, respectively:

That's an enormous sea change in intercity transportation, and one that continues to shift in Amtrak's favor. Why? The answer, in large part, is that train time is more productive than plane time. Whereas most of the travel time on Amtrak occurs in your seat during the ride, most of the total time spent flying requires a long list of what Kamga calls "pre- and post-flight inconveniences": getting to and from the airport, bag check or check-in, security lines, and waiting.