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Why Trains Suck in America

At one time, America’s railroads were king. It was once a very pleasant way to travel. You have more legroom than planes or buses, you don’t have to drive or navigate pr pump gas, and the view along the way is unique. But the last time I rode a train was in the 1970s, and I hear that riding a train now is as expensive as a airline flight and slower than driving. There aren’t many passenger trains available anymore. Wendover Productions looks at the reasons why.

(YouTube link)

Of course, it boils down to money and infrastructure (which costs money). Even freight trains don’t carry as much cargo as they should, but that’s a subject for another day. -via reddit

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It's quicker to drive on the interstate between Seattle and Portland than to take their over-priced train. Every time I drove it, I'd see the Amtrak just sitting there, next to the highway with people in it, while the cars kept on driving. I think it was waiting to let a more-important (freight) train pass.
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It depends on you're definition of "good" though. When I used to live in the DC area several years ago, the northeast corridor was cheaper than flying, and as a result used by coworkers and myself for most travel to locations between DC and NYC. The fact it took about the same amount of time as driving didn't really matter, and while shaving an hour off the trip would be nice, it wouldn't have made us use it any more. The few exceptions were either people who needed their car at the destination, or those that took the bus for ~$20 despite it being even longer and less comfortable.

I did find trains pretty amazing to use in Japan, although a lot of that comes from visitors being able to by a near unlimited rail pass for a week, as otherwise a lot of the same complaints applied. For travel between major cities, high speed trains cost as much if not more than flights and took longer. Also, a quick estimate gives that the Hokkaido Shinkansen expansion recently from Shin-Aomori to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto paid about $10k per foot, and that was for upgrading an existing line, took a decade to build, and has to deal with speed limitations due to freight trains in the Seikan tunnel. If I had to pay normal per trip rates, I would have flown instead of taking the train between cities, only using trains for more local service, comparable to what is done by services other than Amtrack in the US.
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Both of you are talking about transcontinental passenger service. The video completely agrees with your comments, and says so in the first few sentences. It poses and answers a different question. There are areas of the US where regional intercity rail is completely reasonable. For example, the Northeast megalopolis has a population density of 1,000/sq. mile, which is only slightly less than that of the Netherlands, and with many cities within 200 miles of NYC. Why we don't have good intercity rail service in those areas?
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Ding. Ding. Ding.

We have a winner. 100% correct.

Trains suck in the US because we have alternatives that better fit our needs as a very large, relatively wealthy country.

As Edward notes, the exception is commuter trains to city centers - to which I would add rapid transit (subways & light rail).
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