What was old is new again: Amtrak continues to break records

by Wendy Thomson on August 16, 2012

A recent New York times article covers the huge uptick in Amtrak travel, especially along the Eastern corridor. 75% of travelers between New York and Washington, D.C opt for rail.

Duh. Why should this come as a surprise? It’s not news that air travel, when one factors in the extra time required for our vigilant TSA screeners to do their work (forget for the moment the hassle and dehumanization), loses its only advantage — time.

I am not in the Eastern corridor, but I can attest to the attractiveness of train over plane. Between September 2001 and October 2010 (the start of the nude scanners and TSA gropefests), I took dozens of plane trips: Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago, Denver, Seattle, Kelowna BC, Calgary, Phoenix, Dallas, Miami, Orlando, Atlanta, Roanoke, D.C., New York, Hartford, Barcelona, Athens, Rome. I’m probably missing one or two. Several of these locations involved multiple trips.

Since October 2010 I have traveled to Virginia a couple of times, Des Moines, Minneapolis, Grand Forks, Chicago, Phoenix, San Diego, Denver, Albuquerque, Roswell, St. Louis, D.C. Again, I’m probably missing a city or two. But for this set of trips I used nary an airline mile. These trips were made either by car or train. I actually took all of my accumulated frequent flyer miles and liquidated them, transferred them to Amtrak miles, or cashed them in for stuff.

The airline industry has lost hundreds of millions of passenger miles because of the TSA. I feel confident stating that, because that’s the only reason I no longer travel by air. I would put up with cramped seats and nothing to eat, but I will not tolerate being assaulted. And I know that others here at TSA News are of the same mind.

I stay away from the TSA as much as I stay away from abusive relationships. I hazard to guess that without the over-the-top personal integrity infringements that currently pass for “safety,” many people would still put up with the other aggravations of air travel. It’s worth a couple of hours in a sardine can for the time saved.

Besides, I have found that the most interesting people travel by train! I’ve met authors and reporters, sustainability engineers, NBA champions, someone who actually played Broadway, Eagle Scouts fresh-eyed about their blossoming new lives, and cute little toddlers who flirt most endearingly. I never expected that last part: just an extra added bonus from avoiding the TSA.

The more onerous the TSA becomes the more people will avoid it. And that means airlines will lose money.

Gee — what if they threw a party and nobody came?

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