An unfair fare for a lengthy trip: A comparison of travel time and travel cost for trains and planes in America
This study compares the travel time and cost of trains and planes to determine their spatial and temporal differences on a national and regional level. It collects the travel time and ticket price for trips between the 50 most populated American cities for (i) different classes (e.g., coach, first class), (ii) different departure times (e.g., morning, afternoon), and (iii) different operators (Delta, Amtrak). This yields an extensive dataset for 2,450 trips. Two findings are discerned when comparing the cheapest trains and flights. First, trains are 41 hours slower than flights on average. The difference is lowest in the Midwest, where trains are on average 31 hours slower than flights, and highest in the Southeast, where they are 43 hours slower. Second, trains are $136.70 more expensive than flights on average. The difference is lowest in the Midwest, where trains are on average $81.31 more expensive than flights, and highest in the Southeast, where they are $169.06 more expensive. The findings echo long-expressed sentiments that trains trail planes and urge larger investments in a new era of rail in America if cutting planet-heating pollution is high on the political agenda.
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