I live about fifteen minutes south of BWI Airport (Baltimore Washington International) and can usually get a flight to my parents’ home airport, Long Island Islip-MacArthur Airport, on Southwest for less than $200. Back before the recession and oil hitting the $150 a barrel peak, I used to get flights for $29 or $39 each way. Nowadays, a well priced flight is in the $150 range. The flight time is around 45 minutes, making the door to door time around two and a half hours.
When I price out a ticket from BWI Airport to New York Penn Station, a three hour train ride can cost anywhere from $67 (morning or evening train) to $127 (an Acela, which is a scheduled 25 minutes faster) before taxes. The train is a convenient ride, very little security and you get much larger seats compared to an airplane, but when the price is so similar, flying is the clear winner because of time. Part of the reason is because if I took the Amtrak train, I’d have to either get on the 6 and meet my parents in Flushing (where the food is fantastic) or hop on the Long Island Rail Road all the way out to where my parents live on Long Island (the cost is probably another $10 o/w or so if I remember LIRR ticket prices correctly).
My question is… why isn’t the train cheaper? I’ve only taken it once during business hours and while it was busy, it wasn’t packed. Why isn’t a train ticket closer to $30 or $40, rather than $67 to $100 for a standard region ticket. If we want people to use mass transit, like trains, the solution is to make it cheaper. When a Southwest ticket costs the same and gets you there in a third of the time, it’s a no-brainer.