We took a variety of transportation options while traveling, but one of my favorites was the multitude of trains. The picture above is me on a steam locomotive at the Modern Transportation Museum in Osaka. We took intercity trains in Egypt, Vietnam, China and of course Japan. We also took many intracity trains and subways in numerous countries from,
Duabi’s automated subway system to,
Kuala Lumpor’s private system run by 2 companies that never seemed to connect in a convenient way.
The differences did not stop there. Train stations varied widely across the different countries with the station in Aswan, Egypt ranking up there as the most uncomfortable and maybe even a little scary,
to the station in Kyoto, Japan as the most spacious and airy.
I would rather be at either of them when I miss my transfer in Trenton, New Jersey on my current work commute from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to New Brunswick, New Jersey. The station in Trenton, while it does have a Dunkin Donuts, does not have free wifi, sushi or the spotless bathrooms of Japanese stations.
The one serious advantage the train systems have here in the United States is the automated ticket machines in multiple languages. Buying my 10 pack of tickets for NJ Transit while waiting on the platform in New Brunswick for the 4:23 to Trenton is quite easy.
And having an English language ticket machine when we were in China would have saved Amy and I the pleasure of the 15 hour ride in Hard Sleeper Class, which we explore in more detail in this post.
I was inspired to write this post in part because my current commute has me on trains much more than I have ever been in the past. And having seen many different train systems from around the world, I think the system here in the Northeast U.S., is quite impressive. However, I do not think that this means we can stop investing in the amazing infrastructure that moves millions of people everyday. Septa alone moves 400,000 riders every weekday, and transports 70% of Center City Philadelphia’s work force into the city. This is a hugely sustainable option for these workers. Imagine if we lived with this density of population, and lack of interstates without this great infrastructure. The Schuylkill (I-76) would be even more clogged, which I am not sure is even possible.
If you are interested in the strategic development of rail within the US, I recommend looking through Amtrak’s vision for High Speed rail in the Northeast, which you can find here.
I will be following up this post with a detailed analysis on the rational behind our decision to remain car-free since our return. As you might have guessed, there was an excel sheet involved and much like the cost comparison of the Beast we looked at all the angles. In the meantime let me know what you think about trains. Should we as a country invest in more rail infrastructure? Do you rely on trains to get where you need to?