On several interesting articles on transportation, with the usual rambling commentary.
First, “Two worlds — miles apart — exist on Delta flights” from the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. The gist:
On long international flights, some well-heeled passengers are willing to pay upward of $8,000 for a ticket that includes the creature comforts in business class: Those heading overseas in Delta’s BusinessElite seats may dine on pan-fried halibut with spicy tartar sauce, smashed fingerling potatoes, asparagus and wine pairings. On board may be free movies and HBO, a seat that reclines into a flat bed with a comforter and pillow from Westin Hotels and a luxury amenity kit. Upon arrival back in Atlanta, there’s a chance of getting picked up at the gate in a Porsche.
Let’s look at some specifics. For travel to London during this Fall’s shoulder season, typical coach on Delta from Atlanta is around $1200 R/T and Business Elite is about $4150. These are for 2-week stays, about what my wife and I are planning. Airlines have been tweaking their business models since deregulation in 1978, and frankly, if I could get people to pay $4,000 to arrive at the same time as someone paying $1,000, I’d do it, too.
I don’t know about you, though, but for my wife and me, we can have a lot of fun in London for the $5,800 difference. We’re talking an 8-hour flight, by the way. I can stand (almost) anything for 8 hours. And what we’ll do is fly Economy Comfort for a negligible amount more. Note to Delta’s PR agency: If you call some coach seats “Economy Comfort,” what does that say about the others?
And the WSJ is running a piece today on the resurgence of rail, mostly freight, but passenger is tagging along, too. “Boom Times on the Tracks: Rail Capacity, Spending Soar”:
Passenger rail is undergoing something of a renaissance, too. … Lately, the Obama administration has invested nearly $12 billion in passenger rail, according to the Department of Transportation, that has been used to fund 152 projects in 32 states.
I’m not sure what this means, but because passenger and freight trains use much of the same infrastructure, improvements in one should eventually benefit the other.
To see where transportation might be headed, here’s an anecdote from our part of the world (near Savannah). We’re going to Chicago on Saturday to see our new grandkid, our first. Coach from SAV would have been around $850, so we’re paying about $1200 to go first. Bumping rights are much better in first, for one thing, if you miss a connection. The alternative was to drive, about 2,000 miles. I don’t think so. Did I mention that I’m a grandparent — think advanced age.
Right now, bus or train would take way too long. But consider this simplified example. You can fly Delta next Wednesday from SAV to ATL for $285. Or you can take Greyhound for prices starting at $30. The Greyhound I took on that route a couple of years ago had leather seats and reasonably good Internet access. What about time? Delta gate to gate is an hour 15 minutes. Let’s check a suitcase, so toss in an hour for check-in and security (SAV is really good, but I don’t take chances), and 45 minutes at ATL to get off the plane, go to baggage claim, and wait, and we’re looking at about 3 hours.
On Greyhound, you just give the driver your suitcase and you get it right back when you arrive. So we’re talking 4 hrs plus about 20 minutes for boarding. The upshot: you get to ATL about an hour and a half later, but you save $250. One caveat: Greyhound hasn’t figured out, yet, that people need a secure place to park cars at the terminal. This shouldn’t be a show-stopper, though. You’d either need to be dropped off or park in a garage downtown and take a 5-min cab ride to the terminal.
Finally, this just in:
Rail fans jostle to take photos of the Super Komachi bullet train as it pulls out of Tokyo Station, bound for northern Japan. A trip to its terminus at Akita Station costs 17,650 yen ($187) and takes 3 hours and 51 minutes.
http://news.cnet.com/2300-17938_105-10016254-7.html. The thing clips along at about 180 mph and could make the trip from Atlanta to Chicago in about the same time as the Tokyo – Akita run. Downtown to downtown, it would be quicker than flying. Even from Savannah, one could make the trip in only a couple of hours more than flying, pay a lot less, and ride in what appears to be a very comfortable car.
We can dream.
In this, as in so many other things, it might be nice to have back the couple of trillion we’ve dropped on the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.