Yes, this is generally the case, but it also depends on where you would be driving to. For example, I take the train to NYC each day from Long Island. It’s about an hour train ride (express) and almost always gets in on time, avoiding traffic on the major highways and tunnels. If I were to drive, I’d be wasting gas sitting in traffic, paying tolls and trying to find parking in the city (which is always a rip off!). However, a round trip *peak* ticket to Penn Station is about $24, so it’s much more convenient and cheaper for me. But like I said, it’s all relative to where you’re going, among other things.
It’s often more convenient and more efficient to take the train. The price comparison depends on your mileage, current price per gallon, and how many people are in the car. You also have to take into account car insurance, parking, and upkeep. BUT if you want to keep things simple, for one example, I’ve driven from Indiana to Massachusetts in a Civic for about $60 worth of gas, and that same train ticket would have cost $84. So no, it’s not always cheaper, but it’s often worth it.
Plan it out before your next trip. Check train ticket costs and multiply your mileage by the price of a gallon of gas to see which comes out on top in your case.
Here’s another case study: my commute from Berkeley to Davis, CA. The distance is 65 miles, and my home and office are each one mile from the I-80 freeway so the drive is 95% highway conditions. The Amtrak Capitol Corridor train runs a very similar route right along the highway, so the distances and route of the car and train are almost exactly the same.
There’s a $4 toll one way on I-80, and parking costs $6. Parking in a large city will be much more expensive. At $3.00 per gallon and around 25 mpg, that’s a little over $15 in gas per day. So the drive costs $25 per day.
I need to commute 5 days a week, so I have a monthly Amtrak pass which costs $330. At 20 round trips per month, that’s $16.50. My train ticket is painfully expensive, and parking is relatively cheap, and still the train commute is less expensive. The positive aspect of a train commute is that you don’t have to worry about traffic or parking. Plus they serve food on the train 🙂 The downside is that I travel at the mercy of the Amtrak schedule, although the timing works out quite well for a 9-to-5 day.
Meant to say: “At 20 round trips per month, that’s $16.50 per day.”
One of the big factors in this is the time of day that you’re traveling (and the city where you live). If you’re commuting during peak rush hours, travel times can increase by over and hour, so you’re sitting in traffic burning fuel, money and time. During rush hour, trains are more crowded; sometimes you might have to wait for a few full trains to go by before you can get on, but during rush hour its almost always more efficient to travel on trains, because they’re not subject to traffic jams.
Its a different story during off times. If it costs $5 on a train to get somewhere that’s 10 miles away, and there’s NO TRAFFIC, you’re not likely to burn $5 of gas driving 10 miles in no traffic.
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