Cheap, easy and green: Why train travel deserves a renaissanceBy nwoltersdorf | March 11th, 2009 | Category: Blog, Environment, Get Involved |
It is amazing how 200 years can really change a place. This past weekend, I rode the train from Seattle to Portland. Long ignored and considered to be past its prime, my choice of travel was based on nothing more than sale fares on Amtrak. However, I would ride it again and pay three times as much in a heartbeat. There are several reasons for this you may have never realized yourself.
First, I only had to get to the train station 15 minutes before departure. I walked through the front doors and did not stop until I was onboard in my seat. After several years of airline travel that involves nothing less than stripping down to your undergarments and standing around like cattle for several hours, this was incredibly liberating. It also put me in an excellent mood to start my journey.
Once we left (exactly on time), the train proceeded to meander through agricultural fields and along the shores of Puget Sound. When I say along the shores, I mean like ten feet from the water’s edge. My first thought upon seeing how close we got to the water was, “how did the railroad tracks get such prime real estate?” Then I remembered trains are not a new form of transportation and were, in fact, the original mode of travel around the Sound. They got to find a path before anyone else.
My next thought was, “Wow, I wonder what Puget Sound looked like before humans first laid these tracks?” I spent the next hour picturing everything out my window as it might have looked 200 years ago. Before my journey, I had never truly considered how much this landscape has changed. Looking out over the Sound from Seattle, all I think of is how beautiful it is and how lucky I am to live here. The fact of the matter is we have done a number to our “backyard”. Surprising it took a train ride for this to sink in. That and several years as an Environmental Studies major.
After pondering the heavy implications of the human footprint, I decided I would take a break and read a bit of National Geographic’s Traveler magazine. Low and behold, a few pages in I discover a tiny box extolling the environmental benefits of traveling by train. Apparently, it emits vastly less carbon per passenger than planes or cars. That was the cherry on top for me–easy, fun, beautiful scenery and guilt-free to boot. Planes, trains or automobiles? I’ll take the train hands down.