Business Tech Video

Why train travel in the US sucks

amtrak vs sncf france trains

Trains suck in the US for more reasons than one. Here’s why America will continue to lag behind Western Europe and Japan.

  • America is too vast: There aren’t enough dense cities close enough to each other than East Coast, West Coast, and SouthWest.
  • Expensive/slow: It costs $40 to travel from DC to NYC, a 3 hour and 30-minute ride. The Amtrak Acela can get there in 2 hours and 50 minutes at a cost of $120. Conversely, it costs $30 and just a little over 2 hours to go the same distance from Rennes, France to Paris.
  • Weak demand: Amtrak runs 300 train journeys per day while France’s state-owned SNCF operates 14,000 train journeys per day.
  • Little Funding: Amtrak estimates that it will cost $151 Billion to build a high-speed track like France’s in the Northeast Corridor. But the government has other budgetary priorities. So Amtrak is stuck sharing the tracks with freight trains–Union Pacific and BNSF–who own a combined 98.6% of America’s railways.

Given other methods of travel – planes, buses, and soon to come self-driving cars, not to mention Elon Musk’s ‘Hyperloop,’ train travel is not going to get any faster, cheaper, and overall more convenient. However, at least Amtrak is upgrading the next important thing: WiFi.

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By Wells Baum

Wells Baum is a daily blogger who writes about Life & Arts. He's also the author of and four books.