Train travel may seem like an old-school, fanciful idea. Something your grandmother did in white gloves and a matching purse and shoes, before it was easy to hop on a plane to anywhere in the world.
Or, maybe you think of traveling in Europe or Asia where light-rails crisscross countries in an easy, organized manner?
Here in the U.S., long distance train travel hasn’t really been a thing. Sometimes we commute into a city for work from the ‘burbs, but that’s really about it.
However, all is not lost for North American train travel. According to Amtrak, its Acela Express service ballooned from approximately 2.5 million passengers in 2002 to approximately 3.4 million passengers in 2018. According to their records, 750,000 people board commuter and Amtrak trains each day.
This increased demand is prompting Amtrak, the primary rail service provider in the U.S, to launch a new high-speed rail service along the Northeast Corridor in 2021. This new service will be more aligned with international rail lines with an emphasis on speed, accessibility and customer comfort.
Public transportation, including investment in rail travel infrastructure, is an essential component of the Green New Deal, currently being championed by congressional powerhouse Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders. If the proposal is put into action it would mean even more development on high-speed services like the one Amtrak is working on.
But, train travel isn’t just about commuting or taking day trips. Luxury train trips are also gaining popularity, particularly in Canada.
Rocky Mountaineer offers train journeys on four different, awe-inspiring scenic routes through our northern neighbor. These trips are high-end, which means luxury amenities and a luxury price tag, starting at a base $3,000 for 10 days.
By day, passengers sit in a glass-covered train car enjoying gourmet meals and spectacular natural views. There are opportunities to get off the train and engage in activities like a scenic helicopter ride.
By night, the train stops at hotels along the route so you can sleep in a real bed and enjoy a roomy shower. Though the routes are set in stone, there are some options for customizing your stay before and after the train’s journey.
A more budget-friendly option, Amtrak does have sleeper trains both in the U.S. and in Canada for long-distance trips. Accommodations are tight, but there are a few options for upgrades to have more space and a private bathroom. When you purchase sleeping accommodations of any kind, you also receive meals on board.
There are also pre-made trips if you want the logistics taken care of for you, or you can plan your own. A 10-day trip from Chicago through Santa Fe and the Grand Canyon to Sedona runs about $1800.
This is the best option if you want to piece a trip together yourself. With routes all over the United States you can design a trip based on what you want to see, when and how often you want to get off the train and what your budget is.
Whether you’re a nervous flyer, a modern Jack Kerouac or just an adventurous traveler, train trips are a way to see North America from a unique perspective. And, with increased public transit popularity and pushes for greener modes of transportation, we may be seeing a whole new rail culture soon.