Post by Keith F. Lynch
Why are train rides so expensive? They ought to be enormously cheaper
than four-person taxi rides, since a train needs no more drivers than
a taxi, but carries far more passengers, and consumes far less energy
There are several answers to that question. First, the trip itself.
We would have had to get from LaGuardia to Manhattan to catch the
train, then the three other guys would have had to get from South
Station to their cars at Logan airport in Boston. My wife, bless her,
was willing to hang around town for the extra three hours. But we
would have ended up paying for those extra 7 legs both in time and
We were also able to negotiate with the livery driver. We wouldn't
have been able to negotiate with Amtrak; instead we would have paid
the full walk-up fare each.
On Amtrak, you aren't just paying for one driver. You're paying for
the entire crew of the train, the controllers, the reservation agents,
maintenance workers, plus all of the G&A staff. For the hourly
employees, you're paying them all union wages. About half of Amtrak's
annual expenses go towards salaries, wages, and benefits. In Amtrak's
Fiscal Year ending in September of 2009, this worked out to over
$62 per passenger trip taken in salaries alone. It would have been
less back then, but still more than our driver made.
The fuel figures are closer than you might think because of overhead
and Amtrak's low passenger load factors. At the time, it was well
under 50%. Amtrak's fuel usage worked out to about 41 passenger-
miles per gallon. The town car, which probably got around 18 miles
per gallon, got 72 passenger-miles to the gallon. But you have to
divide that in half since the driver had to deadhead back to NYC.
Result: Train: 41, Car: 36.
In addition to Salaries, Wages, Benefits and Energy, Amtrak's
Operating Results also include expense lines for Train Operations,
Materials, Facility & Communications, Advertising and Sales, Casualty
and Other Claims, Depreciation and "Other Expenses."
So for my particular trip, it was a matter of timing and location.
Had I known about the canceled flight _before_ taking a cab to
LGA, the train would have been a few dollars cheaper.
In general, train rides are expensive because of all those costs
you have to take into account besides the fuel and one driver.
In 2008, Amtrak ended up spending over $0.55 per passenger
Mike Benveniste -- ***@murkyether.com (Clarification Required)
Its name is Public opinion. It is held in reverence. It settles
everything. Some think it is the voice of God. -- Mark Twain