David Benton wrote:i wonder if you see they dont have the choice to take high speed rail in The USA .???nobody is telling anybody they cant drive their car if they wish . they can fly thier own helicopter if they wish . but they can't take a high speed train . freedom and choice are very subjective things .
Along the NEC, figure how that choice starts working against the airlines over time. The big carriers are consolidating much more aggressively to big hub service, because that's the only way they can turn a profit. Regional routes, even well-patronized ones, often operate at a loss and get increasingly hard to justify with fuel and maintenance costs increasing like they are. Hubs allow them to consolidate just about everything except the barest essential staff and equipment at regional airports. If, say, you have to get from Boston to NYC or Philly fast
and right this second
such that plane is the best option, your options are a hell of a lot more limited than they were a decade ago and not nearly as cheap either. And quickly getting counteracted on travel time by how early you have to arrive at the airport. Others, if you're going to a smaller city over similarly modest east coast distances, often require a transfer at a hub unless you want to pay through the nose for a direct. I remember as a small child in the early 80's going to visit relatives in the middle of nowhere in McKean County, PA, flying Bradley Airport-Pittsburgh-Bradford on no-name regional carriers because I had infant and toddler siblings who couldn't make that trip by car. Fat chance of ever doing that these days; the big carriers don't go there, the mid-sized regionals don't exist, and you have to pay a fortune to switch to the 1 or 2 flights per day that actually go to such tiny places. No one's filling in those gaps, unless you're flying on the shortlist of straightforward enough mid-size routes where Southwest and JetBlue provide good competition for the big boys. You have a lot of regional airports running well under-capacity from that diminished service while the majors get tapped out by the hub system and have to operate with much less wiggle room for cascading delays. That wasn't always the case when you had denser regional coverage in the era of local carriers prior to this mega-merger survival tactic era we're currently in.
West coast is getting that way, too. I had to make a business trip last year from Portland to Arcata, a small regional airport that's regularly served by United. But the only way to get there from Portland was an 8-hour trip with 2 transfers and layovers in Salt Lake City and L.A. Whereas if I'd been coming from San Francisco, a major United hub, I'd have a half-dozen direct flights per day (the return trip home Arcata-Boston via San Fran was a piece of cake). I ended up just taking the Coast Starlight from Portland to Eugene, taking a taxi from the station to the Hertz location at the Eugene airport, and renting a car for the rest of the way down. Not a whole lot longer a trip, expenses were about a wash, beautiful scenery to enjoy the whole way, and the Amtrak trip was by far the nicest intercity trip I've ever been on. No hassle, no TSA aggravation, extremely friendly staff, good track speeds, and enough random residential wi-fi signals picked up en route to get a couple minutes of online time here and there on my laptop plugged in to the wall outlet. I would totally do that again; it was such a relaxing come-down from a stressful few work days in Portland.
This is where intercity train truly gets competitive...where the airlines just can't hack it anymore for small regionals. Prioritizing NEC upgrades and branchline build-outs, and building California HSR, are the two big corridors where rail makes a difference. Because it's replacing service that has pretty much been lost over the last 25 years over air, or been made so inconvenient that it's only an option in emergency situations where driving or bus is a nonstarter. I don't think enough people look at it this way...that it's service lost
in the modern era that has a crying need for immediate replacement. The Administration's muddled national rail plan doesn't make this upside clear. A much shorter list of priorities--NEC, California, initial build-out of the midwest Chicago-hub lower speed network--I think would've put a much sharper focus on this. For one these routes also provide a radial link to a bunch of regional airports that close some of those one-way air route imbalances. Scenarios such as what I faced last year where it was impossible to get TO my ultimate destination but easy to get FROM my destination back home because of the way the big airlines' hub routes shook out. Thankfully if they get back to the drawing board on honing that messaging that shorter list of priority corridors and expansion of existing routes can make this a lot more self-evident: both the restoring of lost options and the intermodal complement.