Real life thought experiment: earlier this month, we drove from NOVA to Lynchburg (actually we went up into the Blue Ridge beyond Lynchburg, but no trains go there). The distance was give or take 170 miles and Apple Maps tells me that, at this light-traffic hour, the actual driving time is 3:05. Let's assume that's how long I actually spent behind the wheel. Now, there was a "comfort"/stretching stop of, oh, let's say 10 minutes. And there was lunch--Dr. Ho's Humble Pie, North Garden VA--we created our own with bacon and cheddar--really damn good. I'll call that a 45 minute stop (although the actual time was more like an hourish). What was our average speed?
The closest Amtrak stop to our house is Burke Center, but I can't find a mileage listing for the station there. So let's use ALX. The fastest Amtrak trip from ALX to LYH is 3:11, covering 165 rail miles. What is Amtrak's average speed?
Now, I'm sure some of the folks posting here would never, despite pathetic pleadings from wife and kids, even consider a restroom or food break all the way to Portland. But many of us are not made of such stern stuff. I'm not suggesting that the Amtrak route from NYC to Portland is as fast as a real-world drive, just that some folks have on rose-colored glasses in estimating the true time it takes to drive somewhere. It doesn't require HST speeds for a train to be competitive enough time-wise for other factors (lack of stress, etc.) to enter the equation.