Nate Silver has an interesting, if partial, analysis of statistics comparing modes of transportation based on the National Household Travel Survey. He wonders why Americans prefer to drive long distances than fly, and calculates the costs to be generally cheaper if one flies.
Today the Poughkeepsie Journal did the same thing for the costs of commuting by car or rail. (Unfortunately the website doesn’t include the charts.) Rail is cheaper, but the comparison leaves out the cost of time.
Both comparisons depend on a variety of factors, including, among other things, the number of passengers, the length of the trip, whether you’ll need a car to get around at your destination, the bulk and mass of your cargo, and so forth, none of which are really taken into account. For us, trips generally involve six passengers and gear. This rapidly decreases the value proposition of plane or train travel since we’re dividing the total cost by six, making our own personal mass transit more affordable.
It doesn’t help that Amtrak’s prices this year are the same as last year’s, while JetBlue’s have gone down.