Why are train tickets so expensive?

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/04/07/why-are-train-tickets-so-expen.html



What stops are you getting on and off at?

I use the system everyday and my round-trip is less than 8 bucks; which is still not cheap, but it’s a big difference from “over $20.”

Amtrak is another story; the last time I checked prices, the fares were not much less than air fare in coach.


Inter-city rail, and into-the-city commuter rail, and in-the-city light rail are different beasts. I don’t think any of them should be private. They’re a public utility. Any profit is made at the expense of every user.

and $75,000 average per employee is true a lot of places, if you average in the executive pay which is a couple orders of magnitude different from the front-line service providers.


And it’s not just that Amtrak is more expensive that flying a lot of the time, it’s astronomically more expensive than trains in most other nations.

I’d really love to see the reasons laid out for that.


I paid Amtrak $370 for my family of five to go round trip from KC to Chicago. To fly it would have been over $2000 when I looked at airline tickets at the same time I was booking my Amtrak ticket. So obviously it depends on the situation and location, but the train is drastically cheaper than flying for us.


For comparison, a journey on the state run high speed train from Lerida to Madrid in Spain, takes 2 hours for a 460km trip and costs 60 Euros one way. That’s $0.22 per mile. Top speed 186 miles per hour.


Every time I’ve considered taking Amtrak, the prices have been either comparable or a whole lot more than air fare, and several hours slower at best. Even a 2 or 3 hour trip from Boston to NYC is several hundred dollars – each way, depending on the day and time. As much as I want to take the train rather than fly (or bus), it’s just not worth it.


Because other nations use their taxes to help pay for and maintain their rail infrastructure to help control the amount of pollution they create like how adults clean up after themselves by not making a mess in the first place.

Over here “travel is a priv’lidge!” so you should “feel lucky you can travel!” and “pay for it your own self!” because “I don’t use it, why should I pay into it?” instead of realizing that if we all paid into it then it would be a bajillion times better and they would then use the hell out of it and talk about how cheap and efficient it is.

Instead we’ll just continue to complain about gas prices as we all drive around with one person to a SUV.


…when traveling between DC and New York, in essence, you’re paying $0.79 in order for Amtrak to kill or injure people

Well that seems like quite the bargain. I propose we move half our defense budget to Amtrak and get more killin’ for our money.


Value for your dollar: you get a comfortable amount of room, you get a dining car and/or an observation lounge, and you don’t (yet) have to submit to being frisked by underpaid TSA goons. Travel by train: how to go somewhere without being treated like cattle.


The most expensive round-trip ticket I could find using BART’s online fare calculator was from North Concord/Martinez station to SFO, which came in at $23.00 for a standard fare ticket. However that’s a distance of around 45 miles each way, not just a short jaunt across the bay.


For years when I would try to get where ever I was back to Mom And Dad’s place, I would look at Amtrak because Amtrak still stopped in that damn town.

Every time, it was cheaper to fly to an Airport at least 4 hours away, rent a car and drive over for up to a week (Which - let’s be honest - was as long as I would ever intend to stay there)

I like trains, but Amtrak has to be part of the Journey not your means to get there


Agreed; from Rockridge to SFO (which isn’t technically in San Francisco, and has the jacked-up SFO fee built-in) is $9.50 one-way or $19 round-trip. Any reasonable round-trip from Oakland to SFO is $6-$9. “over $20” is BS.



Yeah, I guess I knew all that. I mean when it comes down to it, the answer has to do with the fact that certain industrial concerns have made sure through their governmental proxies that trains and mass-transit in general in the US get the shaft. I wouldn’t mind a breakdown of what it is that actually costs more over here, though.


I jaunt Newark to Boston a lot for work and someone else is always picking up the cost, so it’s generally whichever I prefer and in the end I typically just fly because it’s cheaper and faster.

The airport is where the train stops, you see, so I’m not saving time on any travel there. I get to the airport an hour before the flight, it’s a 90 minute flight if we take our time, I get out at Logan and then cab to where I need to go. Maybe three hours door to door.

The train, if you get an express, is going to be three hours at best, and then I’m still not including travel to and from the train stations. I can walk around if I want, but instead I’ve chosen a 80 minute sit down. I don’t care about power at my seat as it’s 80 minutes. If, say, it was going to be a three hour flight, sure power at my seat and the ability to walk around is great, but since it’s not even apples to apples in terms of time it’s less efficient for me to train it.

And that is why Amtrak has no money.


You’re paying double rate between SF and Oakland, Mark. I ride that route often enough.


Um, okay. Amen?

Need anything else?


If we had each tax payer pony up even ten bucks that would cover a quarter of the Amtrak budget, leaving the rest to fall to end users. Nothing costs more over here, it’s just that we pass the costs on to the end users.

It then costs more because we don’t take care of it and pay for it with taxes.

10 And because it costs more we don’t want to spend taxes on it. And so we get derailments. Which then cost more tax dollars. Which then people get angry about because Amtrak is obviously just wasting their hard earned money making things cost more. So they don’t want to spend taxes on it.

Go to 10


Agree: $20 is total BS… not worthy of the opening lines…
Here is the actual fare calculator:
Oakland City Center to SF Civic Center = $6.90 RT