Wednesday, December 8, 2010

December Green Living Food for Thought: Train v. Air

I thought I might do a monthly "Green Living Food for Thought" email. This is something I shared with my colleagues at work earlier this week (we have a "green" group at work). One person already changed their travel plans from flying to train based on the discussion!

So....I have started taking the train instead of flying whenever it is remotely feasible. I originally limited it to traveling the NE corridor but over the summer took the train from NY to Pittsburgh for business travel. I found it to be a much more enjoyable trip and I did some back of the envelope calculations on tradeoffs between rail and flying (though bus is actually the best).

1. CO2 emissions: Rail emits 70-90% LESS CO2 than flying (depending on how you are counting air emissions)
740 miles:
Transport CO2 Emissions
Small Car: 152.4 kg of CO2 per passenger with 1 occupant(s)
Large Car: 306.5 kg of CO2 per passenger with 1 occupant(s)
Train: 63.6 kg of CO2 per passenger
Bus: 35.7 kg of CO2 per passenger
Plane: 204.1 kg or 500 kg of CO2 per passenger, if you account for the fact that emissions from planes have a greater effect because of altitude.

Source: http://www.transportd...

2. Absolute travel time: Flying wins by a factor of 2By air, my door to door trip is 6 hours:
1.5 hours from home to the airport by transit
1.5 hours hanging about at the airport
1.3 hours in flight
1 hour from the airport to the office by transit
Total: 5.3 hours

By train, my door to door trip is 10.6 hours (10 hour train ride, 40 min total to/from train station at each end)
For comparison driving takes 6-7 hours, unless you hit NJ at a bad time. Then it can take the rest of your life.
By bus, its 8.6 hours door to door each way (8 hours drive, 1 hour back and forth to stop), again with the NJ caveat.

*I only take transit to and from airports. If you drive, this will change both trip lengths.

3. Useful work time: train works out better along several dimensionsUnusable/lost hours:
By air, I get to work 1.6 of 5.3 hours -- 40 min on the plane, 1 hour at the airport. I've lost 3.7 hours in travel.
By train, I get to work 9.5 hours on the train. I've lost 1.1 hours in travel

% of travel that is workable (not really fair metric)
By air: 30% of my travel time is workable (1.6/5.3).
By train: 90% of my travel time is workable (9.5/10.6)

% of time that is workable over equivalent time:
By air: 66% of the total window is workable. Lets assume that I worked the the other 5.3 hours outside of travel. 5.3+1.6 = 7 hours of useful work time in the 10.6 hour block.
By train, 90% again.

For comparison, you'd get about 7.5 hours of useful work time on a bus, and 0 in a car.

Note: My work requires 100% computer use. Your experience may be different if you've got other kinds of work.

4. Convenience and comfort: train wins no contest.- No security headaches
- No packing headaches
- No waiting in long lines
- No waiting around at the station/airport
- Much more comfortable seats
- Plenty of room to meander
- Better view
- No sausage toes and other physical side effects of air travel

Basically, I arrived in Pittsburgh feeling fabulous, whereas whenever I get off a flight, I feel like I've been beaten.

5. Cost: train and flights are comparable, bus wins hands downTrain costs $180 round trip
Flights can be more or less
Bus can be as cheap as $5!

6. Schedule: Flying wins hands downThe number of trains along this and other routes are limited, where as there are an infinite number of flight options.

7. Time I spent thinking about this: priceless.