Sometimes a Hard Choice Is Easy.
Riding up to Los Angeles on the train the other day, I sat next to a large man, appearing to be in his 60s, who had to go up to Oakland for business meeting on Monday morning. That took us into the usual conversation about how there’s no pleasure in flying anymore, and he agreed.
“Well, here’s an idea,” I said, “why don’t you take the train up to the Bay Area?”
He looked quite startled at the idea and, of course, I knew what his first question would be.
“How long does that take?”, he asked.
I told him he’d leave Union Station in L.A. at 10 o’clock in the morning and get to Oakland at about 9:30 that night.
“But that’s almost twelve hours”, he said. “It only takes an hour and a half to fly!” He actually sounded indignant.
But, of course, we know he’s wrong about that, don’t we? From his hotel in the downtown area, it will take him an hour to get out to LAX by taxi on Monday morning. Add another 90 minutes to go through security and get to the gate, and 30 more minutes for the actual boarding process. The flight itself does indeed take about 90 minutes, but there’s another 30 minutes to get a taxi and the ride into Oakland. So he’s going to spend at least five hours getting from downtown Los Angeles to his hotel in Oakland … and it will, for all practical purposes, use up the entire day.
Then we stared figuring the cost. He said the air fare is usually around $140 and he agreed that the taxis on each end would total another $100.
Using his laptop, we checked Amtrak’s web site and discovered that the one way fare for a roomette from L.A. to Jack London Square in Oakland on the Coast Starlight was $247. And that’s from downtown to downtown. No taxi fares. My new friend was surprised.
“But wait”, I said, “think about the comfort compared to being crammed into economy class on the plane. I told him he would have the quiet and privacy of his own room on the train and then I described the pleasure of traveling in one of the Pacific Parlour Cars. The clincher came when I told him that his sleeping car ticket would also include both a lunch and a dinner in the dining car.
Of course, I don’t know what he finally decided to do … But I’ll bet he took the train.