Friday, August 05, 2011

The Train to Montreal

A couple weeks ago I took a few days away from the NYC area. I decided to try Amtrak for the first time--tickets to Montreal cost about the same a driving (possibly a little less with gas prices), and I wouldn't have to pay for parking. The only downside to taking the train is that it takes almost twice as long as driving--the schedule estimates 11 hours, whereas driving would be about six.

The bright side of taking the train to Montreal is the scenery. On the way out of New York City, there's a great view of the Palisades across the Hudson River. Further along the tracks, the train slowly snakes along the shore of Lake Champlain. It's beautiful, but painfully slow.

For some reason, on the way out of the U.S. we were stopped by U.S. customs for a half hour before our stop at Canadian customs. Our train still managed to be close to on time. On the way back, U.S. customs took two hours. Add to that some unscheduled stops for a fax and responding to said fax, plus signal problems, and we were two and a half hours late arriving at Penn Station (I got back to my apartment just after midnight).

Fortunately, I managed to get a decent amount of reading done on the train. I also met a few friendly passengers to talk with in both directions. I just wish I could sleep on any form of transportation (next time I should take some nighttime medicine to knock me out).

If there was ever an argument for a high speed rail line in the U.S., I found it. There is no reason a train should travel at less than 30 miles per hour for extended stretches when there is no other train traffic on the tracks. One curious note about Amtrak is that while the NYC-Montreal train takes about 11 hours to travel about 360 miles, it only takes 12 1/2 hours to travel to Toronto, which is almost 600 miles. Sounds like Amtrak needs a more direct route to Montreal.

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