Seems as if every time someone mentions train travel, and the ease of use it provides, Europe is brought up as the shining example of rail accessibility. A recent study conducted by a Ph.D. student at the University of Vienna, Austria, illustrates just how accessible Western Europe really is. Eastern Europe? Not so much.
The data that Peter Kerpedjiev analyzed for 28 cities is quite telling how car independent a tourist or citizen travelling in Western Europe can actually be. Mr. Kerpedjiev’s table of train travel time distances from London illustrates that a person can reach almost all of Western European cities within 24 hours.
In the United States, the network of rail lines is far less extensive. However a resident, business travler, or tourist can reach many of the major eastern and western seaboard cities via train as well. A quick review of Amtrak’s schedules for trains leaving Washington, D.C. indicates that a train traveller has a lot of options to reach some pretty far away destinations within a 24-hour timeframe.
With the opening of the Acela, D.C. train travelers can reach Boston, MA under 7 hours. New York, NY under 4 hours. Destinations along the eastern seaboard as far south as Tampa, FL can be reached within 24 hours, and with the Auto Train option, a traveler can even bring their car along for the ride.
If you are interested in more Western destinations, a D.C. train traveler can reach Pittsburgh, PA in 8 hours; Chicago under 18; Charlotte, NC in 8 hours and Atlanta in 14. Closer cities such as Philadelphia, PA, Charleston, WV and Richmond, VA are all reachable under 2 hours.
Obviously European train travel is far more extensive, less expensive and allows travelers to cover greater distances in less time than that in the U.S. But with that said, it is not impossible to reach many U.S. destinations via train should one choose to do so. With the current state of our roadways, leaving the car behind can be a much more relaxing way to travel these days.