Planes, Trains, and really big Automobiles…November 1, 2007
Thanksgiving is quickly approaching. At my university, we’re lucky enough to get the entire week off, and I’ll be hitting up 3 different cities in order to see all my family. I have the transportation figured out, except how to get from Chicago to St. Louis. Being two large cities in relative proximity to one another, there are actually a few different options to consider. Southwest has several flights from Midway to Lambert, Amtrak offers trains, and Megabus has two daily runs. As I am now attempting to be more environmentally conscious, I thought I would try measuring the difference in carbon footprint as well as just looking at prices. Here’s how I did it:
Mapquest says the distance from Chicago to St. Louis is about 300 miles. I can take this and plug it into a carbon footprint calculator like the one found at carbonfootprint.com, which has separate calculations for both train and bus travel, and get:
Train- 26.5 lbs Carbon ($32, 5 1/2 hours)
Bus- 53 lbs Carbon ($33, 5 1/2 hours)
Wow, the bus produces double the carbon per person than the train! While I’m pretty sure the plane will surpass both of these, I’m curious to see by how much, so using terrapass‘s carbon flight calculator I can determine exactly what my footprint would be for a flight between the above two airports. The calculator likes to use round trips, so I divided it in half to get the one-way value:
Plane- 160 lbs Carbon ($75+, about 1 hour)
Over 3 times what the bus footprint is, and 6 times the train ride! One could argue that the shorter travel time is worth the carbon and money, but I find that air travel has a hard time being shorter than driving at these distances once check-in, security lines, and overall airport traffic are accounted for.
It seems that the best decision for both my wallet and my green karma is to take the train. However, I don’t consider this to be a sacrifice at all. Having used trains frequently during a semester in Europe, I found them to be a far more relaxing means of travel than flying. After all, I’m not being hurled 30,000 ft in the air, nor is there someone coming around confiscating my bottled water and telling me to turn off my cell phone lest the plane crash. Traffic won’t be a problem either. With the bus, a well-placed accident could easily turn that 5 1/2 hours into 7 or 8.
What do you think? Do your regular inter-city routes offer equally varied options? Are there any options at all? Which are most valuable to you?