During my Recent visit to the Central West Coast, I had the pleasure to ride Amtrak on one of the most beautiful trips that I could have possibly taken from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo. It was great experience and I recommend that you look into finding a cheap trip near you. First off, my ticket was only $38, which at an expected car cost of $0.50 per mile including maintenance is much cheaper for a 200+ mile journey like the one I took. I met some fun people on train, had a delicious lunch, and got to sit in an all window car for 3 hours.
My train ride was not perfect or fitting for many scenarios. First of all, scheduling was a pain, http://amtrak.com needs to get with google to add the train to google maps. I had to manually figure out which station to station would be the cheapest and quickest on their website and also found out on my ride that there was a quicker alternative without needing to go through San Francisco and Oakland and instead going south on Cal Train from my lodging at Stanford. The time involved, a three hour trip by car effectively took 5 hours on the Amtrak; trains should be able to go faster than cars (is 80mph really that hard to engineer for?) and not slow down like we did many times – get the schedule right. There was also some drama on my Train as apparently two guys were cursing a lot and when a man that looked like me asked the conductor to get them to treat the environment with respect I was warned to watch my back by an older woman… I wish I would have told the guys to quiet down, but the whole situation should not occur on the chill train.
I would highly suggest that everybody get more into the train and transportation systems, because it can be a fun and enjoyable journey. I experienced networking opportunities over a soothing ride in a lunch car with two Entrepreneurs and a student studying abroad. One thing that could help this happen is American Maglev trains that solve some problems – check out this new venture http://academicvc.com/2009/03/american-maglev/
I ride Marta around Atlanta a lot because it goes North and South along most of my travels pretty well, but Cal Train and Amtrak were fun new experiences.
I would like to see more trains going more places, with more people on them (hopefully some of this American Stimulus will help) because if people really start trying to enjoy their time they will love watching the scenario go by across from them instead of 10 miles up. Train technologies and conducting companies need to streamline their services though, offer faster service to more people at lower prices to more places. The Mag lev and other new lighter technologies are a positive.
On the other hand, current train systems get around 450mpg at cruising speed based on their momentum conserving ideals. What if the trains used batteries (instead of the dead lead weight that many cars have) to make their hybrid systems actually work a lot more efficiently.