The Abundant Advantages of Amtrak

Brian Luppy, Staff Writer

Scanning for my seat number as I walked down the aisle, I noticed that most seats were empty. I placed my suitcase on the overhead luggage rack and slid into the window seat. Overhead, blue ambient lights gave the space a dreamy atmosphere. 

Using the tray table in front of me, I plugged in my laptop and connected to the free WiFi. I opened Netflix, and began watching my movie. 

Outside, the world whizzed by, house after house, farm after farm. I stretched my legs, unable to reach the seat in front of me. Legroom galore. Soon, the slow hum soothed me into a sleep.

I didn’t used to be a train kid. Like most others who live outside of driving-distance from school, I had always taken flights home from college.

For Thanksgiving break this past year, my plane ride home was going smoothly. No delays, no long lines, nothing. The plane landed at Logan Airport in Boston and we unfastened our seatbelts in preparation to deboard the plane. A few moments later, the pilot aired a message over the intercom. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a slight problem with the sky bridge,” he announced.

For the next two hours, we remained trapped on the plane while the sky bridge was being repaired. My phone was dead and my legs were numb. My middle seat felt like a coffin.

Remembering this experience while planning my trip home for Winter Break, I chose Amtrak over flying.

Now, having used Amtrak twice (for Winter and Spring Break travel) I can positively assert that it is the premier mode of transportation for three reasons.

The first reason is ticket prices. If booked in advance, a round-trip Amtrak ticket will typically cost at least a hundred dollars less than the average plane ticket.

Over the course of a school year, opting for Amtrak would save a decent sum of money.

The second reason is comfort. Amtrak takes the comfort of a car and puts it on a train. The seats are wide and roomy and feature 39 inches of legroom, significantly more than an airplane. There is freedom to roam around the train at will, exploring all that Amtrak has to offer. 

For example, one can find a quiet car, where most are either sleeping or reading. There is also a business class car, where, if they are willing to splurge, passengers are given even more legroom and amenities. 

My favorite car, though, is the cafe car. At the bar, sandwiches and snacks are available for purchase, as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. 

The car has booth-style seating, where passengers can enjoy their meals before heading back to their seats. Everything, including the restrooms, feels very clean and up-to-date. Free WiFi is also offered, which is fast and reliable, in my experience.

The third and final reason to choose Amtrak is the convenience. The typical argument against taking the train usually revolves around time. 

People say that taking Amtrak home will take longer than flying. However, what a train lacks in speed it makes up for in other forms convenience. 

One can arrive at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia via Uber, and be moving on their train within 10 minutes. There is no need to hassle with bag-checks, security lines and waiting at the terminal. 

After arriving at their destinations, passengers simply grab their luggage from the overhead rack and leave the station. From dorm door to home door, an Amtrak trip and plane trip actually take the same time, all segments of the journey considered.

Villanova student Martina Penelas took the Amtrak for the first time this Spring Break. 

“It was a pretty positive experience overall,” she said. “It was very easy to understand [and was] on time.”

Yet despite its advantages, some are still opposed to taking Amtrak instead of the plane.

“I’ve just always taken flights home,” Villanova student Nicholas Grover said. 

“I’ve never really had any problems with it.”

Perhaps I should feel lucky that many still opt for the plane over Amtrak. It means that Amtrak will be cheaper, cleaner and less crowded for the rest of us. However, this article may convince more Villanova students to explore the option of Amtrak. 

Until then, I’ll enjoy my extra-legroom seat and the other serene comforts offered on Amtrak trains.