Connecting Trains to Planes
Right now there are only two airports in the United States, Burbank and Newark, that have a connection to an Amtrak station. This means when you fly to or from any airport, you almost always have to get to your destination by car. In order to increase the overall functionality of our public transportation system, I feel that any city that has both an airport and a rail connection should make sure to connect the two services. The picture below shows the Newark airport. Interestingly enough, this airport allows passengers to purchase plane and train tickets together in one transaction! Imagine if that were possible everywhere.
I realize that it would be expensive to make these connections in lots of cities, but I think that if all cities made this investment, it would be well worth it. The combined value of a network of airports and trains exceeds the value of each service on its own.
One of the most important reasons to bring airports and trains together is a desire to maximize the intended use for each type of transportation. Right now if you need to get somewhere you may have to fly a very bizarre route and some of your flights may be very short. For example, I recently flew 40 minutes from Philadelphia to Providence. Long-distance travel is ideal for planes because of their speed, but trips less than about 200 miles should actually rely on trains. This is because you can get right onto a train without airport security. If you are traveling less than 200 miles you will move faster by train than plane due to security checkpoints. Short trips like this are also much cheaper by train.
Another problem with short-distance flights is layovers. Again I will use my example for my Philadelphia - Providence flight. SIX hour layover for a 40 minute flight. My total travel time was about seven hours on this leg of my trip; I flew from Miami to Philadelphia in about four. Because of their shorter distance optimization and ability to stop at several locations, trains run more frequently. If there had been a train station in Philadelphia, I could have probably caught a Boston bound train within half an hour of my flight and stopped in Providence an hour or so later. This would have gotten me home faster and cheaper. Reducing layover congestion may be bad for airport vendors, but I think it would be good for just about any traveler.
Right now when we travel, we usually end up paying twice for cars. We pay once to leave our car idle in the airport for several days and we pay again to rent another car when we arrive at our destination. Often times the only reason we need to rent a car is so that we can leave the airport; we then drive to our resort or hotel and either stay put or rely on public transportation. But we still have to pay for the car. If we could get out of the airports on a comfortable train that would take us closer to our destination, sometimes rental cars could be cut out! Not to mention that if we could take a train to the airport we would not have to pay to let our car sit in the lot. Besides, the fun of vacations do not come from renting cars. Cars are not "fun", they are methods of transportation to and from fun. If we could take out the expense of cars without reducing our ability to have fun, that would be a welcome development.