Inter-city Distances and Rail Travel Costs

Disregarding all of the travelling I did while in each city, I made a total of 15 inter-city journeys.  Legs 3 & 4 and legs 5 & 6 had only an hour stop in between so each felt like only one journey.  Likewise 10, 11 & 12 Washington to Belfast and 13, 14, & 15 Belfast back to NYC.  

You have to draw the line somewhere…  

Anyhow, taking a mixture of Amtrak’s timetable and estimates from Google Maps (since the North Eastern timetables don’t publish distances) and adding in the road journey from Lafayette to New Orleans. I came up with the following distances (in miles)

  1. San Jose to Seattle                                    954 
  2. Seattle to Milwaukee                                2120 
  3. Milwaukee to Chicago                                  86  
  4. Chicago to Austin                                     1223 
  5. Austin to San Antonio                                   82 
  6. San Antonio to Lafayette                             428  
  7. Lafayette to New Orleans (by road)              135
  8. New Orleans to Chicago                             934 
  9. Chicago to Washington                               922 
  10. Washington to Boston                                 460
  11. Boston to Portland                                      125
  12. Portland to Belfast                                      100 
  13. Belfast to Portland                                      100 
  14. Portland to Boston                                      125
  15. Boston to NYC                                           240

I make that 8,034 miles

I reserved them in eight chunks as each next leg became clear.  The 30-day, 12 segment rail pass cost $579 and I had to pay an extra $50 for bus tickets from Portland to Belfast and back because that took me over 12 segments.

Had I paid for tickets individually at the point that I made each decision (discounts are available for advance booking but I didn’t know any of this in advance), they would have cost as follows:

  1. San Jose to Seattle                                    $158
  2. Seattle to Milwaukee                                  $347
  3. Milwaukee to Austin                                   $144
  4. Austin to Lafayette                                       $67 
  5. New Orleans to Chicago                            $112
  6. Chicago to Washington                              $133
  7. Washington to Belfast                                $222
  8. Belfast to NYC                                          $137

That gives a total of $1320 (£858*)

Total actual cost of inter-city travel = $579+$50 = $629 (£408.85)

So buying the rail pass more than halved the cost of travel, saving me $691 (£449.15)

And on average, I paid just under 8 cents (just over 5p) per mile for this travel.

*at the time of the trip the exchange rate was roughly $1=£0.65

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman


People have asked me how different train travel is in the USA from the UK and Europe.  In this clip you get a flavo(u)r of it by way of the announcements made pre-trip by Nancy our coach car service attendant and the responses from some of my fellow passengers.  I shot this on The Cardinal, from Chicago to DC – bear in mind that we were about to spend a 23 hour journey together over 922 miles.

While this level of interaction before travelling was not typical in my experience, it does represent well the relationship between travellers and train staff on these long journeys.

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman