Riding the rails getting popular | PostIndependent.com

Riding the rails getting popular

Stina Sieg
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Planes, trains and automobiles. If you want to go anywhere this in this country, those are the traditional options.

With gas prices hitting hilarious highs and the air industry struggling, this summer, more and more travelers are flocking to Amtrak and taking to the rails.

Nationally, ridership was up 10.9 percent in May from October. The California Zephyr route, which rolls through Glenwood Springs, is up 10.1 percent.

For the last five years, Amtrak media relations manager Marc Magliari has noted steady increases in passengers. This year, however, the jump was sharp.

“We think about half of it is due to the higher prices of driving their cars,” he said.

Another part of the reason, he explained, is a change in philosophy of the company. Amtrak is no longer just banking on the nostalgia and ambiance of rail travel to sell tickets.

“We’ve also changed how we’ve marketed the trains. Beyond talking about the experience, we’ve talked about the schedules and fares,” he said.

While gas prices and flight costs continue to rise, train fares have remained fairly steady. Though sleeper cars recently went through a price increase, regularly seated passengers coming from Glenwood can pay as little as $96 to travel all the way to Emeryville, Calif. or $116 to Chicago. Being a student, senior, member of the military or AAA can even discount that price.

Rail travel does have some downsides.

A trip to the end the line in Illinois or California will take upwards of 30 hours. On “on-time” arrival can be as much as 45 minutes late ” and the Zephyr’s on time rate is less than 20 percent.

Yet, these logistics didn’t seem to bother the passengers boarding and disembarking at the Glenwood station during a recent afternoon.

“We averaged it out, it was going to be way cheaper,” said Ashley Pate. The Canon City resident was just coming off a short Glenwood vacation with her three small children, husband and mother. For them, the idea of dealing with renting a van, paying for gas and driving all this way to the valley seemed too much of a hassle. Plus, they wanted to get to see a little bit of the country they were passing through.

“Another reason, we did it for the scenic route. When you get to have a bigger family, it’s almost easier,” she said.

Stepping off the train from California, James Martin, 32, was carrying a cooler and water bottle and looked as though he’d been camping for two days.

The San Francisco resident explained he’d decided to take this trip by train after finishing work on WALL-E, a Pixar film with a slight environmental message. For him, this form of group transit seemed like a “green” way to start his vacation.

“I thought ‘how can I be a little more conscious,'” he said.

Watching the black diesel smoke puff out of the engine’s top the whole journey, however, he had started to doubt how much cleaner this form of traveling really is.

Linda Chagnon, 67, was on her way home to the Front Range with her husband.

Though they had received this trip as a gift, she felt she could really utilize into this mode of transport more ” if only it was a little bit more accessible. She loved seeing the scenery, watching everything go by slowly, and she was taken aback by how many others felt the same.

“Personally, I was surprised that the train was as full as it was,” she said, estimating about 60 percent capacity.

Glenwood ticket agent Warren Watson, 58, said he’d seen an increase in ticket sales recently. What really impresses him, though, is how many different types of people take the train, from foreign tourists to students, senior citizens to large families.

“They’re from all walks of life,” he said.

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