There are many ways to get from Albany to New York City. Among those I’ve tried are driving, taking the train, taking the Greyhound bus, and driving to Poughkeepsie and getting the train there. Which of these works best depends on many factors – when you’re going, your travel budget, your destination within the city, etc.
Today, I had to go from Rensselaer to New York City on business, and decided to take the Amtrak train down and Megabus, a low-cost carrier that offers several routes around the country, back. Buses, though not as romantic as trains, are much less costly to operate, use existing highway infrastructure, and can change route in response to delaying conditions. On the down side, they share that infrastructure with a lot of traffic, which can subject them to delays. Trains enjoy the use of a more limited-access infrastructure, but, unless given priority over other traffic, such as freight, still can be subject to delays. Here’s a thumbnail summary of my two trips:
The biggest “little thing” Amtrak could do to add value would be to install free wireless internet access, which is now standard on many other public conveyances.
I don’t know the top speed of the present trains, but it is obvious that most of the trip is run at considerably lower speeds. Before committing to a huge expenditure for state-of-the-art, high-speed trains, perhaps the State should examine the relative costs and benefits of improvements to the existing track – eliminating grade crossings, easing curves, negotiating priority for passenger trains over freight, etc. A reduction in trip time of 45 minutes would substantially undercut the competition (automobile and bus) in travel time.
Conclusions – I found the train more comfortable and the scenery better, but Megabus is a good value for the price. If you reserve far enough in advance, you can go one way for $1.50, and even the higher fares substantially undercut Amtrak. In fact, it cost me less to take the Megabus from NYC to Albany than it would have to take Metro North from NYC to Poughkeepsie (off-peak), from which I’d still have a lengthy drive with tolls and parking at the station to pay for.