GOOD

If Only the Millions of Thanksgiving Travelers Took the Train

At least 37 million Americans will be traveling for this Thanksgiving holiday. Our roads and minds would benefit from better trains.

Breaking: lots and lots of people travel for Thanksgiving. How many? According to AAA: "37.29 million Americans will take a trip of 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving holiday weekend." Of these, 83 percent are expected to drive (or "go by motor vehicle," in AAA's parlance), and 12 percent (or 4.64 million) will fly.

These flight numbers don't agree with predictions by the Air Transport Association, which says that 24 million air travelers are expected over the holiday weekend, "with daily passenger volumes ranging from 1.3 million to 2.5 million."


I think the discrepancy probably has something to do with how AAA and the ATA count "travelers."

Now—probably to the surprise of my parents and friends—I have no intention of raining on anyone's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with talk about the carbon footprint of the holiday or any such thing. But it does strike me as a good opportunity to talk about how much better Thanksgiving travel would be with a better national rail system, one that featured good intercity high-speed rail.

Seeing as every available passenger rail car in Amtrak's will be in service this holiday week, and that the company "is scheduling extra trains to accommodate additional passengers in the Northeast, Midwest, and on the West Coast," it's safe to assume that the demand is already there.

And so I'll use this holiday to opportunistically post this great graphic from the Center for American Progress about high speed rail.


Anyone who has ever driven anywhere close to a major city on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving knows how awful it can be. And cities are, after all, the end destination for 34 percent of travelers. Seems reasonable enough to assume that lots and lots of these motor vehicle trips could be replaced by rail.

Maybe it's a coincidence—I actually don't think so—that the region of the country that has the best rail connections (the Northeast) has the fewest amount of auto travelers:

The greatest number of Thanksgiving auto travelers will originate in the Southeast with 8.81 million; followed by the West, 7.05 million; Midwest, 6.58 million; Great Lakes, 6.06 million; and Northeast, 2.34 million.

\n

And that's certainly not because there are fewer caring family members in the Northeast.

(Anecdotal evidence to prove the point: I'll be traveling from Philadelphia to Boston, up to Newburyport, Massachusetts, to make my family's dinner, and though I booked tickets weeks ago, tickets were scarce on Amtrak, Greyhound, and BoltBus. I'll be riding the bus, but would much rather be taking a train if there had been availability.)

Finally, even though I promised not too: If you needed any more reason to feel guilty on this otherwise glorious day of gluttony, sloth, family and football, those cruel nannies at the Los Angeles Times have broken down the carbon footprint of your traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner. Pass the gravy!

Articles
via Douglas Muth / Flickr

Sin City is doing something good for its less fortunate citizens as well as those who've broken the law this month. The city of Las Vegas, Nevada will drop any parking ticket fines for those who make a donation to a local food bank.

A parking ticket can cost up to $100 in Las Vegas but the whole thing can be forgiven by bringing in non-perishable food items of equal or greater value to the Parking Services Offices at 500 S. Main Street through December 16.

The program is designed to help the less fortunate during the holidays.

Keep Reading Show less
Communities

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Truthout.org / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
Photo by HAL9001 on Unsplash

The U.K. is trying to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but aviation may become the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.K. by that same year. A new study commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and conducted at the Imperial College London says that in order for the U.K. to reach its target, aviation can only see a 25% increase, and they've got a very specific recommendation on how to fix it: Curb frequent flyer programs.

Currently, air travel accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, however that number is projected to increase for several reasons. There's a growing demand for air travel, yet it's harder to decarbonize aviation. Electric cars are becoming more common. Electric planes, not so much. If things keep on going the way they are, flights in the U.K. should increase by 50%.

Nearly every airline in the world has a frequent flyer program. The programs offer perks, including free flights, if customers get a certain amount of points. According to the study, 70% of all flights from the U.K. are taken by 15% of the population, with many people taking additional (and arguably unnecessary) flights to "maintain their privileged traveler status."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet