Train Time

According to the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA), in 2020 is screened approximately 61% fewer passengers in 2020 compared to 2019, 324-million vs. 824-million.

And while there are undoubtedly lots of people who are anxious (in a good way) to climb on a plane with the family and go to Orlando to feel the socially distanced embrace of Mickey, business travel, which is where airlines really make their nut, with overall predictions that there will be a decline of double-digit magnitudes, with Bill Gates—who knows a little more than something about business, to say nothing of travel—anticipating it may be down by as much as 50%.

Which leads me back to yesterday’s subject: trains.

Is it possible that there could be a return to the rails for business travelers in parts of the country that aren’t the East Coast?

Having spent a non-trivial amount of time in Detroit Metro, especially early in the morning, I’ve seen (and been at) the gates for blurry-eyed business travelers on their way to ORD or MDW.

They’ve left their house, driven to the airport, gone around and around the parking structure attached to the terminal (surprising that DTW has a great terminal yet a parking structure without detailed information about where there really are parking spaces), clearing security (even for those who have purchased CLEAR, there are many times when you ask someone, “This this the CLEAR line?” as it seems like it ought to be for those who only take an annual trip to MCO), then waiting to board. The flight—and Chicago flights are sometimes not as quick as they ought to be—finally gets you there.

In other words, it is a multi-hour adventure.

The train from Detroit to Chicago takes five hours. Let’s face it, it is well known that because more people take Delta rather than Amtrak, Amtrak in places like Detroit isn’t what it could be were it to have more passengers (= revenue).

But consider the experience. Drive to station. Park. Get on train. Fire up wifi. Sleep. Reconnect. Arrive. All in, less time.

Arguably, there could be more robust internet put on trains (additional mass isn’t as critical when you’re talking about something that is flat on the ground vs. at 35,000 feet) such that the ever-prevalent Zoom meetings could be conducted during the train trips.

Admittedly, this seems not likely.

So would someone saying there would be a 60% drop in air travelers back in January 2020.