When planning a trip, there are a million things to think about. However, in this age of environmental responsibility, it is possible that the one more thing that should be asked is the amount of CO2 emissions will be caused by traveling for one place to another. The issue with this question is that the higher the miles per gallon, thus providing for the lowest carbon emissions per person, is usually the most inconvenient methods of traveling. As an example, a bus averages 186.2 per person miles per gallon, while a train provides for 189.7 miles per gallon. In comparison, a car averages 113 miles per gallon per person transported, while an airplane costs 53.6 miles per gallon per person of fuel.
Buses have the lowest emissions, while airplanes have the highest. The cost/benefit becomes a calculation of the time it takes to travel with the emissions costs, put into context with the convenience required to manage spouses, children, and any family pets that may travel. For a family of four, the costs to drive a car is going to be less expensive than using air travel, but for a single person, the costs of air travel is far less than traveling by car.
Of course, air travel is the most time efficient mode of travel, but car travel is the most cost efficient for groups. However, what about the environment?
The best course of action is to take the bus, but the bus can be very uncomfortable in terms of time versus space.
The recommendation, then would be to take the TRAIN!
Taking the train is more than just a mode of transportation. In doing research for this article, it became clear that the train was a unique part of the transportation system in the United States. It seems that trains attract one of four different types of passengers – namely, people who refuse to fly, train buffs, GERFS who are ‘glassy-eyed rail fans’, or foamers, which describes people who become absolutely rabid (foaming at the mouth) because of their excitement about trains.
Think – Sheldon Cooper (if you don’t get the reference, see the Big Bang Theory, and binge).
However, the train can take a long time. I looked at the amount of travel time between Los Angeles and Napa and the train was about a 10 hour journey. A car would take about 6 hours, with an airplane getting there in about an hour. Saving time does have costs to the environment, however, so the choice is likely going to be made for most people based on financial personal cost versus time.
The question is always going to be…what do we value most?
The unfortunate answer, because we humans tend to be unable to fully grasp the big picture impact of our actions, will be to make the decision based on what satisfies our immediate needs.
I am no less human.
I hope to go to San Francisco next December for a Christmas weekend event centered on the works of Charles Dickens.
I will likely fly.