Amtrak – Amtrak! – is now cheaper than commuting by car:
Stroud was looking in Elk Grove., Calif. — about 85 miles away from his job in the San Francisco Bay Area — because homes there are more affordable. But with gas at $4.50 and a car that gets about 22 miles per gallon, Stroud would be pumping $560 a month into his tank.
So instead he made an offer on a home near the train station in Davis, which will shave $160 off his commuting costs.
What’s interesting is that Stroud still has a very long commute: Davis is just as far from his work as Elk Grove is. And neither of them, by rights, should be home to people who work in the Bay Area: they’re essentially Sacramento suburbs. Over the very long term, I suspect we’ll look back on the era of the 85-mile commute as a historical curiosity. That kind of distance is so enormous compared to any kind of human scaling that it just doesn’t make sense as a way to live.
In the meantime, though, there could be some interesting things about to happen in the world of passenger rail. Amtrak has historically not been an attractive commuter service, because it’s expensive and pretty unreliable. But when it becomes cheaper than driving on a per-mile basis, that could help increase passenger numbers enough to make it much less of an economic sinkhole than it has been until now.