Train Trends

Those of us who live in warm-weather deprived climates do everything we can to maximize our summer pleasure. Personally, that means getting to the Maine coast to relax by the quiet shoreline. Since a lot of you have the same objective, I often travel by train to avoid traffic and remain productive. Amtrak has a dedicated service dubbed the Downeaster that is exceptionally convenient, if not typically a bit slow. It is consistently sold out, however, suggesting customer demand and competitive pricing (there is also bus service, but I’d rather drive than sit on a bus any day).

Occasionally, I head back on Sunday afternoons instead of Monday morning and I can’t help but notice a significant difference in passenger demeanor when comparing weekday vs. weekend travelers. Whether it’s the early Monday morning train to Boston or the 5PM Downeaster to Maine, the crowds are quiet; throughout the train its heads-down individual travelers busily absorbed by their laptops or mobile device. Many people wear headphones, so conversation is limited and few buy on-board snacks.

On the weekends, the riders are younger, more boisterous and nearly always traveling at least in pairs. Their constant giggles, walks to and from the café car, and shared mobile device views, with jolly “Haha; look at this” comments fill the three-hour ride. Clearly, the business travelers are extending their workday, while the weekenders are in downtime mode. Both experiences make the ride go quickly, but what happens when you’re in workday-ish mode but traveling on a Sunday?

That was me today—and it was tough to stay fully focused but the atmosphere was more lighthearted than on a Monday—and the train had less competition on the rails, so ran on time…almost, anyway!

@Amtrak – thanks for the service; it’s a much preferred alternative to suffering through traffic jams in either direction. And fellow passengers, I appreciate your quiet company as we ease into/out of our workdays,  as well as your weekend joy when we share downtime on the Downeaster.

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