Why Train Travel Is Making A Comeback Amongst Black Millennials
Photo Credit: TN

Photo Credit: TN

Why Train Travel Is Making A Comeback Amongst Black Millennials

Jasmine Osby
Jasmine Osby Apr 4, 2022

With more Americans adapting to traveling during a pandemic, Black millennials have been gravitating toward train travel more as an alternative to cars and planes. Inspired by the golden age of the American Railroad, Amtrak was created in 1971 as a fast and efficient way to get from one place to another. However, as new transportation advancements emerged and Americans opted for faster, more reliable means of travel, the popularity of Amtrak began to dwindle. 

But with support from President Joe Biden, Amtrak has been making a steady comeback over the last few years. The company celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021 and, having already secured $1.7 billion in federal funds under the “American Rescue Plan”, has been making major improvements to its trains, increasing its staff, and adding new amenities to inspire younger generations to travel by train. 

If you’re contemplating an alternative mode of transportation for your next vacation or getaway, check out these 10 reasons why train travel is making a comeback amongst Black millennials.

1. New, Faster Trains

Train travel
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According to CNN, Amtrak will be rolling out a new generation of faster, more durable trains this year. Built by American engineering powerhouse Alstom, the new 28 Avelia Liberty trains were inspired by the intense power and high speed of the TGV trains in France. The new fleet has a modern design that allows for faster travel and can go as fast as 160 miles per hour. 

The new fleet of trains is also bigger, containing 28 trains instead of 20, so travelers can enjoy more frequent travel with more seating onboard. Whereas many people have experienced long, uncomfortable journeys by train, these new vehicles are luring younger Americans back to Amtrak, especially if they are not traveling long distances.

2. Cheap Cost

Train travel
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Depending on where you’re departing from and traveling to, train travel will always come out cheaper than flying. With the rising cost of gas, train travel is sometimes more cost-effective than hopping in the car for a good, ole’ family road trip. However, it is all depending on your end destination. 

Of course, a train ticket from Florida to California isn’t going to be any cheaper than a ticket on your favorite airline. But if you are a strategic traveler, there are some routes that will save you a few bucks if you choose to travel by train. For example, if you’re traveling from St. Louis, MO to Chicago for a  weekend trip, a roundtrip ticket on the train will cost $100 while a roundtrip plane ticket will cost at least $180. Some other routes where train travel is cheaper include

  • New York to Boston ($162 v. $290)
  • New York to Washington D.C. ($188 v. $291)
  • Miami to Tampa ($100 v. $374)
  • Los Angeles to San Diego ($54 v. $259)
  • Seattle to Portland ($63 v. $436)

Although some travelers don’t believe the extra time on the train is worth the savings, once time spent arriving early, checking bags, and maneuvering through TSA is factored in, a lot of the train commutes aren’t too much longer than plane travel. And more Black millennials who have the patience and extra time to spare are selecting train travel for that reason. 

3. A Different Type of Reliable

Train Travel
Photo Courtesy of Fabrizio Verrecchia.

Black millennials are also finding a sense of security in the reliability of train travel. Where airplane travel is drastically impacted by major storms and extreme weather, most Amtrak trains can still carry passengers to their destination through hard rain and winds. However, frigid temperatures and flooding could delay train travel.

4. Visit Multiple States During One Trip

Train travel
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Ingo Joseph.

If you are a true explorer looking to see as much American terrain as possible, a cross-country trip by train is exactly what you need. Many black millennials have been tapping into this cheap, exciting journey as viral TikTok videos glamorize the idea of seeing the country from the comfort of your train seat. And with the cost of the trip being so cheap, who would resist a chance to see the country for less than $200. 

If you book your trip in advance, you can travel cross-country by train starting as low as $197. Although there are about 5 different cross-country train routes in America, all routes are not created equally so it’s important to do your research to see what train route has the amenities and scenery you desire. 

For the most scenic cross-country route, book a ticket on the California Zephyr. This 48-hour journey departs from Chicago and takes you through Nebraska, across the Mississippi River, and through the Rocky Mountains. It winds through the canyons in Colorado, through the Sierra Nevada mountains, and concludes in San Francisco. Although traveler favorite is the Southwest Chief, which takes you from Chicago to LA on the historic Sante Fe railroad.

5. Get Some Rest Instead of Driving

Train travel
Photo Courtesy of
Anna Shvets.

While many millennial travelers, especially those with families, have chosen car travel over expensive flight tickets, it’s no secret that road trips can be a bit uncomfortable. From having to pay attention to the road for hours to the exhaustion that sets in when driving long distances, road trips can be a pain and driving can take some of the joy out of going on vacation. 

This travel season, some millennials are trading in their car keys for a train ticket so they can kick their feet up instead of pushing down on the gas. Many millennial travelers cite this as the main reason they prefer train travel to driving. Train travel is also perfect for the business person who needs to travel a short distance for work but doesn’t want to endure the drive.

6. Eliminates Parking Cost

Train travel
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Kaboompics .com.

Busy cities like Chicago and New York are fun to visit but finding a place to park can be a nightmare. From metropolitan street fines to racking up a bill driving through tollways, traveling by car to your vacation can sometimes be more trouble than it’s worth. 

Millennials are bypassing this parking disaster by leaving the automobile at home and traveling by train instead. Train travel will eliminate any money you may spend on parking and tolls; however, you may end up spending that same amount on rideshare services like Uber and Lyft so be sure to do your research to see what’s the best option for you.

7. Additional Tech Amenities On Board

Train travel
Photo Courtesy of Matthias Zomer.

In addition to Amtrak’s fleet of new, faster trains, the company has also added a variety of technological advancements to its vehicles to ensure it can accommodate the needs of millennial and Gen-Z travelers. The new trains have high-speed WiFi, personal power outlets, and USB ports at the center of each row, bringing Amtrak into the 21st century and making it a more likely option for younger travelers. 

8. Enjoy Luxury Private Suites

If you’ve been on TikTok, then you have seen the viral videos of travelers journeying across the country in luxurious private quarters aboard the train. These private suites are every traveler’s dream and the most comfortable way to travel by train if you are going long distances. Many travelers have complained that traveling in coach via train is an uncomfortable experience. So if you need more space or are going on a multi-day train voyage, you might want to consider a bedroom suite. 

Amtrak offers multiple suites aboard their trains that you can choose from depending on your budget and needs. They have roomettes, standard rooms, suites, and family suites available for travelers who want to enjoy extra space and comfort that coach travel can’t provide. These suites include a bed, lounge furniture, private bathroom, showers, and more and can make a long train ride much more enjoyable. Private suites on trains can range anywhere from $500 to $1000.

9. Watch the Scenery from the Observation Cart

Train travel
Photo Courtesy of
Daniel Frese.

Traveling just for the scenery? Then make sure you book your train ticket on the Amtrak routes that feature observation carts. These special train carts are designed specifically for sightseers who want to get a full view of the nature scenes being passed as the train makes its way cross-country. These observation lounges are only on long-distance trains and make sure to ask the train crew which seat will give you the best view.

Amtrak routes that feature the observatory cart are:

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