Why Traveling by Train is Your Greatest Productivity Secret

John Mueller via Flickr

With the Pennsylvania Legislature studying the benefits of extended Amtrak service to Pittsburgh, it begs the question: Did you know there is Amtrak service to Pittsburgh?

Pittsburgh is a city disconnected from the northeast corridor and notoriously out of the way for commuters from Boston, Philadelphia, and D.C. There are no high-speed trains, no state-of-the-art snack machines or sleeper seats. But there is the Pennsylvanian. And it will become your new secret to productivity.

My journey to choosing the Pennsylvanian began with my mom’s 60th birthday and a sister who diligently organized a surprise trip for her to New York City.  When I was considering transport options, I weighed the common practical questions: cost, time spent traveling, right thing to do by the environment, and convenience. Flying was immediately out due to the cost and pain of getting from an airport near NYC to where I needed to be in the city. (I’m glad I avoided that option as it took my mom and her wife two hours in a taxi to get from the airport to the hotel.)

Driving? I seriously considered it, but a few things pushed me toward public transit: the potential to work while moving, not wanting to drive in NYC, and being a responsible steward of the environment (in the battle of single-occupancy vehicle vs. public transit, public transit wins every time).  That left the bus and the train. I had been feeling a bit overwhelmed at the office and hoped to use the nine hours of travel time to catch up on some lingering projects. Megabus is a bit cheaper and takes slightly less time than the train, but having had one too many carsick family vacations, I elected to try the dark horse candidate. And it was glorious.

Not only did I get caught up on ALL OF MY WORK (thanks in large part to the functional free wifi), but I also had time to think about just how inefficient driving is! From a cost perspective, you pay not only for gas, but also for tolls and alarmingly high in-city parking. On the train, I paid just $118. From a time angle, driving takes 13 hours of sitting and podcast listening. On the train, I spent just half an hour of unproductive travel time (waiting for the train) and was able to work 17 hours, with a spare hour for window watching and snacks.

Just when you already thought the train was winning by a mile, I’m going to tell you another reason why it’s a victor. The train drops you off at Penn Station in the center of New York City, where I was able to walk past hordes of St. Patrick’s Day paraders directly to my hotel. No time spent traveling on public roads, no time avoiding insane holiday drivers. And when I left on Sunday, the NYC Half Marathon closed the roads all around my hotel, but again, I simply walked back to the station stress-free.

So I just want to give a huge thank you to the Pennsylvanian for helping to make my travel the most productive it has ever been. Not only are the locations of the Penn Stations (yes, they share the same name) in Pittsburgh and NYC super-convenient, but I actually got more work done by traveling to NYC than staying home. In another time-honored secret, I was able to focus because there was nothing else to do. No children, no distractions…just 373 miles of train tracks. So whenever my work has piled up or I’m feeling overwhelmed, I just need to take a trip to NYC.  And until we get another train, I’ll see you promptly at 7:30 a.m.

Happy travels to all!

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