Travel and me

Chris Walton, editor of UU World magazine, knew that sometimes I would take the train or drive rather than fly to General Assembly. He asked me to explain why in 500 words, and the result is published in the latest issue of UU World here.

Some trivia that didn’t make it into the published essay:

Yes, I have taken long-distance trains, but it’s only worth it if I’m traveling alone. If you drive a car that gets at least 30 mpg on the highway, and you travel with at least one other person, driving releases fewer greenhouse gases than taking the train. Don’t believe it? If you want to check this for yourself, read Pablo Paster’s 2008 column on this question. Paster’s column includes a link to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, an online accounting tool that helps you perform your own calculations on transit efficiency.

Yes, I will be flying to GA in Providence, R.I., this year. I feel I can justify the trip (barely), mostly because I’m also going to visit my father and and other family members, and partly because I’ll be giving a workshop on teaching at the Star Island Religious Education Conference. Even then, I wish I didn’t have to fly, but this year I can’t schedule in the extra time it would take to drive or take the train across the country.

Since this is the time of year when many people make travel plans to General Assembly (GA), what about travel to and from GA? I find it increasingly difficult to justify flying to GA to attend pro forma business meetings and workshops that are often less than inspiring. In the past 15 years, I have only flown to GA twice. Here’s my travel record:
2000: Flew from Boston to Nashville, Tenn.
2001: Didn’t go
2002: Drove from Massachusetts to Quebec City
2003: Commuted from the suburbs to Boston
2004: Drove from Oakland, Calif., to Long Beach, Calif.
2005: Took the train from Geneva, Ill., to Fort Worth, Tex.
2006: Took the train from Massachusetts to St. Louis, Mo.
2007: Carol and I flew from Boston to Portland, Ore.
2008: Took the train from Massachusetts to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
2009: Took the train from Massachusetts to Salt Lake City
2010: Didn’t go
2011: Carol and I drove from San Mateo to Charlotte, N.C.
2012: Carol and I drove from San Mateo to Phoenix, Az.
2013: Didn’t go

And if you’re traveling to GA, I’d love to hear how you’re going to cut down on your greenhouse gas emissions.

2 thoughts on “Travel and me”

  1. But…a plane will hold 100 or so paasengers, so isn’t that still more efficient? I’m a little fuzzy on the math. In any case, maybe it’s okay to say the long drive is an enjoyable experience in and of itself?

  2. If you have back pain and need to get up and walk around every hour, a train can be a much more pleasant way to travel than a plane where you are trapped in cylindrical “prison” and many times are forbidden to get up and walk around. In addition, the seating in planes is becoming more and more cramped. Travelling by plane is a modern form of torture.

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