Racing from NYC to DC…Planes, trains and automobiles

Recently inspired by an old Top Gear episode where the hosts, Clarkson, Hammond, May, and The Stig race across London in various modes of transportation, I faced a similar opportunity going to and from NYC.  For the past 4 years I have had to travel regularly to NYC from DC for work and I go back and forth on how to travel between the two cities.

Last week I decided the time had come, it was time to see which mode of transportation was fastest home from NYC to DC.  While we were not as scientific as the Top Gear crew, we definitely discovered whether flying is faster than the train.

We left midtown at 445PM, I was headed to LaGuardia for a Delta Shuttle flight at 630PM, my competitor left for Penn State trying to make the 5PM Acela train, but knew he would most likely take the 6PM Acela train.

It took me 45 minutes to get to the airport, just missing the 530PM shuttle, but enough time to grab a drink at the bar.  It turned out that my racing companion made the 5PM train which meant that he would be south of Philly before I even left the ground.  I was doubting my choice.

Finally it was time to board, and get under way.  We took off on time and the pilot announced a flight time of 33 minutes.  When we flew over downtown Baltimore 20 minutes later at 650PM, I knew I had taken a lead.  We touched down and were at the gate by 710PM, the train well that was still 40 minutes from DC.

While I had to go through security at LaGuardia, had no Wi-Fi and had to sit in an airport for 45 minutes, I still got to DC 40 minutes faster than the train.  Now the train has benefits, it was slightly cheaper than my plane ticket, I can get work done (a pro tip, sit close to the food car because that is where the wi-fi connection is strongest).

The uncontrollable factors in the race include the cab ride between the city and the airport and weather. I find that the cab ride out to the airport is always easier than into the city, so it may be the case where the train is faster when going to NYC.  When the weather is bad (thunderstorms in the summer, snow in the winter) the train is a better bet than the plane.  In this race, I had little traffic and perfect weather.