Category Archives: Travels

Amtrak’s Capital Limited

After traveling three days and three nights in coach, I treated myself to a sleeping car on the last leg of my journey to Washington, DC. Most Amtrak sleeping cars have a shower and I appreciated using it after having slept in my clothes for three nights. The sleeping room was clean and everything was functional, but it was, of course, very small. I also noticed that all of the seats in the Sightseer Lounge car swiveled, so I guess the ones on the Coast Starlight and California Zephyr were just rusted in place after all.

Given that the East has a lot more people than the West, you’d think Amtrak would have more trains connecting the East Coast with the Midwest. In fact, there are the same number of trains from the nation’s heartland to the West Coast as there are to the East Coast, which is four–or or three-and-a-half since one on each side of the country goes just three days a week. The eastern trains are the Lakeshore Limited from Chicago to New York and Boston; the Capital Limited from Chicago to DC, the Crescent from New York to New Orleans, and and the three-day-a-week Cardinal from Chicago to both New York and Washington. The Cardinal must attract mainly local traffic as it takes nearly 24 hours to go to DC and 28 to New York compared with 17 to DC on the Capital Limited and 19 to New York on the Lakeshore.

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Amtrak’s California Zephyr

The original California Zephyr had five dome cars and was timed to allow passengers to see the best scenery in the Sierra Nevada and Colorado mountains in the daytime and to pass through the relatively boring deserts and prairies at night. Amtrak’s Sightseer Lounge car, shown below, is no dome car, but at least the timing has been retained. The Sierras were particularly impressive this trip as there was still a lot of snow.

The problem with the Sightseer Lounge is that, unlike a dome car, it is really hard to see out of both sides from any given seat and, of course, you can’t see in front of you at all. To make matters worse, all but two of the chairs have been bolted in place so that they don’t swivel, which everyone wants to do as the scenery goes by or switches from one side to another. The same thing was true on the Coast Starlight lounge car, so it appears to have been planned rather than just a rusting of some of the swivel chairs.

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Amtrak’s Coast Starlight

So far, Amtrak is living up to my expectations. The trains are late, not just the one I’m on the the ones we’ve met going in the other direction. The food in the dining car is both expensive and tasteless. And business turns out to be a first-class rip-off.

On Friday, a landslide north of Portland shut down rail service between Portland and Seattle. That meant the train I was taking would have arrived in Portland and be ready to go with no chance of delays on the Seattle-Portland leg. Sure enough, we left on time to the nearest three seconds.

Before going 50 miles, however, we got stuck on a siding waiting for a freight train. That’s routine, but this particular wait must have been at least 20 minutes. By the time we got to Eugene, 123 miles from Portland, we were 40 minutes late. I didn’t really care as I have a four-hour layover in Sacramento, but it could be annoying if I were planning to go to a meeting in San Francisco. (As it turned out, we were on time into Sacramento thanks to “pad” in the schedule.)

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Back in the Air Again

There’s fresh snow in Santiam Pass, about 15 miles from the Antiplanner’s Oregon home. Unfortunately, the Antiplanner has to fly to Hawaii, where the temperatures are expected to range between 72 and 82 degrees for the duration of my visit. It’s a tough life, but someone has to do it.

Santiam Pass yesterday just before sunset.

I’ll be speaking in Maui on Thursday about Hawaii’s housing crisis, which is pretty much like California’s housing crisis and a lot worse than Portland’s and Seattle’s housing crisis. If you are lucky enough to be in Maui on Thursday, I hope to see you there.

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Travelogue

Interstate 405 is crossed by numerous bridges as it circles halfway around downtown Portland, and none of those bridges are estimated to be capable of withstanding a severe earthquake. Rather than update the bridges, Portland is going to spend $5.9 million building a bike-pedestrian bridge across the freeway that can survive a 9.0 earthquake. After all, Portland is the city that plans to use bicycles to rescue people after an earthquake, so it is important that bicycle overpasses be able to withstand such quakes.


The East Cliff Railway in Hastings is, at 78 degrees, the steepest inclined railway currently operating in Britain.

I could write about this in more detail, but instead I hope to entertain you with some of my favorite photos from my trip to Britain. That trip is now half-way done as I write, so I’ll probably have a second installment of photos in early September.

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National Cycle Route 2

Greetings from Frome (which rhymes with broom, not dome), Britain (which rhymes with ten, not plain). Last week the Antiplanner praised a “bicycle superhighway,” or what I would call a “bicycle boulevard,” that was set up in London. On Saturday, I got a taste of the rural version of this superhighway, but I was much less impressed.

The national cycle routes were set up by, or at least documented by, Sustrans (which presumably is short for “sustainable transportation”), a non-government (but partly government-funded) organization. On my ride from Brighton to Dover, I got to see and use some of National Cycle Route 3, one of more than 100 such routes in Britain.

Before describing the route, I have a bone to pick with Sustrans. The organization has a map of its routes on line, but it is made to not be easily copied, and is useless for detailed, on-the-ground directions. It sells paper maps, but as a cyclist, I don’t want to have to unfold a map everytime I come to a crossroads. It doesn’t make PDFs of its maps available, just paper. How sustainable is that?

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Cycle Superhighway 3

On my way from my Airbnb to Victoria Station I found Cycle Superhighway 3, which has become very popular since it opened five or six years ago. Mostly marked in blue with lanes that were sometimes a bit narrow, it seemed to use mainly local streets (often punctuated by overly large speed humps) or parts of very wide sidewalks along arterials or collectors. It didn’t seem to take lanes away from existing arterials or collectors.


One of the less-busy segments of Cycle Superhighway 3.

After determining a route, the main cost to the city was paint and putting in bicycle-friendly traffic signals. The “superhighway” took me from east London to the London Tower; from there, another route followed the Thames River. Although this route was dedicated exclusively to bicycles, it was also interrupted by annoyingly large speed humps.

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The New Feudalism

Feudalism–an economic system in which all land is owned by the monarch and everyone else must pay rent to use that land–supposedly ended hundreds of years ago. But a map of the world showing the current status of property suggests that it is alive and well over most of the planet. Moreover, a new form of feudalism that nominally allows people to own land but severely limits what they can do with that land dominates much of the rest of the world.

For years, various surveys of economic freedom have attempted to portray the amount of liberty people enjoy in different countries. However, none of these surveys have explicitly included property rights as one of the measures of freedom, probably because there is no easy index for such rights.

That was supposed to be remedied by the new International Property Rights Index. This judges a nation’s respect for property rights using ten criteria. However, only one of these has to do with ownership of real estate, and none of them consider how regulated such owners might be. As a result, it gives high ratings to countries in which property rights are actually severely limited.

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