Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Future of Travel

I was talking to my grandmother last evening and she was telling me about her and my grandfathers upcoming trip to San Francisco. They live in Boise, Idaho and made their reservation 2 months in advance.

The cost per ticket was around $450 each. It's an hour and half flight. Factor in the fact that they both are checking a bag (a $25 fee for each) and their flight is now almost $1000 between the two of them.

Now if they were trying to make a last second trip this weekend I could see the tickets being more than $400, but with two months notice?

Air travel costs are getting out of control and the alternative to drive is becoming equally as expensive thanks to fuel costs. How are people supposed to get around quickly these days?

I have had two out of town weddings this year and the only reason I was able to go to the one in Idaho was because I had miles. The ticket would have cost over $700! With miles it was much cheaper, but it also meant I had to fly Boise-San Francisco-Chicago on the way back. The other one I caught a good window and ironically the day I landed in Louisville oil prices went up $11/barrel.

So what is the solution? Air travel can't become a thing for the rich or else the airlines will go out of business. They need volume and even many wealthy people don't want to fly 1st class all the time. As already stated, driving is becoming less attractive to people as the time to go cross country is prohibitive and with gas prices, filling up you car 4 or 5 times is gonna cost you big.

Yesterday I talked of the 'Big Idea'. I would like to hear Obama or McCain bring this idea to the campaign. High speed electric train like they have in Europe. Even the most die hard SUV driving American I have talked to over the past 15 years of my life that goes to Europe raves about the train system there.

Train travel in this country has been dieing on the vine for years. The oil and auto industry have both lobbied to kill train travel and get train tracks torn up to have highways in their place. They have very effectively made the purchase of a car a necessity for a great part of the country.

The question is who will gamble and lobby for this kind of travel to come to America? What venture capital group will look to raise billions of dollars to lay the track, lobby congress, and have the trains and stations built?

Some may say that we have Amtrak already. Well I put in a trip check for New York to Los Angeles, a common trip amongst businessmen. The length of that trip? A mere 61+ hours! This obviously doesn't work for most travelers.

Now here is why I think this is such a concern and problem for the country. When it comes to driving we can buy cars with higher gas mileage, or that run on natural gas, hydrogen powered, or even electric.

Yet when it comes to air travel I have been able to find little information about 'alternative energy air travel'. Not to mention when it comes to air travel, safety has to be priority one and I don't know many people that would raise their hand to fly in a plane powered by something other than jet fuel without years of testing beforehand.

As I wrote yesterday, we too often look at today as the only problem. I see air travel becoming far too expensive for most people. If that happens our country will have to find a way to allow people to get around or else the effect will truly rattle our economy like nothing we have ever see before.

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