Sunday, March 22, 2015

Planes, Trains or Automobiles

Posted By on Sun, Mar 22, 2015 at 7:37 AM

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Flying, frequent flying, like taking a flight every few weeks as I tend to do for work, is a strange phenomenon for most English people. England is small — fitting into America's largest state, Alaska, more than 10 times — and flying from one end of the country to other isn’t commonplace, unless you're a top-tier professional football team. And flying to a neighboring county, which would be akin to flying to Utah or Arizona, is entirely unheard of. In America, of course, we do it all the time. Having spent some time on the east coast of America, northeast specifically, I appreciate that you can drive through three states same day and be back in your own bed that evening.

Naturally, scale dictates the appropriate mode of transport for an interstate journey. Distances in England are much shorter, so a motor vehicle will suffice in most instances. In America, in most any state west of the Mississippi, driving from one state to another would be considered quite the adventure. You'd plan for it, pack plentiful snacks, check your gas before you left, throw in some blankets, ensure that your Sirius subscription was up to date, etc. Driving from Denver to, say, Dallas would require the same kind of forethought and planning that driving from Brighton, on the south coast of England, to Edinburgh on the east coast of Scotland would entail — probably more, actually, as the distance would be considerably greater!

In Britain, if you didn't wish to drive your car to get from point A to point B, then public transport, by and large, continues to represent a reasonable alternative. (Or if you don't own a car, because one can certainly make a strong case for the benefits of being car-free in the UK. Just look at our gas prices!) A comprehensive train network still crisscrosses our little island, and coaches offer another comfortable and affordable alternative, should you wish to take a day trip to a nearby city. And within your own town, the proliferation of bus routes provides a convenient option for car-less travelers.

Sadly, that range of public transportation doesn't seem to exist in America, at least not outside of its major urban metropolises. Here in the west, we certainly suffer more than our eastern state cousins, who remain more in-touch with their European sensibilities, reflected in relatively vibrant public transport offerings.

It’s true that trains still run all over America, as do Greyhound coaches, but when was the last time you knew someone who used either with any frequency?

Ultimately, time is the master of all things. In the business world, it's largely the nature of our time-bound appointments, or desire to shorten travel time in order to maximize time on the ground that continues to send us in droves to Denver International Airport, Colorado Springs airport or any of the other municipal airports dotted across our fair state.

Prior to 9/11, I would routinely marvel at how airports, particularly the more compact ones such as the Springs’, felt more to me like bus stops back home. I could literally wander up to the departure gate 5 minutes before boarding time. Those were the halcyon days of airline travel. Sadly, in a post 9/11 world viewed now through threat-alert-colored-glasses, those days are gone forever. 

Mark Turner is formerly of Oxford, England, but has lived in America for the past 15 years, the majority of that time in Colorado. Mark enjoys playing soccer, hiking and biking when the weather's good, and when the weather's rotten writing blog entries that he hopes will amuse and entertain. Mark can be followed on Twitter @melchett.

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