15

Traveling from Boston to New York Tuesday night. Light snow forcasted.

(What speed would a bus drive? MPH.
What speed would a train ride? MPH)

  • 2
    Acccording to their timetable Amtrak services from Boston to New York take about 5 hours overnight, 4 hours in the morning. Google suggests that the bus schedules are about 4H30. Assume that snow will slow the bus more than the train, then take your best guess. There are too many possible factors to give an answer. – user67901 Jan 15 '18 at 2:47
  • I think that in New York the bus station is about 0.5 miles from the train station. I suspect the first and last miles will be the most important factor. If the bus stations are more convenient take the bus. If the train stations are more convenient take the train. – emory Jan 15 '18 at 5:11
  • 3
    @Airsick Amtrak's Acela service from Boston to New York is about 3.5 hours, though that costs more money. That will beat any bus if it operates anywhere near on time. – Zach Lipton Jan 15 '18 at 6:45
  • @Fattie that is clearly incorrect. Acela Express on-time performance is only 76% even at the best of weather. amtrak.com/about-amtrak/on-time-performance/acela-express.html . A little snow may not make much of a difference (although it might) but delay is quite likely. – Hilmar Jan 15 '18 at 14:39
  • that is a great point @Hilmar. I meant "delayed ............ more than usual :) ... due to snow." Good thinking. – Fattie Jan 15 '18 at 15:47
30

One inch (2.5 cm) of falling snow changes pretty much nothing. Even more so for a heavy vehicle.

Snow melts easily by the passing of vehicles and so most motorways do not have more than a very thin layer of snow after an inch (2.5 cm) of snowfall. At 4 inches (1 dm), it starts making a difference, depending on the rate of falling.

Both bus and train take between 4 and 5 hours, only the bus is more affected by traffic, so if you arrive around rush hour (which is pretty long in NY), the bus might take even an hour longer than predicted.

  • 26
    @larry909, One inch of snow could paralyze a city that is not used to it, but in the case of Boston to New York, it shouldn't make a difference at all. – Stephan Branczyk Jan 15 '18 at 0:46
  • 4
    The main difference is that an inch of snow might cause some traffic accidents that tie up highways but are unlikely to affect rail traffic. – Hot Licks Jan 15 '18 at 1:31
  • 8
    When there is an in of snow, you will rarely see any snow on the main roads because the traffic melts it. – Itai Jan 15 '18 at 4:59
  • 3
    For example, 1 inch of snow can cause major issues in the South of England, causing airports to close, roads to be blocked and trains to be delayed or cancelled. In Scotland, 1 inch of snow does very little. The same applies in New York I imagine- they’re used to it. And re the slower speeds in wet weather @larry909, in America the speed limit is already lower than European countries. I doubt they drive much slower when it’s wet - 55mph is what I would expect for a motorway in England if it’s raining. – Tim Jan 15 '18 at 6:50
  • 10
    Apart from places that aren't used to it, I'd also argue that it may matter more if it is one of the first snowfalls of the year. I'm from a northern state used to getting snow for a good chunk of the year, yet every first snowfall, everyone happens to forget how to drive (even in the first inch). – Broots Waymb Jan 15 '18 at 15:51
12

1" isn't a storm, but it could combine with other factors to cause problems on the highway.

The snow will not affect Amtrak's Boston-NYC corridor. 1 inch of snow is nothing to them.

As for the highway, 1" generally isn't a lot... but that depends on how it affects the roads. Is it a temperature range where road salt works effectively? Is it a busy time when the DoT is making max effort to keep the roads clear? I've been out on Sunday mornings after an inch of snow, and seen road crews do almost nothing. It's certainly possible to drive in an inch of untreated snow, but it's more work and it's slower going.

In ultra-congested areas like Boston or NYC: you are very dependent on the behavior of other people. If somebody else has a problem, they can create a traffic jam either because of looky-loo's or lane closures, or they can flat out close a highway with a serious accident. Now everybody's cramming onto the detour routes which simply don't have the capacity.

It gets bigger and worse if a semi is involved, and they tend to be the first to have problems in bad conditions, especially if wind is added. I've driven stretches of highway with literally 100 flipped over semi's in the median or ditch... and not one single automobile.

Add to that, ordinary urban traffic jams.

  • 1
    Very good points. I see this every Canadian winter from Ottawa to Toronto. The snow will depend on the type combined with time of day, other drivers(too fast or too slow) and changing weather/road conditions. The 4 hr drive could double. – doctordonna Jan 15 '18 at 4:33
  • Agreed. 1" isn't the same year round - especially when it's the first day of snow in late autumn and some people haven't changed their tyres yet, accidents are much more likely than towards the end of winter (my experience from Germany). – Sabine Jan 15 '18 at 8:32
  • 2
    @Sabine Do people in NYC or Boston even change their tyres? I've heard people don't in some parts of the world. – gerrit Jan 15 '18 at 10:33
  • 2
    @gerrit indeed. In Boston and New York, "all-season" tires have been the norm for the last few decades. The last time I rode in a car with snow tires was in the 1970s. – phoog Jan 15 '18 at 13:45
  • 1
    1" of snow can also vary a lot depending on what type of snow it is. If the whole atmosphere is well below freezing, the snow will just be a dry powder that blows off the road with the first passing car. 1 inch of that hardly affects traction at all. On the other hand, if the lower atmosphere is around or slightly above freezing, the snow may be wet and slushy, which reduces traction much more. Worst of all, in an inversion, warm liquid precip may fall onto a freezing surface and form solid ice, which has very little traction. – reirab Jan 16 '18 at 4:57
8

2.5 cm of snow where I live wouldn't do a thing to bus schedules, unless we got rain prior - i.e. rain started freezing, and turned to snow. If that happens, all bets are off.

Also, buses tend to be pretty secure in slippery conditions. The vehicles are big and heavy, and have significant weight over their drive wheels. (This, from a local bus company that I asked on a very slippery day a winter or two ago.)

  • 1
    Good point: the temperature matters quite a bit. Another factor is the salt, which loses effectiveness at lower temperatures, and the possibility of fog in some areas, especially along Long Island Sound. – phoog Jan 15 '18 at 13:48
  • @phoog Absolutely. Salt does nothing except add a little physical bite to traction once temperatures get to about -17 C or so. And not only is fog a potential issue (which is a good point), but a short, intense burst of snow (like the squalls they get off the North American Great Lakes) can cause much more of an issue than a gradual snowfall that happens over many hours. – Jim MacKenzie Jan 15 '18 at 14:42
  • Busses can have problems with steep slopes, though, whereas train tracks are always designed to avoid steep slopes in the first place. – Peter Taylor Jan 15 '18 at 15:11
  • @PeterTaylor Absolutely true - although in the US northeast, where the original poster is traveling, buses tend to be more punctual than trains. So I think it's guesswork as to which will be better. – Jim MacKenzie Jan 15 '18 at 15:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.