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Shhhhh! Silence is Golden in the Quiet Car

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I have a bee in my bonnet lately about something: When did everyone lose their manners? In the span of ten years, everyone—from the undergrad to the blue-haired grandma—has a wireless device. And everyone seems to be blabbing on it with no regard for their fellow human beings. Cell phone etiquette is at an all time low, if you ask me. And nothing puts my nerves to the test more than having to endure some type A conducting a full-scale business meeting at high volume three feet away from me on the train, in the airport, or on an airplane before it takes off. What will happen when cell phones are fully operable on planes in flight?

Which brings me to the point of my rant: Thank God for Amtrak’s Quiet Car. It’s the one place left on earth where it’s fully permissible to shush your neighbor when he or she answers that cell phone (usually following some really annoying, personalized ring).

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When Flying is the Greener Choice

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If you’re traveling more than 1,000 miles, hopping on a carbon-squandering jet is actually the greenest choice for lone travelers or couples. (Well, honestly, bus travel is a more conscientious choice, but traveling by bus for 1,000 miles sounds like the plot of the most boring yet frightening horror movie ever.) Air travel even beats out trains for this distance, though the carbon equation shifts for trips shorter than 500 miles, when train trumps plane travel.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, which bills itself as “the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world,” knows you’re not going to give up travel and they don’t think you should.

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The FAA's Computers Are On The Fritz. Should I Worry?

Flights in several major hubs across the nation were heavily delayed early this morning by a glitch in an Federal Aviation Administration computer system that helps manage air traffic. The snafu resulted in no accidents, but it raises an obvious question: could future such problems put passengers in danger?

The short answer, according to FAA spokesman Hank Price, is no. “Radar coverage and communication with aircraft were never affected,” he told me. “So it’s not a safety problem at all.”

What happened was that the system that automatically generates flight plans crashed, forcing FAA personnel to input the data manually, and thereby slowing down the whole system. Flight plans are electronic documents that tell air traffic controllers where each aircraft is going, when, and by what route, and are required for all commercial flights. If an airliner’s crew can’t be issued a flight plan, it simply has to sit on the ground.

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High-Speed Rail To Connect Europe and Russia? Could America Be Next?

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In the past decade, ambitious high-speed rail projects have condensed Europe, reducing travel times–often by more than half–on principal routes like Madrid-Barcelona (was: 9 hours; now: 3) and London-Brussels (travel speed: 208 mph).

This December, a shiny new bullet train will begin plying the tracks between Moscow and St. Petersburg. The red-and-silver Sapsan–which emerged from years of halting talks between the Russian government and Germany-based Siemens company–will traverse the 400 miles between the cities in just three hours and 45 minutes, beating airline timetables by more than an hour. The name means "peregrine falcon."

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America’s Pets Flying High with New Airline Programs

200910-b-dog-duffeljpg More and more pet owners in the U.S. are choosing to travel with their pets, and while the Travel Industry Association of America (TIAA) estimates that only 6% are doing so by plane, the numbers are on the rise.  And airlines are stepping up their game offering everything from frequent flyer programs for furry friends to “pet-only” airlines. Here are some of the highlights:

Frequent Flyer Programs
Midwest Airlines is the only airline offering pets free trips through their Premier Pet Program. For every six paid one-way flights, pets earn a free round-trip ticket. The cost to fly your pet is $300 round trip below the cabin and $250 for in-cabin travel.

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Dubai Debuts Its New Metro

200911-b-dubai-metrojpgDUBAI—I've just arrived here for a conference, and everyone is talking about the city's new Metro, a futuristic elevated train that soars high above the desert floor as smoothly as a magic carpet over the Arabian sands.

Opened in September, the state-of-the-art system (the photo, left, was taken with my less-than-state-of-the-art phone camera) links Dubai airport with the Jebel Ali district on the far side of town, a distance of 31 miles. For much of its length, the line runs alongside busy busy busy Shaikh Zayed Road, one of the main thoroughfares. It's satisfying to be on one of the trains, clipping along at 55 mph, while below you Zayed Road is illuminated with thousands of brake lights as traffic crawls to a stop, which tends to happen more and more often these days.

The Dubai Metro is the longest automated driverless metro in the world—a source of pride in the United Arab Emirates but also a potential problem.

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It’s Not Fare! U.S. Airlines Increase Ticket Prices

200910-b-airline-stuart-kellyalamyjpg This week, American, Continental, Delta/Northwest, Southwest, United, and US Airways announced fare increases that range from $5-10 for short hops to $8-16 for flights farther than 751 miles—a move that will result in millions in profit for the beleaguered airline industry.

In the plus column, the airlines haven’t ascribed new fare hikes to “amenities” like those HandiWipe headrest covers or, you know, lighting and oxygen in the cabins, but FareCompare.com, a site that tracks ticket pricing, reports that airlines are ganging up to raise fares nonetheless.

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British Airlines To Charge Passengers As Much As $95 To Reserve Seats

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A few weeks ago we reported on airlines cutting flights to match falling demand and save money. Another way the shrinking industry is offsetting losses is by introducing new fees.

It’s no secret that airlines, both here and abroad, have been sticking it to passengers, charging us for everything from checked baggage to blankets—even water. (A recent report from the Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics reveals airlines made an incredible 3.8 billion on such fees in the first six months of this year alone.)

Next week, however, the airline industry will hit a new low in its quest to separate travelers from their hard-earned dollars.

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Look Ma, No Wheels!: Tips for World Carfree Day

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Tomorrow, September 22—besides being the first day of fall—also marks the 10th annual World Carfree Day! It’s not that we’re anti-driving (far from it), but it’s a great moment to consider using public transportation when you’re on a trip. The bonuses: you travel like a local, save money, and usually get there faster. Here are some tips to get you started:

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Fly from NYC to West Coast on Virgin America for $109!

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Ready to ditch the humid summer heat of the East Coast? Hankering to go on a foodie tour of San Francisco’s North Bay or dine at some of the World’s Best Oyster Bars in the Bay Area or Seattle?

Good news, because West Coast airfares from New York City on Virgin America airlines (voted “Best Domestic Airline” in T+L’s 2009 World’s Best Awards) just dropped to $109 each way. Offers are good to these West Coast cities, and more:

*Las Vegas
*Los Angeles
*Orange County
*San Diego
*San Francisco
*Seattle

The $109 fare is available for travel on Monday-Thursday and Saturdays between Aug. 28-Nov.18, Dec. 2-16 and Jan. 6- Feb. 10 (Friday and Sunday flights cost an extra $25). Tickets are on sale through September 8, but book quickly as certain flights may sell out.

For more information or to book, visit Virgin America.

Lyndsey Matthews is an editorial intern at Travelandleisure.com


Photo courtesy of Lyndsey Matthews

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