NYC to CHI: A Transportation Emissions Comparison

According to the EPA, transportation accounts for the highest amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., coming in at 28%. At a time when more people are opting to travel via car and train, whether due to the ongoing pandemic or they’re being mindful of their carbon footprint – the Hot Girls wanted to compare the energy cost of traveling. We decided to compare a trip from New York City to Chicago using planes, trains, and automobiles.

To make a viable comparison between the transportation options available, we’re setting the constant as 75% capacity of passengers (pax).


The MeansHonda Fit or
Nissan Versa
via I-80
transfer in
Columbus, OH
Amtrak 49
Lake Shore Limited
Embraer 170 Jet
Time Traveled12 hrs
6 mins
22 hrs
10 mins
19 hrs
10 mins
2 hrs
30 mins
Mileage790.5980959733 (Nautical)
No. of Pax34022552
Fuel Consumption40 mpg (Highway)6 mpg2.3 mpg 9.3lbs/mile
Pounds of CO2*19.4
(Jet Fuel)
* Provided by The U.S Energy Information Administration provided Dioxide Emissions Coefficients


(Miles Traveled / Miles per gallon) x Pounds of CO2 per gallon/Number of Pax



  • (790.5 / 40 mpg) = 19.7625 x 19.4lbs = 383.3925 / 3 = 127.7975 per pax


  • (980 / 6) = 163.333333 x 22.40lb = 3,658.66666 / 40 = 91.4666665 per pax


  • (959 / 2.3) = 416.956522 x 22.40lb* = 9,339.82609 / 225 = 41.5103382 per pax


  • (9.3lb/mi x 733) = 6,816.9lbs
  • We need to convert Jet fuel pounds to gallons. 1 gl = apprx. 6.67 lbs of jet fuel
  • 6,816.9/6.67 = 1,022.02399
  • 1,022.02399 x 21.10lb/gallon* = 21,564.7061 / 52 pax = 414.705887 per pax

Keep in mind, this comparison is based on the travel distance between New York City and Chicago. Efficiency rises with specific modes depending on the length of distance covered. Air travel ranks the worst among all the modes, but its efficiency can improve over longer distances. Typically, most people factor in the travel time, cost and comfort when making their transportation arrangements. While train travel is comfortable and the most efficient, it’s not always the most affordable, plus that extra 16 hours and 40 minutes can cut into your tourist activity time. 

The truth is none of these modes of transportation are the most efficient –  nothing will ever beat your bicycle or your feet!

Hot for more?

READ: The Most—and Least—Eco-Friendly Ways to Travel

LISTEN: The Energy Gang

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