Subway to the beach? You got it. New York City surfers take their boards on the 'A' train from midtown to the end of the line in the Rockaways, where this year's hurricane season is cranking out waves. In the other direction, Manhattanites can take a daytripping ferry across the harbor to the beaches of Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Scenic train to the mountains? You don't have to fly to the Alps (perish the thought, with this year's air prices and the euro both sky high). From Union Station, in downtown Denver, you can take the Ski Train which, in summer, carries bicyclists, hikers and campers two and a half hours through the Rockies to Winter Park.

If you want to get away while saving on gasoline costs and reducing the amounts of pollution and CO2 you'd otherwise be responsible for, check out public transit options. According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), public transportation consumes about half the fuel that private vehicles use. That can mean big dollar savings, given the surge in fuel prices this year, and indeed, Americans are riding trains, buses and subways like never before. In the first three months of 2008, we took more than 2.6 billion trips on public transportation, almost 88 million more trips than in the same time period last year, APTA reports. And 2007, the year of the phenomenon "An Inconvenient Truth," saw 10.3 billion trips on U.S. public transport, the highest number of trips in 50 years.

To find public-transport recreational opportunities near you, or where you're travelling to, try the following resources:

Rails to Trails Conservancy

Public Transportation Systems  

Public Purpose

Slow Travel (modelled on the foodie movement)

Nostalgic for your Eurail daze? Cover the country with a North American Railpass, allowing you to go to over 900 cities in the U.S. and Canada in 30 days for about $1,000 peak, $700 off-peak, from Amtrak.

Happy Trails!

This article originally appeared in Plenty in July 2008. The story was added to

Copyright Environ Press 2008

Thrifty car-free escapes save carbon, too
Vacation doesn't have to equal pollution.