Sunday, February 20, 2005

Cut Amtrak Loose

The federal government's subsidizing of Amtrak has been a massive failure. This year's Amtrak handout is $1.2 billion. That's billion, with a b. The number of actual riders is 24 million per year. That's million with an m. I was reading Amtrak's five year strategic plan, and I was struck by something I found under the heading of 'Amtrak myths.' Apparently, one of the myths is that Amtrak is profitable. I don't know that anyone has ever bought into that particular myth. But I do think that Amtrak could be profitable, but profitability could only be realized if Amtrak were broken up into number of smaller entities. I say that because as long as Amtrak relies on welfare, it could never improve its service and attract riders. I think back on my own experiences with Amtrak -- trips that were frought with stoppages/slowdowns due to problems with switches or freight trains crossing/sharing our tracks. The last time I rode Amtrak, the train was stopped for an hour and a half just south of Chicago due to a switching failure. I think President Bush is right on target by proposing to reduce Amtrak's federal subsidy to $0. It would do something that needs to be done once and for all: Cut Amtrak loose. And if Amtrak goes bankrupt, then take heart in knowing that Amtrak's routes could more efficient, more flexible and more reliable if they were leased, sold or spun off into private, independent carriers or handed over to state/local transportation authorities. Edited from earlier post...thanks to Carl Nyberg for pointing out an error (which I removed).


Blogger Amy Allen said...

Amen! Now, if only we could convince Congs Johnson and Weller of that.

2/20/2005 07:50:00 PM  

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