Sunday, November 11, 2007

Some people think public funding for Amtrak is bad

A couple weeks ago the U.S. Senate approved $11.4 billion for Amtrak over 6 years. I've been reading about some opposition to this from various sources. In the article Saving Amtrak, Good Money Chasing Bad - All Aboard! they clearly think this is a bad idea and push to make Amtrak private. Their position is pretty specious hower. Some of the articles comments:

"The increase in nationwide train travel probably corresponds with an increase of baby-boomers retiring and looking for nostalgia in their travels"
--Got some proof? This is just a silly comment I think.

"Why should government fund the East coast commuters from the tax dollars of Midwesterners and other places without access to trains?"
--They're not, the NEC is profitable and actually funds the rest of Amtrak's services.

Amtrak and its rail lines are an important part of the US infrastructure, we need to fund it properly. The federal dollars Amtrak receives pales next to highway and airline subsidies. The WSJ reported that many feel funding Amtrak will help alleviate gridlock in other areas.

And a Christian Science Monitor article supporting the federal assistance "Help Amtrak keep on trackin'".


  • Hello - I work for Amtrak, and do not speak for them. I enjoy your blog, and want to comment on your suggestion that the NEC is profitable. Amtrak's accounting has been its Achilles heel for decades now, but I think that statement needs to be explored a bit further.

    Amtrak's 2006 annual report, from their web site, says that between FY03 and FY06, Amtrak and the states had invested 1.4 billion dollars in NEC capital infrastructure. That's approximately 350,000,000 a year. The same report also says that the annual NEC ridership in FY06 was 9.43 million. Ignoring the operating costs of the trains necessary to carry all of those people, that means that the first $37.12 that each person spends goes to cover the capital work that's been done. For a $150 Acela fare, that means the remaining $113 must pay for the trains, the electricity to run them,their maintenance, the crews, the stations, and all of the overhead of a modern business. George "Glidepath" Warrington wanted everyone to believe that the Acelas would throw off cash sufficient to help pay for the national system, but I'm not alone in thinking that rosy scenario has never come to pass. Keeping in mind the dueling accountants nature of so many Amtrak arguments, I simply encourage you to view the claim that the NEC is profitable with more skepticism.

    Thanks for riding, and for writing about it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:07 AM, November 21, 2007  

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