Rethinking Amtrak

Review & Outlook: Amtrak’s Banner Year – WSJ.com.

If this editorial was not such a naked appeal on behalf of petroleum-dependent passenger transportation industries, we would have enjoyed it a lot more.

Amtrak P40DC #832 pulling the now-discontinued...

Amtrak P40DC #832 pulling the now-discontinued Desert Wind. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The editors are right: there is something wrong with a passenger rail system that loses a half billion dollars after enjoying a banner year.

Where the editors are wrong is in condemning passenger rail altogether. Buses and airplanes are fine substitutes for passenger rail when Brent crude is selling at $88.34 a barrel. Once that price begins to rise – and it will – rail is going to become an essential mode of travel for a growing number of people.

The way I look at Amtrak – right or wrong – is as the seed corn for a new passenger rail industry that we will need at some point in the foreseeable future. That said, it is time we started digging into how to make Amtrak more efficient – even if it means dropping some money-losing routes.

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