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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Author: David Wolf

An adviser to corporations and organizations on strategy, communications, and public affairs, David Wolf has been working and living in Beijing since 1995, and now divides his time between China and California. He also serves as a policy and industry analyst focused on innovative and creative industries, a futurist, and an amateur historian.

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