10/9/11

Amtrak more popular than ever.

Amtrak more popular than ever.

 

Amtrak more popular than everAmtrak has been an alternative mode of transportation for years and is an essential part of commuter traffic in the Northeast corridor.  For some people when you take a trip to another state it requires a car trip of hours or more, but traveling between the smaller states up and down the eastern seaboard is easier and better connected using Amtrak.  Most people don’t know that Amtrak is a government owned corporation that has been run from our tax dollars since it’s beginning in May of 1971.  Another fact people may not know is that Amtrak has NEVER made money.  The government has subsidized the losses every year with funding from Congress, and although people are turning to Amtrak as an alternative to traveling the airlines, it is still running at a loss.  Here’s an interesting article written in 2009 by Rush Loving  Jr. that covers the reasons why Amtrak can’t and won’t make money.  Although the article is old, the information is still accurate and if anything the reasons behind his analysis is correct and has been shown to be correct as more than 2 years have passed with overall increased usage of Amtrak.

Train vs. Airplane

It would make sense to think that traveling via the airlines is more expensive with fuel costs, employees and other expenses, but because the plane can travel several routes and make multiple trips in a 24 hour period, it is much more profitable than the rail system.  Trains are much slower and are hampered by access to a given rail line.  With the trains running once or twice a day, the profit margin is extremely low and the costs are greater.  This is one of the major reasons that Amtrak has never been profitable and may never be.

Rising cost of Gas increases Amtrak travel

Fluctuations in gas prices, the long line at the airport security and the general hassle to get on an airplane has increased Amtrak’s current capacity, but even with this influx of travelers the profit generated doesn’t begin to meet the cost expended.  Congress has had to do some cutting in the recent years and it looks like Amtrak is going to have to be considered as well.  Rob Lovitt penned an interesting article that can be found here.  In it, he speaks of the increased numbers of travelers on Amtrak and the decisions that need to be made by Congress.  What are your ideas on this subject?