Thursday, August 18, 2016
This video opinion piece explains why American train travel is so bad. Amtrak is caught in a bind not of its own making. Were it free to operate, it might cut back on money-losing long haul routes and concentrate on three-hour trips between major cities. This means it would be primarily an East Coast service since there are few cities outside the East Coast that are interstate, close enough to serve and with sufficient passenger traffic. One can think of Chicago-Milwaukee, Chicago-St.Louis or Los Angeles-San Diego but the question remains whether there are enough business commuters between those cities. The challenge for Amtrak lies in Congress. Whenever Amtrak tries to remove a route, a Senator or Congressman will protest and force Amtrak to keep it alive. Amtrak doesn't have the lobbying power it needs to circumvent Congress, and it might never have. Hence, it is like the US Postal service -- another money losing entity. It knows what it should do but it can't get there. It is a major public relations challenge and one that Amtrak will be struggling with for years to come.