Let’s face it, there’s something just plain romantic about riding on a trainhearing the sound of the whistle, eating as the countryside flashes by, meeting other passengers, and so on. With the rise of the airplane and automobile, however, train travel has become an increasingly unfeasible option for many Americans. Train travel is not much, if at all, cheaper than plane travel, and is a lot more time-consuming and unreliable. Passenger railroads just cannot compete with airlines or even bus lines in long distance travel.
It comes as no surprise, then, that Amtrak, the national passenger rail company, is in significant financial difficulty. Recently, the government announced a $100 million dollar direct loan to the troubled railroad. This money must be used to cover operating costs, and not be used to make capital improvements. We contend that the only way to make Amtrak profitable is to make those improvements. Amtrak needs new locomotives and other equipment to be able to offer reliable service. It also needs money to expand the use of high-speed trains, which are crucial to making Amtrak competitive.
We at the Maroon think that the government ought to either give Amtrak the money it needs to repay its debts and make those needed capital improvements, or it should give up on the idea of a subsidized passenger rail service. Anything else is just waste that will throw away taxpayer money and not solve any of the long-term issues with Amtrak.