It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (that’s the official name) was born during the Nixon administration.
Government owned and controlled
Union-operated, employing more than 20,000 workers
Has a CEO appointed by the president of the United States
Its annual budget is allocated allocated by Congress.
What could possibly go wrong? Plenty.
Let’s start with money. Amtrak loses bucketloads of money every day. The national rail system operates in the red, generating huge losses and has done so each and every year of its existence. And they are not shy about it. From the Amtrak website;
In FY 2010, Amtrak earned approximately $2.51 billion in revenue and incurred approximately $3.74 billion in expense.
That’s over $1.2 billion in losses for the most recent year, putting the overall tab for this antiquated, bloated and inefficient system around $50 billion dollars of taxpayer money.
Amtrak is a massive failure because it’s wedded to a failed paradigm. It runs trains that serve political purposes as opposed to being responsive to the marketplace. America needs passenger trains in selected areas, but it doesn‘t need Amtrak’s antiquated route system, poor service and unreasonable operating deficits.
When the Founding Father of Amtrak calls it a ‘massive failure’ and states that the politicians involved are getting more benefits from it than the passengers and taxpayers, you would hope that someone in the Federal government would respond.
Washington did respond. Their answer to Amtrak’s problems? Spend more money. Throwing money at a problem rarely solves it. Amtrak’s losses have topped a billion dollars each year since 2000. But that won‘t deter the current administration from pushing it’s plan to spend $53 billion dollars over the next six years on questionable high-speed rail systems.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is bouncing all around the country next week, announcing plans to spend tens of billions of dollars on a high-speed rail system that should lose even more money than Amtrak. (High speed rail does not have a great track record – just days ago, our own Dan Andros covered the massively over-priced system in China.) There is a certain amount of irony in the fact that Secretary LaHood will make high-speed rail project announcements in both New York City AND Detroit on Monday… but he’s getting from one city to the other via airplanes (we assume the Secretary to be flying on private, government jets too). It would be much more convincing if he chose to travel from NYC to Detroit on Amtrak. – highlighting the current system and giving us an idea of just how much time will be saved when the new faster trains are up and running.
According to the Pew report, only 3 of Amtrak’s 44 lines are making any money. That statement alone might inspire the CEO of the failing rail service to consider cuts and changes. Of course, having more than 20,000 union employees (85% of those folks are covered by collective bargaining) makes it difficult to change anything that might cause a job to be lost, or a benefit diminished.
A House Energy and Water Appropriations subcommittee proposal would shift $1.5 billion from Amtrak and high-speed rail to Midwest flood relief.
But if more than $36 billion in Amtrak subsidies over the past 40 years seems like a hefty price tag, know that the federal government spent more than $40 billion on highways last year alone.
Sclar, a privatization expert, cites Great Britain as a cautionary tale. In the 1990s, the government of Conservative Prime Minister John Major sold off pieces of the national British Rail system to private companies. Costs and fares soared, and safety suffered.
Carmichael, the former federal railroad administrator, offers a solution: State and federal government, freight railroads and Amtrak should partner to improve the rail lines already in place. Rather than build new lines at great expense, he advocates upgrading existing tracks and signals to increase capacity and speed for both passenger and freight trains.
He points to an Illinois project as a successful example. The state-federal effort will boost top speeds on Amtrak's Chicago-St. Louis corridor from 79 mph to 110 mph. The project has the backing of the freight carrier that owns the track, Union Pacific.
Amtrak = Failure... Hey, let's give them more money!!