Making the Case for Amtrak

Many people don’t know this, but the United States has a national rail system that is relatively cheap compared to the airlines and a relatively comfortable experience compared to Greyhound. Many people also don’t know that said system, known as Amtrak, is not exactly a private organization, but the majority of stocks in the company are owned by the US government and the system is heavily subsidized.

In fact, Amtrak was formed in 1971 by the US government to save the passenger rail system in this country, which for most of the early 1900s was the primary means of getting from city to city in the USA. The proliferation of the car and a combination of the government heavily taxing the railroads while simultaneously heavily subsidizing the airlines lead to the downfall of private passenger rail companies.

There you have it, your daily dose of learnery from ClickNathan. Today, however, Amtrak couldn’t sustain itself as a business if it weren’t for all of the government subsidies. John McCain, that pork barrel busting son of a bitch bald man, has made it clear that he’d love to shoot down Amtrak. And that’s not wholly irresponsible, correct? I mean, why should the American taxpayer have to pay to support a national rail system that can’t sustain itself? If a method of transportation isn’t sustainable, then it shouldn’t be kept on life support, correct?

That’s what I though, too, even though I very much do enjoy taking the train. Until I looked into it a bit.

In 2007, Amtrak spent approximately $3.2 billion running it’s business every year. That includes the cost of running the trains, paying their workers, security, everything. Amtrak only made around $2.2 billion from ticket fairs. That leaves close to $1.5 billion that the taxpayers have to come up with, or nearly half. And the government recently increased those annual appropriations to $2.5 billion. Ludicrous, right?!

Let’s look at a chart:

Amtrak Airlines Highways
Spending $3.2 asdf asdf
User Fees* $2.2 asdf asdf
Gov’t Subsidies $1.33 asdf asdf

All numbers are in billions. * User Fees equals revenue made from users, so for airlines and Amtrak it would equate to ticket sales and the like, for highway users it would equate to taxes paid on gasoline, tolls, etc.

Up Next: Port Authority Strikes