Or at least not all of Amtrak. It’s the excessively long routes covering low-density areas that lose the most money. So cut the really long routes or make states share funding responsibility for them. Leave longer trips for planes, and shorter trips for trains. Make funding conditional on pro-growth mixed-use zoning around stations. Rail requires population density:
Taken together, the 26 of Amtrak’s 44 routes that run less than 400 miles had a positive operating balance in the 2011 Fiscal Year, with a surplus of $46 million. The 14 routes longer than 750 miles posted a loss of $597 million. The former account for 83 percent of ridership; the latter 15 percent.
What makes these routes successful? In part, as this interactive ridership-funding map makes clear, it’s because they fit a vision of passenger rail service as short, quick, intermodal transport. America’s 100 largest metros generate 88 percent of Amtrak’s ridership, though they make up only 65 percent of its population.
(Via Henry Grabar)