Policy Point #8:
Subject: Editorial: Rethinking Rail Travel
The Times is wrong about Amtrak and intercity transportation. Indeed, the federal highway program does make a profit --- evidenced by the more than $70 billion that highway user fees paid in federal debt reduction, general fund contributions and transit subsidies above and beyond the amounts spent on highways during the 1990s. And, airline user fees (such as the ticket tax) pay all of the attributable expenses of the commercial air system. Intercity buses are not subsidized. Only one mode of intercity transport is subsidized by non-users and that is Amtrak. This does not need to be. As you note, Amtrak is profitable in the Northeast Corridor. Indeed, its fares per passenger mile are considerably higher than the cost per passenger mile, including user fees, of airlines, intercity buses and cars. The nation does not subsidize rail passengers, it subsidizes Amtraks excessive costs, which are the real problem.
19 February 2002
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