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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Will Amtrak Survive?

It has always been one of my goals to take one of the longer Amtrak trains across the country - I couldn't think of a better way to actually see how expansive and amazing this country is then by train.  You lose so much by driving because you have to pay attention to the road, and the thought of enjoying the changes in terrain and weather has always been appealing.

I still have the desire to do this trip, but a recent report about how much money Amtrak is losing (coupled with all of the Federal budget issues) makes me wonder how long Amtrak will survive.  I wish that we had a system like Europe - on time, efficient, good trains.  Every time I'm in Zurich I marvel at the main station and where you can go. 

The Brookings Institute broke down ridership numbers and cost for each of the Amtrak lines - it's a pretty complete picture of which areas are working and which aren't. The longer routes are losing money like a sieve, while the more focused routes in the Northeast and Midwest are doing ok.  You can find the full graphic and report here.

The Southwest Chief (40+ hours through Dodge City) and Empire Builder (46 hours through Montana) are still on my list of things to do - let's hope I can take advantage of it before Amtrak scales back.


  1. I'm going to be riding the Capitol Limited to visit my brother in D.C. at the end of this month. To prepare for being on the train all day with David I've purchased a laptop *and* am upgrading to a smart phone. (Galaxy S-III I think). I am hoping it's a lazy day in electronic heaven.

  2. Matthew Yglesias posted about Amtrak at Moneybox (a great blog). He figures those long routes are losing money on purpose to build political support for Amtrak, even though it means Amtrak can't afford to upgrade the routes that need it.


  3. I would hate to think they're losing $ on purpose. Their business model is going to have to shift though in order for it to make sense to continue funding.

  4. Amtrak is one of the best, if not the best train in the US. They will definitely survive.