Saturday, January 18, 2014

Passenger Rail Doesn't Make Financial Sense

Local advocates who are still breezing around the Lehigh Valley advocating for passenger rail service aren't going to like what I'm about to say.

Philly.com disclosed the top salaries of Amtrak executives. That's not what struck me as the most important part of what was written.

What I found most enlightening was despite 85,000 passengers a day riding Amtrak's 300 trains in 2012 taxpayers still had to kick in another $1.3 billion on top of the fares!

If you check out Amtrak's latest budget report released on January 3, 2014 financially things aren't looking a whole lot different for 2013. According to the latest yearend projections (as of September 2013) Amtrak's looking at a net operations loss of around $1.125 billion.

Those who disagree with my prior posts critical of the cost and practicality of rail transportation might argue we spend lots more on highways. My answer would be.. ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Amtrak's 85,000 passengers a day represent only a teeny tiny fraction of America's daily travelers. The Schuylkill Expressway in Philadelphia alone handles 163,000 vehicles a day which contain multiple passengers. Common sense dictates here we have a highway that handles well over twice the number people and in no way conceivable cost us $1.3 billion a year to operate.

There certainly are good reasons to support trains carrying freight. This is an area where rails excel in costs and are a plus when it comes to relieving big rig traffic on the highways.

However, as far as passenger rail, I remain steadfast in my opposition. One time they made sense before the interstates were built or the majority of people didn't have access to their own transportation. Technology moves on. Alas passenger trains now belong in our nostalgic thoughts and museums alongside horse buggies, canal barges and kerosene lanterns. The practicality for them no longer exists.



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