Amtrak Gives More Bang for the Taxpayer Buck!

I’m always surprised by how many people think that Amtrak ought to operate at a profit and are incredulous when I tell them that all public transportation is subsidized, even—in fact, especially—the airlines.
First, sez I, there are the indirect subsidies…meaning when government picks up the tab for something that the airlines must have to operate. The air traffic control system, for instance. And airports, which are built and maintained by municipal or state governments.
But wait—as they say on TV—there’s more!
The federal government funds two programs that provide direct subsidies to ensure that hundreds of small cities and towns all across the country have air service: the Small Community Air Service and Essential Air Service programs. And how do these programs compare with the annual subsidy Amtrak gets?

In 2014, Amtrak carried roughly 30 million passengers … and received $775 million in taxpayer funds to do it … Amtrak serves 475 rural communities at a cost of about $1.6 million per rural community served. [That’s a] $25.83 subsidy per Amtrak passenger. The EAS program carried 613,191 passengers to and from 125 rural communities aboard a polyglot mix of regional carriers and contractors flying under major airlines’ liveries. U.S. taxpayers covered $232 million for those 125 communities… $378.00 for every passenger flown.

That paragraph was lifted (with permission) from an email sent by NARP* president and CEO, Jim Mathews, to a number of us who were engaged in an electronic bull session yesterday.
Mathews goes on to note that obviously flying is the fastest way to travel from, for instance, Chicago to Los Angeles, but he points out that Amtrak’s Texas Eagle, which operates daily between those same two cities by way of Dallas and San Antonio, “can serve 756 city-pair combinations on any given run.”
Now that’s public transportation!