Six Common Myths About Amtrak.

Once people form an opinion, it’s very hard to change their minds. And so it is with Amtrak and with train travel generally in this country. A lot of people have misconceptions about train travel in the U.S., especially long-distance trains. Here are the six I hear the most … the six that just won’t go away.

 1. “Nobody rides the long-distance trains anymore.”
Of course they do! In fact, if your thinking about an overnight train ride, you had better book your sleeping car accommodations at least 90 days in advance. I recently tried to book a roomette from Chicago to Denver on the California Zephyr and the train was sold out on the day I wanted to travel. … seven months from now!
2. Why should we subsidize Amtrak when the only people riding those long-distance trains are rich people traveling across the country on vacation.
Not so. About two thirds of the passengers on long-distance trains are traveling from one mid-point along the route to another. And for millions of Americans, a coach seat in an Amtrak long-distance train is the ONLY public transportation available.
3. Amtrak is a bottomless pit into which we’ve poured billions of tax dollars.
Oh, please! Amtrak’s subsidy is pitifully small—typically it’s been about 1.3 to 1.5 billion a year—which is a tiny fraction of one percent of the federal budget. And there isn’t a national passenger rail system anywhere in the world that isn’t subsidized.
4. Why should the taxpayers subsidize Amtrak if the airlines aren’t subsidized?
Oh, but they are! The government provides the air traffic control system; cities and states build and maintain the airports; and the Essential Air Service program subsidizes hundreds or small airports all over the west and mid-west.
5. The Northeast Corridor is profitable, but all those long-distance trains are losing millions.
Ha! The biggest myth of them all. The Northeast Corridor is “profitable” only in Amtrak’s ledger because it doesn’t include the cost of repair and maintenance. Individuals and organizations like NARP have been complaining about all the fiscal obfuscation for years.
6. Amtrak is just another damn gummint boondoggle!
I was wondering when you would get to this one. Be advised that calling Amtrak a “boondoggle” is not an argument, it’s just a rant.