How Amtrak Should Spend the Money.
I know the tendency was to rejoice when the news first came . . . the news that Amtrak was going to get $66 billion from the infrastructure boodle that President Biden proposed and Congress finally approved. Everyone has a long list of recommendations, but here’s how I would use the money to attract more passengers. A lot more.
1. New routes. Some are already being seriously discussed: L.A. to Las Vegas, New Orleans to Orlando, Chicago to Tampa and Miami; Denver to Seattle.
2. More sleeping cars. Replace or supplement the existing fleet of sleepers for the long-distance trains. And windows for the upper berths!
3. Dome cars. At least one on all long distance trains. These cars add pleasure to every long-distance trip (see photo) and they will attract business. (I know, I know! You can’t add another level to the superliners. So figure something out! )
4. Better food. In the 1930s, the railroads competed for passengers with the quality of food and service offered in their dining cars. And let’s bring a little variety back with one or two regional dishes appropriate to the various trains.
5. The internet. And I mean for all trains, especially the long-distance trains. Yes, I know this will be expensive, but there’s a whole, large segment of the population that won’t even consider a long-distance train trip without access to the internet. It must be done, even if there are “dead spots”of an hour or two in some of the more remote areas.
There are other projects that will soak up a lot of that money—bridges and tunnels, for instance. But Amtrak needs more revenue from the long-distance trains. And that will come when Amtrak makes what is already a good experience even better.