8/25/2011

While Amtrak is losing tons of money, the private sector has stepped in

For fares that can be a tenth what Amtrak is charging (and of course Amtrak is exempt from taxes that private companies have to pay), private bus companies are doing a great job providing transportation up and down from NYC to Philadelphia to DC. So why have the government provide train service? It makes one wonder about the waste of the government stimulus on things such as high speed rail.

While the Obama administration has been desperately seeking to spend $53 billion on so-called high-speed rail lines, private businessmen have developed Chinatown and Megabus lines that provide inter-city service that has attracted legions of price-conscious travelers.

Chinatown bus service started in 1998 to provide a cheap way for Asian immigrants to get from New York to Boston. You lined up at the curb, paid your $20 fare to the driver and settled into a comfortable bus for four hours or so.

Now there's service to multiple destinations (including gambling casinos) from New York and on the West Coast, too. And competitors have arisen. Megabus routes exist between Maine and Memphis and Minneapolis, notably including many college towns.

The buses have bathrooms, AC power outlets and free wi-fi. They're not as fast as the much more expensive Acela train, but they tend to run on schedule.

Bus travel used to be decidedly downscale, with a clientele that scared off middle-class travelers. That's because, back in the days of heavily regulated transportation, bus lines followed the passenger railroad model, with stations in central cities, routes with multiple stops, fares propped up by monopolies and operators with no economic incentive to provide comfortable or pleasant service.

Chinatown and Megabus operators ditched this model for one that works for travelers for whom money is scarce and time plentiful. Who needs a station? Intercity buses can occupy curb space briefly just as city buses do. Who needs multiple stops? You can make money on people who want to go from one specific location to another. . . .

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3 Comments:

Blogger Chas said...

I own my own train. It stops at my house and waits for me there. It's ready to leave the station whenever I want to go somewhere and it takes me wherever I want to go. It can take me to the corner store or across the US. I don't have to have money in my pocket to buy a ticket to use it. It didn't require a government contract to build, doesn't require a government subsidy to continue operating, and the road it runs on doesn't require rails. It's sometimes called a "car". Those big, noisy, government-subsidized trains, that have to run on rails, suck by comparison - I never use them. They smell like communism, and communism stinks.

8/25/2011 7:37 AM  
Blogger JIM LOOMIS said...

Better not to open your mouth and let people think you're a fool than open it and remove all doubt.

8/26/2011 8:30 AM  
Blogger JIM LOOMIS said...

Public transportation = communism?? Mark Twain said it best, pal: "Better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you're a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."

8/26/2011 8:33 AM  

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