Amtrak loses $32 per passenger

If Amtrak wasn't operating at such a loss, how many other alternatives would spring up? You would have more buses for one competing along their routes, though there are already a lot that do. These losses are nothing new. If a private firm were to do this, it would be considered predation. From the Associated Press:

U.S. taxpayers spent about $32 subsidizing the cost of the typical Amtrak passenger in 2008, about four times the rail operator's estimate, according to a private study.

Amtrak operates a nationwide rail network, serving more than 500 destinations in 46 states. Forty-one of Amtrak's 44 routes lost money in 2008, said the study by Subsidyscope, an arm of the Pew Charitable Trusts. . . .

While Acela Express made a profit, "The more heavily utilized Northeast Regional lost almost $5 per passenger."

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Buses of course run on government-owned and tax-payer funded roads. Airlines use government-owned and tax-payer funded airports. It's pretty difficult to find a transportation system in the U.S. that doesn't have heavy government involvement. Amtrak is no different.

At their peak in 1950, most passenger train systems in the U.S. were in private hands. However, with the introduction of government-owned and -run turnpikes and the Interstate highway system, the private passenger train companies simply couldn't compete against State and the Federal governments.

10/28/2009 10:00 AM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear AnonymousDee:

Buses and airplanes pay a lot of taxes. Amtrak trains don't pay any taxes. The taxes paid into the highway transportation fund are used for other purposes so the gas tax actually pays for more than the cost of the roads.

10/28/2009 10:41 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Do you have any coursework or work experience in transportation planning or engineering? How many miles have you traveled by passenger train.

10/28/2009 1:20 PM  
Blogger Raven Lunatic said...

AnonymousDoe completely misses the point. Yes, the government built & maintains the interstate highway system. Yes, government agencies maintain the safety of air travel.

That said, my impression is that neither Greyhound, any of the airlines, nor any other private transportation company asks the taxpayer to cough up dough to meet their operating costs On A Daily Basis.

10/28/2009 2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sigh. The air travel industry is no stranger to huge government handouts:

9/11 Airline Bailout: So, Who Got What?


(CBS) A week after the Sept. 11 attacks shook the country and its air transportation system to the core, executives from America's big airlines went to Washington looking for help.

"Almost no airline is strong enough to survive for long, facing the upcoming challenges," Delta Airlines CEO Leo Mullin said at the time.

Propelled by such dire predictions and the airlines' considerable lobbying clout, Congress, over the course of just two days, introduced, passed, and got presidential approval for a $15 billion bailout. Of that sum, $5 billion was earmarked for direct payments to stabilize the nation's air transportation system.


CHICAGO - United Airlines gained a significant financial victory with court approval Tuesday to dump its four pension plans, but the airline faces a tough challenge to win back the support of thousands of angry employees.

It also prompted a renewed warning from some members of Congress that taxpayers may someday have to bail out the deficit-riddled government pension agency, which now will assume an additional $5 billion in pension obligations from United.


When flying commercially in the U.S., the cost of your ticket includes a tax that funds a federal program, Airport Improvement Program, used to subsidize a vast network of airports – 2,834 nationally. The unique thing about these airports is they have no scheduled passenger flights – only private or corporate flights. Along with a tax for the Essential Air Service program, which subsidizes flights to 152 small communities, the taxes on your ticket can total up to 15 percent of the cost of the flight. That is just under $30 on a $200 ticket.

10/28/2009 5:50 PM  

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