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Our country needs Amtrak passenger trains today more than ever before.
Due to congestion, gridlock and higher fuel prices.
Mr. David Gunn's Six Myths of Amtrak, are more pertinent today than when they were written on Feb 25,2003.
     I am going to call these six myths. 
     The Six Commandments of Saving Amtrak! 

The Six  Myths of Amtrak
By David L. Gunn - 2/25/03 . . .

The first myth is that Amtrak or passenger rail can be profitable. It can't, and others have gotten into a lot of hot water saying it can. In some regions with enough population density, some services can be profitable on an incremental basis - what railroaders call "above the rails." But it takes enormous public investment in track, signals, equipment and so on for a reliable system, which cannot be recovered from fares. Public dollars build airports and public dollars should build rail corridors, too.

The second myth is that the private sector is dying to take over Amtrak's service. This is not the case either. Remember why Amtrak was formed - because the private sector was losing millions of dollars covering passenger rail's capital and operating costs. The economics of passenger rail haven't improved in the past thirty years and won't change much in the next thirty years.

The third myth goes like this: long distance trains are the big money losers. They are like a sea anchor on the whole system. Get rid of them and the problem's solved. Wrong again. Out of our current year federal subsidy need of $1.2 billion, only $300 million will go to covering the operating loss of long-distance trains.

Myth number four is that Amtrak is a featherbed for labor. First, those who know me know that I'm a demanding manager. But I also know that the wage rates at Amtrak are generally defensible vis-a-vis the rest of the industry - especially the transit systems. What we do have to do - and I mean labor and Amtrak - is deal with the work rules to improve efficiency. And we'll do that through our labor negotiations, not in the popular press.

Myth five is that the northeast corridor can be profitable. As I said in myth one, when you total all the operating and capital costs - above and below the rails - it just doesn't work. The NEC covers its above the rails costs - barely - but requires and will always require public investment in its infrastructure. But that shouldn't surprise anyone - it is one of the biggest contiguous pieces of commercial real estate in the country and contains one of the most complex transportation operations in the world next to our taxpayer-supported national air traffic control system.

Finally, myth number six: there is a quick-fix that will solve everything. This, reminds me of the old adage "for every complex problem there is a simple answer and its probably wrong." People imply there is a "reform" that will solve Amtrak's problem - not so.

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