Today the Antiplanner is in Washington DC to testify at a hearing on Amtrak subsidies. The Antiplanner will tell the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee that it should “support privatization of Amtrak, in the context of a broader effort to end federal subsidies to and unfair taxation of all forms of transportation.”
My testimony points out that Amtrak is the most costly form of intercity transportation we have, costing (with subsidies) about 60 cents per passenger mile, compared with about 16 cents for air travel and less than 10 cents for the “new model” of bus service pioneered by Megabus. While Amtrak is a little more energy efficient than flying, at the rate both modes’ energy efficiencies are changing, by 2030 flying will require less energy to move passenger miles than Amtrak (and so will driving).
With Amtrak fares costing, on average, twice airline fares, Amtrak is really just a subsidy for the rich. The testimony speculates that, if Amtrak were privatized, we would see a growth of “cruise trains” in the West similar to Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer, which now has four or five different routes including one that starts in Seattle, Washington. But even if we did not, the country would be better off relying on cars and relatively unsubsidized buses for short distances and airlines for long distances.