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PRIVATIZE AMTRAK–It’s Broken; Let the Free Market Fix It

In the recent derailing of an Amtrak train which left several people dead and many other people injured, there are questions surrounding this accident, ranging from the engineer to how fast the train was going to it being hit by a projectile. Since the investigation is ongoing, the truth will be revealed on how this accident occurred.

In the meantime, I will focus on the importance of privatizing Amtrak, something I advocated in one of my articles from a couple of years ago. But first, a brief summary of Amtrak.

During the latter half of the Twentieth Century, passenger railways were on the decline due to heavy taxation, and government regulations (primarily via the Interstate Commerce Commission — ICC). The popularity of the automobile (which increased due to the National Highway System — another government idea) and passenger airlines also contributed to the passenger railway’s decline, as did union demands and the end of using trains to transport the mail.

So in 1970 the Rail Passenger Service Act became law, and Amtrak was created. This federally-owned passenger railway took the place of most of the private passenger trains. But like most businesses that are owned and operated by the government, it has proven to be inefficient and suffer financial losses. Many of Amtrak’s trains did not run on time. Of those that were running late, 75% of them were an hour behind schedule, and the other 25% were three hours behind schedule. So if Benito Mussolini was not able to get the trains running on time (contrary to popular belief) what makes the United States Government think it can do so?

Meanwhile, Amtrak has lost over a billion dollars annually since it began operations, and has consumed over $40 billion in subsidies and grants. And despite an increase in the number of passengers in recent years, it is not a major increase, nor is it enough to help Amtrak financially.

Amtrak operates in 46 states and three Canadian provinces, but the majority of its business takes place in the Northeastern United States, especially for members of Congress and their staffs traveling back and forth between Washington D.C. and the areas they represent. It should also be noted that Amtrak does not operate in the following cities: Louisville, Phoenix, Tulsa, Nashville, Chattanooga, Las Vegas, and Boise (just to name a few).

Needless to say, Amtrak needs to be privatized. Subsidies need to end, as should any routes that don’t do well. New routes could be established depending on how well Amtrak does financially once it is in the private sector. In addition, the privatization of Amtrak would result in reduced costs and an improvement in service.

I should add that passenger railways in other countries are privately owned and operated, so the United States needs to do the same.


Andrew Linn

Andrew Linn is a member of the Owensboro Tea Party and a former Field Representative for the Media Research Center. An ex-Democrat, he became a Republican one week after the 2008 Presidential Election. He has an M.A. in history from the University of Louisville, where he became a member of the Phi Alpha Theta historical honors society. He has also contributed to and Right Impulse Media.