Recently the Biden Administration announced plans to expand Amtrak (a.k.a. the National Railroad Passenger Corporation), and is willing to spend anywhere from $10 billion to $80 billion in order to do so. The Biden Administration claims that such expansion would modernize America’s railways, provide infrastructure jobs, provide a more efficient form of transportation, enable America to keep up with China when it comes to high-speed rail, and be more environmentally friendly (i.e. reduce greenhouse gas emissions in half by eliminating 3.3 million vehicles from America’s roads).
Such goals might seem good on the surface, but they will end up creating more problems than solving them.
First of all, why does America need to keep up with China when it comes to high-speed rail? Instead America needs to focus on overcoming China in the fields of high tech and national security.
Second, the various jobs, rail lines, stations, modernization, etc. resulting from the expansion of Amtrak (which is an Independent Agency within the federal government) will actually be paid for by the American people.
Third, despite environmentalists saying that a greater reliance on Amtrak instead of vehicles is better for the planet, an expansion of a high-speed rail system will do little to reduce vehicle transportation across the country. And contrary to what AOC and other environmentalists say, global warming (a.k.a. climate change) is not man-made, and that includes the use of vehicles.
Fourth, Amtrak has not been efficient, particularly in terms of the quality of its service, its trains being on time, and its operations in general.
Fifth, Amtrak has lost over $1 billion each year, so it relies on bailouts from Congress, which in turn does not allow Amtrak to make logical business decisions. Meanwhile, Amtrak has hidden and even manipulated its various financial and operational problems.
Sixth, only a small percentage of the American people rely on Amtrak as a form of transportation due to its lack of quality and its high costs (e.g. a round-trip from Penn Station in New York City to Union City in Washington, D.C. can cost from $134 to $346). It should be noted that part of AOC’s Green New Deal which aims to replace the airliners with a high-speed rail system (and I presume this is where Biden’s plan to expand and modernize Amtrak comes in) is probably an attempt to get more American to travel by high-speed rail. In addition, both Biden and AOC want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 by implementing their ideas. But there is no way a high-speed rail system can be expanded in less than ten years. In addition, not too many people are in favor of eliminating airline travel, especially since it is a faster and more efficient means of transportation- particularly if someone is travelling overseas. For example, a high-speed rail system is not realistic for those wishing to visit Hawaii, Europe, or Australia.
If Amtrak is to expand and modernize, then it should be sold to the private sector. Doing so would not only allow Amtrak to achieve these goals, but it would also enable Amtrak to be more efficient, profitable, and perhaps become a more reliable form of transportation.