Next, Subsidizing the Pony Express
The New York Times is also taking on the Amtrak debate today, except they’re castigating the Bush Administration for not shoveling money into the company fast enough. According to the Times, “the administration has been sluggish about proposing a national rail policy.” Do we, though, really need a national rail policy? Specifically a national passenger rail policy? We don’t have a national stagecoach policy, or a national canal policy (as far as I know). Could it be possible that, with a couple specific exceptions, passenger rail is simply no longer an economically efficient mode of mass transportation in this country? I’d like to suggest exactly that. The Times seems to think that it is a “fantasy” that “there are private train operators eagerly awaiting their chance to compete.” A simple route auction could solve the question of whether or not there are private companies willing to take over Amtrak’s job without subsidies. And if they can’t sell off at least the Boston to Washington, D.C. corridor there’s even less reason than even to subsidize Amtrak’s operations.