Amtrak

AeroJonesy

Diabloii.Net Member
Amtrak

Good idea or bad idea?

I like the idea of a more comprehensive rail system in the US, but I don't buy the rationale that we should dump money into it because gas is expensive.

Today, the House just passed a bill that would give $15B to Amtrak to operate and expand. It sure seems like robbing Peter to pay Paul. Gas is too expensive so taxpayers fork over a boatload of cash to pay for something they may or may not be able to use instead of their car.
 

SSNLDO

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Amtrak

Hmm, in Hawaii, they are trying to move away from The Bus. It would be more economical for the state to have a different mass transit system (gas for all them bad boys) using electric rail (the main idea) they will save money on the gas cost, but the infrastructure will cost more. Obviously, with this being Hawaii, they will use alot of solar power generation, and not as much electricity from the the electric plant.
For Hawaii, a rail system seems the economical choice. Although, not the same as Amtrak, the theory is sound.

Amtrak seems to always need money from the government to keep running. Would it be because they are not allowed to choose the economical price that it should cost or is it because they are not managing their system correctly?
 

Dondrei

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Amtrak

I don't know much about this issue, but from the way you guys describe your public transport improvement in rail sounds like an excellent idea. Of course, throwing money at something isn't much of a plan in itself.
 

Thelioness

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Amtrak

My personal opinion is to let Amtrak fend for themselves and quit taking money out of my pocket.
 

disgruntled

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Amtrak

AJ, I'd rather reply elsewhere. In any case, I am all for this idea. I'd MUCH rather my taxes go for items such as public transport and social programs than the places it's going now. 15B is NOT that much money.
 

S Z

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Amtrak

All forms of public spending are in essence some variation of robbing Peter to pay Paul, but the taxpayer would probably end up paying more if Amtrak took it out in a commercial loan. If there are indications of increased demand, and the infrastructure is in need of expansion, then I wouldn't have too much problem with it. Also if the funding is on the assumption of recouping the costs over time so the long-term fiscal impact to the public purse is zero then that's okay too in my book.

Another other option to deal with increased demand could be to privatise the lot, or license out regional operations. But this is an expensive proposition, and fraught with pit-falls. In a nation as big as the US it could very well be unworkable, or at least require significant regulation in order to prevent a private monopoly from forming.

It's a shame that the rail system declined to the state in which it has, and that it has such a bad rep. even though both highways and aviation are also highly subsidised.
 

SaroDarksbane

Diabloii.Net Site Pal
Re: Amtrak

My personal opinion is to let Amtrak fend for themselves and quit taking money out of my pocket.
/agree
It's a shame that the rail system declined to the state in which it has, and that it has such a bad rep. even though both highways and aviation are also highly subsidised.
FYI, I also disagree with subsidies to airlines.

(Also, Are highways really "subsidized"? That's not a term I would normally associate with building roads.)



 

AeroJonesy

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Amtrak

It's a shame that the rail system declined to the state in which it has, and that it has such a bad rep. even though both highways and aviation are also highly subsidised.
That's a good point that highways and the airline industry are also heavily subsidized. Perhaps part of the problem of Amtrak seeming so useless is that the airline industry is so subsidized that ticket prices have remained artificially low.



 

Johnny

Banned
Re: Amtrak

I'm all for the government using taxes to pay for building infastructure that will end up paying for itself but that the market is too weak to start.
 

S Z

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Amtrak

(Also, Are highways really "subsidized"? That's not a term I would normally associate with building roads.)
Perhaps I'm falling into a trap here, but from Amtrak's wikipedia entry:

Aid to Amtrak by government was controversial from the beginning. Formation of Amtrak in 1971 was criticized as a bailout serving corporate rail interests and union railroaders, not the traveling public. Critics assert that Amtrak has proven incapable of operating as a business and does not provide valuable transportation services meriting public support,[39] a "mobile money-burning machine."[40] They argue that subsidies should be ended, national rail service terminated, and the Northeast Corridor turned over to private interests. "To fund a Nostalgia Limited is not in the public interest."[41] Critics also question Amtrak's energy efficiency.[42] The U.S. Department of Energy considers Amtrak among the most energy-efficient forms of transportation.[43]

Proponents point out that the government heavily subsidizes the Interstate Highway System and many aspects of passenger aviation. Massive government aid of those forms of travel was a primary factor in the decline of passenger service on privately owned railroads in the 1950s and 60s. Meanwhile, Amtrak, through fees to host railroads, pays property taxes that highway users do not pay. Advocates therefore assert that Amtrak should only be expected to be as self-sufficient as those competing modes.

Critics claim that gasoline taxes amount to use fees that entirely pay for the government subsidies to the highway system and aviation. In fact this is not true: gas taxes cover little if any of the costs for "local" highways and in many states little of the cost for state highways.[44][45] They don't cover the property taxes foregone by building tax-exempt roads. They also don't cover policing costs: Amtrak, like all U.S. railroads, pays for its own security, the Amtrak Police; road policing and the Transportation Security Administration are paid for out of general taxation.
Here.

Part of the problem is the definition of 'subsidies', but however you want to cut it the operation and construction of the road network enjoys a number of tax exemptions and benefited from large government capital investment, possibly to a greater extent than the railway network.



 

SaroDarksbane

Diabloii.Net Site Pal
Re: Amtrak

Well, I guess it's not really a subsidy if you pay for the whole thing and it never makes money.
I was thinking more along the lines of who owns the property, really.

Amtrak and the airlines are owned by private concerns, who get paid by the government for sucking terribly.

The roads are also paid for by the government, but they are not privately owned. I guess if there was a company out there that built roads, owned the final result, and charged people tolls to drive on them, and the government gave them money to prop up their failing business model, that would be a subsidy, in my opinion.



 

Dondrei

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Amtrak

I guess. Although most people are so used to the idea of roads being free (at least here, where toll roads were almost unheard of until recently) that it's hard to really imagine them being owned by anyone.
 

SaroDarksbane

Diabloii.Net Site Pal
Re: Amtrak

I guess. Although most people are so used to the idea of roads being free (at least here, where toll roads were almost unheard of until recently) that it's hard to really imagine them being owned by anyone.
I never had to pay tolls until I moved to Florida, and I must say I like the system here better. Florida has no state income tax, so roads are paid for through tolls and gas taxes, which seems fair to me. If I use the roads, I pay for them. If I don't use them, I don't pay.

I wonder how much of Florida's cost for roads are paid for through tolls, and if any collected sales tax goes towards them too.



 
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