Trains? Yes! Planes and Automobiles? No! says Parade Magazine

November 6th, 2007 3:24 PM

Author Peter Richmond insisted in his November 4 Parade magazine article, "A Better Way to Travel?" that with Americans stuck in traffic jams and airport security lines and made to suffer through flight delays, another government program could save the day: Amtrak.

"One solution is staring us in the face," Richmond asserted. "Many transportation experts insist that the best answer to transportation gridlock is efficient intercity rail travel."

Richmond boasted that Amtrak commuter numbers were "up for the fifth year in a row, reaching record levels," and in the Northeast, where Amtrak introduced faster trains, the number of commuters between Washington, D.C., and New York City has increased by 9 percent.

But The Heritage Foundation's Ronald D. Utt said although Amtrak's numbers have increased in 2007, 2006 was not a good year for the train system and makes for a faulty comparison. In fact, 2007's numbers are barely higher than 2005's - making Richmond's assertion that there were a record-level number of riders questionable.

The Reason Foundation's Michael W. Lynch found in 2002 that Amtrak cost $3.37 for every $1 it took from passengers. In the second half of 2005, Reason's Adam Summers said, for every $1 Amtrak receives in revenue, it spends $1.61.

"When a private company gets caught lying and cheating, it pays. At Enron, voluntary investors and employees take the hit when the company turned out to be a poorly managed product of slick PR and questionable, perhaps criminal, accounting," said Lynch. "While Amtrak deserves to come crashing down, it never does. Taxpayers are forced to pay billions in bills to keep the employees in their jobs and the politicians happy."