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Amtrak isn't about profits

Want to preserve U.S. passenger rail service? It requires government intervention.

What's good about being older is you lived the history of certain events. One that I witnessed was the reason Amtrak came to exist. Prior to 1971, passenger trains were operated by the private railroad companies. Over time, it was obvious the train could not compete with the convenience and speed of the airplane. Even in the 1950s, the DC-4 and DC-6 airplanes would fly over 300 miles per hour. The train could not come close to matching that performance.

So passenger rail service became a guaranteed money loser and private companies never keep money losing operations going, no matter their importance to society. That's were government stepped in to make sure interstate passenger rail service continued to operate across this country.

In those days, airline travel was a higher class of travel and more expensive then the train, especially for families traveling together. Air travel was not the cheap seat, cattle car method of today where airlines cram every seat possible in the plane and charge for everything. The airlines are run to maximize profits limiting flights, fillings the seats, charging as much as they can and giving as little service as possible. The cattle (I mean customers) are so meek they will accept almost anything!

Before airline deregulation was approved in 1978, flying was a pleasure. The routes, fares and service levels were set by the Civil Aeronautics Board. Those were the days the passenger was sought after and treated like a human being.

What makes me laugh is how people in media and Republicans in Congress keep pointing out that Amtrak loses money. Duh, of course it does. Not even God could make money running a passenger rail service covering the U.S. from coast to coast. Amtrak could make money if it only ran trains on the East Coast from Maine to Florida and the West Coast from Washington state to Southern California because that's were 48 percent of total U.S. population lives.

Yes, Amtrak could make money going only where there is huge population concentrations. But the U.S. is a country with a vast area in the center that is sparsely populated. Yet those people are U.S. citizens and taxpayers and need access to passenger train service, too. If it costs the country a subsidy to provide service, so be it. The government doesn't exist to make a profit. Its purpose is stated in the Constitution with the words, "provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare." There's not one word or comment about profit!

Government's reason to exist is take care of problems in the society with whatever assets are needed.

Joseph Szot

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