Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Perpetually Indebted Amtrak Wants to Offer Free Rides
Townhall.com ^ | March 16, 2014 | Akash Chougule

Posted on 03/16/2014 11:13:21 AM PDT by Kaslin

The multiple folds of irony are all most too much to handle. The nation’s government-run passenger rail service – which has never once in more than four decades turned a profit and relies on perpetual taxpayer handouts - plans to start offering free rides to writers. The idea, which stemmed from a New York-based writer’s tweet, will launch an official residency program for writers on its long-distance routes, coincidentally the least cost-efficient and most heavily subsidized in the Amtrak system. Amtrak is a perpetual loser, and it’s unlikely that this writers-ride-free gimmick will have a happy ending.

Perhaps no government program has embodied bureaucratic waste and inefficiency quite like passenger rail travel in the United States – a taxpayer-funded gravy train that has received $40 billion in federal subsidies, has never once made it out of the red, and entered last year well over a billion dollars in debt. Worse, the service asked for another $2.6 billion in federal funding for fiscal year 2014, and yet has the audacity to offer “free” rides to writers.

“I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers.” A simple tweet at the agency’s social media account is all it took for the service to offer the writer a free trip from New York to Chicago and back. According to CNN, up to 24 writers will be chosen, and all will be offered trips on “undersold long-distance routes.” The Northeast Corridor is only profitable portion of Amtrak in the entire country – leaving many options for the writers in which to get the creative juices flowing.

The service has resorted to offering free tickets, a bed, desk, outlets, “and a window to watch the American countryside roll by” to a lucky few, perhaps hoping to drum up a little positive copy for the increasingly unpopular and expensive rail service. Each writers package has an estimated at a retail value of about $900 – not exactly chump change. Needless to say, the prospect for return on investment is slim – and that shouldn’t be a surprise to most taxpayers. After all, this is an agency that managed to lose $834 million on food sales alone in the past decade.

Thankfully, some in Congress have taken notice. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) penned an open letter to Amtrak President Joseph Boardman, questioning the logic behind the move.

“We are certain that there is considerable demand for free Amtrak tickets in any number of venues,” the lawmakers wrote. “Unfortunately, given Amtrak’s prodigious annual taxpayer subsidies, this plan raises multiple red flags…revenue from ticket sales was insufficient to even cover Amtrak’s operating expenses.” Hoping for return on investment on thousands of dollars-worth of free trips to help bridge this gap seems like a dubious plan, to say the least.

Amtrak offering free rides, with no metric by which to judge the success of the program, embodies perfectly the systemic problems with this government-run railroad.

Taxpayer-funded projects like Amtrak have no profit motive, no inclination to increase efficiency, and every incentive to continue shoveling taxpayer money into the proverbial firebox. That’s because for more than 40 years, Amtrak’s funding has been all but guaranteed regardless of performance.

Instead of expanding taxpayer subsidies even further and driving Amtrak even further off the rails of solvency, policymakers should be looking for ways to put a stop to what has become a Handout Express to the tune of $15 billion a year.

Not only should Amtrak begin to live up to its promise of getting back on stable financial footing by cancelling the free ride program, Congress should consider not re-authorizing the service at all – ending Amtrak’s free ride at our expense.


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: amtrak; rail

1 posted on 03/16/2014 11:13:21 AM PDT by Kaslin
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Kaslin

Somebody is going to pay for them.


2 posted on 03/16/2014 11:15:28 AM PDT by dfwgator
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin
...Congress should consider not re-authorizing the service at all – ending Amtrak’s free ride at our expense.

Bingo!

Profitability will only be possible when the government stops interfering.

3 posted on 03/16/2014 11:16:47 AM PDT by DakotaGator (Weep for the lost Republic! And keep your powder dry!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin

This program will attract bums, not writers. Just like the Bay Area “Spare the Air” days attracted (when tickets were free) the worst sort of “commuters.”


4 posted on 03/16/2014 11:17:27 AM PDT by thecodont
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin

Brought to you by the same genuises who offered us the bullet train.


5 posted on 03/16/2014 11:22:55 AM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives In My Heart Forever)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin

I have never seen on TV or heard on radio one marketing add for Amtrack.

Therefore few people who don’t/ can’t drive or afford to fly ever even think of amtrack. It’s a distant blip on the A to B option radar.

Thus how government works, free money for the most ineffective, incompetent out there, why care? Actual passengers are a pain in the ass, it is therefore working exact all as designed.

Once I owned a Railroad.... Brother can you spare a dime


6 posted on 03/16/2014 11:23:21 AM PDT by DanielRedfoot (Creepy Ass Cracker)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: DanielRedfoot

Outside of the urban conglomeration corridors: “Where’s MUH ride?”


7 posted on 03/16/2014 11:26:34 AM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives In My Heart Forever)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin
I think this a great idea. The writers will write positive articles about Amtrak in obscure magazines, and ridership will therefore increase.

And I think Amtrak should also offer free rides to circus clowns (real ones, not members of the Senate). The clowns will make train travel more fun, and ridership will therefore increase.

Oh, wait a minute. Some people are afraid of clowns. Amtrak would also need to offer free rides to psychologists.

8 posted on 03/16/2014 11:26:52 AM PDT by Leaning Right (Why am I holding this lantern? I am looking for the next Reagan.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin

Amtrak should be SHUT DOWN and Sold off in pieces yesterday. For a good read an Amtrak I suggest:
http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/transportation/privatizing-amtrak


9 posted on 03/16/2014 11:28:05 AM PDT by eyeamok
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin

See and travel the Glorious White Sea Canal, a
miracle of Stalinist engineering...


10 posted on 03/16/2014 11:30:08 AM PDT by tet68 ( " We would not die in that man's company, that fears his fellowship to die with us...." Henry V.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: tet68

At least Stalin connected all of Moscow’s rivers.

Amtrak is the train to nowhere.


11 posted on 03/16/2014 11:31:38 AM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives In My Heart Forever)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: dfwgator

Amtrak is great on its Jack London Square to LA Union Station routes, but last week I missed a train by minutes and found I had to buy a whole new ticket for the next train. Not passenger friendly in that regard.


12 posted on 03/16/2014 11:33:10 AM PDT by Lisbon1940
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin
In the context of the existing situation (where there is heavily-subsidized Amtrak, with underused routes); this actually makes sense.

When there are empty seats, the marginal cost of an additional rider is near zero (this is the fundamental fact in all transit economics); and there's a possibility that the articles will drum up more business. IOW, it's cheap advertising.

It will all come down to the quality of the travel experience. If the ride is uncomfortable, with minimal amenities; and if the scenery is boring (or even ugly industrial sprawl); then no amount of purple prose is going to put more bums on seats. Unfortunately, only very expensive tourism-orinated trains offer that type of travel experience — one where the traveling is more important than the destination. Long-distance train travel is obsolete, as a means of getting from A to B, so traveler's wanting to get somewhere else fast, will always chose air travel over trains.*

* High speed rail could convince many to chose trains over airplanes — but, only with enormous subsidies.

13 posted on 03/16/2014 11:34:02 AM PDT by USFRIENDINVICTORIA
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: GeronL

Willie Green Memorial Ping.


14 posted on 03/16/2014 11:34:54 AM PDT by Army Air Corps (Four Fried Chickens and a Coke)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: goldstategop

Of course the canals (being HAND dug) turned out
to not have enough depth, but Stalin too took famous
writers on a tour to proclaim the joys of socialist
success.


15 posted on 03/16/2014 11:35:58 AM PDT by tet68 ( " We would not die in that man's company, that fears his fellowship to die with us...." Henry V.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin

Why not let illegals ride for free? Have they thought of that?


16 posted on 03/16/2014 11:38:19 AM PDT by samadams2000 (Someone important make......The Call!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin

Just as anybody can be an “artist” i suppose anybody can be a “writer” as well.

Looks like i’m going on a FREE rail trip to Key Largo!!!!!!


17 posted on 03/16/2014 11:39:16 AM PDT by mowowie
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Lisbon1940

“Amtrak is great on its Jack London Square to LA Union Station routes”

I ride it from LA’s Union Station too on some occasions where I’m lazy to drive. Comic Con for example. Believe it or not, there’s not one train that goes to Vegas.


18 posted on 03/16/2014 11:39:41 AM PDT by max americana (fired liberals in our company last election, and I laughed while they cried (true story))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: goldstategop

“Brought to you by the same genuises who offered us the bullet train.”
Trains are a very socialist thing. They offer the government total control of the winners and losers. The winners get train stations and the losers don’t.

Socialists want control and public transportation (for the masses, not themselves.) In Tallahassee the local government wanted to severely restrict the only two major east/west roads. The stated objective was to “force people to use public transportation.” This was initiated because a drunk college student was hit on the six lane road beside the campus. So, it was also for the safety of the CHILDREN. Two lanes were to be dedicated bike and jogging lanes. Two were to become high capacity and buss lanes and just two others were to be for cars. So, it would have taken hours to crawl past the campus. The hew and cry was WAY more than they expected. So, they didn’t do it.

But they took the other street, a narrow and heavily traveled four lane and made it a winding brick two lane set at 25 mph. If you go 30 you’ll get a ticket. It is very heavily enforced by dedicated ticket writers. The stated idea was to make this big beautiful walking mall but most of the businesses went under while they worked on it. (They’ve mostly been replaced now.)


19 posted on 03/16/2014 11:42:48 AM PDT by Gen.Blather
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: Army Air Corps

Free rides will definitely help that bottom line all right


20 posted on 03/16/2014 11:50:06 AM PDT by GeronL (Vote for Conservatives not for Republicans!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin

Better yet, how about free tickets to everybody who can prove that Obamacare freed them from Job Lock? They have time on their hands are they are all aspiring artists, writers, and poets. They need a place to meet and sing the sweet praises of O’Care. What better place than on the anachronistic, government-subidized, decrepit passenger train system? Nancy Pelosi should be on the inaugural train and personally welcome all the Freed Job Lockers on board.


21 posted on 03/16/2014 12:09:45 PM PDT by ProtectOurFreedom
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin

Something is VERY FISHY about that photo. The train is clean and graffiti-free. The platform is clean and trash-free. The train appears to be MOVING.

I suspect they took this photo in Switzerland and somebody photoshopped “Amtrak California” onto the passenger car.


22 posted on 03/16/2014 12:12:16 PM PDT by ProtectOurFreedom
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin

Free rides for writers but not readers? I call that discrimination! BTW, how do you prove you are a “writer” anyway?


23 posted on 03/16/2014 12:19:41 PM PDT by catnipman (Cat Nipman: Vote Republican in 2012 and only be called racist one more time!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin

seems me anyone posting on FR is a ‘writer.’ Bring on the ‘free’ rides!
in seriousness tho, this Amtrak story is the exact same story yet to be written of the planned California high-speed rail-to-nowhere, and yet another warning as to why not to fund the high-speed.


24 posted on 03/16/2014 12:24:09 PM PDT by blueplum
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: GeronL

They’ll make it up in volume. ;-)


25 posted on 03/16/2014 12:25:43 PM PDT by Army Air Corps (Four Fried Chickens and a Coke)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 20 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin
Amtrak System Map


26 posted on 03/16/2014 12:41:22 PM PDT by fella ("As it was before Noah so shall it be again,")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: USFRIENDINVICTORIA

It’s been a while since I rode Amtrak - but I wonder if that would work? The first class section would get narration.

They’re giving only 24 free tickets away - I’m surprised that they aren’t required to turn in their work.

It seems somewhat reminiscent of FDR’s Federal Writers Project.

http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/wpaintro/intro02.html


27 posted on 03/16/2014 12:42:49 PM PDT by scrabblehack
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: fella

This map of AMTRAK routes is part of the reason less people are riding. The connection between Jacksonville and New Orleans was closed in the 90s with no plans to reopen it. To go west, passengers must travel north and then west via such tranfers as D.C. and Chicago. No thanks for this Floridian. I used to ride at least once a year to Cal. and Oregon, but no more. Love train travel.


28 posted on 03/16/2014 12:48:54 PM PDT by varina davis
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 26 | View Replies]

To: scrabblehack
"It seems somewhat reminiscent of FDR’s Federal Writers Project."

One part of that is really good; the section where the living ex-slaves are interviewed. Most of them didn't think badly of it and even looked back to it as the good old days. Something the current racist leaders do not want widely known. Having to call all those ex-slaves "uncle Toms" might not be a good selling point for their pocketbooks.

29 posted on 03/16/2014 12:52:56 PM PDT by fella ("As it was before Noah so shall it be again,")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 27 | View Replies]

To: Army Air Corps

Trains will be twice as loud?


30 posted on 03/16/2014 1:07:01 PM PDT by GeronL (Vote for Conservatives not for Republicans!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 25 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin

Hey! I’m a writer. I just filled out the application, why not?


31 posted on 03/16/2014 1:12:07 PM PDT by COBOL2Java (I'm a Christian, pro-life, pro-gun, Reaganite. The GOP hates me. Why should I vote for them?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin

Lots of writers in NY.

32 posted on 03/16/2014 4:48:57 PM PDT by Mike Darancette (Do The Math)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: max americana

Check out the Amtrak bus connection through Bakersfield to Vegas. The buses have good wifi now.


33 posted on 03/16/2014 7:32:05 PM PDT by Lisbon1940
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: Lisbon1940

That’s the Lux Bus right?


34 posted on 03/17/2014 8:54:41 AM PDT by max americana (fired liberals in our company last election, and I laughed while they cried (true story))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 33 | View Replies]

To: max americana

No, regular Amtrak service. I see LA-Vegas is direct, not through Bakersfield. $55 to ride in comfort.


35 posted on 03/17/2014 9:29:52 AM PDT by Lisbon1940
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 34 | View Replies]

To: Kaslin

They already offer free rides, just give the conductor a case of beer. They must not monitor ticket sales and riders as most businesses would be required to do.


36 posted on 03/17/2014 9:36:45 AM PDT by 1Old Pro
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Lisbon1940

Dude, can you send the links for the LA vegas direct? And is the 55 bux for the Amtrak train or by another bus company?


37 posted on 03/17/2014 10:14:03 AM PDT by max americana (fired liberals in our company last election, and I laughed while they cried (true story))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 35 | View Replies]

To: Mike Darancette

Ha ha—and those are just the writers in Brooklyn!


38 posted on 03/17/2014 10:16:56 AM PDT by 9YearLurker
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 32 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson