Skip to comments.Perpetually Indebted Amtrak Wants to Offer Free Rides
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 nations 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 writers 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 its 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 agencys 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 shouldnt 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 Amtraks prodigious annual taxpayer subsidies, this plan raises multiple red flags revenue from ticket sales was insufficient to even cover Amtraks 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. Thats because for more than 40 years, Amtraks 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 Amtraks free ride at our expense.
Somebody is going to pay for them.
Profitability will only be possible when the government stops interfering.
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.”
Brought to you by the same genuises who offered us the bullet train.
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
Outside of the urban conglomeration corridors: “Where’s MUH ride?”
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.
Amtrak should be SHUT DOWN and Sold off in pieces yesterday. For a good read an Amtrak I suggest:
See and travel the Glorious White Sea Canal, a
miracle of Stalinist engineering...
At least Stalin connected all of Moscow’s rivers.
Amtrak is the train to nowhere.
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.
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.
Willie Green Memorial Ping.
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
Why not let illegals ride for free? Have they thought of that?
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!!!!!!
“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.
“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.)
Free rides will definitely help that bottom line all right