Monday, March 19, 2007

The Liberty Papers �Blog Archive � Amtrak: Slower Than A Bus, More Expensive Than Flying

The Liberty Papers �Blog Archive � Amtrak: Slower Than A Bus, More Expensive Than Flying

Amtrak: Slower Than A Bus, More Expensive Than Flying

In Mike’s post about Amtrak, it was suggested in the comments that if we lost passenger rail, we’d be stuck with buses.

So what? They’re far cheaper than Amtrak, and they’ll often get there faster! I wrote the below post back in April 2006 (so the costs might not be up to date), and added a little below this.


The railroads are tremendously important to this country for shipping goods, but there are much easier and cheaper ways to travel as a passenger.

As a quick test, I looked up train fare from Atlanta to Chicago. Since I regularly travel there to see family, I wanted to see how it compared to airfare. Well, Amtrak doesn’t run a direct route between the two. So a round-trip ticket cost about $380, with a stop each way in Washington, DC. And due to the extra time of those trips, the total travel time was about 30 hours each way.

Compare that to an airline flight. The same trip, by air, costs about $200 and takes about 2 hours each way. Hell, to get to Chicago is only about a 11-12 hour DRIVE, and wouldn’t cost more than about $100 in gas each way. I even checked Greyhound, and it was about a 15-hour trip, at a cost of $130 round-trip.

Of course, I’m sure I can be accused of cherry-picking the data with an Atlanta -> Chicago trip. I’m sure some other routes are more competitive in cost. In all honesty, it was simply the first choice I thought of, as it’s two major cities I’m familiar with for both auto and air travel. But if you’re going to offer intercity travel, without any direct service between the largest city in the Southeast and the largest city in the Midwest, aren’t you shooting yourself in the foot?

It’s very simple. For any long trip, it’s much more worthwhile to fly. For shorter trips, though, it might be profitable and convenient… IN WHICH CASE PRIVATE ENTERPRISE CAN TAKE CARE OF IT. And where rail lines aren’t available, bus service is.

There is absolutely no reason that American taxpayers need to continue wasting money on passenger rail service. If Amtrak can’t get themselves to profitability, it’s time for them to disappear.

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