Good. Much as I love trains, it’s about goddamn time.
If you search around in the cellars of this here blog, you’ll see that the lady wife and I took the City of New Orleans from Chicago to NOLA and back for our 10th anniversary some years ago. It was fun, but given that you can fly from Indy to NOLA and back for about the same amount of scratch and be there in a few hours, it’s not something I think I’d do again.
The fact of the matter is that rail travel simply can’t pay for itself. There aren’t enough people who have airline fare and 18 hours to spend traveling from Chitown to the Big Easy. Or, apparently, to a lot of other places — there’s a reason why the Cardinal is on that list of routes, it only goes three times a week from New York to Chicago and back. Takes 20 hours or so to get to DC, or I’d have been taking it several times a year for the last 20-mumble years.
I used to opine that the government ought to sell Amtrak to Southwest Airlines, who could probably straighten things out and make a little money. But speaking of those pesky facts again, the only passenger rail routes worthwhile anymore are the ones in the Northeast Corridor, and maybe the Auto Train from Lorton, VA, to Sanford, FL. Everything else is subsidized to hell and gone, and doesn’t even run on Amtrak-owned rail. (The City of New Orleans ran, when we took it, on Canadian National freight tracks that used to belong to the Illinois Central.) Hell, I’ll bet even the Auto Train is subsidized. Maybe by Disney…
When Trump talked about billions in infrastructure spending, I never for a moment thought he meant to spend it on rail, either heavy or light. Anyone who had that idea in their head was and is a fucking idiot. We need roads and bridges fixed a lot more than we need passenger rail upgrades. You want passenger rail? Make it pay for itself. Oh, wait. We’ve been trying to tell you that for the last fifty years.
So that’s essentially put paid — or will put paid — to passenger rail in the US. But I’m still waiting for Trump to kill off that other featherbedded subsidy queen — The US Postal Service. Sell that son of a bitch to FedEx and be done with it. Or keep first class letters as a government monopoly (and rename it back to the Post Office Department) and sell off the parcel post. But do something other than letting it continue to feed on the body politic.