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I read an article today about Amtrak saying that instead of asking money from taxpayers so keep afloat, it would ask for far beyond its means. I couldn’t help but think of a quote from High Fidelity:

It was like trying to borrow a dollar, getting turned down, and asking for 50 grand instead. 

Now, where I grew up in South Florida, trains aren’t exactly used all that often. Everything is so spread out that it just doesn’t make any sense to use rail. But I’ve lived in DC and by far the easiest way to get to New York is to take a train. Many people act like they need to fly, but trains are easier when it comes to travel between these two cities. Why? EWR, LGA, and JFK are all a good distance away from Manhattan. Amtrak on the other hand is right in the middle of the city, under Madison Square Garden.

Union Station also is smack in the middle of downtown Washington, walking distance from the Capitol. Compare this to DCA, IAD, or BWI. Simply put, it’s just easier to get around that way. I only mention this for those who think rail transit is passe.

Obama had tried to get Congress to plug a bunch of money into Amtrak to put bullet trains across the US in some feeble attempt to get votes. I try to stay as neutral as possible when it comes to politics (trust me, I have many complaints about the W era), but you’d probably be better off using those Benjamins as toilet paper. It’d be more useful.

Why? Other than in the Northeast, specifically between Washington, DC and Boston, MA, the need for rail is just not there. So why spend money on it? Even in between these routes it may not even be feasible.

Consider this, if I wanted to book a ticket tomorrow from New York to Boston, it would cost me about 130 for a three and a half hour ride on the Acela Express, the quickest train Amtrak offers on this route. Compare this to 200 for a flight from Newark to Boston or 192 for JFK to Boston, both less than an hour and a half flight time. Add two hours (getting to the airport), and its a wash. But for something like NY to Chicago? NY to Miami? Have fun on a 12 hour train ride.

I’ll have had a nice steak with a good wine by the time you get there. And a couple other meals too.