Rail investment is good. Amtrak is not.

Pro-rail politicians have seized on the recent spike in gas prices as weapon in their rhetorical arsenal. I was happy to learn that Virginia and the Feds have decided to invest $13.5 million in improving the Richmond-DC rail link. Congress also passed a law, which President Bush will most likely sign, that, doubles Amtrak’s funding. How the railroad thinking of spending its extra cash? By sinking it into money-loosing long-distance routes.

In many cases, like between DC and Richmond, there is a good economic case to made for spending money on rail.  It is impossible to expect private money to fund rail to compete with our socialized road system, and there is sometimes reason to beleive that increased rail infastructure is what the free market would provide if it existed. However, the money-holes that are Amtrak’s long distance trains provide no such reason. The political nature of Amtrak’s funding insures that it will continue to make descision based more on bringing home the bacon than on effecient investment. This is why Amtrak should die and be replaced by inter-state cooperation on a more flexible, ad-hoc basis, and maybe, after de-socialization of roads, by private investors.

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