News you may have missed: Amtrak experienced its annual derailment this week. Luckily, nobody died; last May, eight were killed outside Philadelphia. TV news crews were asking Amtrak fan Joe Biden for his reaction within minutes.
This year’s accident occurred 20 miles west of Dodge City, Kansas. The engineer was apparently a hero for spotting a section of flawed track early enough to save lives. The train was carrying a crew of 14 and 131 passengers who foolishly dreamed of a smooth ride from L.A. to Chicago.
Passenger trains are romantic. In some places, such as the Northeast, they occasionally serve a purpose. Looking at 45 years of Amtrak, one might conclude that a national system, subsidized by taxpayers to the tune of $44 billion over that period, isn’t the way to go. From the Manhattan Institute:
“The railroad’s food and beverage service has been singled out in recent years by both government watchdogs and Congress for its wasteful use of government subsidies. Amtrak lost over $900 million from 203 to 2013 on food services alone. … A 2013 Inspector General report found that employee-pass riders who are offered free trips on Amtrak also received complimentary meals, resulting in a $240,000 loss for the railroad in 2012.”
The problem is that nobody in Congress with Amtrak in his or her district will do anything. More from the think tank: “Amtrak was required by Congress to return a profit from its food and beverage service in 1981, but the railroad never complied. A 1997 law went a step further by requiring Amtrak to operate subsidy-free by 2002, but losses continued, along with government subsidies.”
In other words, a rolling version of the Postal Service that serves bad sandwiches and runs out of beer in the bar car.