Why Does the Government Run the Passenger Rail Service?

Yes, I’m aware of what’s going on in the Middle East. I just have nothing to add to that discussion that others aren’t doing as well or far better than I could. So I’m going to rant on this rather inconsequential topic instead.

I’ve got an upcoming business trip to Houston, Texas. I was making my travel arrangements this afternoon, and just for grins & giggles I thought I’d see what a trip via Amtrak would entail. I need to be in Houston August 22 some time in the afternoon, and I depart Houston on the 25th. I checked Amtrak’s web site. It seems that I can catch the 1:20 train out of Tucson on the 24th – that is, 1:20AM – and be in Houston on the 25th at 5:45AM!. Then I can catch the 9:50PM train out of Houston, and be back in Tucson on the 26th at 11:25PM! Each direction is over 26 hours.

I can drive to Houston in a little over 15 hours. (And trust me, I was tempted.)

Now, I know the government took over passenger rail service in 1971, and that it’s still a viable alternative in the Northeast for commuter service to some of the large cities, but one trip a week from Tucson to Houston? One trip that takes 26+ hours each way, and requires leaving on the red-eye? Why bother? Greyhound takes 21 hours, but at least there’s three buses a day leaving for Houston, not one a week.

This is one of those boondoggles that only government can support. A free market would have slashed unnecessary passenger rail service, and made the profitable portions better run. Government control means that waste is rewarded, and inefficiency is rampant.

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