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Should your taxes pay for more U.S. trains?
Railroad

The Bernina Express train zips students across the Alvaneu Viaduct in the Swiss Alps.
Photograph by Joe Patronite

 






| Rail Links |



In 1951 passenger trains in the U.S. served 226,000 miles (363,634 kilometers) of routes. U.S. population has grown 60 percent since then, but today Amtrak plies only 22,000 miles (35,398 kilometers) of track, often infrequently. A handful of small, mainly commuter, lines account for a few more short routes. In the next three years Amtrak does plan to increase frequency and add a few routes it deems profitable—and cut two others.

Highway

Traffic plies a U.S. interstate system paved with subsidies and gasoline taxes.
Photograph by Kevin Horan

Europe and Japan, by contrast, offer travelers extensive, frequent train service on state-built systems. Those services are now privatizing, with mixed success and with the advantage of compact routes and a working infrastructure already in place. Canada subsidizes its VIA Rail trains.

In the U.S., Congress is withdrawing tax support for Amtrak operations by 2003, while still subsidizing highways to the tune of some $41 billion (according to official statistics, last compiled for 1998) in addition to $69 billion in tolls and gasoline taxes (which, like your train fare, serve as a user fee). Thus the government is underwriting over a third of highway costs—not to mention expansions for crowded airports—while planning nothing long-term for trains.

The Tourism Forum asks this month:
Should taxes be used to expand Amtrak service?

Post Your Opinion
Other Forum Topics
Online Extra: High-Speed Trains

—Jonathan Tourtellot

Jonathan Tourtellot is a TRAVELER senior editor and forum host.

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