It seems like whenever anyone from the mainstream press talks about Amtrak, they bring up the Northeast Corridor as a ray of light for our favorite troubled railroad. “The density is right! (it’s always right when the station is in a city) It can fund itself! (debatable) It has high-speed rail! (even more debatable)”
Well, British national and Guardian writer Michael Tomasky is doing what Americans seem hesitant to do.. looking to our fellow citizens in the Northwest for an example of good rail road policy.
Now this is more like it. After days of airplane flights, I ditched the nightmare of security lines and uncomfortable seats for a lovely, state-underwritten, socialistic-type ride aboard the rails from Portland to Seattle.
East coasters will be stunned to learn, as I was, that a business-class seat for this trip — duration three-and-a-half hours — is…ready…$42! And that comes with a coupon that gives you $3 off any purchase in the cafe car.
How can they possibly make money on this? They don’t. They make their money on schmucks like me, riding between Boston and Washington. A business-class ticket from Boston to New York, a ride of similar duration, is north of $300 most days. I support Amtrak wholeheartedly, but I have to say I don’t mind taking advantage of the super-discount fare this once, since I have in essence subsidized my own trip a hundred times over down the years by using Amtrak exclusively on the east coast.
The Amtrak Cascades route is jointly funded by the states of Oregon and Washington as well as the Canadian province of British Columbia. Is it socialism, as Tomaski suggests? Perhaps. But I find it hard to disapprove when government is able to transcend territorial and international borders in order to bring safe, convenient, and efficient transportation to its citizens.