Eric Goldwyn and Jonathan English

Write About Amtrak in Slow Boring

Director of Transportation and Land Use, Eric Goldwyn, and Fellow Jonathan English have written a guest post, “American Trains Need More than Railfan Nostalgia,” for Matthew Yglesias’ Slow Boring newsletter. Goldwyn and English discuss the new book, Amtrak, America’s Railroad: Transportation’s Orphan and Its Struggle for Survival, and argue that:

The authors fail to engage the existing research on the limits of long-distance passenger rail vis-a-vis flying and driving, and they fail to survey the international railroading scene to see how the U.S. compares. Foreign intercity rail networks succeed where they succeed not just through boosterism but with realistic assessments of what kind of city pairs, distances, and railroad speeds are genuinely viable in a competitive marketplace....

Amtrak has never had the long-term plan to transform into a modern passenger railroad. To function properly, it needs the upfront investment to build a comprehensive network of frequent services that will actually be attractive to passengers. That is going to take a lot: building additional tracks in freight rail corridors so that passenger and freight rail can be separated, new trains up to date with the latest technology from Europe and Asia, and higher speeds that can match at least car travel and ideally be competitive with air travel. But Amtrak also needs management, leadership, and advocacy that can outline a clear vision for turning investment into results.

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