Management & Operations

Amtrak's shortcomings accentuated in 'End of the Line'

Posted on April 1, 2005

In the introduction of End of the Line: The Failure of Amtrak Reform and the Future of America’s Passenger Railroad, author Joe Vranich extols the right to change one’s mind. After all, he says, “I helped to create Amtrak, and later advocated its expansion.” From there, the reasons for his change of heart are delineated. Vranich, a long-time passenger rail buff and former spokesperson for Amtrak, attempts to shed light on the shortcomings of the system while advocating for widespread intercity rail reform. In a nutshell, Vranich believes that Amtrak is often wasteful, sometimes corrupt and ultimately ineffective. The future of the railroad lies in private-public partnerships and competition, possibly following examples set by several major intercity rail systems in Europe and Asia, the book argues. Quoting sources ranging from the Washington Post to the Congressional Record, Vranich relies heavily on comments and reports from third-party sources. The result is an extensively researched book with four appendices that cover 30 pages, as well as an index and nearly 50 pages of footnotes and references. Amtrak’s letdowns, Vranich asserts, occur in several areas, including the squandering of multiple federal funding sources, the suppression of critical financial information, the shoddiness of infrastructure and a lack of creativity and innovation in running the company. In short, Vranich argues that taxpayer subsidies are greatly disproportionate to the public’s minimal use of the system, and the railroad’s condition will only worsen without change. The book, Vranich’s third on the subject, oscillates between objective exposition and full-on attack. The following are sample passages: “For New York travelers, if safety is a concern, they are better off flying.” “Advocates have routinely overestimated the revenues that Amtrak would earn, underestimated capital costs and tortured logic to claim that Amtrak somehow contributes to economic growth.” “Year after year, we have heard that Amtrak’s fortunes will improve — and year after year, Amtrak skirts bankruptcy.” Despite some of the harsher words, Vranich concedes that Amtrak’s biggest problems are often less the result of horrible business practices and more a fault of a poor design from the start. The book, which focuses mainly on developments since the 1997 Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act, calls for legislation to reform the company and rectify these past mistakes. Vranich closes with the following passage: “The public interest would best be served by eliminating disincentives to private-sector involvement in rail passenger service, replacing Amtrak with more sensible alternatives and providing useful rail transportation at a cost the public can afford.” It’s unclear whether or not any of Vranich’s claims will prove prophetic. What is for sure is that the book’s release is well-timed, as Amtrak reform has become an important tenet of President Bush’s second-term policy.

View comments or post a comment on this story. (0 Comments)

More News

SinglePoint, Passengera align to provide infotainment platform

The powerful passenger infotainment solution will be on display at SinglePoint’s booth #720 at the 2017 UMA Expo in St. Louis.

Sound Transit ridership up 23% in 2016 systemwide

Ridership growth particularly picked up late in the year. Average weekday ridership during the fourth quarter increased 27.9% over the same period in 2015, with light rail weekday ridership growing 83.8%.

Findings of Toronto transit report not released to public

In June, the City paid the firm to provide business case analyses for several projects planned by the city, including Mayor John Tory’s original “SmartTrack” idea for additional stops along the GO Transit rail line travelling through Toronto, and the controversial one-stop Scarborough subway extension.

HART leasing Teslas to expand rideshare program

The HART HyperLINK program partners with Transdev to provide direct connections from door to bus stop through an on-demand ride-hailing service similar to Uber,

WTC Oculus safety improvements possible following death of woman

Jenny Santos plunged from the C1 level escalator early Saturday morning as she was grabbing her twin sister's hat. She was brought to Bellevue Hospital and pronounced dead.

See More News

Post a Comment

Post Comment

Comments (0)

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment

TruckingInfo.com

THE COMMERCIAL TRUCK INDUSTRY’S MOST IN-DEPTH INFORMATION SOURCE

Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

LCT Magazine

Global Resource For Limousine and Bus Transportation

Please sign in or register to .    Close