Long before there were planes to take you from point A to point B, it was trains that dominated the way people got around the country. Whilst often an overlooked form of transportation in the modern world, trains are an ideal form of transportation for travelers who want to go on domestic trips – and, should Amtrak receive the funding they are looking for, they could well be your first option for an inter-city break.
That’s because Amtrak has made headlines this week by asking for billions of dollars worth of funding in order to expand their network, by adding more routes and carrying more passengers. Here’s everything you need to know about this story.
Amtrak – The Numbers
With railways in the US stretching all the way back to the 18th century, the railway network in the country is something that Americans can be proud of, boasting the largest rail transport network size of any country in the world. Amtrak, the national passenger rail network, has more than 30 train routes, connecting 500 destinations across 46 American states.
Amtrak’s ridership has typically grown year on year, with the 2019 fiscal year seeing a record 32 million passengers being carried around the US on their trains. However, the fiscal year ending in September 2020 saw a fall to just below 17 million passengers being serviced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, matching similar declines experienced by other methods of transportation around the world.
Expansion Plans – What Travelers Should Know
Despite so few numbers riding the train last year, Amtrak is aiming high with regards to its plans in the future. The company has asked for a $75 billion federal investment in order to grow rail services across the whole of the United States. Plans include improving the service on 25 existing routes, and comes with the potential to “expand or improve rail service for 20 million additional passengers each year.”
The bold new move will not only improve existing services, but will also look to offer further services to more Americans. A report released by Amtrak laid out its 15-year vision, which highlighted the benefits that the investment could bring, including adding 39 new routes and bringing service to more than 160 new communities. A more carbon-friendly way to travel, opening up service to more people could see passenger user numbers increase significantly in the future.
The company also went into specifics when highlighting some of the routes that could benefit from the funding. Among the suggestions put forward by the company was a new corridor between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, as well as new intercity passenger rail services to cities such as Nashville, Columbus, Phoenix, and Wichita.
Writing to Congress this week, Amtrak’s CEO William J. Flynn laid out four legislative actions that Congress should take in order to help Amtrak achieve its vision of bringing sustainable, world-class intercity passenger rail services to the US. The points were:
- Create a Corridor Development Program
- Provide Dedicated, Predictable, and Sufficient Funding
- Stop Freight Trains from Unlawfully Delaying Passengers
- Ensure Fair Access to Host Railroads for New Service and Adding Trains
Whilst it remains to be seen whether or not they secure the funding they need in order to implement the changes they desire, it represents an exciting moment in the history of the American railway network, and could see intercity train journeys become a realistic, cheaper alternative to air travel in the future.
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