Past and Future of United States Passenger Rail Service

Past and Future of United States Passenger Rail Service
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A CBO Study. Written in easy-to-understand language, this report reviews past Federal policies towards Amtrak and the fundamental economics of passenger rail service.   This study also explores the implications of four options for future federal support of passenger rail, ranging from eliminating federal subsidies to funding a massive expansion of rail service.  


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Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Summary ix
Chapter 1
Introduction: Amtrak’s Current Situation 1
A Mandate to Achieve Self-Sufficiency 2
Recent Administration and Congressional Plans 3
Chapter 2
A Brief History of Amtrak 5
Financial Difficulties Leading to the Creation of Amtrak 5
Amtrak from 1970 to 1997 8
The Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act: 1997-2002 12
Chapter 3
Amtrak’s Role in Intercity Passenger Transportation 17
Recent Trends in Amtrak’s Ridership 17
Amtrak’s Role Nationwide 17
Regional Differences in Amtrak’s Role 18
Chapter 4
The Basic Economics of Passenger Rail 21
The Demand for Passenger Rail Service 21
The Supply of Passenger Rail Service 24
Externalities and Economic Efficiency 27
Rail’s Comparative Strength: Densely Populated Corridors 27
Rails Comparative Weakness: Long-Distance Service 29
Chapter 5
Policy Options for the Future of Passenger Rail 31
Option I: Eliminate Federal Subsidies and Proved for an Orderly Shutdown of Service 33
Option II: Reorganize to Build on Passenger Rail’s Comparative Strengths 34
Option III: Upgrade the Corridors and Keep the Existing National Network 35
Option IV: Substantially Upgrade Both the Corridors and Long-Distance Service 36
Conclusions 37
Amtrak’s Interconnections with Freight and Commuter Railroads 39


Members of Congress, the President, policymakers, and governmental committees concerned with policies regarding Amtrak would be interested in this publication.  The general public may be interested in this study because it covers the development, future, and economic conditions related to the operations of Amtrak rail service within the United States. 

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Congress, Congressional Budget Office
  • Pinkston, Elizabeth
2003: 52 p.; ill.
Key Phrases:
  • CBO Study
  • Railroads
  • Transportation
  • Amtrak
SuDocs Class:
Y 10.2:P 26
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Subject Bibliography:
040ER 293IS
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