What if it’s the mainstream media that needs to shift its own thinking?
When they see this information, does it not even occur to them to think: Oh, so Amtrak passenger rail only serves, well, us. (Philip Bump, for example, lives in New York and works for the Washington Post, which gives us a pretty good guess at how often he takes the train from one city to the other.) Did it ever appear to them that maybe passenger rail is a merely factional, local concern that the rest of the country shouldn’t be paying for?
The left is always dabbling in fictional dystopias where there is a yawning chasm between rich and poor, where the country is riven by racial conflict, and where the whole nation has to be impoverished to serve the power and vanity of the Capitol—and yet somehow this is the system they always create when they’re in power, in places like Baltimore and Chicago. Given this information about how little the rest of the country relies on Amtrak, the only conclusion is that all of us are being asked to support a system that mostly benefits a minority of relatively wealthy elites in the nation’s political and financial capitals. We are all being asked to send tributes to the Capitol.
And here’s the crazy thing. The rest of the country might not really be paying for regional Northeast corridor train service. In fact, that’s the only part of Amtrak that might conceivably make money, even with the system’s notorious inefficiency—though Amtrak’s dubious accounting makes it impossible to say for sure. I think the Northeast corridor folks would be better off privatizing and letting competition and innovation come up with ways to deliver faster and better service in an area where it might actually make money. It would be like Uber, but for trains. But I’m also willing to say that they can do whatever they want with their little regional rail system, since they live there and use it—so long as they’re willing to pay the subsidies themselves.