Amtrak Route Map

The North Coast Hiawatha isn’t shown on this 1980 map, as it was one of six trains eliminated by President Carter in a futile effort to show that he was fiscally conservative. Deleting the train made no more economic sense than adding it in 1971; it was all based on politics. At the time, I asked an official at the Department of Transportation why they were so eager to kill these trains. He confessed that they figured that, if Amtrak’s budget was reduced, they could capture the funds for their own department.

Click image to download a 0.8-MB PDF of this map.

The map claims to show “Amtrak Service Scheduled to Start in 1980.” However, the symbol for this is practically indistinguishable from the symbol for connecting bus routes, so I can’t tell if there are actually any such 1980 start-ups shown on the map.


Amtrak Route Map — 2 Comments

  1. So Jimmy Carter was the original “I’ll show how tough I am on spending by beating up on Amtrak” politician. In today’s lingo, I believe this is what is called “punching down.”

    To be fair, it’s mostly politicians on my side of things (i.e. the right) that do this, and they think they’re demonstrating to their constituents that they’re being responsible with the public’s money. In fact, they come off as small minded, innumerate dolts who don’t understand that commas and zeroes matter. Amtrak’s subsidy is $1.5 billion, and when viewed in the context of a roughly $4 trillion budget, it’s approximately 0.000375% of the budget. In other words, it amounts to a rounding error.

    Look, no form of public transportation pays 100% of its own way, a point that David P. Morgan made back in 1959 when he devoted an entire issue of Trains magazine to “Who Shot the Passenger Train?”. The airlines are a powerful lobby in Washington DC, and a case could be made the cheap, fast air travel is necessary for a functioning national economy, therefore some subsidization is necessary. But the cruise industry uses infrastructure paid for by the taxpayers, and no one is arguing that the cruise industry is a critical part of our economy.

    Is Amtrak ideal? No. But unless and until some really outside-the-box idea comes along* it’s probably the best we can do.

    * One of those ideas might be to sell it to its employees who would presumably then have some “skin in the game” insofar as making it a viable commercial enterprise. But since taking passengers from one place to another is not a money making endeavor absent some kind of taxpayer participation, some combination of tax credits and/or subsidies would be necessary to make it workable.

  2. The services “scheduled to start in 1980” are the Prairie Marksman (Chicago-Peoria) and the Hoosier State (Chicago-Indianapolis), and they did in fact start in August and October.

    They certainly are easy to miss unless you search with a fine toothed comb.

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