Out of Control Policy Blog

Not so breaking news: Amtrak sucks

Pardon the sophomoric expression, but there's just no other way to put it.

(CBS/AP) A major power outage stranded thousands of rush-hour commuters Thursday between New York and Washington, stopping five trains inside tunnels and forcing many passengers to get out and walk to the nearest station.

and ...

An Amtrak train was hit early this morning by a freight train in the Downtown station. Early reports say an approaching freight train misjudged the distance between it and the passenger train, hitting it at about 4 a.m.

"It was kind of scary," said Makiko Kurosaki, 22, of Portland, Ore., who was waiting to board the train to go to Washington, D.C. Kurosaki said after the accident she saw a man exiting the train, holding his chest and having a hard time breathing.

What else can be said; the free-lunch-taxpayer-funded-boondoggle-train service is just plain terrible. And it's not like this is anything new either. Reason's Adam Summers hit the nail on the head last year:

Labor costs alone exceed all passenger-related revenue and on-board food and beverage costs are twice as great as revenues. As of July 2005, for every $1 Amtrak received in revenue, it spent $1.61. Amtrak's debt now stands at nearly $4 billion. And its notoriously poor on-time performance and maintenance backlog continue to be major problems. ...

In mid-April, Federal Railroad Administration inspectors discovered that 317 of the 1,440 disc brake rotors in Amtrak's high-speed Acela trains, which operate on the flagship Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C., and Boston, had developed cracks, forcing the company to suspend Acela service for months at a loss of $10 million per month.

In October, the latest in a series of damning Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports castigated Amtrak for its poor planning, management, and accounting. According to the GAO, "Fundamental improvements are needed in the way Amtrak measures and monitors performance, develops and maintains financial controls, controls cost, acquires goods and services, and is held accountable for results."

Maybe this power-outage is exactly what America needs - a wake-up call as to how truly incompetent Amtrak is.


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