Amtrak: The History and Politics of a National Railroad

By David C. Nice | Go to book overview
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3
Distribution: Who Gets Service?

As noted earlier, the distribution of Amtrak service has been a subject of controversy at a number of points in its history. When the system was first established, critics decried the absence of service on some routes; that criticism led to the addition of several trains. Additions and cutbacks in service have been proposed and adopted on several occasions, with mixed results. 1 The early Amtrak system offered direct service between Chicago and Florida and between New York and St. Louis that is not available today (although connections can be made with a change of trains). Conversely, direct service between Chicago and Buffalo was not part of the original system but is available now. Wyoming had passenger rail service under the original Amtrak system, then lost it for several years, regained it, and now lost it again.

The amount of service provided by Amtrak varies greatly from state to state. New York, with approximately 10 percent more rail mileage than Oklahoma, has more than three hundred trains weekly while Oklahoma has no service at all. Wyoming and Mississippi have approximately equal rail mileage, but Mississippi has considerably more Amtrak service than does Wyoming. In view of the variation in service from one part of the country to another, the availability and distribution of services has been a continuing issue.

A number of studies have sought to explain variations in the geographical distribution of public programs and benefits generally. In some instances, the distribution of benefits and services reflects, at least in part, the exercise of political influence on behalf of local concerns. Individual neighborhoods, communities, or regions may mobilize to gain benefits for themselves based on how much political power they have rather than any defensible standard of need or merit. Political considerations may shape the timing of announcements of benefits and the speed with which claims are processed and may also influence service and benefit levels. 2 Public officials sometimes complain that their home states or districts are being

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