Amtrak: The History and Politics of a National Railroad

By David C. Nice | Go to book overview

The Amtrak system has succeeded in stopping the decline in passenger train ridership and has generated modest but relatively steady increases in ridership since 1972. Between 1972 and 1991, passenger miles increased by 106 percent. Nothing remotely comparable occurred during private operation of passenger trains in the postwar era.

In the broadest sense the results of this analysis confirm the view that passengers can be attracted to passenger trains. Amtrak's management has pursued a variety of strategies to enhance the appeal and convenience of train travel; modernization of equipment, improved ticketing and reservation systems, and nationwide and regional advertising campaigns are among the tactics that have been employed to boost ridership. 24 The combined effect of these efforts is clear. The Amtrak system has been able to tap some of the growing travel demand generated by an expanding economy and competitive prices, an achievement unmatched by private U.S. passenger trains since World War II.


Notes
1.
For discussions of the decline, see Hilton, Amtrak ( Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 1980), 3-11; Peter Lyon, To Hell in a Day Coach ( Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1968); David Morgan, "Who Shot the Passenger Train?" Trains 19 ( 1959): 14-51.
2.
Hilton, 2-5.
3.
David Nice, "Stability of the Amtrak System", Transportation Quarterly 43 ( 1989): 557-570.
4.
Ridership figures are from George Hilton, Amtrak ( Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 1980), 3-4; Roger Bradley, Amtrak ( Poole, United Kingdom: Blandford Press, 1985), 123; Annual Report ( Washington, DC: National Railroad Passenger Corporation, 1986 and 1990).
5.
Edwin Mansfield, Statistics for Business and Economics, 2nd ed. ( New York: Norton, 1983), 548-549.
6.
Aaron Wildavsky, The New Politics of the Budgetary Process (Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman, 1988), 93, 425-426.
7.
See Hilton, 41-42; James Sloss and James Kneafsey, "The Demand for Intercity Rail Travel: A Comparison of the British and American Experiences", Transportation Journal 16 ( 1977): 71-80.
8.
Report to the President and the Congress: Effectiveness of the Act: Amtrak ( Washington, DC: Interstate Commerce Commission, 1979), 7.
9.
Report to the President, 12-13.
10.
M. E. Beesley, "The Value of Time Spent in Travelling: Some New Evidence", in The Demand for Travel: Theory and Measurement, ed. Richard Quandt ( Lexington, MA: Heath Lexington Books, 1970), 221-234.
11.
The purposes for which people travel by train vary by route. See Hilton, 38-39.
12.
See Hilton, 39-42; Richard Quandt and William Baumol, "The Demand for Abstract Transport Modes: Theory and Measurement", in The Demand for Travel: Theory and Measurement, ed. Richard Quandt ( Lexington, MA: Heath Lexington Books, 1970), 86-90.

-78-

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