involvement is small when compared to state involvement in highway programs, but the record reveals that sustained state effort, especially with local cooperation, can yield dramatic improvements in services and in public use of those services. 30
Because of the small number of subsidizing states in most years and changes in the ranks of subsidizing states from year to year, analysis of the state subsidy decisions is difficult. North Carolina adopted a subsidy program, terminated it, and then later started a new one. Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi ended their joint subsidy but agreed later to try a ninety-
day experiment in the summer of 1996. Any conclusions reached from analyzing a small number of unstable cases must be treated with considerable caution.
The evidence indicates that a large population base encourages both the adoption and survival of Amtrak subsidies. As noted previously, a large population generally means a large pool of potential customers and a large pool of taxpayers to sustain the subsidy. In addition, however, the states with very large populations also tend to have large metropolitan areas, with high levels of traffic congestion. Improved rail passenger service is one way to get people off the freeways and to cope with traffic congestion.
The analysis also indicates that ideological factors influence subsidy decisions, although the relationships tend to be less strong and less consistent than was found for population. The recent return of some conservative southern states to the ranks of the subsidizers suggests that ideological considerations may be weakening, but whether those subsidies will survive remains to be seen.