David Nice reviews the circumstances, expectations, and politics that led to the creation of a national passenger rail system out of what had been a myriad of struggling private services.
The book begins with a discussion of the various challenges that Amtrak faced when it was developed over twenty years ago. Nice covers the complex politics behind decisions about the reach and frequency of Amtrak service, as well as the fiscal issues involved in the railroad's continuing attempts to modernize its equipment. He examines the different roles of U.S. national and state governments in subsidizing Amtrak; the factors that have contributed to the wide, year-to-year variance in the system's ridership and financial performance; and the uneven results of Amtrak's experiments with international service. Noting that the system faces continued criticism and threat from a variety of sources, Nice concludes with an evaluation of how Amtrak fits with the nation's overall transportation needs.
David C. Nice is professor of political science at Washington State University. He is author of Policy Innovation in State Government and Federalism: The Politics of Intergovernmental Relations.