Placing Amtrak Records in Context

The state of Michigan recently announced record ridership on three routes supported by Michigan taxpayers. Records mean little when the numbers are insignificant.

That, to say the least, is the situation with Amtrak in Michigan. For example, the additional passengers (this year versus last) on the Pere Marquette (between Chicago and Grand Rapids) was small enough to be carried in a once daily round trip by an airport shuttle van. The additional passengers on the Wolverine, which operates from Detroit to Chicago would not have filled a single intercity bus operating each way on a daily basis. The same is true of the Blue Water, which operates between Port Huron and Chicago.

But there's more. High quality bus service, featuring on-board high speed wireless internet (wi-fi), costs passengers less between Detroit and Chicago and takes about the same time. There is a big difference, however. Train riders are subsidized by taxpayers, while bus riders pay their full fare. Even so, the unsubsidized bus fares are lower than the subsidized train fares.

In a nation that needs to cut spending, unnecessary transportation subsidies, such as for intercity rail services should be at the top of the list.