President Biden’s lavish infrastructure plan promises to give $80 billion to improving long-distance rail, almost all of it going to Amtrak — the mode of transport beloved by, well, “Amtrak Joe.” Amtrak released a plan for what it wants to do with the money: A fact sheet that the rail service posted on its Web site, for a project called Amtrak Connects US, shows several new or improved routes crisscrossing the nation.
Amtrak’s route expansion plans are at once strikingly unambitious and dogged by its famous inefficiencies.
Amtrak plans to add routes connecting nearby cities with trips that would take only a few hours: for instance, Dallas to Houston and Cleveland to Cincinnati. This may seem prudent, but one has to wonder how much ridership these lines will get: Amtrak generally runs low-quality equipment with average speeds slower than freeways, and Amtrak’s new routes parallel major highways, most of them with preexisting bus service.
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