June 24, 2002
10:44 AM   Subscribe

UAL asks for a 2$ billion loan from the Feds. And it looks like AMTRAK will get their couple hundred million bucks as well. Transportation seems to be a losing proposition all over. So where's the bailout for the cruise lines?
posted by zoopraxiscope (12 comments total)
Most cruise lines are not U.S. companies. But if you do want to help the cruise lines, lift the law that tried to save U.S. shipbuilding and the cruise industry: the outdated Passenger Services Act of 1886 which "declares that foreign-flagged vessels taking on passengers at a U.S. port must stop at a foreign port before returning those passengers to the United States." Various associations are supporting various changes to the act. Some would rather support the act that claims to increase U.S. cruising companies, not foreign. Here's another writeup on the subject which sums up: "It's perhaps a good thing for Boeing that foreign countries don't insist that its residents fly on locally-built planes. And where would Bill Gates be if software had to be locally grown?"

(I realize you may have been asking a facetious question, but it's a good one considering the facts behind it that people may not be aware of)
posted by girlhacker at 11:15 AM on June 24, 2002

Here's another Amtrak article in case the one in the first post doesn't work for you.

Amtrak's problem isn't that it needs a bailout. Its problem is that it lacks sufficient and equal funding from the government. The road and air systems get billions of dollars of subsidies every year, completely dwarfing the few hundred million given to Amtrak (chart).

So if you think the U.S. passenger rail system sucks, you're probably right. But it's doing a pretty good job considering how little money it has to work with.
posted by mrbula at 11:41 AM on June 24, 2002

Great point mrbula.

I read somewhere we spend more on cleaning up road kill off the highways than what Amtrak is asking for. Not a pretty sight when you have politicians demanding rail service to their particularly desolate part of the US and then slamming Amtrak for not making a profit. Personally I think Hastert is being a really big hypocrite on this. Not that being a hypocrite is unusual for Hastert or anything....
posted by nofundy at 12:10 PM on June 24, 2002

I don't think any of those industries you mentioned should get subsidies. You know, level playing field and all.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:17 PM on June 24, 2002

I sort of agree with you, insomnyuk. Privatizing the freeways (and making them pay for themselves) would be a good first step to creating self-sufficient mass transit systems.
posted by mrbula at 12:38 PM on June 24, 2002

So here's the problem with Amtrak.

Say I want to go from KC to Denver (one way).

By car, about 9 hours. About $80 in gas for one way. Now that's just one person, you fit in 2 or 3 people, the price becomes a lot cheaper.

By train, using Student Advantage and just reserved coach it would take about 14 hours (stop in Omaha) and cost a whopping $140.

By plane it would cost $85, non-stop. It would take 1h 45min (plus about 2h of security? probably less because of a domestic flight not at a hub and MCI is really easy to get in and out of).

It's pretty obvious why noone travels train. If it was cost competitive with airlines I might consider it (better than driving, roomier than planes) but at almost double the rate, it's ridiculous.
posted by geoff. at 12:43 PM on June 24, 2002

I agree the prices for train tickets are wacky. Of course Amtrak and railroads in general aren't getting massive government handouts either. I'm sure railroads get something but it's not at the insane level as the rest. I guarantee if Amtrak got the same level of funding as the air transport and highway systems then train travel wouldn't be expensive and for intercity routes it would beat air travel hands down.
posted by @homer at 1:03 PM on June 24, 2002

I don't see how you guys keep comparing the highway system with train and air travel. The highway system is entirely different, being available for use, for free, by anyone with a car. The whole point of it is that it's subsidized by tax money. For-profit companies such as airlines do not offer services free for the public. Entirely different, right?
posted by Nothing at 1:34 PM on June 24, 2002

I always thought Amtrak's problem was that they keep crashing their trains.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:45 PM on June 24, 2002

A few years ago, Amtrak was often actually the cheapest alternative if you had to travel immediately, to a funeral, for example, but could spend a day or two getting there. Even cheaper than Greyhound, or bereavement fares on the airlines. Not sure what it's like now.

From Minneapolis, I can go to Chicago on the train, or I can go to Seattle. Anything else has to be on the way to those two places, or else I have to change trains. To go to Kansas City, I'd have to change trains in Chicago. Not convenient.
posted by gimonca at 1:52 PM on June 24, 2002

Amtrak is rad on the east coast. I live in Philly but commute to DC regularly for work, and managed to pick up $350 10-trip pass... which actually works out to be a lot cheaper than driving.

... not to mention a lot less stressful.

It's important to note, too, that a huge percentage of Philadelphia's SEPTA system and NJ Mass Transit rely on Amtrak lines for their commuter corridors. If Amtrak had shut down on Wednesday, it would've been pure chaos for the whole Northeast.

Amtrak is kind of caught in a regulatory bind. They can't cut down on the cross-country routes, where they lose a ton of money... but they're being forced by the government to try to make money and be self-sufficient.
posted by ph00dz at 5:24 PM on June 24, 2002

If our passenger railroads were funded equally to the airlines, we would have the greatest high speed train network in the world.
posted by LinemanBear at 6:16 AM on June 25, 2002

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