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Intercity passenger rail : the congress faces critical decisions about the role of and funding for intercity passenger rail systems
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    NTL-RAIL TRANSPORTATION-Rail Planning and Policy
  • Abstract:
    With the growth in the nation's highway and aviation systems in the previous decades, intercity passenger rail service lost its competitive edge. Highways have enabled cars to be competitive with conventional passenger trains (those operating up to 90 miles per hour), while airplanes can carry passengers over longer distances at higher speeds than can trains. The Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970 created Amtrak to provide intercity passenger rail service because existing railroads found such service unprofitable. Like other major national intercity passenger rail systems in the world, Amtrak has received substantial government support--nearly $24 billion for capital and operating needs through fiscal year 2001. Amtrak operates a 22,000-mile passenger rail system, primarily over tracks owned by freight railroads. Amtrak owns 650 miles of track, primarily in the Northeast Corridor, which runs between Boston and Washington, D.C. About 70 percent of Amtrak's service is provided by conventional trains; the remainder is provided by high-speed trains. It offers high-speed service (up to 150 miles per hour) on the Northeast Corridor. About 22 million passengers in 45 states rode Amtrak's trains in 2000 (about 60,000 passengers each day), a small share of the intercity travel market. In comparison, in 1999, domestic airlines carried about 1.6 million passengers per day, and intercity buses carried about 983,000 people per day (latest data available).
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