Let Amtrak ride into the sunsetAmtrak is back on Capitol Hill, clamoring for $1.2 billion more in subsidies. Predictably, foes will demand Amtrak make a profit, a remote expectation, while supporters will argue for subsidies ad infinitum.

This cycle gets taxpayers neither savings nor decent train service. Let's think new ideas: Dismantle Amtrak and reconstitute it into a regional system of high-speed links serving large urban centers. These networks should be driven by market demand, with state and local governments handling a significant portion of the planning and funding.

A bill introduced by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) roughly followed those outlines but it died in the House last summer. Congress ought to consider it. Continuing subsidies only postpones Amtrak's inevitable day of reckoning.

Recent proposals assume Amtrak, with its history of mismanagement and rigid union rules, will run the new rail network.

That's not going to work. Amtrak is a failed concept. It needs to be shut down and replaced with a network more responsive to today's needs. Anything less will mean more of the same - sinking good public money after bad.

- Chicago Tribune


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