If you’re losing millions every year selling cheeseburgers and sodas, the rest of your business probably isn’t a model of efficiency, either. Amtrak’s food and beverage cars have lost $833.8 million over the last decade, including $84.5 million in 2011. But that’s just the beginning of Amtrak’s troubles, notes AEI’s Daniel Hanson. A few financial facts about the rail service, which lost a total of $361 billion last year:
1. Over the past three years alone, Amtrak has received more than $4.4 billion in federal aid, and it still was not able to finish any of those years in the black.
2. Most riders pay about $150 to get from Washington to Boston — a route that cost $125 in 1997 — but today’s real cost is much higher than it seems. Through subsidies, the federal government kicks in almost $50 for every Amtrak ticket, putting the average real fare of an Amtrak ticket close to $200.
3. Between 1997 and 2004, Amtrak built its high-speed Acela system from Washington to Boston on the premise that it would get riders between major cities faster. Today, the Acela can get from Washington to New York in 2 hours 45 minutes at its fastest — or 15 minutes slower than the Penn Central Railroad could get a rider there in 1969 for an inflation-adjusted $102 per ticket.
Oh, and the Wi-Fi stinks, too.