Passenger trains across Iowa are not and will not be economical. Most people prefer to travel by car or by plane. If cost is a problem, then people travel by bus. Today, trains are mostly a romantic way to travel – at a very high cost. Passenger trains are economical only in the most densely populated parts of our country. (“Economical” meaning that passengers pay the full cost.)
I have always thought it would be wonderful to take Amtrak’s California Zephyer from Iowa to San Francisco through the Rocky Mountains. My wife and I have been fortunate to travel by train in Europe several times. We have loved it. Travel by train turns a trip into an adventure that is interesting and fun. But train passengers don’t pay their own way. It doesn’t seem fair to make taxpayers pay for the relatively high cost of train travel, especially when inter-city buses are available at a much lower cost. Taxpayers should not be forced to pay for other people’s vacations.
Over the years, Federal highways have been paid for by user fees: the federal gas tax. That is the way it should be. (Recently, there have been stimulus funds that have subsidized highways, but that has not been true for most of our history.) If there were some way that train passengers would pay the full cost of the service they receive, then it might be proper for our government to help coordinate the effort. But, if there is no realistic way that passengers are willing to pay the full cost, and especially since people have an available alternative that costs much less, then taxpayers should not be asked to subsidize passenger train travel. We need to oppose the current effort to get taxpayers to pay for a passenger rail system across Iowa.