Some Facts About Amtrak And The Southwest Chief

November 2011

###     Over the 40 years since Amtrak was born, national transportation funding looks something like this:

Rail (Amtrak)                    $   31 Billion

Air Infrastructure               $ 427 Billion

Highways / Roads              $  3.6 Trillion (yes, Trillion)

Given the advantages in fuel / energy economy, long infrastructure life, long vehicle life, safety, thrifty use of land and materials, and the many other benefits afforded by Rail, this table points out a serious imbalance in our transportation investment strategy.

###     Amtrak in general recovers about 85% of its operating costs at the “farebox”, and about 10% more through concessions, etc. Considering long-term true costs and benefits, this rate of return on investment is far higher than those of the air and highway modes.

###     The Hutchinson, Kansas-Albuquerque segment of the SW Chief (670 miles) needs about $94 million the first year and about $11 million per year thereafter to bring it back to 80 mph standards. This is an excellent investment, especially considering the many uses these tracks could be put to besides hosting those essential Amtrak trains.

###     The loss of the Southwest Chief in Western Kansas, SE Colorado and Northern New Mexico would constitute a serious environmental and economic blow to the region, by forcing upon it the much-increased expense, waste and danger of highway-only land transportation.

###     According to recent calculations by Rails Inc, the SW Chief gets roughly 66 passenger-miles per gallon of diesel — even hauling roomy coach cars, sleepers, a diner and an observation car.

###     A train is safer and more reliable than a car or bus in all kinds of inclement weather. More comfortable too.

###     People really like trains.