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Sometimes accepted wisdom is merely accepted and not wise. Case in point: the persistent myth that Amtrak must turn a profit. Even huge parts of Amtrak have embraced this myth, and it’s unfortunate because it’s simply wrong – as a matter of fact and as a matter of law.
“But, but, but, the 1970 law that created Amtrak says it’s supposed to operate like a for-profit company,” you say. Yes, it did say that. But at the time, the folks who wrote that measure acknowledged that it was more aspirational than anything else. And in 1978, lawmakers recognized their error. And they changed the law.
“We added the ‘for-profit’ clause because we thought this new entity should have high aspirations,” said A. Daniel O’Neal, who was at the time majority counsel for the Senate Transportation Subcommittee. “It would be wonderful if such service could be self-sustaining,
This article first appeared on www.railpassengers.org
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