A March 2013 report by the Brookings Institution discusses the renaissance of American passenger rail and shows that ridership on Amtrak is at record levels and continuing to grow. Additionally, the report notes that Amtrak’s passenger growth was more than double that of domestic aviation (20 percent) since 1997. As a chart presented by FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo shows, rail is most competitive in corridors under 400 miles.
About 70 percent of the FAA’s funding comes from charges related to use, while the TSA covers only about a third of its costs with user fees. A stronger user-based system, one economist argues, would be fairer, would direct resources where they are most needed, and would protect the system from uncertainty in Washington.
For trips between 100 and 500 miles, express buses, trains, and airlines are all vying for customers and contemplating the future of these shorter trips. At the same time, drivers are seeking relief from crowded highways and high gas prices. Add in the desire of travelers to be in constant internet and cell phone contact with the world, and intercity travel begins to seem a very competitive market. While air travel will continue to be the dominant mode for longer trips, and driving continues to offer maximum flexibility, rail and bus service upgrades in comfort and accommodations for electronic connectivity are attracting a larger number of travelers each year.