A Delaware-based startup thinks that it can revitalize some of Amtrak’s routes into a more lucrative business.
- AmeriStarRail was founded in 2019 and is aspiring to take over and rework Amtrak’s busiest rail corridor.
- “The AmeriStarRail proposal will expand Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor capacity to meet travel demand for the next 20 to 40 years. Our solution eliminates issues and challenges surrounding travel congestion in the Northeast Corridor without the environmental consequences of building more highways and airports,” says AmeriStarRail.
- “The firm promises more frequent trains, 30 new stops, and one fleet of high-speed trains with seating for three classes of service, instead of the current approach: fast, costly Acelas for business travelers and slower, cheaper regional trains for coach passengers,” says The Philadelphia Inquirer.
- Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor is its busiest and most profitable rail hub, connecting Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston through the electrified Acela high-speed passenger service–-transporting passengers nearly 500 miles between cities at 160 mph.
Why it’s news
Public transportation revitalization will be a major benefit in the push to reduce carbon emissions. AmeriStarRail hopes expanding Amtrak and making it more accessible to low-wage commuters will both be profitable for investors and helpful for national infrastructure buildup.
Making Amtrak profitable would also take a major burden off of taxpayers, who have subsidized the railroad since its founding in 1971. Amtrak received $2 billion in state and federal subsidies in 2020.
“Our solution for Transportation Equity on the Northeast Corridor would save taxpayer dollars by providing over $5 billion in private financing for a new standardized fleet of 160 mph trainsets with triple-class seating for passengers in Coach, Business, and First Class on every train, enabling Amtrak to offer high-frequency, high capacity, high-speed service to all passengers,” says AmeriStarRail.
Amtrak has thus far declined the startup’s offer, citing a lack of financial viability. A July letter stated that AmeriStarRail’s proposals do not prove rider increases will be viable enough to finance their expansions.
“AmeriStarRail met with Amtrak several years ago, but so far, the company’s executives aren’t buying what [it is] pitching. Amtrak has its own plans for growth, including potential new medium-range service between pairs of cities such as Reading and Philadelphia or Scranton and New York,” says The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Other analysts though say now is a good time to make major investments as government subsidies for transportation and infrastructure are widely available.
“Yet some transportation experts say now is an apt time to consider reforms as the 2021 infrastructure law pumps $66 billion over five years into Amtrak, the largest capital investment since its founding more than five decades ago,” says The Philadelphia Inquirer.