Data: Track Record
Give Amtrak, the government-funded national passenger rail system, this much credit: When it comes to losing money, it is on time, all the time. Since its creation in 1971, Amtrak has never been profitable and has received roughly $21 billion in federal subsidies for capital and operating expenses (it receives some subsidies from states as well). Fiscal 1997 was a good year–Amtrak lost only $762 million, a deficit that is projected to grow to $845 million in fiscal 1998. Still, hope springs eternal among Amtrak officials: They are sticking by their bold, seemingly drunken, declaration that by 2002, they will no longer need federal operating subsidies.
In a recent report, the General Accounting Office suggested otherwise. Calculating profits and losses on a per-passenger basis for each of Amtrak's 40 routes, the GAO found that only one made money–Metroliner service between New York and Washington, D.C., which threw off $5 in profit for each ticket sold. Overall, however, the system loses $47 per passenger. Below are the top money drains, limited to the 14 routes that lose more than $100 per passenger.