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Slowest ride money can buy

National | Bush administration asks Amtrak to discontinue inefficient routes

Issue: "The cost of war," Feb. 15, 2003

Is Amtrak off track again? The Bush administration wants the federally funded railroad to eliminate inefficient routes. Several lose hundreds of dollars every time someone climbs aboard.

"For several of these trains, it would literally be cheaper for Amtrak to buy each passenger a plane ticket to the next destination," the president's budget document says. For example, each passenger on the Texas Eagle (between San Antonio and Chicago) costs Amtrak $258; a plane ticket for the same route could be had for $216.

A budget crisis almost shut down the railroad in July. Ridership dropped slightly last year to 23.4 million passengers. Amtrak announced last month it would cut coach fares as much as 25 percent on many routes. It also started an unusual test program that puts certified massage therapists on trains.

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