Amtrak Plans to Add Over 50 New Routes, Is It Enough to Replace Cars?

Jane Lu
· 4 min read
President Joe Biden has announced ambitious
plans for improving infrastructure
which includes funding to help accelerate the adoption of
electric vehicles
. The $1 trillion plan will support the improvement of roads and bridges, mass transit, electric vehicle infrastructure, and railroads.
According to
, Amtrak, a passenger railroad company, is looking to use its share of the funding to build new train routes. Here are more details about Amtrak’s spending plans and potential drawbacks to the new routes.
Trains could provide a greener alternative to cars.

What does the infrastructure bill include for trains?

According to the
New York Times
, the Senate passed the $1 trillion package on August 10. This is the first half of Biden’s plans to overhaul and improve the economy.
The infrastructure bill includes $66 billion in funding for passenger and freight rail which is the most funding that Amtrak has received since it was founded in 1971.
This will help expand the areas where Amtrak provides service, but it might not increase the speed of train travel in America, as reported by CNN.
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How will Amtrak spend its infrastructure funding?

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Amtrak is planning to spend its share of the funding on building over 50 new routes, according to CNN. This would expand and improve rail service for over 20 million more riders and 160 diverse communities.
Billy Terry, director of the National Transit Institute at Rutgers University, told CNN that, "This expansion provides reliable transportation for people who couldn't afford air fare, who don't have cars."
However, while Amtrak is proposing new routes, this doesn’t promise faster trips.

The new trains will be slower than cars

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The most crucial factor for attracting new riders is trip times. People want to be able to get to work, school, or wherever they need to go as quickly as possible.
CNN noted that one of Amtrak’s most popular routes is the Northeast Corridor. That’s because you can travel between D.C. and New York or New York and Boston faster than you can drive.
These 50 new routes are significantly slower than car travel between the cities. It can be more than 40% slower depending on the time of day. A route between major cities like Charlotte to Atlanta will run at a speed under 50 mph on average.
New trains in Europe have reached close to 200 mph since the ‘60s. The slow Amtrak speeds will make people hesitate to take a train instead of drive.

What are the obstacles to faster trains?

Amtrak’s decision not to propose faster trains might have to do with cost. High-speed trains are more expensive to operate because they need advanced safety equipment.
Amtrak also shares its tracks with freight railroad companies that will force Amtrak trains to wait. Train travel may be greener and safer, but lagging speeds will deter people from using these new routes.
This may be the largest amount of funding that rail service has received in decades, but a lot more needs to be done to reach Biden’s transportation goals. Biden hopes that this funding will ignite a "second great railroad revolution," but Amtrak will have to focus on reducing trip times for this to happen.
The bill still needs to be passed in the House and signed by Biden. In the meantime, Amtrak is deciding how to prioritize its new projects.
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