NineShifter and blog contributor D.P. Lubic asks, "At some point, if this is the generational shift we think is taking place, and if things aren’t sandbagged with car subsidies as they have been for generations, there will be a time when it will be possible to run a rail passenger services at all levels–local streetcar, interurban, regional rail, and HSR–at a true profit. The question becomes, when will this be so?"
As futurists who base our predictions based on 100 years ago (so far, so good on predictions), we have been reading several books on trains and specifically the issue of government-owned passenger rail versus privately-owned passenger rail.
Here's our prediction. In 2020, trains will be so obviously beneficial to business that Republicans will suddenly say that "the time is now right" to support trains.
However, the Republicans will propose the big switch: that Amtrak be abolished and replaced by for-profit passenger train companies; and that the government own the track. Unclear whether freight companies would retain ownership of their own track, but certainly all new track (and there will be lots) will be owned by the government.
This is the traditional transportation model: the government pays for the stuff that isn't profitable (roads, airports) and the for-profit sector takes over the stuff that IS profitable - - planes, cars, and soon - - trains.
Photo: highway cloverleaf in Milwaukee as seen from the train.