I want my $10 share of the subsidy returned.

Is riding the rails so romantic that we must subsidize it long after its useful life and economic feasibility? The United States Senate thinks so:

Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) introduced legislation yesterday that would authorize $3.2 billion a year for Amtrak over six years in exchange for greater efficiency and increased investments by states.

A similar bill was passed by the Senate in November, 93 to 6, but was not taken up by the House of Representatives. Lautenberg said prospects were much improved with Democrats now in control of both houses of Congress.

“It’s not going to be that difficult this year,” Lautenberg said yesterday at a news conference at Union Station, where he was joined by Lott and Alexander K. Kummant, Amtrak’s chief executive.

Kummant declined to specify how he would reduce operating costs, but he said that encouraging passenger growth is just as important as cutting services to achieve efficiencies.

Is it really? Danielle and I will visit New York City this weekend. We’re driving. How long do you think we considered traveling by train before deciding upon driving? Zero seconds.

No cost comparison can justify a journey on Amtrak, no matter how wonderful it would be. With tolls and gas, we’ll spend a bit shy of one hundred dollars. For Amtrak, we’d spend $220 for a roundtrip ticket. Each. And the expense of parking the car must still be considered, as well as the lack of disparity in trip length with either choice.

I don’t think I need to go on, for the case against Amtrak is obvious. Remember, too, that I’m talking about a trip in Amtrak’s only profitable service, the Northeast corridor. Amtrak makes its money in the Northeast through business and government. If you’re in one city, and going to another, it makes sense. Especially on someone else’s dime, which is how I’ve paid for it both times I’ve ridden Amtrak.

Trains have a legacy and mythology in America’s history, but that time has passed. It’s time to stop funneling taxpayer money into nostalgia. Let Amtrak sink or swim on its own. Those services that can’t be justified economically should be forced allowed to die.

More thoughts at A Stitch in Haste.

For discussion: if this is how Congress treats a non-essential service in financial distress, how will it treat a financial healthcare crisis under a single-payer system when should problems arise?