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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

America's only real passenger rail company wants to ask Congress for permission to stop losing tens of millions of dollars on long-distance routes, the WSJ reports.

The big picture: "Amtrak says it will need $2.2 billion to $2.7 billion between now and 2030, as part of a total $3.8 billion it expects to spend on replacing the long-distance fleet, including locomotives Amtrak has already ordered."

All 15 of Amtrak's long-distance routes lose money. The bottom 10 lose an average of nearly $10 million a year, each.

  • The Northeast Corridor — from Boston to D.C. — is the only Amtrak route to run a surplus, Bloomberg notes.
  • Amtrak wants to establish others by investing more heavily in city-to-city routes where a reasonable person might opt for a train over a plane — the WSJ lists examples like Charlotte to Atlanta and Cleveland to Cincinnati.
  • This means more frequent trains outfitted to move lots of people, instead of infrequent trains with sleeper cars utilized by hobbyists. 

Between the lines: U.S. passenger rail is having a miserable 2019. California is dialing down expectations for the much-vaunted high-speed line from San Diego to Sacramento and San Francisco, which now will focus just on the Central Valley.

Why it matters: A strong passenger rail system would help America reduce greenhouse emissions, ease the stress on our degraded road infrastructure and provide an option for young urbanites to keep avoiding cars.

The bottom line: Amtrak will struggle to make this happen. The Senate blocked a proposal to convert part of one long-distance line into a bus route last year, by a vote of 95 to 4, the Journal notes.

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Venezuela's predictable elections herald an uncertain future

The watchful eyes of Hugo Chávez on an election poster in Caracas. Photo: Cristian Hernandez/AFP via Getty

Venezuelans will go to the polls on Sunday, Nicolás Maduro will complete his takeover of the last opposition-held body, and much of the world will refuse to recognize the results.

The big picture: The U.S. and dozens of other countries have backed an opposition boycott of the National Assembly elections on the grounds that — given Maduro's tactics (like tying jobs and welfare benefits to voting), track record, and control of the National Electoral Council — they will be neither free nor fair.

Biden plans to ask public to wear masks for first 100 days in office

Joe Biden. Photo: Mark Makela/Gettu Images

President-elect Joe Biden told CNN on Thursday that he plans to ask the American public to wear face masks for the first 100 days of his presidency.

The big picture: Biden also stated he has asked NIAID director Anthony Fauci to stay on in his current role, serve as a chief medical adviser and be part of his COVID-19 response team when he takes office early next year.

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