David Lester notes that the Amtrak rider does not face other options, should the trains come off.
Rider analysis and research into the operation of long-distance Amtrak service will reveal that nostalgia or enthusiasm for trains are not the key drivers for patronage of this service. The “expansive air service” to some communities consists of aircraft that put a lump in your throat just to look at them.  Most people do not find long-distance bus travel to be very pleasant, and driving a car long distances is not an option for many people.

Several years ago, I had a flight between two sizeable cities for which only two prop planes were available.  One had just landed, but experienced some type of trouble during the landing.  The other plane, which was on the ground, had a mechanical issue being worked on.  While waiting to board, our air crew was on the runway doing “touch and goes” to see if the one that had recently landed had been repaired sufficiently to make the trip.  At the end of all this, the pilot announced to the passengers “the first officer and I believe that the plane is airworthy, and shouldn’t give us any problems on our flight.”  That was certainly comforting.  It was good to hear that the plane was airworthy.  Some people walked off the plane.  I was apprehensive, but stayed aboard for what was, thankfully, an uneventful one-hour flight.  And, I won’t even go into how often flights from smaller communities to larger ones are canceled for some reason – the reason is usually “mechanical problems,” but one wonders if it’s because not enough passengers purchased tickets for the given flight.  So much for “expansive” air service.
Not to mention, that recent unpleasantness in Chicago was about the last United Express puddle-jumper for the day to Louisville; and the  Cold Spring Shops coverage of the Empire Builder regularly focuses on the absence of air or bus service along the 49th parallel; and we could ask whether Archer Daniels are engaging in rent-seeking to keep Decatur as an essential service airport.

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