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A Chat with Amtrak's CEO on the State of U.S. Passenger Rail

Joseph Boardman on federal funding, long-distance routes, and operating "as a business."
relates to A Chat with Amtrak's CEO on the State of U.S. Passenger Rail
Justin Brown / Flickr

The first thing I say over the phone to Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman is that I appreciate him taking the time to talk about Amtrak, because it's one of my favorite subjects, and it's a favorite subject of CityLab readers. To which he responds, without missing a beat: "Sometimes it's not my favorite subject."

It helps to have a sense of humor if you're in charge of America's passenger rail service. Year after year, Amtrak sets ridership records along with the pace of intercity travel in the all-important Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston via New York, where it reaps big profits. And year after year, Amtrak gets hammered for needing huge amounts of federal taxpayer money to maintain costly (yet mandatory) long-distance operations—even as highways require far, far greater subsidies.