This is tough: the Bush budget proposes eliminating Amtrak’s federal subsidy entirely (it’s currently at $1.2b). This would probably push Amtrak into bankruptcy, and result in the elimination of long-haul rail travel throughout much of the United States.
Now, this is a perennial budget target, and the MSNBC article linked above suggests that Amtrak will probably survive to fight another (similar) battle next year. But in less than five minutes of looking, I found a very interesting strategy document from Amtrak’s CEO from two years ago. If you’re interested in rail travel, his debunking of the “six myths of Amtrak” is compelling.
On a personal note, long trips on the train occupy a special place in my heart. Last year’s trip to New Orleans was a superlative family vacation. I was in the air on September 11, 2001, and got stranded in Dallas. I was fortunate to get one of the last tickets on the Dallas to Chicago train on Amtrak, and spent the next 36 hours on the train. Except for brief periods where the cheap radio I picked up before the stores closed in Dallas would get radio reception, I spent most of the trip in quiet contemplation of that attack. I still think I’m fortunate to not have had the TV nearby for the first couple days following 9/11.