The ongoing, highly politicized "Battle For Wisconsin" has got me thinking about other ways to fund Passenger Rail.
The train of thought - now leaving from Track 5 - goes as follows: The whole Wisconsin thing involves public sector unions. Any unionized Amtrak employee is effectively in the public sector. Why can't ours be a totally privatized but subsidized passenger rail system. Unions welcome, but no longer public sector unions. Private enterprise can't give away the store without losing out on the profit.
Why can't our government - we, as taxpaying citizens, recognizing that Passenger Rail is part of a balanced national security and national transportation policy - decide how much it wants to spend on passenger rail. Let's say for the next 10 years to make it a stable system. And then why can't we put it up for bid. The company that wants to show some gonads and take a shot at making a profit above and beyond covering the tax money gets to bid its own X number of dollars for the privelege. Define adequate progress for 3 years right there in the bid documents. The hard part would be defining progress realistically - not by having Congress say it has to turn a bottom line every year or else.
The prize: Getting to make a profit. As big a profit as you want if you manage it all correctly.
The penalty: If no adequate progress in 3 years the whole thing goes up for bids, including the subsidy and the investment of the original proprietor. The whole subsidy goes back to the taxpayers out of the proceeds and everything starts over except for the infrastructure already in place.
I don't know if the USA has enough political will to try to accomplish something like this. But I do know that, given the capital, I'd be one of the bidders.
©2011 - C. A. Turek - firstname.lastname@example.org