Delays are a fact of life on Amtraka symptom of a system that’s been on life support since birth. By the 1960sdue largely to the boom in passenger air travelprivate rail companies were struggling. By 1970, after a string of bankruptcies and mergers, only five companies were left standing, and their future seemed in doubt. The survival of the rail companies was seen as crucial to the nation’s economic stability: Trains were, and continue to be, the single largest mover of freight in the country. But money-losing passenger service was considered a major sore on the system. So in 1971, Congress and President Nixon relieved the rail companies of the burden of moving people, eventually forming the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, more commonly known as Amtrak (which is an only slightly less awkward moniker than Railpax, its original incarnation) to take on the losses associated with passenger rail. Though the company is entirely owned by the U.S. government, funded at the government’s discretion, and has its leadership appointed by the president and subject to Senate approval, it still has a mandate to achieve profitability and financial independence. In essence, it is a private company wholly owned and operated by government bureaucracy. Nixon’s aides figured Amtrak would only last a few years.
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