Amtrak may add more than 50 new routes. But it still won't be faster than a car

Amtrak may add more than 50 new routes. But it still won't be faster than a car

It looks like a $1 trillion infrastructure bill would give passengers and rail freight $66 billion, an infusion that is likely to expand where service is provided but does little to increase the speed of rail travel in the United States.

Amtrak has proposed spending its share of infrastructure funding on more than 50 new routes, but those routes are much slower than everyday intercity car travel — sometimes as high as 40% or more at certain times of the day.

The journey between Boston train stations and Albany train station takes 4 hours and 20 minutes, more than an hour longer than a typical car trip between destinations. The journey between Milwaukee and St. Paul's train stations takes 6 hours and 45 minutes, sometimes over a two-hour drive.

Amtrak told CNN Business that to calculate trip times for most of the proposed new routes, it looked at passenger train times in the mid-1950s to early 1960s and chose the best time to travel. Amtrak chose that era because it gave a frame of reference but declined to explain why it didn't select a more recent comparison.

Average road speeds between major cities (such as Charlotte to Atlanta, San Antonio to Dallas, and Chicago to Cincinnati) are less than 50 mph. That's slower than new trains in Europe and Asia, which have approached 200 mph since the 1960s, and Africa, where the 200 mph train was introduced three years ago. New Amtrak's speeds lag even historic American trains, such as the Hiawatha, which reached 100mph and ran between Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Minneapolis for more than 50 years.

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