This thread could go in a lot of different places.
I feel that the current Amtrak LD system can only go so far in its current setup. You can only hear so much having NS, CSX, UP, etc blocking any progress when it comes to passenger rail. As long as they are controlling access to passenger rail, passenger rail will always be second class to the freights. The NEC model of multiple trains and frequencies and higher speeds, while maybe not as good as train transportation in Europe and Asia, certainly is the envy of the rest of the nation. If the government can "own" their tracks all across the country and not just in the NEC, then the level of service found in the NEC could be possible in other areas of the country and rail travel can be as popular or close to as popular in other densely populated areas as it is in the NEC. Unless the host railroads are willing to start selling us their tracks, the obvious idea would be to start building our own. Yes, it will be difficult and expensive. But so is dealing with CSX's crap right now. It's just like the decision to rent vs. to buy. I think eventually Amtrak or the future of national rail service has to think long term and not short term. Maybe instead of just band-aiding or trying to fill a bunch of holes we start fresh (or we do both if we can "afford" it). Then, while we may never be profitable, we can at least cover our operating costs like the NEC does. Who knows, maybe private rail would be more likely to want to run on government owned tracks as opposed to other companies' and we may see competition in passenger rail like the pre-Amtrak days. Then we can have more rail service for less cost to the American taxpayer.
There are a few "high speed rail" models out there (the USHSR Association (http://www.ushsr.com/ushsrmap.html) has one but their first phase was supposed to be completed in 2015). While speed is certainly a huge asset in rail travel, I and I'm sure most of us would just like the freedom to run more trains at more convenient times and not be stranded for hours in the middle of nowhere because of UP or overnight in Chicago until the train the next night to the east coast. Any tracks that we can control instead of CN helps us.