Here are some of my thoughts on this. Passenger rail is an underused transportation mode in the United States, as compared to almost all other developed nations (and many developing nations). This should be reversed for a number of reasons, the main ones being that rail transport has the potential for reducing emissions and being a major strategy to deal with the climate crisis. This is because rail vehicles, properly designed, use less energy than internal combustion powered road vehicles and aircraft, and also because rail systems are a better fit into the kind of dense walkable urban environments that we will have to live in if we are going to be serious about dealing with climate change. That said, rail is most competitive with other transportation modes in corridor service (trips under 400-500 miles.) These trips can be close to time competitive even with aircraft when also including the time needed to travel to the airport, checking in to the flight, passing through the security scan, retrieving checked baggage, and traveling from the airport to the final destination. (On average, airports need to be located at some distance from other land uses, whereas a rail corridor can have multiple stops in the same city.) As a matter of policy, rail travel should be encouraged for trips of "corridor" scale and actions should be taken to maximize the market share of rail in those cases. This does not mean that long-distance service has no utility was part of a national mobility policy. Long distance service provides "corridor" scale service between rural locations that do not have enough passengers to justify their own corridor service. The service also allows people from rural locations to access large metropolitan areas with a one-seat ride, even if it takes longer than flying. There are also many people who, for medical reasons (including, but not limited to fear of flying), are unable to drive or fly. Finally, there is a significant number of travelers who prefer to travel by train for long distances. This results in a decent market for long-distance train travel, and, indeed, existing Amtrak long-distance trains are well patronized. If the trains were improved with slightly better running times (60 mph average), better on-time performance, and appropriate on-board service, they could significantly increase their appeal, justifying more service frequency and service to more places. Nonetheless, long-distance rail travel will always be a secondary mode of travel, both for people traveling long distances and for people traveling shorter distances to and from smaller rural communities. It's thus quite reasonable to focus the primary effort in passenger rail on corridor level services, developing these services to the point that they maximize their market share among transportation modes. Public policy should be to get as many people as possible out of cars and planes and into trains. In this sense, Amtrak's "national" system should be as many corridors as possible in every part of the country where there is sufficient population to sustain ridership. In some parts of the country these corridors will connect with each other (e.g., New York - Albany - Buffalo - Cleveland - Toledo - Chicago) and long distance service is actually part of multiple corridor services. However, it is perfectly reasonable on a policy basis to focus Amtrak's efforts on developing additional corridor service. Whether using Federal or state funds, this will get the biggest bang for the buck in public investment to increase the use of rail transportation and provide national benefits. Nevertheless, there is a place for support of long distance service that cannot be fully incorporated into the corridor framework. These trains provide essential mobility services to a significant population in rural states and to people who cannot drive or fly. Furthermore, support for this service helps build a political coalition between legislators in rural states with those in states with large metropolitan areas. Without this coalition, it might prove difficult to get sufficient political support for passenger rail, whether for corridor service or long distance trains. In short, most of the benefits of passenger rail are achieved by providing corridor service. However, long-distance service also has significant benefits to the mobility of a significant minority of citizens, and should be supported both for social reasons and to build a larger coalition of supporters for funding of passenger rail.