LIKE Plato's early dialogues inquiring into the meaning of justice or piety, Monday’s oral argument at the Supreme Court ended with no clear answer to the central question: what, exactly, is Amtrak? In the case of Department of Transportation v. Association of American Railroads, for which oral arguments were heard on December 8th, the justices grappled with whether the nationwide passenger train service is or isn't part of the government, and whether it unconstitutionally steps on the toes of other train companies.
Amtrak, it appears, is an inscrutably indeterminate entity. But some facts are clear. With the rise of the automobile and commercial aviation in the 20th century, passenger rail service took a huge hit; by the late 1960s the Pullman Company and the Penn Central,...Continue reading