Arthur FROMMER'S "To Bus, Car and Plane, Please Add 'Train' " (On a Budget, March 14) on intercity passenger rail funding misses the larger debate that needs to occur regarding this important issue: Is the current system worth saving at any cost, or is there a better way to provide this service to the American people?
Amtrak's business model is unsustainable. Even its most ardent defenders acknowledge that it will take more than massive infusions of cash -- the usual Washington solution -- to improve the range and quality of its intercity passenger rail service.
Time and again in the past three decades, it has failed to effectively respond to the changing transportation demands and patterns of travelers.
President Bush thinks there is a better way to deliver this service.
His Passenger Rail Investment Reform Act of 2003 is the first substantive effort in a generation to address the role of passenger rail in the nation's transportation system.
Under his proposal, states would take the primary responsibility for deciding where passenger rail is needed and how to operate it; the federal government would provide input and funding.
This is how it is done for highways, airports and transit systems, and there is no reason passenger rail should be any different.
California, North Carolina and Washington are all excellent examples of states paying for what they want above and beyond what Amtrak would otherwise provide.
As a result, they get noticeably better rail service. It's a formula that should be repeated across the country.
None of this means Amtrak should be done away with, only that it will no longer be the monopoly provider of intercity passenger rail service.
To be sure, it will look different after our reforms are enacted, but it will also be more responsive to the needs of passengers and more sustainable for the long term.
Rather than sounding the alarm bell to rally around an outdated and failed model, Frommer should join us in pursuing meaningful reforms to strengthen and grow America's intercity passenger rail system.