Amtrak Explorer: online interactive map of the U.S. passenger train system

Originally published at: Amtrak Explorer: online interactive map of the U.S. passenger train system | Boing Boing


… want to take the train from Texas to Montana?

TOO BAD :sob:


I recommend going through Chicago to get there, but not on a Sunday. :wink:


am i the only one who finds that map depressing?


Yeah, I’d love to see a comparison with other developed nations that have actually-functional passenger railways.


I think that I’d like to take the train from Milwaukee to Seattle someday. But Empire Builder? Worst line name ever.


passenger train from Chicago to Tampa??

Many countries with better rail systems have cities that are much closer than those in the US. That’s not an excuse: ours should be much better. But how long do you want to spend going across a couple thousand miles?



The distances between major cities along the coasts are to a first approximation roughly equivalent to that of major cities in Europe or Japan. I don’t see how this is an objection.


You have three problems.

The first is the huge size of the USA. It’s about 3,000 miles from New York to San Francisco, compared to 1,600 miles from London to Bucharest.

The second is your relatively bad railways. It’s 3 days by train from NY to SF, 1 day from London to Bucharest.

The third is your low amount of leisure time. The average vacation allowance per year is 11 days in the USA, 23 days in Europe.

It’s easy to see why people prefer to fly.


yea and also the highway traffic into Bucharest is the worst.

I live in southeast Michigan. If I wanted to take a train to New York City, I have to backtrack almost four hours in the opposite direction (!!)


If the Federal Government would let go of Amtrak and allow for competition, without government interference, passenger train service would start to emerge. The Feds plow all kinds of appropriations into this subsidized industry, but hardly any innovation nor expansion has occurred. How do you think the railroads were built and expanded back in the 1800s and 1900s? COMPETITION. If there’s a market and a need, then there would be businesses taking risks to renovate and expand private commercial rail passenger services.

I thought this was going to be a gag site where it’s just a blank map. Still, if you put this next to a map of any old-world country at the same scale (or America in the 1920s), it’s not good.

I think the reason techbros and their ilk keep trying to pretend we can do better than trains is that, if trains are the ultimate form of transportation (which they are), then future archaeologists will date the peak of our civilisation by the extent of the railroads. And if neoliberalism remains in charge, that peak is already vanishing in the rearview mirror.


Another problem is that in the U.S. dedicated long-haul passenger rail is a rarity. Amtrak shares the majority of its track with freight rail, and the latter always has priority (to the point that “shares” is not the right word). That means lots of time spent idling on sidings and guaranteed delays for passengers.

The exception is the so-called high-speed Acela corridor in the Northeast, but that was built as a kind of showcase to serve people who actually matter to the federal government (including freight rail lobbyists).

If you’re in no particular hurry to get where you’re going (for a relatively limited selection of “wheres”) and don’t mind long stops in random places, Amtrak is fine. Otherwise, it’s a plane or a bus or a personal car for Americans.


At the rate things are going we will all end up in the tail section.


Welcome to BoingBoing! :wink:

In nearly every country that has a good rail network, it is to some extent subsidised by govt/taxpayers - because it is a ‘social good’ - and I very much doubt if any investor today would spend the kind of money needed to establish new lines/services - it is an industry that is very hard to make genuine profit in.

Competition worked in the 1800s/1900s simply because railways were revolutionary and there was no alternative (no highways/cars/airplanes). There is no comparison between market conditions then and now.


The railroads in the late 1800s in the U.S. were also built with the help of a lot of spectacularly corrupt politicians who made sure competition was limited only to a select few private companies. To claim that it was some kind of free-market golden age liberated from government meddling is to ignore the gilded, peeling reality of the time.

State-subsidised passenger rail works reasonably to very well in other advanced economies (including Canada, with its comparable vast distances). Amtrak, in contrast, is broken by design to benefit freight rail and competing modes of passenger travel.


Not quite. You can take an Amtrak hired bus to Toledo from Dearborn or Detroit and wait 3 to 4 hours, or take the Train west to Chicago then east to the coast. You end up on the same train most of the time.

You can see the two parallel runs through Michigan and Ohio on the map.



Come to the UK and find out how wrong you are about privatising railways.