Amtrak, the National Railroad Passenger Corp., authorized to operate virtually all intercity passenger railroad routes in the United States. Amtrak was created by Congress in 1970 in response to more than two decades of continuous operating deficits by privately run passenger railroads; over 100 of the nation's 500 passenger railroad lines at the time had filed discontinuation-of-service petitions with the Interstate Commerce Commission. Given an initial funding of $40 million and $100 million in federal loan guarantees, Amtrak was designed to be a profit-making, quasipublic enterprise. Its board of directors includes three representatives of labor states and business appointed by the president, two representing commuter authorities, and two representing stockholders of the corporation's preferred stock. Amtrak began operation in 1971, reducing the number of intercity passenger rail routes by one half, retaining service mainly in areas of high density travel. Amtrak now runs up to 300 trains per day to 500 stations over 21,000 route miles, and carries nearly 26 million passengers a year, mainly in the Northeast and on the West Coast. It owns 730 miles, mostly in the Northeast corridor, while contracting with private railroads to run in the rest of the nation.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.