A Long Ride Home

I prefer traveling by train, rather than airplane, for a few reasons. The tickets are cheaper and the seats are roomier. Amtrak doesn't feel the need to scan my shoes before I board, and I can take along a full-size bottle of shampoo, as well as bottled water purchased at a dollar store, rather than from an airport vendor.

But planes have one huge advantage: speed. Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV  ) may have taken some heat after removing actor and director Kevin Smith from a flight because of his size. Passengers may be peeved with luggage fees from airlines including AMR's (NYSE: AMR  ) American, Delta (NYSE: DAL  ) , and UAL's (Nasdaq: UAUA  ) United. And don't forget Ryanair's proposed plan to charge for use of restrooms. (Talk about a captive audience.)

However, we like to get places as quickly as possible. I'm in the minority choosing an 11-hour train ride from Washington, D.C., to an Amtrak station near my hometown in mid-Vermont, instead of a 90-minute flight.

So here's my question: Will grumpy taxpayers someday target the federal government's multimillion-dollar support of Amtrak as an undeserved "bailout"? And what about the $8 billion of earmarks contained in the stimulus package for high speed rail?  Shouldn't airlines be allowed to triumph, if that's what paying customers want? For now, I think the government has bigger fish to fry, but rail subsidies won't escape criticism and scrutiny.

Please use the comments section below to chime in with your thoughts.

Fool online editor Kris Eddy owns no shares of any stocks mentioned in this article. Southwest Airlines is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy likes daisies.


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