The rise and fall of Amtrak, which has been losing money since 1971
In the decades following, American trains — carrying both freight and passengers — would flourish. Railroads shuttled passengers between thriving urban centers, and streetcars criss-crossed towns around the country. By 1916, 98% of all intercity travel took place on rail, according to US Census Bureau statistics.
Railroads' share of the travel market began to shrink drastically as the government began to incentivize road building and airport investments. And by 1970, the last year that America's rail network was privately controlled in its entirety, the total miles traveled on trains had fallen to less than 100,000.
"The Congress finds that modern, efficient intercity railroad passenger service is a necessary part of a balanced transportation system," lawmakers of the 91st Congress wrote in the bill. The law established basic frameworks for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation and a 15-person board of directors.