A few facts to mix in with all the opinion:
According to the monthly report for December 2007 at the NNEPRA website:
“Average daily ridership was 1,105…Train 685 continues to be the most popular train averaging 234 passengers per day and 19% of weekday ridership. Train 680 is the second highest performer with average daily ridership of 199 passengers.”
Let’s do some math. These two trains, the principal morning and evening commuter runs, account for 39% of the average daily passenger count. The remaining 8 trains/day therefore have a total passenger count of 1105 - 433 or 672 / 8 = 84 passengers per train average. Not exactly jamming the vestibules of a four or five car train. Nothing surprising there. Even back in the pre-Interstate days, the most heavily patronized trains ran during rush hour, with a supplemental midday train every couple of hours or so.
IMHO, a train with that few passengers needs a major subsidy to cover costs. And with an average of 84 passengers, it’s not surprising to find very low patronage on the off-hour trains. Remember the incident at Anderson a few months ago? The Boston papers noted that the Downeaster involved carried 12 passengers. As I said before, these facts confirm that it’s not a stretch to realize that the crew may outnumber the passengers on occasion.
So what, you say? (You did say that, didn’t you?) So get real. As has been noted elsewhere, there is no nationalized passenger rail service in the world that operates at a profit. They are considered to be part of the national transportation infrastructure and, in the USA, an alternative to the private automobile for businesspeople, students, and those who don’t drive - primarily the elderly. In general, people in other countries are willing to support the rails, just as they support the highway and air infrastructure. Our problems are unique to the US.
Pay your taxes, sit back, and enjoy the ride.