The NEC is a fucking money pit and the long distance trains are the only ones that actually have half a shot of financial stability. I'm tired of everyone buying into the notion that Amtrak should shed the long distance routes and focus on the NEC when all of the actual cost analysis and railroad press show that the long distance trains cost so much less to operate and, if marketed and run correctly, would give you a much better return.
Go look at how much deferred maintenance there is on the NEC. Look at how much it will cost to bring it to "good working order." It's in the magnitude of $60 billion. Or Amtrak could look at its current long distance routes and understand that a lot of people aren't taking the full train and are getting on and off at intermediate stops and time the trains accordingly. For instance, why does the west bound California Zephyr stop in Omaha, NE at 11 fucking PM?
The other thing strangling Amtrak is the inability to run intermediate length routes without state funding. It cripples their ability to expand long distance route ridership.
But basically my thoughts are that Conrail should have kept the NEC and charged people the appropriate costs to run on it, and Amtrak should keep its long distance routes.