6 Update did not enhance the original answer, at least in terms of on topic response to original question.
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The answer is to stop subsidizing its rival: roads. You say that passenger rail stopped being profitable around the 50's or so: look up when the Dwight Eisenhower freeway project really hit its stride. Your tax dollars are hard at work building a vast, free to use (as opposed to actually free), and convenient transportation network.

While rail does have some limitations, most of them could be solved with technology and scale, both of which are beyond the resources of companies moving bulk materials at rock bottom prices against a virtually free rival.

For better or worse, we picked the winner in 1956. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_Highway_System

(While this answer is incredibly US-centric you can pretty strongly see governments choosing rail or road, rather than the market, in most countries).

UPDATE

wedstrom's answer is one possibility but the negative consequences would be dire to say the least. Japan Rail demonstrates a system that shatters the notion that trains are unprofitable without any of those down-sides.

I am going to address some of these downsides. I wrote my answer as a simple, ideologically pure solution to the economic mismatch of trains and cars.

I actually support the Eisenhower freeway project. No national rail or road system has ever been built without government support. This is a bit misleading, as it would likely be possible eventually but governments can fund such project to promote growth, and almost by definition this means that the route would be unprofitable for a long time. So Governments have always beat private investors to the punch. This was even true for railroads. The intercontinental railroad was heavily subsidized. Governments can make those kinds of investments in growth and capture a much broader revenue stream from that growth, rather than just the immediate use of the road.

The downside of this government investment can be waste. Cars are incredibly wasteful, and just wouldn't have become a monopoly in the US without explicit government support. Also road construction can become bloated "to create jobs".

However, trying to build transportation without the help of the state, which as was noted in a comment can't really be done without the power of a state to grab the land to achieve it. Organically built transportation networks are build for the most immediate needs of the landowners, not the needs of the transportation system as a whole.

The worst part is that a truly privatized road network would need to be able to track who is using it, in order to enforce it's pricing model. Cameras, GPS or private police are all obvious gateways to an Orwellian quasi governmental road corporation. Never mind that public right of way would go away: the bedrock of the free market is property rights and consent. If the road corporation doesn't consent to you using their roads, how can you use your property? Can you really opt out of Verdriven's Unlimited Miles plan with no roaming even on weekends(TM)? You do? Well, I guess you're never leaving your home ever again.

In real life a balanced solution will be needed. Some subsidies actually make sense. And though I support electrified rail, I don't think passenger trains will be coming back as long as we have enough oil to run airlines.

Our best near term, free market solution is ride sharing, preferably based on self driving cars. This can reduce traffic, get rid of the need for individual cars (making it an obvious luxury), and giving a huge boost to bus lines which can then become express lines, being freed from the arduous process of dropping people off within reasonable walking distance of their destination. (Again, this is very US centric but is applicable from one degree or another to practically everywhere else).

The answer is to stop subsidizing its rival: roads. You say that passenger rail stopped being profitable around the 50's or so: look up when the Dwight Eisenhower freeway project really hit its stride. Your tax dollars are hard at work building a vast, free to use (as opposed to actually free), and convenient transportation network.

While rail does have some limitations, most of them could be solved with technology and scale, both of which are beyond the resources of companies moving bulk materials at rock bottom prices against a virtually free rival.

For better or worse, we picked the winner in 1956. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_Highway_System

(While this answer is incredibly US-centric you can pretty strongly see governments choosing rail or road, rather than the market, in most countries).

UPDATE

wedstrom's answer is one possibility but the negative consequences would be dire to say the least. Japan Rail demonstrates a system that shatters the notion that trains are unprofitable without any of those down-sides.

I am going to address some of these downsides. I wrote my answer as a simple, ideologically pure solution to the economic mismatch of trains and cars.

I actually support the Eisenhower freeway project. No national rail or road system has ever been built without government support. This is a bit misleading, as it would likely be possible eventually but governments can fund such project to promote growth, and almost by definition this means that the route would be unprofitable for a long time. So Governments have always beat private investors to the punch. This was even true for railroads. The intercontinental railroad was heavily subsidized. Governments can make those kinds of investments in growth and capture a much broader revenue stream from that growth, rather than just the immediate use of the road.

The downside of this government investment can be waste. Cars are incredibly wasteful, and just wouldn't have become a monopoly in the US without explicit government support. Also road construction can become bloated "to create jobs".

However, trying to build transportation without the help of the state, which as was noted in a comment can't really be done without the power of a state to grab the land to achieve it. Organically built transportation networks are build for the most immediate needs of the landowners, not the needs of the transportation system as a whole.

The worst part is that a truly privatized road network would need to be able to track who is using it, in order to enforce it's pricing model. Cameras, GPS or private police are all obvious gateways to an Orwellian quasi governmental road corporation. Never mind that public right of way would go away: the bedrock of the free market is property rights and consent. If the road corporation doesn't consent to you using their roads, how can you use your property? Can you really opt out of Verdriven's Unlimited Miles plan with no roaming even on weekends(TM)? You do? Well, I guess you're never leaving your home ever again.

In real life a balanced solution will be needed. Some subsidies actually make sense. And though I support electrified rail, I don't think passenger trains will be coming back as long as we have enough oil to run airlines.

Our best near term, free market solution is ride sharing, preferably based on self driving cars. This can reduce traffic, get rid of the need for individual cars (making it an obvious luxury), and giving a huge boost to bus lines which can then become express lines, being freed from the arduous process of dropping people off within reasonable walking distance of their destination. (Again, this is very US centric but is applicable from one degree or another to practically everywhere else).

The answer is to stop subsidizing its rival: roads. You say that passenger rail stopped being profitable around the 50's or so: look up when the Dwight Eisenhower freeway project really hit its stride. Your tax dollars are hard at work building a vast, free to use (as opposed to actually free), and convenient transportation network.

While rail does have some limitations, most of them could be solved with technology and scale, both of which are beyond the resources of companies moving bulk materials at rock bottom prices against a virtually free rival.

For better or worse, we picked the winner in 1956. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_Highway_System

(While this answer is incredibly US-centric you can pretty strongly see governments choosing rail or road, rather than the market, in most countries).

    Mod Moved Comments To Chat
5 Explained the negatives people keep alluding too
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The answer is to stop subsidizing its rival: roads. You say that passenger rail stopped being profitable around the 50's or so: look up when the Dwight Eisenhower freeway project really hit its stride. Your tax dollars are hard at work building a vast, free to use (as opposed to actually free), and convenient transportation network.

While rail does have some limitations, most of them could be solved with technology and scale, both of which are beyond the resources of companies moving bulk materials at rock bottom prices against a virtually free rival.

For better or worse, we picked the winner in 1956. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_Highway_System

(While this answer is incredibly US-centric you can pretty strongly see governments choosing rail or road, rather than the market, in most countries).

UPDATE

wedstrom's answer is one possibility but the negative consequences would be dire to say the least. Japan Rail demonstrates a system that shatters the notion that trains are unprofitable without any of those down-sides.

I am going to address some of these downsides. I wrote my answer as a simple, ideologically pure solution to the economic mismatch of trains and cars.

I actually support the Eisenhower freeway project. No national rail or road system has ever been built without government support. This is a bit misleading, as it would likely be possible eventually but governments can fund such project to promote growth, and almost by definition this means that the route would be unprofitable for a long time. So Governments have always beat private investors to the punch. This was even true for railroads. The intercontinental railroad was heavily subsidized. Governments can make those kinds of investments in growth and capture a much broader revenue stream from that growth, rather than just the immediate use of the road.

The downside of this government investment can be waste. Cars are incredibly wasteful, and just wouldn't have become a monopoly in the US without explicit government support. Also road construction can become bloated "to create jobs".

However, trying to build transportation without the help of the state, which as was noted in a comment can't really be done without the power of a state to grab the land to achieve it. Organically built transportation networks are build for the most immediate needs of the landowners, not the needs of the transportation system as a whole.

On the other hand,The worst part is that a truly privatized road network would need to be able to track who is using it, in order to enforce it's pricing model. Cameras, GPS or private police are all obvious gateways to an Orwellian quasi governmental road corporation. Never mind that public right of way would go away: the bedrock of the free market is property rights and consent. If the road corporation doesn't consent to you using their roads, how can you use your property? Can you really opt out of Verdriven's Unlimited Miles plan with no roaming even on weekends(TM)? You do? Well, I guess you're never leaving your home ever again.

In real life a balanced solution will be needed. Some subsidies actually make sense. And though I support electrified rail, I don't think passenger trains will be coming back as long as we have enough oil to run airlines.

Our best near term, free market solution is ride sharing, preferably based on self driving cars. This can reduce traffic, get rid of the need for individual cars (making it an obvious luxury), and giving a huge boost to bus lines which can then become express lines, being freed from the arduous process of dropping people off within reasonable walking distance of their destination. (Again, this is very US centric but is applicable from one degree or another to practically everywhere else).

The answer is to stop subsidizing its rival: roads. You say that passenger rail stopped being profitable around the 50's or so: look up when the Dwight Eisenhower freeway project really hit its stride. Your tax dollars are hard at work building a vast, free to use (as opposed to actually free), and convenient transportation network.

While rail does have some limitations, most of them could be solved with technology and scale, both of which are beyond the resources of companies moving bulk materials at rock bottom prices against a virtually free rival.

For better or worse, we picked the winner in 1956. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_Highway_System

(While this answer is incredibly US-centric you can pretty strongly see governments choosing rail or road, rather than the market, in most countries).

UPDATE

wedstrom's answer is one possibility but the negative consequences would be dire to say the least. Japan Rail demonstrates a system that shatters the notion that trains are unprofitable without any of those down-sides.

I am going to address some of these downsides. I wrote my answer as a simple, ideologically pure solution to the economic mismatch of trains and cars.

I actually support the Eisenhower freeway project. No national rail or road system has ever been built without government support. This is a bit misleading, as it would likely be possible eventually but governments can fund such project to promote growth, and almost by definition this means that the route would be unprofitable for a long time. So Governments have always beat private investors to the punch. This was even true for railroads. The intercontinental railroad was heavily subsidized. Governments can make those kinds of investments in growth and capture a much broader revenue stream from that growth, rather than just the immediate use of the road.

The downside of this government investment can be waste. Cars are incredibly wasteful, and just wouldn't have become a monopoly in the US without explicit government support. Also road construction can become bloated "to create jobs".

However, trying to build transportation without the help of the state, which as was noted in a comment can't really be done without the power of a state to grab the land to achieve it. Organically built transportation networks are build for the most immediate needs of the landowners, not the needs of the transportation system as a whole.

On the other hand, truly privatized road network would need to be able to track who is using it. Cameras, GPS or private police are all obvious gateways to an Orwellian quasi governmental road corporation. Never mind that public right of way would go away: the bedrock of the free market is property rights and consent. If the road corporation doesn't consent to you using their roads, how can you use your property? Can you really opt out of Verdriven's Unlimited Miles plan with no roaming even on weekends(TM)? You do? Well, I guess you're never leaving your home ever again.

In real life a balanced solution will be needed. Some subsidies actually make sense. And though I support electrified rail, I don't think passenger trains will be coming back as long as we have enough oil to run airlines.

Our best near term, free market solution is ride sharing, preferably based on self driving cars. This can reduce traffic, get rid of the need for individual cars (making it an obvious luxury), and giving a huge boost to bus lines which can then become express lines, being freed from the arduous process of dropping people off within reasonable walking distance of their destination. (Again, this is very US centric but is applicable from one degree or another to practically everywhere else).

The answer is to stop subsidizing its rival: roads. You say that passenger rail stopped being profitable around the 50's or so: look up when the Dwight Eisenhower freeway project really hit its stride. Your tax dollars are hard at work building a vast, free to use (as opposed to actually free), and convenient transportation network.

While rail does have some limitations, most of them could be solved with technology and scale, both of which are beyond the resources of companies moving bulk materials at rock bottom prices against a virtually free rival.

For better or worse, we picked the winner in 1956. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_Highway_System

(While this answer is incredibly US-centric you can pretty strongly see governments choosing rail or road, rather than the market, in most countries).

UPDATE

wedstrom's answer is one possibility but the negative consequences would be dire to say the least. Japan Rail demonstrates a system that shatters the notion that trains are unprofitable without any of those down-sides.

I am going to address some of these downsides. I wrote my answer as a simple, ideologically pure solution to the economic mismatch of trains and cars.

I actually support the Eisenhower freeway project. No national rail or road system has ever been built without government support. This is a bit misleading, as it would likely be possible eventually but governments can fund such project to promote growth, and almost by definition this means that the route would be unprofitable for a long time. So Governments have always beat private investors to the punch. This was even true for railroads. The intercontinental railroad was heavily subsidized. Governments can make those kinds of investments in growth and capture a much broader revenue stream from that growth, rather than just the immediate use of the road.

The downside of this government investment can be waste. Cars are incredibly wasteful, and just wouldn't have become a monopoly in the US without explicit government support. Also road construction can become bloated "to create jobs".

However, trying to build transportation without the help of the state, which as was noted in a comment can't really be done without the power of a state to grab the land to achieve it. Organically built transportation networks are build for the most immediate needs of the landowners, not the needs of the transportation system as a whole.

The worst part is that a truly privatized road network would need to be able to track who is using it, in order to enforce it's pricing model. Cameras, GPS or private police are all obvious gateways to an Orwellian quasi governmental road corporation. Never mind that public right of way would go away: the bedrock of the free market is property rights and consent. If the road corporation doesn't consent to you using their roads, how can you use your property? Can you really opt out of Verdriven's Unlimited Miles plan with no roaming even on weekends(TM)? You do? Well, I guess you're never leaving your home ever again.

In real life a balanced solution will be needed. Some subsidies actually make sense. And though I support electrified rail, I don't think passenger trains will be coming back as long as we have enough oil to run airlines.

Our best near term, free market solution is ride sharing, preferably based on self driving cars. This can reduce traffic, get rid of the need for individual cars (making it an obvious luxury), and giving a huge boost to bus lines which can then become express lines, being freed from the arduous process of dropping people off within reasonable walking distance of their destination. (Again, this is very US centric but is applicable from one degree or another to practically everywhere else).

4 Explained the negatives people keep alluding too
source | link

The answer is to stop subsidizing its rival: roads. You say that passenger rail stopped being profitable around the 50's or so: look up when the Dwight Eisenhower freeway project really hit its stride. Your tax dollars are hard at work building a vast, free to use (as opposed to actually free), and convenient transportation network.

While rail does have some limitations, most of them could be solved with technology and scale, both of which are beyond the resources of companies moving bulk materials at rock bottom prices against a virtually free rival.

For better or worse, we picked the winner in 1956. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_Highway_System

(While this answer is incredibly US-centric you can pretty strongly see governments choosing rail or road, rather than the market, in most countries).

UPDATE

wedstrom's answer is one possibility but the negative consequences would be dire to say the least. Japan Rail demonstrates a system that shatters the notion that trains are unprofitable without any of those down-sides.

I am going to address some of these downsides. I wrote my answer as a simple, ideologically pure solution to the economic mismatch of trains and cars.

I actually support the Eisenhower freeway project. No national rail or road system has ever been built without government support. This is a bit misleading, as it would likely be possible eventually but governments can fund such project to promote growth, and almost by definition this means that the route would be unprofitable for a long time. So Governments have always beat private investors to the punch. This was even true for railroads. The intercontinental railroad was heavily subsidized. Governments can make those kinds of investments in growth and capture a much broader revenue stream from that growth, rather than just the immediate use of the road.

The downside of this government investment can be waste. Cars are incredibly wasteful, and just wouldn't have become a monopoly in the US without explicit government support. Also road construction can become bloated "to create jobs".

However, trying to build transportation without the help of the state, which as was noted in a comment can't really be done without the power of a state to grab the land to achieve it. Organically built transportation networks are build for the most immediate needs of the landowners, not the needs of the transportation system as a whole.

On the other hand, truly privatized road network would need to be able to track who is using it. Cameras, GPS or private police are all obvious gateways to an Orwellian quasi governmental road corporation. Never mind that public right of way would go away: the bedrock of the free market is property rights and consent. If the road corporation doesn't consent to you using their roads, how can you use your property? Can you really opt out of Verdriven's Unlimited Miles plan with no roaming even on weekends(TM)? You do? Well, I guess you're never leaving your home ever again.

In real life a balanced solution will be needed. Some subsidies actually make sense. And though I support electrified rail, I don't think passenger trains will be coming back as long as we have enough oil to run airlines.

Our best near term, free market solution is ride sharing, preferably based on self driving cars. This can reduce traffic, get rid of the need for individual cars (making it an obvious luxury), and giving a huge boost to bus lines which can then become express lines, being freed from the arduous process of dropping people off within reasonable walking distance of their destination. (Again, this is very US centric but is applicable from one degree or another to practically everywhere else).

The answer is to stop subsidizing its rival: roads. You say that passenger rail stopped being profitable around the 50's or so: look up when the Dwight Eisenhower freeway project really hit its stride. Your tax dollars are hard at work building a vast, free to use (as opposed to actually free), and convenient transportation network.

While rail does have some limitations, most of them could be solved with technology and scale, both of which are beyond the resources of companies moving bulk materials at rock bottom prices against a virtually free rival.

For better or worse, we picked the winner in 1956. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_Highway_System

(While this answer is incredibly US-centric you can pretty strongly see governments choosing rail or road, rather than the market, in most countries).

The answer is to stop subsidizing its rival: roads. You say that passenger rail stopped being profitable around the 50's or so: look up when the Dwight Eisenhower freeway project really hit its stride. Your tax dollars are hard at work building a vast, free to use (as opposed to actually free), and convenient transportation network.

While rail does have some limitations, most of them could be solved with technology and scale, both of which are beyond the resources of companies moving bulk materials at rock bottom prices against a virtually free rival.

For better or worse, we picked the winner in 1956. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_Highway_System

(While this answer is incredibly US-centric you can pretty strongly see governments choosing rail or road, rather than the market, in most countries).

UPDATE

wedstrom's answer is one possibility but the negative consequences would be dire to say the least. Japan Rail demonstrates a system that shatters the notion that trains are unprofitable without any of those down-sides.

I am going to address some of these downsides. I wrote my answer as a simple, ideologically pure solution to the economic mismatch of trains and cars.

I actually support the Eisenhower freeway project. No national rail or road system has ever been built without government support. This is a bit misleading, as it would likely be possible eventually but governments can fund such project to promote growth, and almost by definition this means that the route would be unprofitable for a long time. So Governments have always beat private investors to the punch. This was even true for railroads. The intercontinental railroad was heavily subsidized. Governments can make those kinds of investments in growth and capture a much broader revenue stream from that growth, rather than just the immediate use of the road.

The downside of this government investment can be waste. Cars are incredibly wasteful, and just wouldn't have become a monopoly in the US without explicit government support. Also road construction can become bloated "to create jobs".

However, trying to build transportation without the help of the state, which as was noted in a comment can't really be done without the power of a state to grab the land to achieve it. Organically built transportation networks are build for the most immediate needs of the landowners, not the needs of the transportation system as a whole.

On the other hand, truly privatized road network would need to be able to track who is using it. Cameras, GPS or private police are all obvious gateways to an Orwellian quasi governmental road corporation. Never mind that public right of way would go away: the bedrock of the free market is property rights and consent. If the road corporation doesn't consent to you using their roads, how can you use your property? Can you really opt out of Verdriven's Unlimited Miles plan with no roaming even on weekends(TM)? You do? Well, I guess you're never leaving your home ever again.

In real life a balanced solution will be needed. Some subsidies actually make sense. And though I support electrified rail, I don't think passenger trains will be coming back as long as we have enough oil to run airlines.

Our best near term, free market solution is ride sharing, preferably based on self driving cars. This can reduce traffic, get rid of the need for individual cars (making it an obvious luxury), and giving a huge boost to bus lines which can then become express lines, being freed from the arduous process of dropping people off within reasonable walking distance of their destination. (Again, this is very US centric but is applicable from one degree or another to practically everywhere else).

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