Long-distance trains travel between many cities and/or regions of a country, and sometimes cross several countries. They often have a dining car or restaurant car to allow passengers to have a meal during the course of their journey. Trains traveling overnight may also have sleeping cars.
The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, doing business as Amtrak, is a government-owned corporation that was organized on May 1, 1971, to provide intercity passenger train service in the United States. "Amtrak" is a amalgam of the words "America" and "track". It is headquartered at Union Station in Washington, D.C.
Amtrak employs nearly 19,000 people. It operates 305 passenger trains with daily service on 21,000 miles of track primarily owned by freight railroads connecting 500 destinations in 46 states and three Canadian provinces.
All of Amtrak's preferred stock is owned by the U.S. federal government. The members of its board of directors are appointed by the President of the United States and are subject to confirmation by the United States Senate. Common stock was issued in 1971 to railroads that contributed capital and equipment but these shares convey almost no benefits. Their current holders declined a 2002 buy-out offer by Amtrak.
Some states have operated intercity passenger service for over two decades. Currently, 15 states operate corridor trains representing 48 percent of Amtrak's total ridership and 25 percent of Amtrak's revenue. In 2010, state corridor trains had a 6.5 percent increase in ridership and a 12.5 percent increase in revenues. Outside the Northeast Corridor, state-supported routes are Amtrak's fastest growing rail lines.
Commuter Rail provides passenger service between central cities and their suburbs. Commuter rail trains typically operate only on work days and during commute hours. Most riders make trips of less than 50 miles for work, school, or errands. These trains typically run on the same railroad tracks as freight trains and often share some stations with Amtrak intercity trains.
Light Rail passenger service refers to the number of riders that the train can carry, not the weight. Light rail trains provide passenger service within a city and its suburbs. They operate on their own tracks—they don't share tracks with commuter rail, Amtrak, or freight trains—but sometimes share right-of-way with automobiles. They also run at frequent intervals and typically run not only in commute hours but also during the day, weekends, and evenings.
A monorail is railway having a single track for passenger or freight vehicles. In most cases, the rail is elevated. Monorail was developed to meet medium-demand traffic in urban transit, but represents a relatively small part of the overall railway field.
Referred to as a streetcar or trolley car, it is a rail vehicle which—at least in parts of its route—runs on tracks in streets. It may also run between cities and/or towns, and/or partially grade separated even in the cities. Trams are designed for the transport of passengers and are usually lighter and shorter than conventional trains and rapid transit trains.