Much of the discourse surrounding national intercity passenger rail service in the United States revolves around why it has lagged so far behind European and Asian counterparts. However, a more interesting question might be why it has survived despite competition from faster, more nimble transport modes, discriminatory public policy, and the ascension of neoliberal discourse hostile to public endeavor. This paper uses the concept of durability in actor-network theory to offer some insights into how the system has achieved a remarkable but problematic stability, and how that durability relates to an imagined role for national intercity passenger rail in a future of increasingly constrained material resources. This paper also demonstrates the application of actor-network theory (ANT) in a way that can serve as a useful introduction to and template for the use of that methodology.
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