BDawe, I suppose we'll just have to disagree on this point. I tend to err on the side of control, extremely tight oversight, heavy staffing, large bureaucracies, big government etc., and, as a consequence, believe that every passenger train in America (commuter train anyway) should be staffed with a goodly number of well trained, polite, and knowledgeable professionals.
As to your point about highways, I don't really know what that has to do with the idea of having conductors aboard trains. I have no idea why people accept anything other than a minimal level of risk in any daily activity, be that commuting by train or by car. So I suppose I agree with you, highways and the people who use them tend to be dangerous places that people make all the more dangerous through thier habits.
For the 99.999999% of the time that the train arrives on time, stays on the rails, and does what it is supposed to do, of course no one is needed per say. It's those pesky times when bad things happen that we need professionals to help us.
My house isn't aflame, yet I don't mind paying taxes to support my city's firemen. And my wife LOVES visiting the firehouse because all it is down there is strong guys, lefting weights, being paid to wait for something bad to happen.
I'm not being robbed but I don't mind supporting my city's police. Same with them, more people just sitting around waiting for crimes to be committed.
ISIL / ISIS isn't much of a threat to me or our nation in any great way, but I'm glad we have a strong, standing military, and not one that has to wait until something bad happens to be brought into existence.
Most times, those stupid life vests and oxygen masks on my Dreamliner will do nothing more than give me somethng to do while I wait to become a black smudge in the middle of a field or a debris field on the surface of the Atlantic, and boy do they cost a TON of money to install and maintain, but I'll be glad they're there if we lose cabin pressure above 15000 or successfully ditch and are forced to deplane.
I've never been aboard a train during anything worse than a pedestrian strike, but if I were, I'd imagine I'd be more comfortable with a trained professional to answer my questions and assist those in need than I would were the only people to turn to other passengers who know as little as I do about the resent emergency.
I suppose it's just differing philosophies. I don't mind high operating costs/taxes/whatever else if it means the system is the best it can be for that money. Living near NJ Transit service I obviously have more of the first part than the second...
To revisit the "ruinously expensive" costs of conductors. I seem to recall that Amtrak, in its entirety, is running something like a $1.4 billion deficit per year. That, the entire deficit of a large, rather poorly run, passenger railroad, including maintenance, acquisitions, operations, payroll, advertising and oand on, is less than the cost of 3 F-22 fighters. I think you might be placing too much emphasis on the cost of conductors.
Oh, the IC thing. I would doubt that the nasty, greedy Unions had anything to do with making the electric line into a low ridership Metra property. Would ridership be higher without conductors?
I say more, you say less. I suppose we'll both get our way depending on location, mode, design etc.
Be well. Do good work.