Uh-oh! The Inmates Are Loose in the Asylum Again!

Sorry to interrupt my trip narrative, but I must report that House Republicans in Congress have recommended a budget reducing Amtrak’s annual subsidy to a level that would, in effect, ultimately force the railroad shutting down.

The root of this idiocy is the Republican ideological obsession with the whole issue of a federal subsidy for Amtrak. Eye balls start spinning in their sockets and all objective, rational thought disappears.

I’ve written about this before, but let me mention just three quick points regarding the federal subsidy for Amtrak:

First, all forms of public transportation are subsidized, from the airlines to bike lanes. If the GOP is so damn set against subsidies, they should demand that the airlines start paying for the air traffic control system.

Second, Amtrak generates about 80% of its operating costs from fares and other income, which is a better record than any other national rail passenger system anywhere in the world.

Finally, and to put the issue into some kind of rational perspective, over the years Amtrak’s annual subsidy from the federal government has been around $1.5 billion, in return for which we have a national rail system that carries 30 million Americans every year. As it happens, $1.5 billion is just about exactly the amount the U.S. gives in foreign aid every year … to Egypt!

We can only hope that this proposed budget will be amended and Amtrak will once again end up with a bare-bones budget … enough to continue operations, but short of what is needed to properly maintain equipment and certainly not enough to improve let alone increase service to meet a still-growing demand.

Please take a moment, go to the NARP web site, and use the link provided to send a message to your member of Congress asking for continued support of this country’s national passenger rail system. And, if you’re not already a member of NARP, please consider joining.