The House Appropriations Committee’s attack on Amtrak,
which we reported to you yesterday, is just the tip of the
The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee
leadership has criticized the long-distance trains, and
appears poised to write an authorization bill that will
threaten those trains, possibly by requiring states to pay
for them—something NARP and others consistently have
attacked as unworkable.
Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) has, referring to these
trains, reportedly said “there are places that it costs us
a lot of money and the ridership is not there.”
Railroads Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham
(R-CA) at his May 21 hearing called them the one
part of Amtrak where losses keep growing.
Of course, the shorter distance lines have benefited from
considerable state and federal investment, including new
rolling stock that increases capacity, and the Northeast
Corridor continues to require massive capital infusions that
help the operating bottom line but are not charged to it.
Considering the comparative neglect of long-distance
trains, it is noteworthy that—on a per-passenger basis—
the net cost of long-distance service fell (improved)
by 9.2% from Fiscal 2008 to 2012. Moreover, the
improvement was 18% on the oft-criticized Sunset Ltd.
+ Texas Eagle. Long-distance train ridership rose every
year during that period, even though ridership on Amtrak
as a whole fell in 2009 due to the financial crisis.
While there is a chance that no authorization bill will be
written this year, the appropriations bills must proceed
unless there is a government shutdown.
Members of Congress respond best to mayors and
other local politicians and business leaders. If you live
in or near a community where Amtrak is important,
please ask your mayor and/or other influential local people
to contact your (and their) U.S. representative and ask them
to work to save Amtrak’s long-distance network. If your city
is on a short-distance route, the message is still important.
Since 23 states are served only by long-distance trains, it’s
easy to see that the entire system would be at risk of
shutdown if such a large number of senators were to
lose their service.