The Great Beltway Disconnect: Train Stations In Search of Trains.

There’s an interesting phenomenon going on around the country and it neatly illustrates the disconnect between what’s happening in the real world and the perception of that world in the fuzzy minds of some members of Congress.

There’s going to be a new chapter in the fourth edition of my book, All Aboard-The Complete North American Train Travel Guide. In it, I pick a “Top Ten” among railway stations in the U.S. and Canada, and to come up with those ten, I looked at quite a few more.

    The newly restored waiting room in Seattle’s King Street Station.

In the process, I realized there’s a common thread: A great deal of money is being spent fixing up many of those stations renovation, restoration, expansion. It’s been happening in major cities like Seattle and in smaller towns like Galesburg, Illinois. In some cases – New York’s Penn Station, for example – truckloads of money are being spent on a newstation that will replace wholly inadequate facilities.

But this does beg the question: If towns and cities and state governments all across the country are spending millions of dollars fixing up their railway stations why is Congress starving Amtrak damn near to death?  Why can’t Congress come up with a couple of billion dollars – insignificant, in the grand scheme of things – for more new equipment for more trains on more routes to better serve all those newly renovated stations? Clearly, the demand is there.

But let’s be honest: the fault does not lie with “Congress”. Rather, it falls to most of the Republicans in Congress who are simply, blindly, ignorantly anti-rail generally and anti-Amtrak specifically.

For some, it’s a matter of ideology: they simply oppose Amtrak getting a government subsidy. (And they see no inconsistency in the fact that they ignore government subsidies for the airlines.) For others, it’s a case of willful ignorance and for that, there is no excuse. It’s their jobto know!

It certainly troubles me that millions of people are being denied essential public transportation because the answer to their needs doesn’t conform to a political philosophy.  It troubles me even more that there are those in Congress who think people should travel by plane just because they’re faster.

How the hell do these people get elected in the first place??