They May Hear, But They Do Not Listen

The latest casualties in an unmistakable trend are the good folks of Klamath Falls, Oregon. Officials of this town of some 21,000 have been informed that they will soon have no air service. SkyWest Airlines has announced that it will cease operating in and out of Crater Lake-Klamath Falls Regional Airport in early June.

OK, let’s suppose you’re a resident of Klamath Falls and, some time after that date, you need to go to Portland for some kind of sophisticated surgery.  Under those circumstances, you would certainly rather not have to drive the 300-plus miles. In fact, you might not be able to. Fortunately, you can take Amtrak’s Coast Starlight and make the trip in comfort. Even in bed, if that were necessary.

Of course that option would not be available to you if Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) has his way. In his proposed budget for the federal government, Ryan zeroes out any subsidy for Amtrak. As anyone with a basic understanding of transportation issues knows, without their already-meager subsidy, Amtrak’s long-distance trains would soon cease to exist. Congressman Ryan? You bet he knows!

Along with NARP, those of us who are advocates for passenger rail keep trying to get through to the anti-rail people with a simple message: There are hundreds of communities all over the country where Amtrak is the only public transportation available. That’s why we need Amtrak’s long-distance trains. In fact, the truth is, we need more routes and more frequency on existing routes.

Regrettably, Paul Ryan and John Mica (R-Florida) and Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), among others, are in positions of influence even considerable influence. We can only hope that as more and more communities lose air service, even those hard-core conservative ideologues will come around to realizing a basic truth: Every American has the right to mobility and for the people in smaller towns and cities all across the Midwest and west, that mobility is provided by one of Amtrak’s long-distance trains.