The Playing Field is Not Level for Amtrak.
Here’s an example — a very small, but perfect example — of the kind of thing that drives me crazy when I hear some congressman pontificate about how Amtrak should be more cost efficient … should not require government support … blah, blah, blah.
A year ago, the town of Dyer, Indiana, got a new railroad station for the folks waiting for the one Amtrak train a day covering the 30-miles between Dyer and Chicago. Three days a week it’s the Cardinal, the other four days it’s the Hoosier State.
As you can see, the structure isn’t much to look at. In fact, it’s a stretch to call it a “station” at all. But it does the job and I’m sure people waiting for the train are glad to have someplace where they can get out of the wind or the rain or the snow. They have Amtrak to thank for that modest convenience because Amtrak paid for it.
Here’s my first question for you: When was the last time you heard of an airline building an airport? Right. They don’t. Cities and states build airports. And by that, of course, I mean that taxpayers build airports. (Yes, yes … I know the airlines pay landing fees, but they don’t begin to cover the maintenance of airports, let alone the cost of building the damn things.)
And that brings us to the subject of maintenance. Well, for the past year, Amtrak has been paying the town of Dyer $1,000 a month to have public employees clean the shelter. So when was the last time you heard of an airline paying to keep the airport nice and tidy? Yep, same answer: They don’t.
So Amtrak not only provided the shelter for the good people of Dyer, Indiana, they also have to pay the town to keep the place clean. Well, surely, all that generosity from Amtrak must be appreciated by the town fathers, wouldn’t you think?
Well, you would be wrong. As of August 1st, employees of the Town of Dyer will no longer clean the shelter that Amtrak built for the safety and comfort and convenience of their citizens. Not even for a thousand bucks a month. Now that’s gratitude for you!
Wouldn’t you think those blowhards in Congress would take stuff like that into consideration before carping at Amtrak for not operating at a profit? And maybe even add a few million to Amtrak’s annual authorization? And would’t you think the elected officials of that town would step up to the plate and clean the damn place for their own tax-paying citizens? And do it for free?