There’s no doubt that Amtrak’s on time performance — or the lack thereof — is a real concern. A Washington Post columnist/blogger
, Christopher Ingraham, has produced charts and graphs to illustrate how bad it’s gotten. But typical of these so-called experts, Ingraham dashes off some superficial comments, overlooks some relevant information, and comes to some very questionable conclusions.
Compounding the felony, he actually quotes a blogger who, along with most of the people reading his simplistic posts, is an idiot. Specifically, he describes Amtrak as being “heavily subsidized” and Ingraham grabs that ball and runs with it.
Clearly, neither he nor the blogger has any idea of what they’re talking about. Most people even marginally informed about transportation issues understand that Amtrak is now generating income from the fare box and from a few other sources that recoups almost 90 percent of its operating costs. No other national passenger rail system in the world comes close to that. Furthermore, Amtrak’s measly annual subsidy, running at about $1.4 billion a year, is a tiny fraction of one percent of the federal budget. “Heavily subsidized”? You’ve got to be kidding!
Ah, but here’s the part that really makes you wonder. Referring to the recent deterioration in on-time performance, Ingraham offers a suggestion on how we could “make things better”: Eliminate the long-distance trains.
Wow! Genius at work! All by himself, he’s figured out that there won’t be any late trains if there are no trains running.
What’s left unsaid is that for millions of Americans living throughout the west and Midwest, Amtrak is the only public transportation in or out of town. Amtrak is also the only form of transportation for people who cannot fly for an amazing variety of medical reasons.
Nor are the long-distance trains — as the anti-Amtrak people would have us believe — a taxpayer subsidized rolling vacation for rich retirees. The fact is, some two thirds of the passengers aboard any one of Amtrak’s long-distance trains are traveling from one mid-point in the route to another. And they’re traveling for all the same reasons other people choose to fly.
But, instead of demanding that the freight railroads honor their original agreement with the federal government and run Amtrak trains on time … instead of seeing something fundamentally wrong with giving coal and cars and toaster ovens priority over people, Christopher Ingraham and others of his ilk want to “fix” the problem by shutting down Amtrak’s long distance trains.
Where do these short-sighted, shallow, selfish people come from, anyway? Let’s find out … and send them back!