What Will Be Passenger Rail’s Fate Under Trump?
Amtrak could be in trouble. As we speak—and compatible with the ideology of their benefactors, the Koch Brothers—the Heritage Foundation has apparently made a number of budget and tax recommendations to the Trump Administration. Those include their entirely predictable approach to passenger rail in this country: no more subsidies for Amtrak.
As it is, rail fares and other sources produces 92 cents of income for every dollar Amtrak pays out in operating costs. That makes Amtrak, as one of their top management people once said, “The most profitable money-losing national passenger railroad in the world.”
But we all know that if Amtrak were to lose its annual subsidy—running about $1.4 billion a year—it would mean a slow, painful death for most passenger trains in this country.
But where would that leave the people along the Gulf Coast? When Hurricane Katrina tore up a lot of the track east of New Orleans, Amtrak service was suspended. Restoring that train is now under serious consideration and, with NARP helping to organize them as in Chipley, Florida (photo above), literally thousands of people turned out to welcome an Amtrak inspection train and to impress on the government officials aboard what daily service would mean to their towns.
For instance, many of the communities along that route have no air service within a hundred miles and at least four of the dozen or so towns don’t even have intercity bus service. For many of those communities, there is very little public transportation or none at all.
But local public officials, community leaders and outside experts all agree that restoring train service will be an economic stimulus for all those communities along the Gulf Coast. A daily train will create jobs, bring tourists to the area, and trigger development that will generate more tax revenue.
When you stop and think about it, in the grand scheme of things, adding one train a day isn’t that big a deal. Except that it sure as hell is for the people directly along the proposed route. For them it would mean access to affordable public transportation, and NARP (that’s the National Association of Railroad Passengers) believes that is a basic right of all Americans.
So what about it? Do you think that deep down the Heritage Foundation or, for that matter, the Trump Administration, really gives a rat’s ass for any of those people? Nope … neither do I.