The federal budget being proposed by the Trump Administration would essentially do away with Amtrak’s long-distance trains by eliminating what is already a very small federal subsidy. If that budget should pass, the current Amtrak management would gleefully abandon most of the existing long-distance routes.
No big deal, you say? Well, it is true that people like me who have reason to travel across the country and prefer Amtrak to flying . . . well, we’ll just have to fly.
There are other groups of people who can’t fly for a variety of health reasons, but consider for a moment, how the loss of Amtrak’s long-distance trains would impact some very ordinary folks from middle America—specifically a retired couple who are long-time residents of Holcomb, Kansas. Their daughter is married to a serviceman stationed in Albuquerque, Mew Mexico, and she has just had a baby, their first grandchild. Naturally the grandparents want to meet their new grandson and to lend hand with his care in those first few hectic weeks.
The question is how to get there. It’s about 450 miles from Holcomb to Albuquerque and they are reluctant to undertake that journey in their 16-year-old Toyota. Flying is not feasible because they would have to drive to a regional airport and leave their car there for two weeks they would be gone. There would be connecting flights and air fares of several hundred dollars each.
But Garden City, Kansas, is just seven miles from Holcomb and Garden City is a stop for Amtrak’s Southwest Chief. The train will take them to Albuquerque and bring them home two weeks later for a total of $277. It’s about a 10-hour trip each way with a dining car available for meals en route.
The non-profit, non-partisan Rail Passengers Association estimates that the Trump Administration budget, if implemented, would ultimately cause a hundred million people across the midwest and south to lose their only remaining affordable public transportation.And guess what? More than half of these people voted for Trump in 2016.
There is simply no doubt that if the Trump budget is adopted by Congress, it would mean the end of America’s national passenger rail system. It would, therefore, be most helpful if everyone reading this would call his or her members of Congress with a brief, respectful objection to Trump’s budget.