Who Says People Don’t Want High-Speed Rail??

As Congress persists in providing Amtrak with bare-bones support, the railroad struggles on, doing its best to keep old equipment running and all the while serving more and more people. This past May Amtrak carried 2.6 million passengers. It was the 19th consecutive month that ridership has increased and projections are for record numbers to continue right on through the summer.

By the way, opponents of Amtrak harp on the cost of subsidizing our national rail passenger system. So here’s a question for you: Which mode of transportation is doing the most damage to our deficit problem? The answer is the automobile, and it isn’t even close. In the last three years alone, the federal government has borrowed more than $62 billion dollars to plow into the Highway Trust Fund for the building and fixing of roads all over the country. Amtrak’s annual subsidy is about $1.5 billion.

The next time a politician calls high-speed rail a boondoggle and claims the American public is against it, don’t believe it. A recent Harris poll shows strong support for high-speed trains, especially in states where high-speed rail is actively under consideration. Furthermore, that support is across party lines. While most support comes from Democrats and Independent voters, some 52 percent of Republicans want fast trains.

Meanwhile, the know-nothing yahoos in this country are still arguing that people won’t patronize high-speed rail if we ever build it here. If they’re right, does that mean everyone else throughout the rest of the world is wrong? Hardly. They’ve got it figured out in France, where people have preferred to travel between their cities on the TGV for more than 30 years. The Russians have a new high-speed line operating between Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The Chinese will inaugurate their latest fast train, running between Beijing and Shanghai, at the end of this month.

And the Koreans – South Koreans, of course – have just announced another expansion of their high-speed system at a cost of almost $15 billion. One reason there isn’t massive support for fast trains in this country is that fewer than 20 percent of Americans own a passport and an even smaller number of our people have ever been to a country with high-speed trains, let alone ridden on one.

One way to support high-speed rail in this country is to join the National Association of Railroad Passengers. (Disclaimer: I’m an active member.) NARP is non-profit and non-partisan, and maintains an office in Washington with a professional staff that lobbies Congress for more and better and faster trains. You can join NARP by clicking here. Thanks!