NARP Volunteers Keep On Fighting the Good Fight

I’ve been a member of the National Association of Railroad Passengers for some years and am, in fact, now a member of NARP’s board of directors. At the moment I’m attending a NARP meeting in Milwaukee and, as always, I’ve been mightily impressed with the knowledge and dedication of the folks attending from all over the country.

They sure have their work cut out for them. Transportation is a complicated subject and that’s the problem: it takes time and effort to understand the reasons for and the benefits that will come from any new rail project. Most people just aren’t willing to go to the trouble.

And that makes it a lot easier for the opposition, invariably people who sneer that it’s just “another damn gummint boondoggle” … as if that’s the only argument they need to put forth. They are certainly not interested in actually understanding these transportation issues.

The media doesn’t help either. Reporters with no background in transportation churn out nonsense like the recent stories about Amtrak losing money on their food service. Or the recent editorial in the Chicago Tribune that essentially said our national passenger rail system is a waste of money and substantiating that position with a rationale shot through with misinformation and incorrect assumptions.
Nevertheless, the 100 or so attendees here at the NARP meeting, all paying their own travel and hotel expenses, keep on laboring away: responding to idiotic editorials with letters-to-the-editor, speaking to service clubs, meeting with Chambers of Commerce, calling on their representatives in Congress and in their own state legislatures, and recruiting new members.

They’ve taken the time to learn about transportation issues. And they understand that more and better and faster trains will yield multiple benefits – economic, societal and environmental – for many decades to come. And they do it all as unpaid volunteers.

But Mitt Romney, cheerfully and almost casually, says he’s going to cut off all federal support for Amtrak.

Everyone here at the meeting knows that’s just dumb.