More of the Thousand Little Cuts.

One of the ongoing concerns I have with this blog is my assumption that what interests me will also be of some interest you. The trouble is, I find it almost impossible to write about something that doesn’t really interest me.
I also bounce around with a variety of topics which, despite the title of the blog, often don’t have anything to do with train travel. It’s a stretch, but since Hawaii is one of the world’s most popular travel destinations, I think that makes it appropriate for me to write about some of the things that make this place interesting and unique. And so I occasionally do.
It has occurred to me that I probably beat the Republicans-Are-Screwing-Amtrak drum too often and too hard . . . but maybe not, because that’s exactly what they’re doing, and they deserve to be scolded for it. Not that they give a damn.
But, doggone it, how can we expect Amtrak to operate efficiently with politicians passing laws that dictate how they have to conduct their business? On one hand, Congress decrees that Amtrak must allow passengers to bring their pets aboard or that cameras pointed at the engineers must be installed in all Amtrak locomotives. Then, on the other hand, the same politicians demand that Amtrak cut its operating expenses in order to achieve break even and emerge into the Holy Land of Profitability. The result is always the same … totally predictable … and counter productive to what the Congress is demanding.
Here’s the latest example: as of three weeks ago, effective July 1st, Amtrak closed the railroad station in Hastings, Nebraska. So as of that date, it is officially an “unmanned station”, meaning there’s no station master and you can’t buy tickets or check baggage there. The California Zephyr will still stop there, one train a day in each direction, but the station will be closed and dark. And “dark” is really the right word, too, because both the eastbound and the westbound California Zephyrs, if running on time, are due into Hastings at about quarter of two in the morning. (Of course, that’s not a regular occurrence.)
Can we imagine a smallish airport somewhere in the Midwest being shuttered and all the personnel laid off, but two or three commercial flights a day continuing to land and take off? Not hardly. Of course, the airlines wouldn’t be paying for the airport anyway. So, he asks rhetorically, how come Amtrak has to pay to staff and operate these small stations?