Chao: Screw Amtrak L/D Riders.
Well, it’s official. The Trump Administration is serious about eliminating Amtrak’s long-distance trains. This comes direct from the lips of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Elaine Chao, aka Mrs. Mitch McConnell.
Appearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development today (Thursday), she left no doubt as to the administration’s intent or, for that matter, the philosophy behind it:
“Funding for Amtrak’s long distance routes is another area where Federal investments do not match the level of usage. Amtrak’s long distance services are used by a relatively small number of passengers. These trains are very expensive to operate and maintain; and account for much of Amtrak’s operating losses. The President’s budget recognizes this is an area with a low return on investment . . .”
This is another case of a political ideology winning out over rational argument. The fact is, the loss of Amtrak’s national network would increase the company’s operating losses … this from the mouth of Amtrak’s president and CEO, Wick Moorman.
Here’s a direct quote from him:
“Amtrak’s initial projection is that eliminating long distance services would result in an additional cost of approximately $423 million in FY2018 alone, requiring more funding from Congress and our partners rather than less.”
Meantime, NARP has thrown a lot of resources into #Rally4Trains scheduled for the weekend of June 23rd. More details on the NARP website.
No one will disagree that government should be run efficiently. But to preach that government should be “run like a business” is nonsense. Many government services are subsidized 100 percent and should not operate at a profit—fire departments and public parks, for example. Other services such as public transportation are partially subsidized in order to make them available to as many citizens as possible.
But today, because the cold-hearted ideologues now running the federal government consider Amtrak an inadequate “return on investment”, they would deny affordable public transportation to some 140 million Americans … most of whom live in states that voted for Donald “Make-America-Great-Again” Trump.
As a taxpayer I’m really pissed off that this is being pursued by Chao. In light of all the govt. waste, corruption and out of control spending this is a relatively small expenditure/investment for a valuable service. I think it’s a national treasure, but that hasn’t stopped the geniuses in DC from trying to kill it for years. I will be writing my representatives and continue to ride Amtrak. In fact I leave Friday on the Empire Builder to spend a few days vacationing in Seattle.
It’s phone calls from individual citizen/taxpayers that will turn individual reps and senators. Many thanks for adding your voice to the chorus!
The power of the airlines over Congress is depressing. The airlines want to monopolize long distance travel and as they continue to reduce service to “cattle class”, they don’t want people to have an alternative experience so they know what crap the airlines are feeding us. I flew my whole career, but no more. You bet I will be contacting my Congressman; I have before concerning delays on the Empire Builder in North Dakota; happy to say my Congressman was responsive! We need to be aware of the hegemony of the urban over rural folks, something Trump should be sensitive to since the rural people put him in office to tame urban elitist.
With all due respect to both Elaine Chao and Mitch McConnell (as we’d not be afraid of them if they lived in our neighborhood) they do have obvious lack of understanding of the importance of long-distance rail passenger service. Thankfully Wick Moorman has been and will be able to present the facts in this regard including the specifics such as laid out by Drew James above. Wick is an excellent CEO for these times. It always troubles me that those who are anti-rail seem always to be those who do not use passenger rail themselves, do not understand why people ride, and what rail offers them that other modes don’t. They either think that RR passengers are “rich” or perhaps a little crazy in the head. They feel that everyone should fly or drive. Therefore they are very ignorant on rail travel. Perhaps because they are only accustomed to flying first-class they are also ignorant about the true facts of air travel. Sit up straight, don’t put your seat back, don’t move, wait in line for a bathroom, and by-the-way, don’t block the aise. And what about the the wonderful security line to boot for all the afore-mentioned benefits? For this and other reasons there are those who WILL NOT fly and others (some for medical reasons) who CANNOT fly. I just hope everyone will make themselves heard through the appropriate channels. One more comment – although we have seen similar circumstances in the past (administrations negative to Amtrak), it seems that they were out to totally destroy Amtrak. The current movement seems bent on chipping away at it, and doing so at what they perceive to be the “weakest link”, long-distance trains and their passengers. All the more need for response!
If the Trump Administration was serious about running Amtrak “like a business” this wouldn’t be on the table. Every good business person knows that when you eliminate a product or service it doesn’t typically eliminate all or even most of the overhead which is being allocated to it, but rather just the incremental costs. Amtrak will still need a reservations system, management, a repair facility, etc and those costs won’t go away if the long distance trains are eliminated – they will just be shifted to the remaining trains. However, beyond that, Amtrak should be treated like the highway system – its purpose isn’t to turn a profit, but rather to provide needed services to our citizens.
My parents are trying to talk me out of taking the Amtrak back to Minneapolis from Seattle at the end of August. I kinda want to show them this to illustrate how I may not have another chance.
August will be OK. But write your members of congress.