Klamath Falls Loses a Travel Option.
Just about everyone knows that Amtrak receives an annual subsidy from the federal government, although I’ll bet that most people, if asked, would say that commercial aviation in this country is not subsidized. They would be wrong about that, of course, because the feds pay for the air traffic control system and both state and municipal governments build and maintain the airports.
But most people have never heard of the Essential Air Service program which pays out millions of dollars every year to hundreds of small airports all over the country . . . airports that make air service possible for literally thousands of rural communities across the west and mid-west.
One of the airports that does not get an EAS subsidy is the one serving Klamath Falls, Oregon—a town of some 22,000 with more than three times that number in Klamath County. Portland is the closest major city and it’s almost 300 miles due north. To get there, folks in Klamath Falls either drive or take one of the two or three daily flights offered by PenAir, the airline serving the Crater Lake Klamath Regional Airport.
But now, unfortunately, people in that area can forget about getting to Portland by air because PenAir, citing the need to cut costs, has stopped serving Klamath Falls.
So as of today, if you want to go to Portland, you’ll have to drive yourself . . . and MapQuest says it’ll take you five hours each way. And there could be any number of very valid reasons why that would not be a good idea. Or even impossible.
But wait! There is another option: Amtrak’s Coast Starlight makes that trip in both directions every day as part of its run between Los Angeles and Seattle. Yes, I know . . . the ride up to Portland from Klamath Falls is an overnight trip and it takes a lot longer than five hours, but it will get you there in comfort and for less than 50 bucks, too.
The point, of course, is that Amtrak’s long-distance trains are providing affordable public transportation for millions of Americans in thousands of communities all across this country. And yet there are still politicians who’ll tell you with a straight face that Amtrak’s national network isn’t necessary . . . isn’t worth the money.
Oh, yeah? Try telling that to the folks in Klamath Falls.