Passenger Trains: Good for the Economy.
One of the frustrations of being an advocate for passenger rail is that most people think the motivation is mostly selfish … that we want more and better trains simply because we love riding on trains.
There’s some truth to that, of course. But the basic pro-rail argument—and I’m including commuter and transit as well as traditional passenger trains—is that when we’re on the train, we’re NOT on the road. Mega-billions are spent every year repairing roads and adding lanes and building new roads, so holding down the number of cars on the road is a very good thing.
Still, the most common anti-rail argument won’t go away: people are against passenger trains because they lose money.
The reality is that passenger trains MAKE money. Furthermore, the more frequencies are increased, the more money they make. The trains themselves may not operate in the black, but they make money for the small businesses that open shops and restaurants in attractive retail space that’s created when a town’s Amtrak station is restored and expanded. Trains make money for the developers who put up apartment buildings and luxury condominiums surrounding new stations.
Jim Mathews, president and CEO of NARP, says “Those in Congress who believe that passenger rail is not profitable are mistaken. What they don’t see is the big picture. A robust national–and international–intermodal transportation system is crucial to economic growth, especially in those rural and less wealthy areas where travel options are already limited.”
NARP, the National Association of Railroad Passengers, has just published a report showing that any reduction in passenger train service outside of the Northeast Corridor would have a huge negative impact on low income families all across rural America. Here’s the link to that report which has just been posted on the NARP website.
By the way, as NARP reaches its 50th anniversary milestone with a celebration the first week of November in Chicago, the organization is transitioning to a new, shorter, more contemporary name. We will now, simply and more appropriately, be called the Rail Passengers Association.
And of course new members are always welcome.