Argue Smart for Amtrak.
As advocates for Amtrak’s national network, it’s easy to get bogged down complaining about the small stuff . . . about the loss of the Coast Starlight’s parlor car, for instance. It needed doing, but not if that means we overlook a few of the essential truths.
We should remember, for instance, that huge swaths of what was then government land were simply given to the railroads for rights-of-way. And literally millions of other acres were given to settlers, which provided the railroads with customers needing to bring in household goods and ship out cattle and grain.
And so it is an incontrovertible fact that the federal government—and, of course, that means us, the taxpayers—played a major role in ensuring long-term prosperity for the private railroads.
We should also remember that Amtrak was created in 1970 when the private railroads needed the government’s permission to get out of the money-losing passenger business. As part of the deal, the railroads agreed that Amtrak trains could run on their tracks for reasonable fees, and that those trains would be given priority.
Our elected members of Congress need to be reminded of those agreements when the freight railroads drag their feet on the installation of safety systems like PTS or when they routinely shove an Amtrak train onto a siding while two or three freights go lumbering by with their precious cargos of toaster ovens made in China.
Dammit! It is nothing short of an outrage that the Trump Administration, abetted by most of the Republicans in Congress, is trying to kill the long-distance trains by proposing a budget that eliminates Amtrak’s pitifully small subsidy.
The elected Members of Congress from both parties need to know that the inevitable consequences to zeroing out federal support of Amtrak would be the end of affordable public transportation for millions of Americans all over the midwest and west.
Members of the Rail Passengers Association will be meeting for three days this coming April in Washington. We’re going to spend a Day on The Hill meeting with our senators and representatives … and that’s what we going to tell ‘em!