New Budget Rebukes Amtrak.
The federal budget for the Fiscal Year 2019 has been prepared and is ready to go to Congress for final approval. Washington insiders seem to agree that, barring something crazy happening, this budget should become the law of the land without any problems.
And here’s what’s so sweet about it: first, it contains everything that Rail Passengers Association has been lobbying for over the past six months or so. And, second, it pretty much repudiates many of the cost-cutting efforts of Amtrak president David Anderson and his team of “experts”.
For example, Amtrak is being told in no uncertain terms that Congress considers the long-distance network an essential service to the vast rural areas of the country.
Next, the congressional budget document in effect trashes the half-assed, unworkable “fix” that Amtrak proposed for the Southwest Chief. (You remember . . . the middle-of-the-night, 500-mile “bus bridge” between Albuquerque and Dodge City.)
Third, Congress is essentially telling Amtrak to bring back discounted passenger fares for U.S. military veterans.
And fourth, Congress has instructed Amtrak to bring back all of the station agents who were laid off during the fiscal year 2018.
So BRAVO! to the terrific RPA Washington staff and to the small group of members who have lobbied for these specific budget items on their own initiative, both with personal visits to key congressional offices and by telephone and email.
This just goes to show you: Good, sound, realistic ideas, presented with a coordinated, professional and persistent effort, can penetrate most of the instinctive resistance normally encountered in the Halls of Congress.
Finally, albeit belatedly, I’m delighted to report that Rep. Stephanie Murphy from Winter Park, Florida, was re-elected to Congress this past November. This is the bright young woman who defeated long time Amtrak nemesis, John Mica, two years ago. She beat him again last year, this time with a very convincing 57 percent of the vote.
In looking through the rail funding provisions the the 2019 funding appropriations act, I’m not finding anything about bringing back any Amtrak station agents. Can you fill us in on exactly where that is mentioned and which ticket agents would be reinstated?
I’m sure the RPA’s lobbying efforts didn’t hurt, but, by far, the credit has go to Passenger Rail Kansas, and the New Mexico advocacy organization that focused solely on the Southwest Chief.
Evan Stair, President of Passenger Rail Kansas, was particularly instrumental in this.
Oh. You need to know that the legislation that mandated Amtrak not break up the Southwest Chief with a bus bridge was led by, and written by, Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS). He and his staff were instrumental in organizing a bipartisan group of Congressional members from Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico.
You and all long distance passenger rail proponents would probably really enjoy checking out the Facebook page, “Friends Of The Southwest Chief.” It’s a very active page and there you’ll find complete details of the recent efforts to save that iconic train.
It might be a first for you, but it might be time to give a Republican credit. In all the times you’ve recognized a current, or former, elected official in your writings it seems as if they’ve have always been Democrats. Anyway, in the case of saving the intact Southwest Chief, the Congressional effort was spearheaded by Kansas Senator Jerry Moran. In the Kansas delegation alone, Congressmen Roger Marshall and Ron Estes, retiring Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, and Senator Pat Roberts all signed on to the efforts. And they are all conservative Republicans.
Oh – those of us in Kansas do remember that it was under the Jimmy Carter administration that passenger rail service ended for Wichita. The Democratic Carter administration killed the Chicago to Houston Lone Star in 1979. (Both Passenger Rail Kansas and Passenger Rail Oklahoma are trying their besat to bring service back to Wichita by bringing the Heartland Flyer north through Kansas’ largest city and up to Newton to connect with the SWC.)
There is no doubt–and Rail Passengers Association has so reported–that your Kansas delegation stepped up to the plate on this issue. We are all appreciative if not surprised when a Republican member of Congress supports passenger trains, although I must observe that as a general rule, that support tends to be confined to trains passing through that member’s home state or district. Hopefully, when the opportunity presents itself, your senators and reps will vote to support passenger trains in other states as well as Kansas.
Jim I sure hope these things go through. It would be a landmark moment! I also wonder if this would result in any kind of shake-up at Amtrak. These items certainly are reflective of some very good work by the KS-CO-NM-WV and MT Congressional delegation and I’m sure others as well. They are greatly to be praised!
Yes, indeed. And I’m pleased to say that RPA’s Washington staff was very much involved from the get-go. Of course the bus bridge was such a monumentally bad idea, one must wonder if it was ever meant to be a serious proposal.
I think they were deadly serious because it was so bad.