Amtrak and the Enemy Within.
Slowly and painfully, the Golden Age of train travel came to a sorrowful end in the late 1960s. Rail passenger service was driven out of profitability by air travel and the opening of the Interstate Highway System. And yet, Congress at that time understood that passenger trains provided many Americans in rural areas of the country with their only affordable public transportation.
Indeed, it was for that very reason that Congress created Amtrak in the first place, charging the nascent company with providing Americans with a national network of passenger trains. What’s more, Congress specifically mandated that Amtrak trains be given priority when operating on tracks owned by the private railroads.
In recent years, however, Amtrak’s management has been bullied by Republican ideologs in Congress demanding that “profitability” be the railroad’s main objective. Indeed, there are numerous example of Republican members of Congress voting against federal support of Amtrak when, in fact, trains were running through their districts and serving their constituents.
President Trump recently nominated a former Republican member of Congress to the Amtrak board of directors. While a member of Congress, the nominee voted against every proposal that would have allocated any federal dollars to Amtrak.