Derailing Amtrak

Larry Mineta. Feb 14, 2005 on Amtrak's budget
AP Story, 5-26-06

Mr. Mineta argues in his speech that Amtrak isn’t in need of more money; they’re in need of better organization. I think he's half right. Amtrak was never intended to be a profit center for the government. Amtrak supports the essential infrastructure of our country.

I hate to compare the US to the rest of the world… because we don’t always look too good when I do it. We do have our moments, but when it comes to issues like state supported transportation, we’re not too high up on the list. Eurail is the authority that controls rail travel in Europe. Now, these countries, which have been squabbling with each other forever, can get together to support an inexpensive rail system that covers the entire continent. What exactly is the problem here in the land of the free?

Why do we want to torpedo Amtrak? Mineta says that budget cuts are just a wake up call to Amtrak, a way to force constructive reorganization. They can do that without cutting the budget. Amtrak is a malleable organization, overseen by Congress… shouldn’t be too tough to rearrange things to their liking.

The issue of Amtrak’s financing is rather complicated, but the fundamental idea of reliable, available transportation in the US is not. Cutting Amtrak’s budget by 1/3 won’t balance the budget; it will only close down a third of Amtrak services. Since Amtrak already runs at a deficit, that 33% budget cut will just push them off the ledge towards collapse. When Amtrak does fail, which crony do you think will get the sweet deal at the fire sale?

2 Responses to “Derailing Amtrak”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    how can amtrak possibly not make a profit at the rates they charge?? ffrom baltimore or washington to philadelphia for about an hour or so they charge $60 coach seat!

  2. npanth Says:

    Amtrak’s finances are similar to the airlines. “Captive” routes that tolerate higher fares support less used routes that provide infrastructure for the country. Amtrak charges premium prices for the corridor run because routes that go to New Orleans (among other places) are big losers. Amtrak is now part of the hurricane evacuation plan. How many people will get stuck at the stations if Amtrak gets cut by Congress?

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