Urge Congress to Support Amtrak and Passenger Rail

Here’s a great way to support transit before we head in to another traffic-snarled Memorial Day weekend. H.R. 6003, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, is currently in need of co-sponsors in the House (a version has already passed the Senate). The bill "authorizes Amtrak for the five years Fiscal 2008-2012, provides for capital assistance for states, and development of state rail plans," according to the National Association of Railroad Passengers. Five years of funding will, among other things, put a stop to the current practice of forcing Amtrak to beg for money every year.

Jerrold Nadler is the only member the New York City delegation to sign on as a co-sponsor so far. It needs 218 co-sponsors to get floor time in the House, but only 41 are on board. (See who’s a co-sponsor.)

Judging by the response to a recent post about the bill on Daily Kos, progressive-minded voters are more than willing to get behind investment in rail. Streetsbloggers can join Kossacks in urging support for the bill by contacting your representatives. The NARP website has some handy talking points to help get started.

  • Jet

    Nothing like supporting the best of 19th century technology. There’s a reason Amtrak has to beg for money every year — it’s not viable. Why in the hell should taxpayers be forced to support something like that? Government should get out of subsidizing rail (or farms or alternative fuels or anything else that isn’t commercially viable on its own).

  • Liz

    The airline industry is viable only because it has been subsidized. Automobiles drive on subsidized roadways. Mater of fact how many bailouts have airlines and automobile manufactures received in the last 30 years?

    To understand this issue is to understand that there is very little the government doesn’t subsidize when it come to mass or private transportation.

    Amtrak should not be the only mass transit system which is required to fully self-sufficient; especially if MTA, LADOT, US Airways, Chrysler, etc.. isn’t. Who pays for airports? For freeways, bikeways even? Taxpayers. Why can’t the government just be self sufficient while were at it. Why the heck are my tax dollars going to pay for emergency services, schools, police, senators, presidents, the armed services…why am I subsidizing these loser ventures. Shouldn’t the fire department figure a way to support itself by charging for its services. Say the next time someone calls 911 they are asked for a credit card first. That way the fire department can make sure before they “invest” in a public safety issue, they make sure to profit from the consumer…As a business women I am just drooling at the profit margins. You have got the consumer by the balls and they will pay through the nose to get rescued.

    BTW, many of us don’t even realize what the real cost of a head of lettuce would be at Food4Less if it were not subsidized.

    That bowl of Cheerios…subsidized. Your Big Mac, subsidized.

    As for 19th century technology…that would also include the bicycle.
    Dated technology yes, outdated, not whatsoever.

    Amtrak has unfairly been placed in the role of political scapegoat. It’s unfortunate because its service is of great value. You just wouldn’t understand that because of your unfair expectations. Take subsidies away from air travel (which I work in), and you might feel a little safer in that antiquated train, rather then suspended 30,000 feet in the air in an unsubsidized barely maintained flying tuna boat headed for the runway of an unsubsidized pot holed airstrip that hasn’t been paved since 1964. Oh and don’t forget that “ I could care less” underpaid air traffic controller calling the shots.

    Your right, Amtrak can’t compete, but could the others if not for the gross amount of subsidies they receive? I can tell you of several airlines that wouldn’t be here today if not for generous and repeated bailouts.

    Much of the services we depend upon as citizens are not commercially viable. That is not the standard we should be looking at when we talk of public services. Very few corporations for that matter, without all the tax cuts, the preferential treatment, the subsidies, would in fact, be commercially viable on their own.

  • Simon

    It’s not worth the whole argument so I’m not sure why I’m bothering but…

    Do you think the government shouldn’t be involved in roads? Think about that for a minute. Should the highway system be run based on profitability? If so, how do you want to divide up the system between companies and how do you want to use natural market forces while also preventing companies from jacking up tolls so high that roads become unaffordable or intentionally preventing competitors from building other roads that intersect with their own.

    Now I know your comment is about “19th century technology” aka passenger rail, but the question is, why do you unconsciously accept a massive subsidy for highways and roads and streets but think it’s some sort of bunk for rail?

    You ask why should taxpayers support this, well how about this: There are things in our government does that are not profitable when looked at by themselves and in isolation from the rest of the economy, but which do, in fact, provide massive general economic benefits for the country and its citizens. Transportation is one of these basic goods, the costs of which are obvious but the benefits of which are diffuse and filter through every other economic transaction that takes place.

    And that, in a nutshell, is why smart countries invest their money in rail and other technologies that aren’t “commercially viable.”

  • Alek F

    I am amused by such comments, as the ones provided by Jet.
    Jet, you write “There’s a reason Amtrak has to beg for money every year — it’s not viable.” Well, explain to met this: do you think airlines are viable? Then look at current chaos at the airline industry – skyrocketing prices, degrading airline service, enormous delays, and nazi police rules at the airports, all of which create Air travel a truly frustrating, and wasteful experience!
    Or maybe – you consider driving & freeways a more viable option? Well, in this case you must truly enjoy wasting hours behind the wheel on our beloved congested freeways, enduring road rage and being confined in your small metal space (called a “Car”)…
    Even though I’m being slightly sarcastic (although you’d have to agree with the above mentioned factors), no matter how you look at it, Rail is our only option which is viable, dependable, and reliable, provided that government opens up their eyes and starts truly investing in our intercity Rail system. Spending tens of billions of dollars on highways and airlines is indeed wasteful, because our mobility is now severely impaired, and chaos is seen on both – roads and flying. However, spending just a few billions more on our national Rail system – will greatly enhance our mobility, will reduce our dependence on oil, and will provide necessary conditions for commuters and travelers.
    So, dear Jet: my suggestion is – take a train ride (from your comment it appears you have never ridden trains), take a nice, relaxing ride with your family, and you will feel the difference.


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