Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Good news (for now)for Amtrak in Senate votes

 Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican from Texas, seems to really “get it.”

Senate defeats measure to curtail Amtrak

Web Posted: 10/25/2007 05:43 PM CDT

Gary Martin
Express-News Washington Bureau (San Antonio)

WASHINGTON — A measure to eliminate costly Amtrak
routes in the South and West — including two that
serve San Antonio — was rejected overwhelmingly Thursday by the Senate.

The amendment to cut federal subsidies and
eliminate the long-haul routes was defeated on a
28-66 vote after lawmakers said the lack of rail
service would unfairly deprive riders of service outside the eastern corridor.

“Texas rail passengers depend on these routes
daily,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.

Targeted in the measure to eliminate 15 long
distance trains were the Sunset Limited, which
runs from Orlando to Los Angeles, and the Texas
Eagle, which runs north to Chicago. Both lines run through San Antonio.

More than 42,000 passengers boarded or
disembarked trains in San Antonio last year, according to Amtrak.

San Antonio was the second busiest train depot in
Texas, behind Fort Worth, where 81,000 passengers got on and off trains.

Overall, more than 268,000 passengers boarded and
alighted trains in Texas last year. Amtrak also
employs 250 workers in Texas, and spent $12.7
million on goods and services in the state.

Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., sought the elimination
of the long distance trains to make Amtrak more
fiscally sound and reduce federal subsidies for riders.

He noted that 43 percent of operating funds were
being spent on 15 percent of Amtrak riders,
particularly on routes in rural areas of the country.

Train service for cities along the East Coast are
more profitable and cost less per passenger to operate.

President Bush has tried to slash Amtrak funding
in recent years, and Congress has criticized the
railway for financial inefficiencies and mismanagement.

Hutchison has blocked attempts to sell off
non-profitable Amtrak trains and routes and
consolidate passenger service in the East.

“Amtrak must be ‘national or nothing,’ and
eliminating the Texas Eagle and Sunset Limited
would be a step backward in this pursuit,” Hutchison said.

Hutchison is a member of the Senate
Appropriations subcommittee on transportation,
which has oversight of federal funding for Amtrak.


Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

Senate measures TODAY would kill long distance trains

This item moved to NARP members, but I can not find it on the group’s web site anywhere. Would it not seem that such an urgent bit of business would need to be prominently displayed?

Here is what I took off an online discussion group.

The Amtrak reauthorization bill came up on the Senate floor late yesterday. It will be on the floor today (Thursday). Debate today begins at 10:30 AM Eastern. A 12:30 vote is planned on a Sununu (R-NH) amendment which could be the first of many nasty ones (including, apparently, one by Coburn, R-OK).

Sununu would kill all trains that lose over $200 a passenger after a certain time. So this kills the long-distance network and doesn’t even use a rational basis (like revenue-to-cost ratio or loss per passenger-mile). Of course, the network is so skeletal that removing just about any individual route would have significant harmful
network impacts.

Phone calls this morning to Senate offices should urge votes against this and any other anti-train amendments. Most senators probably know an anti-train amendment when they see one. However, they can assume that an amendment is anti-train if Senators Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Lott (R-MS) do not both accept said amendment as friendly.

When you phone and ask for the staff person, you may be offered voice-mail. Accept it and leave a substantive message. Do NOT rely on the staffer’s ability to return your call in a timely manner.

Your message could go like this: “Please support S. 294 and please vote against the Sununu per passenger subsidy cap amendment-a wolf in sheep’s clothing-and any other anti-train amendment that is offered.”

You can reach any Senate office by calling the Capitol Hill
switchboard 202-224-3121. If you are on-line, your senators’ direct-dial number and web site are at this link.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

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October 2007