Trains For America

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McCain worse than Bush on Amtrak and transport policy

This idea has been floating around for the past few days, but here is an excellent column from Wes Vernon dealing with Paul Weyrich’s rail advocacy and McCain’s stout opposition.

The issues

Weyrich’s comment came during his discussion of the latest developments in the behind-closed-doors give-and-take negotiations at the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission (NSTPRSC) regarding his effort to see that electric railway (streetcar) transit is given its due in the final commission report. (See last week’s column America’s Crumbling Transportation System.)

Weyrich knows that Senator McCain, throughout his career, has been very anti-rail, and in that respect “would be [even] worse than the present [Bush] administration,” whose Transportation Secretary Mary Peters (a big highway booster) has fought tooth and nail (as commission chairman) to block the pro-rail efforts of Weyrich and others allied with his 9-to-3 commission majority.

McCain “would fight us on everything,” Weyrich opined, and not just on rail issues, but also regarding several conservative concerns such as the Arizona senator’s open-borders stance on immigration β€” and “He hates talk radio. He [McCain] has indicated he would favor shutting it down. He hates the religious right.”

To sum it up, the conservative leader expressed the views of many principled conservatives: “What would we want him [McCain] for?”

The Arizonan has said shutting down Amtrak β€” he’s if elected β€” would be “a non-negotiable issue” for him. Short-sighted, indeed.

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Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

16 Responses

  1. AS for this lifelong Republican, I will see St.Peter at the
    gates before I vote for McCain. Right now, whichever Democrat turns up as the candidate gets my vote. They may not be pro-Amtrak, but anything is better than avowed assassin.

    J. H. Sullivan
    Florida, where the Sunset Limited no longer calls

  2. Joshua Skolnick says:

    As for the Democrats, it appears that Barack Obama is the most pro-rail of the remaining viable candidates. At least if you look at his website, he has revitalization of rail at the top of the list on his transportation policy documentation.

    He supports expansion of all three components of rail: Amtrak, freight rail, and commuter rail.

  3. Jeff Baird says:

    Being anti-Amtrak is not necessarily the same as being anti-rail. As it is set up, Amtrak has an extremely difficult time providing value to its customers. The trains can be 5 hours late on a 5 hour route. If I had not sat on a stalled Amtrak train for hours between Cincinnati and Chicago twice, I probably would not believe the stories about how bad it is.

    In most cases, a business that provides such bad service and such low value would fail; its assets would go into receivorship; its management would be dismissed; and a new team would buy the assets and try again. In the federal monopoly model, this type of bad service is rewarded with more federal money and usually the same management team and the same suffocating bureaucracy.

    There is a good argument that dismantling the federal monopoly on passenger rail would be good for rail travel in the long run. Obviously there would have to be a role for government subsidies, but government control is (and has always proven to be) a disaster. Aiming to dismantle this federal program is anti-Amtrak, but not necessarily anti-rail.

  4. Obama is my candidate if he makes it through the primaries. I will vote for whichever Democrat there is, but prefer Obama. I have no problem with a lady Pres., but I do have a problem with a Clinton dynasty.

    J. H. Sullivan

  5. Peter says:

    See “John McCain and Amtrak” http://www.railforum.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi/topic/11/5101.html for more analysis.

  6. With reference to Jeff Baird’s comment. I would tend to agree except for one large caviat. If any group, other than Amtrak, tries to operate on a host railroad, they will be stopped in their tracks. Amtrak was granted THE ONLY authority to operate on other tracks than their own for the simple reason that the railroad industry is dead set agains any kind of “open access”. Amtrak is an instance of “open access” and it is the only one that will be allowed.
    Secondly, if Amtrak had control over the dispatching of all of its trains, then yes, they should be shutdown and reorganized, but they don’t. If UP or CSX runs an Amtrak train late, it is beyond Amtrak’s control since for the most part Congress does not inforce the statute that governs this.

    Jerry Sullivan

  7. Logan Nash says:

    It’s sort of harrowing to read this in conjunction with the post below this… our funding for Amtrak is actually going to sink lower?

    I’d be pretty wary of any calls to dismantle Amtrak… I just don’t see today’s politicians devising any suitable private/public/semi-private replacement. Amtrak is what we have, and in light of the higher demand for rail passenger service in recent years, the focus should be on improving that. Like Jerry said, perhaps this needs to include enforcing Amtrak’s priorities on the rail lines’ tracks.

  8. […] And of course, Obama’s policy compares very favorably to McCain’s staunch anti-rail position. […]

  9. Allan says:

    I don’t think he is anti-passenger train … I think he’s just hacked off because of Amtrak’s lousy service to his state.

    http://www.unitedrail.org/2008/04/08/this-week-at-amtrak-2008-04-07/

  10. […] not. If McCain is elected, he’s stated that shutting down Amtrak for good would be a “non-negotiable issue.” He will continue to dismantle the rail network to the benefit of the oil […]

  11. […] problems, the answer is becoming increasingly clear. John McCain has shown himself to be an enemy of Amtrak and a friend to the auto and air industries, while Barack Obama has said that he wants to put high-speed rail lines on the […]

  12. […] Globe on McCain and the railways We’ve been saying it for some time, but more and more people are beginning to realize that McCain will do nothing for America’s […]

  13. […] is not a fan of Amtrak. In fact, he’s called shutting the service down if he was elected a “non-negotiable issue.” Subsidies for highways? Fine. But not for passenger rail. You might think that this means […]

  14. […] as well. However, it hardly matters, as he has long made his regrettable position on passenger rail quite clear. Just in case, we’ll be keeping […]

  15. […] in Canada and the United Stats have a contempt for trains (John McCain has an irrational hatred of Amtract that was brought to light during the campaign.) Canada must invest more in infrastructure with a […]

  16. […] first Prime Minister as he detests the national policy) as Stephen Harper and John McCain are both fervently anti-train. Conservative opposition to high-speed rail (and the census, and bank regulation, and evidence-based […]

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