Please remember, first of all, that Republican Presidential candidate John McCain has made abolishing Amtrak a top and non-negotiable part of his political sales pitch. That’s a man who is in touch with the times
Anyway, the New York Times has a major article on the renewed prominence of rail in discussions of transportation policy. Mind you, President Bush is adamantly opposed to any increases in Amtrak funding, and one must suppose that carries through to his clone John McSame.
There is a big High Speed Rail proposal on Tuesday’s California ballot. Of course, TFA is behind the California Prop. 1A. HSR is fuel efficient. It takes planes out of the air and cars off highways. It is great for business, allowing planing and meetings in route to the meetings. It will be a major boom to the economy. Voters should easily say “yes.”
Here is a small part of the New York Times feature.
In the Midwest, transportation officials are pushing a plan to connect cities in nine states in a hub-and-spoke system centered in Chicago.
The public is way ahead of policymakers in recognizing trains as an attractive alternative to cars and planes, said Representative James L. Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat who is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“I think we’re at a transformational point in intercity passenger rail service,” Mr. Oberstar said.
Amtrak, which struggled for years to attract riders, drew a record 28.7 million in the year ended Sept. 30. That is 11 percent more than the year before and the sixth straight year that ridership has increased. Ticket revenue hit a record $1.7 billion, a $200 million increase from a year earlier.
Rail travel is gaining greater favor in Congress, which provides subsidies to keep Amtrak rolling. Lawmakers are trying to find ways to deal with high energy prices, congested and aging infrastructure, and an air traffic control system that relies largely on World War II-era technology.
Congress recently passed legislation setting a goal of providing Amtrak $13 billion over five years, a major vote of confidence. The measure also encourages the development of high-speed rail corridors and contains $2 billion in grants to states to enhance or introduce service between cities. The money still must be appropriated.
While things look better, we should not expect that a possible Obama victory will insure improvements in the essential ground transportation infrastructure provided by passenger rail. Powerful and well funded special interests are fighting for very life to keep things as they have always been – highways and airports only.
We need alternatives that provide for the smaller and medium cities without great options for getting around. As airlines seek efficiencies, it only makes good sense to do those shorter hops on the ground. In Europe, the trains often deliver passengers right at the airport.
America is ready. Spread the word.