Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Why does John McCain hate trains?

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

8 Responses

  1. robbie says:

    This is getting a little ridiculous. How many times must it be said that just because John McCain is Anti-Amtrak, he is not Anti-Rail?
    It is absurd that you people think that just because he has voted against Amtrak funding time and time again that he is against the railroads in general. Trains, both passenger and freight are necessary pieces to our economy. But honestly, don’t you think that “Amcrap” is kind of a waste of taxpayer money, it being that it costs more money than flying or driving to get from one end of the country to another and it takes more time to do it? Amtrak is slow, unreliable, and unpractical. Besides, John McCain has played an active part in the attempt to make Amtrak more economically efficient and less dependent on government subsidy. He SPONSORED a bill to restructure Amtrak.
    The link to S 1958 Rail Passenger Service Improvement Act:

  2. Erik J says:

    The rail system was nationalized precisely because it wasn’t profitable. Air travel is subsidized, road travel is subsidized, virtually every form of transport in the US; I don’t see McCain pushing to stop those subsidies…

    Also, there are many people that benefit from Amtrak, such as people without driver’s licenses or who don’t own or can’t afford a car., Elderly folks, the disabled, etc. These people contribute to our economy, and if we didn’t have Amtrak, they would have a very difficult time getting around and buying stuff.

    As a college student living in California without a car, I find Amtrak to be very practical, and I use it pretty much every weekend. Luckily here, because of increased funding, we have improved speed, efficiency, and timeliness–gaining passengers in the process.

    In case you haven’t noticed, Amtrak IS a business, but after the rail corporation was created, very few private investors were interested, forcing the government to step in. Cutting of government investment would inevitably cause Amtrak to fail.

  3. Robbie, You claim AMTRAK is slow and unreliable, but do you ever ride it? I’ll give you that going from Madison, WI to New York City is a haul, but from Chicago to Milwaukee it’s a piece of cake! From DC to Boston it’s an easy ride.

    AMTRAK is “slow and unreliable” because it’s a Government operation that facing a TERRIBLE underfunded budget. When the private flight industry gets 10 times as much from the Government as the public train system, something is out of order there.

    Building a transportation network that helps Americans better commute is not a waste of tax dollars.

  4. […] transportation bill be favorable to rail travel? I don’t think I need to articulate again the positions the candiates have taken on these issues. However, Streetsblog has a good analysis of the possible […]

  5. robbie says:

    Exactly, Building a transportation network that helps Americans better commute is not a waste of taxpayer dollars.
    I’m not dissin’ on the trains…but yes, Chris, I have ridden Amtrak many times. I take the Empire Builder out to Montana from Minneapolis every summer. While long distance trains are a great way to get away, they lose millions of taxpayer dollars and are terribly impractical (now this is conditional depending on if they are on time or not-freight railroads play a huge part in this). Out of the many folks that I have eaten with in the dining car, almost all of them were travelling on leisure, including myself.
    Also keep in mind that routes such as the Hiawatha (Chicago-Milwaukee) are partly state funded, and are more economically efficient, it being that they are in the 500 mile range that experts have proclaimed is the most practical for intercity rail travel.
    And there is no doubt that a densitied corridor from Boston to D.C. is practical.
    While it is for sure that trains may need more funding, it needs to be for practical operations, not a 2,000 mile journey that costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. You cannot blame Mr. McCain. Besides, his plan was to zero out funding for Amtrak, until it was willing to give up its unprofitable (see below) routes.
    Now I am not a business expert, but I have some thoughts on profitablity: revenue completely depends on the product offered. Which will be more profitable for a business? A 1.5 hour flight from Minneapolis to Chicago at $300, or an often late, eight hour ride on the Empire Builder at $100. Who, in the right frame of mind, would ever want to use this service? If a business, such as a Class I railroad (this would be hard to propose to them, especially since they are stubborn and think Amtrak is such a nuissance), were to take over the operation, improve the infrastructure, drop that time down to 5.5 hours, it might become a transportation mode popular for the traveller and the business (public relations/profit).

  6. robbie says:

    O, yes, my time on the Empire Builder: very nice…but was still late two hours, and I heard the previous train the night before was four hours late.

  7. Allan says:

    Chris – “AMTRAK is “slow and unreliable” because it’s a Government operation that facing a TERRIBLE underfunded budget. ” … Yes and no … yes, it’s terrible because is a gov’t operation; no, it has nothing to do with funding. Tell me how a lack of funding prevents a scheduled train from arriving ontime …

    As for roads, maybe they’re subsidized in your state but not mine. The legislators recently discussing how to spend the money. A few years ago they raided the road fund to balance the general budget.

    As for airlines, they pay fuel taxes, landing fees, corporate income taxes, and passengers pay a tax every time they fly; heck, they even tax frequent flyer awards!!! … and I’d have to check but I think the airport and airway trust fund isn’t running a deficit … Do Amtrak passengers pay a special tax to fund building rails? Amtrak doesn’t make a profit so it pays no income tax.

    Amtrak has serious management issues and those need to be corrected. Milestones need to be set for Amtrak performance before giving them more cash.

  8. Dave Reid says:

    Lack of funding has not allowed AMTRAK to upgrade tracks or add additional siding. The sidings would prevent delays, as most delays on AMTRAK are do to freight trains.

    “As for roads, maybe they’re subsidized in your state but not mine. ” Funny you might want to do some research on that or tell me which state and I’ll look it up on google. Gas taxes and registration fees don’t come close to covering the costs of roads. Local governments very often use property taxes and assessments to pay for the upkeep, repair, and sometimes to pay for new construction.

    Have you missed the repeated bailouts of the airline industry? Billions of tax payer dollars have gone to prop up this industry.

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November 2008


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