Here’s a few snippets of recent rail events before you all head home for the weekend. First, some bad news. Amtrak ridership for the first quarter of 2009 is below expectations. This is a slight dip from the same period last year and 5% percent below expectations, according to the Associated Press. CEO Joseph Boardman told a House transportation subcommittee that lower fuel costs were leading some riders to return to their automobiles.
Surely our experienced Amtrak naysayers are going to jump all over this, giving the usual spiel about how the system is a waste of money and should be privatized AKA closed. Forget that Amtrak has seen unprecedented ridership growth in the past couple of years, provides green jobs, and stimulates the economy. Here’s a very specific case in point from Vermont’s ongoing battle to save its popular Ethan Allen Express route:
Rutland City Republican Peter Fagan said even the specter of the proposed Amtrak cut has had an impact on economic development. A condominium project slated for the old Sunshine food store lot has been placed on hold, pending the outcome of the Amtrak negotiations, according to Fagan.
“That’s an economic driver the city would like to take advantage of,” Fagan told the House Transportation Committee. “If the train is funded, they’ll continue on. If the train is not funded, that project is in doubt.”
Seems like the private sector is willing to embrace smart growth, if the public will provide the means for it.