Well, by gosh, I have officially heard it all Evan Stair sends this in today’s dispatches
We are receiving some initial signs in Kansas that political dogma is driving the “tainted” stimulus funding debate. Some in Kansas consider money spent on Amtrak as supporting, not Amtrak services per se, but labor unions. This is analogous to the belief that public school spending supports Kansas education unions. Talk about throwing the baby out withthe bathwater!
I don’t see how increasing transportation options for the general public is bad for either political extreme (right or left). Conveying this message is important as we lead up to the 2010 debate as to whether Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas should fund an expanded Heartland Flyer passenger train. Amtrak’s Kansas Feasibility study is due in late 2009.
In reality, passenger rail expansion can serve many diverse political leanings, just as it can serve the many diverse communities in which it stops. Business is supported through after-the-farebox revenues while environmental concerns, energy conservation, and mobility are addressed on the other side. One need only place a critic on the Flyer today to see that the myths perpetuated by passenger opponents are dead or dying. Show them the Trinity Rail Express, as the Northern Flyer Alliance did two weeks ago, and you can create a passion for such operations elsewhere.
This is something to think about when addressing criticisms of Amtrak or more generally passenger rail. Passenger rail does provide benefit; however, quantifying this benefit is difficult because transportation is a small part of the economic equation. Nobody argues that highways are a necessity as economic corridors. Nobody argues that aviation spending is excessive because it supports business. The belief that the Flyer is a simple excursion train is indeed a myth. Even if it were just for tourism the money spent at the endpoint is still green.
My experience on Amtrak, limited as it has been in recent years, is that Republicans are well represented among riders and may be a majority in some regions. This is the principle reason David Stockman never got any traction on his mission to destroy Amtrak in the Reagan administration. Even is dead on target.