Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

No groundswell to restore Amtrak Pioneer?

A guy named Brent Hunsaker on Channel 4 opines about Amtrak and the proposed restoration of service between Denver and Portland. The business geniuses that run Channel 4 nowhere (that I can see) tell us what city is served by their particular brand of misinformation. It must be a secret.

Once you get a piece of half baked statistical nonsense in the air, there’s no stopping it. I have a pretty good idea I know Mr. Hunsaker’s political and economic allegiances without asking, but let’s be generous. He perfectly reflects airlines, truckers, and the Tea Party crowd.

Republican Senator Mike Carpo of Idaho is apparently pushing for this because the train would make stops along the way in his home state.  Senator Carpo says Amtrak “has started a search for a consultant.”

Amtrak shut down the pioneer line in 1997.  Why?  — Because in 1996, it lost the railroad $20-million.

So they’re going to bring it back because… Why?  — So it can lose more money?

Are the people of Salt Lake or Seattle clamoring for it?  I am aware of no grassroots efforts.  (There are a couple blogs out there.)

So, can we expect that enough people will ride it so a $20-million dollar loss (in ’96 dollars) can be turned into a profit?  How about just break even?  Several airlines including Southwest fly the route.  I would be willing to bet my grandma’s nest egg that Amtrak would not be able to steal enough of their business to turn that loss into a profit.

I did a little checking and Boise is very well served by air carriers. Yes, Southwest goes to Boise, but not Cheyenne or the other smaller towns. served by Amtrak. Urban elitists do not understand that, out here in middle America, people do not ride Amtrak trains from end to end. Amtrak is a transportation service for rural areas.

The $20 million thing is  figured used against every long distance train. I have never been able to figure out how it is calculated, but it is unquestionably true that Amtrak requires a subsidy. Hunsaker’s crowd would have you believe that highways don’t cost anything and trucks don’t tear them to pieces.

It is kind of funny that every industrialized nation on earth has a decent network of passenger trains, except the one that is run by big money special interests.

Let’s see: Cheyenne, Green River, Pocatello, Shoshone, La Grande, Pendleton, and The Dalles. All small to medium towns and each needing transportation service. Why should it depend on whether they can make enough noise to penatrate the lofty glass castles of urban snobs?

And it’s not as if airlines have been wonderfully well-managed (except Southwest) and dutifully serving the public interest. So back off on Amtrak.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail

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April 2009


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