Friday, August 22, 2008

John McCain vs. Amtrak

Anyone who drops in here even occasionally knows that I am an advocate of a national passenger rail system. The timing is certainly right, with gas well over $4.00 a gallon, the airlines in chaos, and traffic congestion on our streets approaching the unbearable. As icing on the cake, there are also all the environmental benefits. And the traveling public gets it: Amtrak ridership is way, way up for the 5th year in a row and is expected to hit 28 million this year.

So, with an expanded and improved passenger rail system such an obvious way to go, I must once again point to John McCain’s abysmal record with respect to Amtrak. Why isn’t it more of an issue? It sure as hell ought to be! Consider:

* When he was chair of the Senate Science, Commerce and Transportation Committee in 2000, McCain killed $10 billion in funding for Amtrak.

* Two years later, McCain introduced legislation that would have phased Amtrak out of business.

(When David Gunn, Amtrak’s president at the time, appeared before a congressional hearing, McCain demanded that all federal support of Amtrak be eliminated. Gunn’s response was classic. He asked McCain if he would also demand the same of the commuter airlines … an excellent question, because McCain’s constituents, the people of Arizona, depend on those small airlines to get around their state. The record shows that McCain did not reply.)

* More recently, McCain said if he’s elected president he’ll try again to eliminate federal subsidy for Amtrak which would shut the railroad down almost overnight. Seriously? ‘Fraid so, and he's said that position is “non-negotiable.”

Probably the best way to determine how much importance a candidate gives to any given issue is to look at his/her campaign web site. Check McCain’s. I could find nothing when searching for the words transportation, transit, rail or Amtrak. Zero, zip, nada.

Here’s a reasonably good summary of John McCain’s record on Amtrak.

Read it and weep.


Mike said...

Hey Jim, Biden looks pretty good!

carrot quinn said...


I just found your blog, and I think it's interesting and fascinating. As someone who hops freight trains, it's exciting to read about trains from the perspective of someone riding legitimately. Check out my blog for stories!

-Carrot Quinn

JIM LOOMIS said...

As has been reported rather extensively in the past few days, Biden is one of Amtrak's biggest supporters. I've always been a big fan of his anyway. He's smart and a very straight-up guy who is widely acknowledged to be extremely knowlegdable on foreign policy.