Two examples: to accommodate increasing passenger demand, more frequency is being added to Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner service on the Los Angeles-San Diego run. And additional equipment is being ordered to add capacity to Amtrak’s Cascade trains running between Portland, Oregon, through Eugene to Seattle, Washington. Oh … and, by popular demand, a second daily train is now operating in both directions between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia.
Yet Congress – let’s face it, most of the Republicans in Congress – continues to try to kill Amtrak by slow starvation.
How weird is that? How maddening? How frustrating!
That just means Amtrak continues to struggle and, unfortunately, those struggles affect the service Amtrak is able to provide. Equipment is getting older and it’s hard not to notice the fraying around some of the edges. Breakdowns are occurring … overworked locomotives quit and passengers end up being bussed and inconvenienced.
Still, Amtrak is clearly a travel choice millions of Americans want. More than 30 million of us rode an Amtrak train this past year, yet another record.
And no wonder! Train travel is relaxing. The seats are big and wide and comfortable. You can get up – there’s no seat belt to unhook – and walk around whenever you feel like it. If you’re in a sleeping car, there’s a real bed to sleep in on overnight trips. When you get hungry can wander into the dining car, have a surprisingly good meal, and get to know some of your fellow passengers in the bargain. And, all the while, the United States of America is passing by right outside your window.
It’s costing the U.S. taxpayers about $1.5 billion a year in federal tax dollars to have Amtrak available as a travel choice for you and me. To hear some of those bozos in Washington talk, that subsidy is what’s driving this country into bankruptcy. Oh yeah? Here’s a little perspective, a little reality for you: That billion-and-a-half is almost exactly the same amount the U.S. is giving away every year in foreign aid … just to Egypt!
Here are three New Year’s resolutions for all of us:
Jot a note to our members of Congress and urge more support for Amtrak and for passenger rail.
Join the National Association of Railroad Passengers, a non-profit, non-partisan organization actively promoting more and better and faster trains for the U.S.
And take a long-distance train ride.
Happy New Year everyone. Haole Makahiki Hou!