Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Blue State Budget Paybacks

Just a quick bit of attention to a Bush budget cut - Amtrak. BushCo proposes to eliminate all subsidies to Amtrak in the budget submitted to congress. Now, I'm not sure how far this is going to fly. After all, most of the big money guys in the DC-NY-Boston corridor use Amtrak on a regular basis. Personally, I've shared a train car in the past with Senator Joe Biden (D-De) (who rides the Metroliner back to Delaware every day) and Congressman Rob Andrews (D-NJ)

Amtrak is a commuting lifeline in the Northeastern U.S. I realize that for the most part, the rest of the Amtrak system in the U.S. is antiquated and outdated, and actually much more expensive than taking a plane in most cases. There's just not much demand for passenger train service between, say, Chicago and Philadelphia.

But in the Northeast, Amtrak isn't a luxury, it's a commuter necessity. Most trains are crowded, even at off peak times. Without doing any supporting research, one thing I inherently know is that in most civilized countries, passenger train service is heavily subsidized by the government. I also know that if the U.S. was actually serious about reducing energy consumption, subsidies would be increased, not decreased.

So, maybe it's a "screw the blue states" move, because most people outsite of the NE corridor probably don't give a rats ass about Amtrak. I understand that Amtrak's a money pit, and fairly easy pickings from a political perspective. For example, I don't know why it costs me $40 for a one way ticket from Philly to New York on an Amtrak cattle car (not Metroliner or Acela service), when I can hop over the river to New Jersey and make the same trip on a NJ Transit train for $9. And no one is complaining about whatever minimal subsidies NJ Transit gets from the state (nothing like the billion or so Amtrak gets from the feds).

The bottom line is that there has to be some compromise position other than complete gutting of Amtrak -- and I'm sure there will be. It just ticks me off that the political budget dance over Amtrak has to be done every damn year, rather than fixing the problem (and continuing service) once and for all.

Storyline: Fight Expected Over Bush Plan for Amtrak