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RSC: Federal Funding For Amtrak & HSR On Chopping Block


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#1 Devil's Advocate

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 02:00 PM

First we had President George Bush and would-be president John McCain calling for the end of federal funding of Amtrak. Republican gubernatorial candidates joined the anti-rail chorus and campaigned on promises to refuse federal funds for passenger rail improvements and expansion if they couldn't be twisted and perverted into subsidies for trucks and automobiles instead. Now it looks as though the GOP-led House is not far behind on the bewildering but growing anti-rail bandwagon that is quickly developing into a fundamental platform position for the Republican party. Although there may not yet be enough Republicans in active office to completely defund Amtrak at this time the trend lines are clear. Presumably there will be some sort of reduction in a "compromise" between the House and the Senate. If the Republicans are able to regain political dominance Amtrak is likely to suffer a critical shortage of funds at their hands. I cannot predict exactly how much funding Amtrak will lose in a compromise bill or when the GOP will regain their former political clout, but I think it's safe to say it's going to happen eventually. The question that's bouncing around in my mind now is how much of Amtrak's current network can possibly survive on its own after all or most of their federal funding is finally lost?

[The Republican Study Committee] wants to eliminate Amtrak operating subsidies ($1.565 billion), which amounted to $32 per passenger in 2009. In 2009, 41 of Amtrak's 44 routes -- which service 500 destinations in 46 states -- lost money, indicating that, without the subsidies, Amtrak would have to significantly reduce or eliminate its service outside the heavily trafficked urban coastal routes. The plans also call for the elimination of Intercity and High Speed Rail Grants to the tune of $2.5 billion a year.


Link To Story...

Edited by daxomni, 20 January 2011 - 03:41 PM.

Any views expressed are my own and do not represent the views of my employer, parent companies, partners, or subsidiaries.

Over 50,000 people just like you recently signed a petition to expand high speed passenger rail in the United States of America.

Long live The Coast Starlight, The California Zephyr, The Empire Builder, The Southwest Chief, and The Canadian.


#2 PJRACER

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 02:16 PM

Sounds good to me on high speed rail in FL. I can still drive the 95 miles from the west coast of FL to Mickey Mouse. NOTHING is free.....its all our tax money.

#3 MikefromCrete

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 02:19 PM

Nice to have a real rail supporter in the audience.

#4 WICT106

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 02:28 PM

I notice that they list the Amtrak subsidy by the passenger. Profit or loss in passenger transportation is measured by the Revenue Passenger Mile!

/end rant :angry2: :angry2:
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#5 Tracktwentynine

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 02:46 PM

Just to be clear, the RSC is proposing cutting the entire federal allocation for Amtrak. So Florida has more at stake than HSR. Most of the national network (if not the entire system) would be gutted under this proposal.

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#6 Kurn

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 03:12 PM

Sounds good to me on high speed rail in FL. I can still drive the 95 miles from the west coast of FL to Mickey Mouse. NOTHING is free.....its all our tax money.



And you are on this forum because?
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#7 Tumbleweed

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 03:28 PM

What is the most effective method to contact Senators and Congressmen these days? E-mail? Their individual web page? telephone? hand-written snail mail? In-person while they are in their home state? Sounds like some grass roots voices need to be heard........and loudly!
California Zephyr LNK-DEN(RT), DEN-GJT (RT), OMA-CHI(RT) 2/11, Capitol Limited CHI-WAS (RT) 2/11
Silver Meteor WAS-WPB (RT) 2/11, Empire builder FAR-CHI (RT) 3/12, CL CHI-WAS 4/12
SM WAS-WPB 4/12, SM WPB-NYP 4/12, LSL NYP-CHI 4/12, EB CHI-FAR 4/12, EB FAR-CHI 4/13, CL CHI-WAS 4/13
SM WAS-WPB 4/13, SM WPB-NYP 4/13, LSL NYP-CHI 4/13, EB CHI-FAR 4/13, SM WPB-NYP 2/14, LSL NYP-CHI 2/14
EB CHI-FAR 2/14, EB FAR-CHI 2/14, CZ CHI-DEN 2/14

Miles as of Feb 2014......23, 279', Future Plans....Coast Starlight and SW Chief

#8 PJRACER

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 03:51 PM


Sounds good to me on high speed rail in FL. I can still drive the 95 miles from the west coast of FL to Mickey Mouse. NOTHING is free.....its all our tax money.



And you are on this forum because?



I arrived on this forum when I became a first time AMTRAK user.....we are still planning our long distance AMTRAK experience, and I don't give a hoot about the proposed high speed Chinese owned rail between nowhere in Tampa to nowhere in Orlando. Historically, Floridians (which I am one) are in love with the automobile for their short trips especially......tourists flying into Orlando will support the "rental car agency" and drive over here to the beaches if they so desire. Not being dropped off in a "nothing" area in Tampa in search of a beach, which is another 35 miles away. If they fly into Tampa....there is no high speed rail at the airport....therefore the "rental car agency" supplys them with a car and they can turn right and go to the beach or turn left and go to Mickey Mouse.......which is really all they come for in the first place. Everybody things that because the "fed's" are giving up the money for this rail.....who is going to sustain it. We the tax payers. Now if you don't pay taxes (and many don't)....then you can look at it as a "so what". Enough said, time for rebuttal.

#9 daveyb99

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 04:11 PM


Talking Points, Talking Points. ya, ya blah blah.



I did notice ELIMINATION OF CONGRESSIONAL PENSIONS somehow got left off the list. I am sure it will be added later......

Edited by daveyb99, 20 January 2011 - 04:14 PM.


#10 Oldsmoboi

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 04:14 PM

Sounds good to me on high speed rail in FL. I can still drive the 95 miles from the west coast of FL to Mickey Mouse. NOTHING is free.....its all our tax money.


Enjoy your federally funded highway.

We spend 5.5 times more than the Fed's contribution to Amtrak to get our junk fondled by the TSA.

#11 JayPea

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 04:21 PM

They can propose all they want, but that doesn't mean they have a prayer of getting it. I saw somewhere, and I wish I could find the site again, that listed votes for Amtrak funding by each House of Representative member. That was for the last Congress so wouldn't apply now, but as I recall, more than half of the Republicans voted to continue funding Amtrak. And even if every one of the representatives who lost were for funding Amtrak and all those who won were against it, there would still be a majority voting to fund it. And as I recall, the current makeup of the House of Representatives is 245-193 in the Republicans' favor. That would mean only 27 Republicans out of the 245 would need to vote in favor of Amtrak funding, assuming all Democrats vote for it as well. I think you will be able to find far more than 27 Republicans for it. And there's the Senate, which is still in Democratic control, and then it would have to get past President Obama.

I think Amtrak is safe. However, we still should be contacting our Senators and Representatives diligently, as I have. While I think all we are going to get in Congress for the next two years is gridlock, that doesn't mean I won't (and we shouldn't) be on our guard.

Amtrak Routes Traveled: City of New Orleans, State House/Lincoln Service, Empire Builder, California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Cascades, Crescent, Capitol Limited, Coast Starlight, Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited, Silver Meteor, Lake Shore Limited
Pre-Amtrak Routes Traveled: Empire Builder (Great Northern), North Coast Limited (Northern Pacific), Abraham Lincoln (Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio), City of Hinkle (Union Pacific)
Bustitutions: Portland-Spokane (EB)
Amtrak Miles: 52,566

Pre-Amtrak Miles: 8,482
Bustitution Miles: 362

Excursion trains ridden: Chehalis and Centralia Railroad, Mt. Hood Scenic Railroad, and trains at the
Illinois Railway Museum, Monticello (IL)Railroad Museum, and the California Railway Museum.


#12 John Bredin

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 04:32 PM

My rebuttal, PJRACER, is:

1) This proposal if carried to fruition* would eliminate that long-distance Amtrak experience you plan on having, not just the HSR plan you don't like.

2) Various people have claimed repeatedly throughout the years that nobody will ride trains -- until they do. :rolleyes: Remember that Californians (and in particular Angelenos) were supposed to be so car-crazy you'd have to pull the steering wheels from their cold dead hands. Look at the ridership on the Amtrak California corridors now.

3) Who said the Chinese would be running it? As I recall, nobody's taken bids yet for who'll build and operate Florida HSR, much less picked the winner. And if it is the Chinese, or the Japanese, or the French, it's because we Americans have thrown away our post-WWII technological advantage in railways and stood idle while the whole industrialized world passed us by, for no greater reason than morons grunting that "billions for highways good, millions for railways bad."


*Not that it will be. There are Representatives from Amtrak-served states (and from Maryland and Virginia for the proposed end of DC Metro funding) who will have something to say about it, as will the Senate. This isn't to say we shouldn't advocate against such proposals to our elected officials -- we definitely should -- just that we shouldn't get too pessimistic. The flipside of Green Maned Lion's "don't rely on a proposed train until it's actually running" is my "don't rely on a zero-budget for Amtrak until it actually becomes law." Amtrak has actually managed to add trains (usually state-sponsored ones), while Congress hasn't passed a zero-budget for Amtrak yet. :P

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 04:32 PM

First we had President George Bush and would-be president John McCain calling for the end of federal funding of Amtrak. Republican gubernatorial candidates joined the anti-rail chorus and campaigned on promises to refuse federal funds for passenger rail improvements and expansion if they couldn't be twisted and perverted into subsidies for trucks and automobiles instead. Now it looks as though the GOP-led House is not far behind on the bewildering but growing anti-rail bandwagon that is quickly developing into a fundamental platform position for the Republican party. Although there may not yet be enough Republicans in active office to completely defund Amtrak at this time the trend lines are clear. Presumably there will be some sort of reduction in a "compromise" between the House and the Senate. If the Republicans are able to regain political dominance Amtrak is likely to suffer a critical shortage of funds at their hands. I cannot predict exactly how much funding Amtrak will lose in a compromise bill or when the GOP will regain their former political clout, but I think it's safe to say it's going to happen eventually. The question that's bouncing around in my mind now is how much of Amtrak's current network can possibly survive on its own after all or most of their federal funding is finally lost?

[The Republican Study Committee] wants to eliminate Amtrak operating subsidies ($1.565 billion), which amounted to $32 per passenger in 2009. In 2009, 41 of Amtrak's 44 routes -- which service 500 destinations in 46 states -- lost money, indicating that, without the subsidies, Amtrak would have to significantly reduce or eliminate its service outside the heavily trafficked urban coastal routes. The plans also call for the elimination of Intercity and High Speed Rail Grants to the tune of $2.5 billion a year.


Link To Story...

Even more discouraging than their attempts at specific cuts is the philosophy behind it. There doesn't seem to be the most elementary of understanding that no transportation system--whether roads, air, rail, boat, etc.--exists anywhere in the world without some sort of subsidy. None. These ideologues are so caught up in their rigid philosophical viewpoint that logic may be lucky to play any role. That's why good old political pressure from constituents i.e. how about all those suburban rail riders in GOP districts, needs to be brought to bare.

#14 leemell

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 04:46 PM

My rebuttal, PJRACER, is:

1) This proposal if carried to fruition* would eliminate that long-distance Amtrak experience you plan on having, not just the HSR plan you don't like.

2) Various people have claimed repeatedly throughout the years that nobody will ride trains -- until they do. :rolleyes: Remember that Californians (and in particular Angelenos) were supposed to be so car-crazy you'd have to pull the steering wheels from their cold dead hands. Look at the ridership on the Amtrak California corridors now.

3) Who said the Chinese would be running it? As I recall, nobody's taken bids yet for who'll build and operate Florida HSR, much less picked the winner. And if it is the Chinese, or the Japanese, or the French, it's because we Americans have thrown away our post-WWII technological advantage in railways and stood idle while the whole industrialized world passed us by, for no greater reason than morons grunting that "billions for highways good, millions for railways bad."


*Not that it will be. There are Representatives from Amtrak-served states (and from Maryland and Virginia for the proposed end of DC Metro funding) who will have something to say about it, as will the Senate. This isn't to say we shouldn't advocate against such proposals to our elected officials -- we definitely should -- just that we shouldn't get too pessimistic. The flipside of Green Maned Lion's "don't rely on a proposed train until it's actually running" is my "don't rely on a zero-budget for Amtrak until it actually becomes law." Amtrak has actually managed to add trains (usually state-sponsored ones), while Congress hasn't passed a zero-budget for Amtrak yet. :P

As a multidecade recipient of Congressional funding (space) I agree wholheartedly with your view. I used to follow funding through Congress every year and finally concluded, that unless I was involved in advocating it, to wait until they actually reach a significant vote before analyzing what the possible impacts would be.

#15 Gratt

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 04:47 PM

Yeah I saw this, and it really frustrating how thick-headed Republican's can be. Than again this is the same group that decided wasting taxpayer dollars on a pointless Obamacare repeal vote is a good idea.

Be happy Daxomni that in our state the legislature only meets for about 3 months every two years. It does not give them time to do too much damage. :P

But seriously, while I think voicing our opinions are good I simply dont believe them when they "call to kill Amtrak" they are all fine for killing a line in another district or state but not when it hits their voters.

The Republicans have often called for killing Amtrak, nothing happened. When they had the White House and Congress nothing happened. Aside for the sunset east fiasco (which is more Amtrak's fault) not a single LD line or any major state line was cut in the past 10 years, in fact many have grown...

I would actually like to see a chart comparing Republican And Democratic administrations VS quality of Amtrak service.

#16 Ispolkom

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 04:59 PM

Amtrak muddles along because it's a tiny, infinitesimal part of the federal budget that is more trouble to kill than its worth. It's not really a Republican vs. Democratic thing. The new Republican senator and representative from North Dakota are going to be just as strong supporters of the Empire Builder as the Democrats they replaced. Amtrak was started when there was a Republican in the White House, and the biggest cuts to the network (1979, 1997) happened when Democrats were President.

#17 Green Maned Lion

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 05:18 PM

I think I recall George W. Bush zeroing Amtrak's budget in his proposal every year he was in office. So I am not too scared that Amtrak will be eliminated.

That being said, everybody should write to their boneheaded representatives in advocacy of Amtrak funding. Or go see them in person. And if you are going to go see people in person, keep in mind that you don't have to be from *state* to go to see *state's* representative and give him a piece of your mind.

All that being said, we should remember that we have some real looney toons in Congress this year, not logical reasonable people willing to make compromises. No, we have demented, deranged psychotics who actually believe that 52% of their voters picking them rather than some senile old incumbent means that the people are rally calling them to go and cut every single piece of funding they don't understand from the federal budget.

They'll be gone in a couple of years, god willing. If they aren't, I am going to be thoroughly convinced that our country is over.

Travelled: Broadway Limited (1), Lake Shore Limited (6), Capitol Limited (7), Empire Builder (1), Southwest Chief (2), Sunset Limited (1), California Zephyr (3), Coast Starlight (2), Silver Meteor (5), Silver Star (5), Silver Palm (2), Crescent (1), Cardinal (4), Auto Train (4), Pennsylvanian (2), Palmetto (1), Acela Express (1), Empire Service (1), Northeast Regional (11), Keystone Service (1) --- Total Miles: 50,144 --- Total Trains: 61
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#18 JayPea

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 05:35 PM

I think you recall right, GML, about President Bush proposing a zero budget for Amtrak every year. And see how far he got, even when he had BOTH houses of Congress on the Republican side. As I recall, President Reagan had some zero budgets for Amtrak as well. And cutting Amtrak's budget would, in the scheme of things, have about the same effect as throwing a deck chair off the Titanic.

And I've heard so many times candidates give off bold statements and find the political reality a whole nuther matter. Remember George H.W. Bush and "read my lips, no new taxes!!!"? The voters did---and when he was unable to keep that pledge, GHWB became a one-term President.

And, closer to home, in my Congressional district, in 1994, George Nethercutt, a Republican, ran on a promise of, if elected, only serving that one term, which was part of an anti-incumbent, term limits wave. He won---and his opponent was no ordinary long-term incumbant. He was Tom Foley, who was Speaker of the House Foley at the time. It was the first time in 130 years that the standing Speaker of the House was ousted. And Nethercutt??? Citing a vague notion that "there was more work to be done" went back on that promise to serve only one term. He in fact served five terms before stepping down in 2004 to run, unsuccessfully, for Senate here in Washington.

All that to say this (and I could cite many more examples): What candidates say they're going to do and what they end up doing is very often two different things. I will believe a zero budget for Amtrak when I see it, and not until then.

Amtrak Routes Traveled: City of New Orleans, State House/Lincoln Service, Empire Builder, California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Cascades, Crescent, Capitol Limited, Coast Starlight, Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited, Silver Meteor, Lake Shore Limited
Pre-Amtrak Routes Traveled: Empire Builder (Great Northern), North Coast Limited (Northern Pacific), Abraham Lincoln (Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio), City of Hinkle (Union Pacific)
Bustitutions: Portland-Spokane (EB)
Amtrak Miles: 52,566

Pre-Amtrak Miles: 8,482
Bustitution Miles: 362

Excursion trains ridden: Chehalis and Centralia Railroad, Mt. Hood Scenic Railroad, and trains at the
Illinois Railway Museum, Monticello (IL)Railroad Museum, and the California Railway Museum.


#19 Trogdor

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 05:53 PM

Actually, George W. Bush did not propose 0 every year. The first few years, I think he was generous enough to propose a couple hundred million (still far too little to run the system). In the later years, he proposed 0.

To Gratt's comment about not losing any routes in the past 10 years, we did lose the Three Rivers.
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#20 amtrakwolverine

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 06:51 PM

SO it looks like there won't be a 5th AU gathering since amtrak won't exist by then if the goverment gets there way :( Lets move to canada at least they have some rail left.

Edited by amtrakwolverine, 20 January 2011 - 06:51 PM.




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