Promoting passenger trains as a transportation alternative in Florida since 1983.  We are citizens who advocate for Amtrak, commuter rail, intercity rail and transit for Florida's future.

What the House GOP's Budget Plan Means for Passenger Rail

06 Apr 2011 3:41 PM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

As most FCRP members certainly must have heard in the media by now, House Budget Committee Chair and GOP Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin recently introduced his Fiscal Year 2012 Budget for consideration by the House of Representatives.

The contrast with the Democrat Obama Administration's proposed budget is, of course, significant.

What would be the GOP plan's impact on passenger rail if adopted?

For starters, it zeroes out high speed rail funds. Worse still, it sets up a precedent of cost-benefit analyses for new and existing services which demonstrates Ryan's hostility towards passenger and commuter rail.

The double standard being proposed for passenger rail is highlighted by the uses of the word "subsidization" an the phrase "self-supporting commercial services" in the following portion of the budget document:

"Since 2008, funding for the Department of Transportation has grown by 24 percent – and that doesn’t count the stimulus spike, which nearly doubled transportation spending in one year. The mechanisms of federal highway and transit spending have become distorted, leading to imprudent, irresponsible, and often downright wasteful spending.

Further, however worthy some highway projects might be, their capacity as job creators has been vastly oversold, as demonstrated by the extravagant but unfulfilled promises that accompanied the 2009 stimulus bill, particularly with regard to high-speed rail.

In the wake of these failures, and with the federal government’s fiscal challenges making long-term subsidization infeasible, high-speed rail and other new intercity rail projects should be pursued only if they can be established as self-supporting commercial services.

The threat of large, endless subsidies is precisely the reason governors across the country are rejecting federally-funded high-speed rail projects. This budget eliminates these projects, which have failed numerous and clear cost-benefit analyses."

The full budget proposal is available here: http://budget.house.gov/UploadedFiles/PathToProsperityFY2012.pdf

Since highways and aviation are also subsidized with tax dollars (including tax monies from the general fund) and are not self supporting, FCRP and NARP disagree with Congressman Ryan's double standard for passenger rail.

Read about what you can do to take action to change this wrongheaded double standard at NARP's website here: http://www.narprail.org/cms/index.php/main/act/

--Jackson McQuigg

Comments

  • 07 Apr 2011 7:53 AM | Deleted user
    Great idea it seems to me. Amtrak, as has been shown with the Sunset East, can cut service anytime they wish, ridership means nothing, and the focus is entirely on the NEC. It is time to turn passenger rail back to the host railroads and provide them with a little tax credit to break even. Amtrak has shown it is worthless.
    Sure the hosts will holler bloody murder, starting with M. Ward's column in today's Times-Union, but they got the Staggers Act, make obscene profits, and so a little hurt on passenger rail will not affect the bottom line very much, and as a stockholder of NS and CSX, I want my stock to provide some public service.
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    • 07 Apr 2011 9:27 AM | Anonymous
      No amount of tax credit would be enough, in my opinion, to get for-profit railroads back in the passenger business. Short of nationalizing the entire industry, Amtrak is the best we've got.

      The focus is entirely on the NEC because long distance inter-city rail travel is, sad to say, going, going, gone.
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      • 13 Apr 2011 7:49 AM | Deleted user
        I beg to disagree. Inter-City long distance service is growing, if anything, faster than ridership on the NEC, but the capacity to increase further is not there. There is huge demand, but no capacity to handle it. When Amtrak cut the Sunset East of NewOrleans, they basically sacrificed 6 full train loads of people a week, i.e. about 2000+ riders a week. My argument is that they do not servie the public with what they have and have not used any leverage they had over the past two years to improve their service, so TIME TO ZERO THEM OUT TOTALLY.
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    • 15 Apr 2011 9:05 PM | Anonymous member
      Don't blame Amtrak for a bumpy ride south of Dc to/from Florida, or worse yet, long its Cardinal route. CSx is by far, the sickest fish in the tank of all seven major railroad carriers in this nation. CSX bit off more thn they could chew whaen they tried to swallow Conrail whole almost a decade ago. At CSX, unlike UP, BNSF, or KCS, proifts are more important then maintaining and uprgrading its current infrastructure in keeping a good company lasting for the long term. Unless i'm going up and down the east coast, I'll begin my train trip out west in Los Angeles. Norfolk Suthern takes good care of its tracks, too. But CSX still has a long ways to go to be up tothe standards the western railroads are delivering.
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