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BM5 via Woodhaven

If Trump has his way, Amtrak’s long-run trains will roll into history

Long Distance Funding  

19 members have voted

  1. 1. Should funding remain for AMTRAK's Long-Distance routes?



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I know this talks more about the West Coast services, but this has the potential to affect the amount of trains out of Penn Station as well on the East Coast.

 

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A conductor checks the tracks before the Coast Starlight departs the Amtrak station in Emeryville bound for Los Angeles. The administration’s proposed federal budget would end the L.A.-to-Seattle Starlight.

 

Americans may have a short time left to take a long train ride.

The Amtrak trains that roll daily from the Bay Area to Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles — as well as into the imaginations of the traveling public — might soon be rolling to the scrapyard instead.

 

Federal budget cutters once again have their eyes on long-distance Amtrak trains — the ones with bud vases in the dining car and picture windows in the lounge. If the Trump administration has its way, Amtrak will lose about half of its $1.4 billion budget and be forced next year to bump off all its long-distance runs, eliminating service to 23 states, primarily in the West and the South. Short-haul commuter lines such as the Capitol Corridor trains to Sacramento would be all that’s left.

 

Although Amtrak patronage was higher than ever last year, with 31.3 million passengers carried, President Trump’s budget cutters say long-distance trains carried only 15 percent of those riders.

 

The administration said its proposed budget for 2018 would redirect federal subsidies so Amtrak could “focus resources on the parts of the passenger rail system that provide meaningful transportation options within regions.” It said long-distance trains “have long been inefficient and incur the vast majority of Amtrak’s operating losses.”

Those operating losses totaled $227 million in fiscal 2016, Amtrak says.

 

Eliminating long-distance trains “would allow Amtrak to focus on better managing its state-supported and Northeast corridor train services,” the administration said. State-supported trains include California’s Capitol Corridor, San Joaquin and Pacific Surfliner lines, which are funded largely by Caltrans.

 

The proposed Amtrak cuts would end funding for 15 trains serving 220 cities. Gone would be the Sunset Limited (Los Angeles to New Orleans), the Lake Shore Limited (New York to Chicago) and the Empire Builder (Seattle to Chicago). Saying “Good night, America” for the last time would be the City of New Orleans, of Arlo Guthrie hit fame.

 

California would lose the Coast Starlight, which runs through the Bay Area twice daily on its way between Seattle and Los Angeles, and the California Zephyr, which departs every morning from Emeryville over the Sierra Nevada and the Rockies and on to Chicago.

 

At the Emeryville depot, passengers awaiting the departure of the diesel-powered leviathans were wailing like locomotive whistles at a grade crossing.

 

Trump “cuts everything people need, especially poor people,” said Walter McCain of Oakland, hunkered down in the waiting room the other morning. “Trains are a viable alternative to flying, as long as you’re not in a hurry. And there’s no need to be in a hurry. For what?”

 

Also not in a hurry were Mike and Marjean O’Neill of Cotati, which was a good thing because it would take them 51 hours to get to Chicago if their train left on time, which, being Amtrak, it didn’t. (The California Zephyr departed 23 minutes late, to allow the dining car crew to finish loading some chickens and the porters to take on bags of linens.)

 

A sleeping compartment on a train isn’t cheap, but, said Marjean O’Neill, you don’t pay extra for luggage. For their flights home from Chicago, she had calculated that the airlines would charge her $325 to carry the same five bags that Amtrak was carrying free.

 

“The airlines nickel and dime you for everything,” she said. “I’m tired of that crap.”

 

Paul Aubert of Mill Valley was heading to Los Angeles on the Coast Starlight, carrying his guitar, which he planned to play in the lounge car, and also carrying two large bottled beverages, which, he said, would surely have been confiscated if the Coast Starlight had been an airplane.

 

Threats to the operating budget are nothing new for Amtrak. Every year, foes say too few passengers take the long-distance trains and friends reply that the trains are more popular than ever. Every year, foes complain that trains gobble up federal transportation subsidies and friends reply that roads and airports gobble up even more.

 

To Read the Full Article: http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/If-Trump-has-his-way-Amtrak-s-long-run-trains-11264619.php

Edited by BM5 via Woodhaven Bl
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So there should be plane/airport in every small town including Benson, AZ? People think of Long Distance as end-end points (NY-LA) but not in between

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I think it's a tough call to make.   Rail in the United States just can't compete with the speed of an airplane or the convenience of a car.  It's also costly enough that it makes the average person balk at opting to take the train. 

 

Just comparing the three means of transportation - driving from NYC to Chicago takes around 13 hours, you'll fill up twice assuming your car gets 28 mpg w/ a 15 gallon gas tank and pay about $75 for gas assuming $2.50 a gallon.  You'll have tolls on top of that bringing it to around $100-$120. 

 

A cost of an Amtrak ticket Penn to Union in September is $108.00, but it will take an additional 3-5 hours or so and you don't have the convenience of having your car with you. 

 

A ticket for Delta on the same date is $105.00 and at most you'll probably spend around 5 hours of your life to go through the airport screening and waiting with the flight factored in.

 

 

 

Sadly, there doesn't really seem to be much need for rail in the United States anymore.  It's always bad to cut funding for infrastructure, but the article specifically says the funding would be redirected toward the commuter railways under Federal control like NEC and CCC that actually get used by commuters and see decent enough ridership to stay above water. 

 

I suppose it would be rather pragmatic to axe routes that don't have demand for riders and give those funds to upgrade infrastructure, add trains, and make overall improvements to places that do like NEC and CCC.  After all, it's not like anyone will ever allocate more money to improving the rails any time in the near future, and certainly no politician will ever raise taxes to pay for it either.

 

Obviously high-speed rail on par with all the other developed countries in the world raises an entirely new debate, but judging by the topics in 2016's past election, we are a long ways away from seriously even talking about it in this country. 

 

This whole argument is of course assuming that these cuts to Amtrak would be allocated to other places within Amtrak or federal rail infrastrcture that need the money, and not just so Republicans and the President can be part of "fiscal responsibility and small government."

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I think it's a tough call to make.   Rail in the United States just can't compete with the speed of an airplane or the convenience of a car.  It's also costly enough that it makes the average person balk at opting to take the train. 

 

Just comparing the three means of transportation - driving from NYC to Chicago takes around 13 hours, you'll fill up twice assuming your car gets 28 mpg w/ a 15 gallon gas tank and pay about $75 for gas assuming $2.50 a gallon.  You'll have tolls on top of that bringing it to around $100-$120. 

 

A cost of an Amtrak ticket Penn to Union in September is $108.00, but it will take an additional 3-5 hours or so and you don't have the convenience of having your car with you. 

 

A ticket for Delta on the same date is $105.00 and at most you'll probably spend around 5 hours of your life to go through the airport screening and waiting with the flight factored in.

 

 

 

Sadly, there doesn't really seem to be much need for rail in the United States anymore.  It's always bad to cut funding for infrastructure, but the article specifically says the funding would be redirected toward the commuter railways under Federal control like NEC and CCC that actually get used by commuters and see decent enough ridership to stay above water. 

 

I suppose it would be rather pragmatic to axe routes that don't have demand for riders and give those funds to upgrade infrastructure, add trains, and make overall improvements to places that do like NEC and CCC.  After all, it's not like anyone will ever allocate more money to improving the rails any time in the near future, and certainly no politician will ever raise taxes to pay for it either.

 

Obviously high-speed rail on par with all the other developed countries in the world raises an entirely new debate, but judging by the topics in 2016's past election, we are a long ways away from seriously even talking about it in this country. 

 

This whole argument is of course assuming that these cuts to Amtrak would be allocated to other places within Amtrak or federal rail infrastrcture that need the money, and not just so Republicans and the President can be part of "fiscal responsibility and small government."

The larger problem here is that we never seriously dedicated the funding or the time needed to build proper high-speed rail. HSR at the standard that the NEC 2030 proposes (220mph peak, 140-150mph average speeds) are easily enough to be competitive on a fairly long distance scale (say 600-800 miles or less). If you fly New York to Chicago, you have three hours on the plane, bookended by 45-75 minute commutes from the airport to the city center and at least an hour early arrival time because of security screening, and so you'd be looking at 5-7 hour overall travel times by plane. By train at NEC2030 speeds, you'd be looking at about the same time (950mi/150mph average comes to about 6.4-6.5 hours). At that same time, that speed would enable 4-hour trips to Toronto and Montreal, and 2-hour runs from DC to NY and Boston to NY. If you allocated the resources to build NEC 2030 trackage roughly along I87, I90, I95 and along the Keystone/Pennsylvanian route (and did something roughly similar along major corridors into Chicago) you could comfortably link up the eastern third of the country with quality HSR and have it hold its own against the airlines.

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That guy is an idiot. Time costs MONEY, hence why he's poor. Who says such nonsense?

I think you misunderstood what he was saying. Nothing suggest he is poor himself, it was more a statement. For urban residents, flying is obviously much faster than taking the train, but there are drawbacks to that option too (dealing with security and all of the other steps before boarding planes). It will be cheaper to take the train, because despite AMTRAK's fares, it is cheaper than boarding a plane, which as the article mentioned, charge you for just about anything. 

 

Keep in mind that AMTRAK's long-distance routes are catered more toward travelers going on vacation, or multi-day travelers. They are not commuter services for the most part (although some coincidentally have enough trains on a section and at the right times which make it ideal commuter services). Depending on the location (and the time the train runs too), the train station helps businesses, since in some cases, local businesses are around the train station (or in the vicinity). No train = lost business. For some, it may be too much of a loss. These are the poor areas which the person is referring to. It would only make the situation much worse. Inter-city bus service is limited, and most of the states they make aren't near AMTRAK stations. 

 

If you live in rural community (or nearby area) served by AMTRAK, it may actually be more convenient to use AMTRAK, instead of driving whatever time it takes to the airport, going through everything before finally boarding the plane, and heading out. 

Edited by BM5 via Woodhaven Bl
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I think you misunderstood what he was saying. Nothing suggest he is poor himself, it was more a statement. For urban residents, flying is obviously much faster than taking the train, but there are drawbacks to that option too (dealing with security and all of the other steps before boarding planes). It will be cheaper to take the train, because despite AMTRAK's fares, it is cheaper than boarding a plane, which as the article mentioned, charge you for just about anything. 

 

If you live in rural community (or nearby area) served by AMTRAK, it may actually be more convenient to use AMTRAK, instead of driving whatever time it takes to the airport, going through everything before finally boarding the plane, and heading out. 

 

Keep in mind that AMTRAK's long-distance routes are catered more toward travelers going on vacation, or multi-day travelers. They are not commuter services for the most part (although some coincidentally have enough trains on a section and at the right times which make it ideal commuter services). 

I'm referring to this guy and his comment:

 

 

 

Trump “cuts everything people need, especially poor people,” said Walter McCain of Oakland, hunkered down in the waiting room the other morning. “Trains are a viable alternative to flying, as long as you’re not in a hurry. And there’s no need to be in a hurry. For what?”

Maybe he likes spending hours on a train, but I don't think most do, and then he says "And there's no need to be in a hurry. For what?  Well for starters vacation or not, I don't know of too many people that like sitting on uncomfortable trains for hours on end.  I've done it when traveling in Europe and there's nothing exciting about it all aside from the scenery unless you're riding in a luxurious area of the train that offers certain perks like food and drinks, etc.  I know of one guy that would take twelve hour train rides from Florence (Italy) to Copenhagen (Denmark) almost weekly.  It's a much faster ride by plane.  I think the problem is most people here in the States like driving or flying to get to their destinations.  Amtrak has trains that are old and outdated.  They don't make taking the train appealing at all like they do in Europe.  In Europe you can ride the train in style to certain places.  They have different sections for those who want to travel in luxury.  It's something I've alluded to before. You need tiered services to attract riders that otherwise would drive.  

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Don Phillips in his commentary for Trains Magazine (August 2107, pp.10-11) says it all in the title "Who said passenger trains can make money? Only freight trains and barges are profitable: all forms of passenger travel lose money". (i recommend this article as it explains the issue quite clearly) When Amtrak was created in 1971, it was designed to be profitable which it could never be even though Congress wanted that to happen (maybe in dreamland). Despite this insane notion with little or no money for capital improvements, Amtrak has limped along for over 45  years and it has become the target of every single politician that thinks it should disappear. It seems that Amtrak becomes the targeted program of every single budget cutter who calls himself conservative but like the ostrich, the one who has his/her head in the hole. Many of these so called intellectual greats (the late Paul Weyrich was an exception to this line of thinking) have piled onto this narrative knowing full well it is not true but keep running the canard that long-distance trains must disappear forever. These giants have starved Amtrak in terms of capital for new equipment and would rather not raise the gas tax even though the Highway trust fund has gone broke years ago. When our resident 535 hot-air specialists come up with something, rest assured that Amtrak is lucky if it sees less than a penny for to do anything. If other forms of transportation had to pay their own way, for terminals, roads and even to be in the skies the cost would be far higher and forget the stockholders as the ink would always be red. When you ride the long-distance trains out in the Midwest and the Far West, it is clear as day how important Amtrak service is to many of these towns for many of their residents. The group of clowns in this area are clamoring to take over the Penn Station and blame everything on Amtrak even though their friends have used transportation funds for other purposes other than mass transit. Their predecessors have shoehorned .every extra train that they can into the station even though they did not own it.We need Amtrak and its Long -Distance trains. What Amtrak needs is a steady source of funding which cannot be touched by either the 535 self-serving geniuses or the other crazies that are looking to destroy another form of mass transit like they did in our region.

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I'm referring to this guy and his comment:

 

Maybe he likes spending hours on a train, but I don't think most do, and then he says "And there's no need to be in a hurry. For what?  Well for starters vacation or not, I don't know of too many people that like sitting on uncomfortable trains for hours on end.  I've done it when traveling in Europe and there's nothing exciting about it all aside from the scenery unless you're riding in a luxurious area of the train that offers certain perks like food and drinks, etc.  I know of one guy that would take twelve hour train rides from Florence (Italy) to Copenhagen (Denmark) almost weekly.  It's a much faster ride by plane.  I think the problem is most people here in the States like driving or flying to get to their destinations.  Amtrak has trains that are old and outdated.  They don't make taking the train appealing at all like they do in Europe.  In Europe you can ride the train in style to certain places.  They have different sections for those who want to travel in luxury.  It's something I've alluded to before. You need tiered services to attract riders that otherwise would drive.  

That is the exact comment which I'm replying to you about.

 

Some prefer the train because they believe it's more picturesque, some believe it's cheaper than the airplane (for "short" trips it is ideal though), and some are not in a rush to get where they need to go, or have allotted enough time to take the train. Those are only a few reasons why people take the train over other modes. However, in some of the more rural areas, it may be the only feasible way to do so, since regional airports are sometimes a couple hours away by car. 

 

You are right that people do prefer to get to their destinations as quick as possible. That is almost not possible with AMTRAK, for the most part. The thing is though, AMTRAK has been always given the short end of the stick. There aren't enough members in Congress who support increasing AMTRAK subsidies and creating a high speed rail system that would make more appealing to those driving or taking intercity buses. It helps with the environment as well, taking as many people off of cars and into the bus, plane, or train. However, planes have always been treated better than the other two modes. 

 

There are opportunities to make train travel more efficient in the long run, but unfortunately, unless there is a major change in attitude in both the public's preference in travel, and in Congress' attitude towards funding AMTRAK, we will be stuck in the same situation. These cuts will have economic consequences in rural towns, some which have their "downtowns" along the train, which is the opposite of what Trump promised (and what those residents want). They are being shafted, and those funds will be going to urban areas instead. There's already tensions with rural areas claiming urban areas get everything whereas rural areas receive next to nothing.  

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The irony is how hard this hits "Trump country" itself. For a lot of small, rural towns, Amtrak is the only affordable form of transportation. Some of these places depend on it and that's where a bulk of the ridership on these trains comes from, rather than vacationers. It's also total irony from a campaign that constantly touted infrastructure investment but par for the course considering, like most of the issues, they had no plan. You can't promise people the world while ignoring the realities of economics and social change.

 

Granted that long-distance trains go into the red almost by design; the lower passenger volumes combined with the higher cost and longer hours of labor sink trains compared to flights, there aren't too many good alternatives. There's Essential Air Service but air comes with its own costs and it's not unusual to see very light loads. Then there's the possibility of subsidizing a bus service but I don't know if that's ever been seriously floated. Transportation as an issue never gets enough attention at any level of government, even here in NYC, and it's terrible how people never, ever seem to realize how important it is to their own communities until it's on the brink of falling apart or being cut.

Edited by Xfer2Nowhere
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White House is proposing to cut $757 Million from Amtrak's annual long-distance grant, essentially reducing Amtrak's budget from $1.4 Billion to $738 Million.

 

https://mailchi.mp/narprail/release-white-house-infrastructure-plan-guts-long-distance-amtrak?e=dfde221f83

 

Quote

 

White House Infrastructure Plan Guts Long-Distance Amtrak

#17-25

Rail Passengers Urges American Public To Oppose Proposed Budget Cuts

February 12, 2018

Contact: Xenophon Strategies - (202) 289-4001

Washington, D.C. - The White House today released a disappointing package of infrastructure initiatives and transportation budget cuts, including once again advancing plans to gut Amtrak’s long-distance services by cutting $757 million from the annual Amtrak grant.

The Administration contends that the money needed to operate the National Network after the cuts can come from the states served, but also suggests that devolving costs to the States “is only one tool in the menu of options for reform the Administration will be exploring to improve the current system and reduce Federal subsidies in the Long Distance network.”

The Rail Passengers Association is asking its members to take action immediately to stave off these draconian cuts to vital National Network services. RPA has set up an online tool to permit riders and members alike to let the White House know directly that they disagree with these proposed cuts. Visit www.railpassengers.org/whitehousebudget to take action.

Donald Trump campaigned on a message of bringing America's infrastructure into the 21st Century. He specifically cited passenger rail, saying it was embarrassing how far behind the US has fallen compared with China, and promising to close that gap.

Today’s new budget proposal, however, calls for the virtual elimination of Amtrak's National Network, slashing the railroad’s budget roughly in half, from $1.4 billion to $738 million.

“They know full well that asking states to absorb more costs is not feasible, and the default choice will be to drop service,” said RPA President Jim Mathews in response to the budget. This approach failed before, because the long-distance train network serves markets that overlap on state corridors. The question of what entity pays for which service got messy when the same approach was tried on what would become the Lake Shore Limited in 1971 – the end result being a collapse of service after only nine months.

Another proposed item on the “menu” involves phasing out first class sleeping cars. Sleeping car fares cross-subsidize coach services on long distance trains. The federal cost of moving one person one mile in a sleeping car is less than it is in coach. This change would actually worsen the financials of the national network.

If funding for Amtrak's National Network is cut, more than 220 communities will lose service, and more than 140 million Americans will be left at the station. These are mostly smaller and rural towns, and they don't have airports or Megabuses.

“Just because these towns are small doesn't make them fly-over country, though” Mathews continued. “They are the cities and towns that voted for [Trump] because they felt disconnected from the American dream, and they deserve a government that invests in them. Amtrak provides that connection, letting these Americans access critical services, jobs, and family.”

Other cuts include the popular and effective grant program known as TIGER, or Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, which so far has injected a little more than $5 billion into transportation investments nationwide.

“The move to eliminate TIGER grants flies in the face of the stated goal of both the White House’s budget and Mr. Trump’s infrastructure proposals, which are ostensibly aimed at encouraging more private investment,” Mathews added. “In some ways, TIGER is the ultimate public-private partnership, attracting nearly $4 of additional investment for every TIGER grant dollar awarded.”

The Rail Passengers Association continues to urge that Mr. Trump fulfill his promise to rebuild and modernize America's rail network, and just as they did last summer, RPA members will #Rally4Trains at stations nationwide to show their support for a true national rail service.

About the Rail Passengers Association
The Rail Passengers Association is the oldest and largest national organization speaking for the nearly 40 million users of passenger trains and rail transit. We have worked since 1967 to expand the quality and quantity of passenger rail in the U.S. Our mission is to work towards a modern, customer-focused national passenger train network that provides a travel choice Americans want. Our work is supported by more than 28,000 individual members nationwide.

 

 

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On 7/9/2017 at 7:11 AM, Xfer2Nowhere said:

Then there's the possibility of subsidizing a bus service but I don't know if that's ever been seriously floated. Transportation as an issue never gets enough attention at any level of government, even here in NYC, and it's terrible how people never, ever seem to realize how important it is to their own communities until it's on the brink of falling apart or being cut.

 

That's the least they should do. If they cut the train service, they shouldn't leave them without any form of long-distance transportation, that's essentially leaving them stranded. 

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6 hours ago, Gotham Bus Co. said:

When an Amtrak route is discontinued, every crew member gets two years' worth of severance pay. HaveTrump's people factored that in?

Don't they just pick another route? It's not like they automatically get laid off.

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17 hours ago, checkmatechamp13 said:

Don't they just pick another route? It's not like they automatically get laid off.

Only the ones with the lowest seniority get laid off. The others keep their picking rights and get two years of severance from the discontinued route.

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5 hours ago, Gotham Bus Co. said:

Only the ones with the lowest seniority get laid off. The others keep their picking rights and get two years of severance from the discontinued route.

Yikes.. That's cold. This administration gives me the creeps.

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On 7/6/2017 at 5:24 PM, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

Maybe he likes spending hours on a train, but I don't think most do, and then he says "And there's no need to be in a hurry. For what?

To be fair, there’s a good number of folks in NorCal that deliberately take Amtrak California’s Capital Corridor from Sacramento to Oakland/SF or San Jose instead of driving 80 to 680 or over the bridge even though it’s 2.5-3 hours each way by train. 

Especially for Raider, 49er, Giants, A’s, Warriors and Sharks games.

The irony in this is that Amtrak California is paid for by California, not Amtrak. But the trains from LA to Seattle, Bakersfield to Sacramento, Oakland/LA to Chicago and LA/San Diego, will end under the plan, screwing over the folks in flyover country that voted Trump, unless Congress acts per usual and blocks these unprofitable lines (especially since long haul train excursions are nice, but they cost as much as a plane ticket and take 5-10 times as long to arrive).

It’s these long hauls that make tickets to Penn to anywhere within BosWash expensive, since the NEC subsidizes everything but Amtrak California’s lines. So if these Red staters want Amtrak to keep calling on these small towns, their state’s DOT needs to kick in funding to operate or contract Amtrak to run commuter rail service from these barns to the nearest big city.

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On 2/16/2018 at 8:56 PM, Deucey said:

To be fair, there’s a good number of folks in NorCal that deliberately take Amtrak California’s Capital Corridor from Sacramento to Oakland/SF or San Jose instead of driving 80 to 680 or over the bridge even though it’s 2.5-3 hours each way by train. 

Especially for Raider, 49er, Giants, A’s, Warriors and Sharks games.

The irony in this is that Amtrak California is paid for by California, not Amtrak. But the trains from LA to Seattle, Bakersfield to Sacramento, Oakland/LA to Chicago and LA/San Diego, will end under the plan, screwing over the folks in flyover country that voted Trump, unless Congress acts per usual and blocks these unprofitable lines (especially since long haul train excursions are nice, but they cost as much as a plane ticket and take 5-10 times as long to arrive).

It’s these long hauls that make tickets to Penn to anywhere within BosWash expensive, since the NEC subsidizes everything but Amtrak California’s lines. So if these Red staters want Amtrak to keep calling on these small towns, their state’s DOT needs to kick in funding to operate or contract Amtrak to run commuter rail service from these barns to the nearest big city.

Bakersfield-SAC (San Joaquin), LA-SD (Pac-Surfliner) are 100% funded by state of California. As part of a law passed in 2008, requires states to fund 100% of the operation if the route is under 750 miles (which is ridiculous because state taxpayer have to pay double, paying for their train AND the national system including NEC). This include ALL short haul lines including Empire Svc NY-Buffalo/Toronto, and Keystone (NY-Harrisburg). NEC require tremendous capital subsidies. Any requirement for Amtrak to request funding for LD train will mean the end of ALL LD trains.

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