Speaking as a taxpayer and a railfan nowhere near Amtrak service....I wouldn't miss it.
I suppose this is the reverse of NIMBY. Since it's not in my backyard, I don't want it. I would dare say it would be an interesting world if we all got to pick and choose where our individual tax dollars went. For instance, should people without kids not pay school taxes? The fact of the matter is that we all
derive benefit from Amtrak, whether we ever ride it or not. Every rail car full of passengers that pulls into any city served by Amtrak represents multiple private vehicles not clogging the roads and not guzzling gasoline.
Brian is right when he says $1.8 billion is a drop in the bucket in the Federal budget. Consider that thus far we have spent 87 times that amount prosecuting just the war in Iraq. New York State alone
spends $14 billion for school aid and the Federal tab for No Child Left Behind, with only partial funding, is something like $67 billion. I mention these as examples of totally separate kinds of activities, each of which benefits us, no matter how indirectly
, in one way or another.
The fact is that with the advent of the automobile and "free", i.e. government subsidized
, highways rail passenger service ceased to be a money making venture. The boom of prosperity after World War II only hastened the process. Thus, the glory roads of old (PRR, NYC, DLW, Erie, etc.) were only too glad to unload every unprofitable route that the ICC would allow. Those routes that did produce revenue, or that the ICC forced their continued service, saw an ever declining level of service. As the government continued to tear up inner cities for arterial highways and pave over rural America in the name of Interstate Defense
highways, we turned our back on rail passenger service until all that was left by 1970 was an enfeebled relic of the past. I read once that when Amtrak placed its first order for new passenger coaches, it was the first such order placed by a U.S. carrier since 1954.
Like Brian, I, too, will stop the rant and get off the soapbox. I think it's of considerable significance that 1970, Amtrak's birth year, was the last year that the U.S. produced more oil than we consumed. That was the year the Texas Railway Commission took all limits off oil production as the wells in that state began to play out. I can't help but think that $2 gasoline will look very affordable if/when OPEC and other oil producers ever do another embargo against the U.S. If you were old enough to drive in 1973-74 or in 1980, you remember the lines, rationing and flight to mass transit that occurred. $1.8 billion to maintain service across the entire country
seems like a reasonable price to help maintain some independence from foreign oil.
Thanks for listening.