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Rail Passengers Association urges American public to oppose Amtrak budget cuts

(Source: Rail Passengers Association press release, February 12, 2018)

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.

Click here to take action NOW!

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.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

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