CNN Pushes for Increased Amtrak Funding
CNNâ€™s â€śAmerican Morningâ€ť pointed out that high gas prices were the reason ridership on Amtrak was up 14 percent and then pushed for more funding for the government-sponsored program through a recent Senate proposal.
â€śThe problem for Amtrak of course, though, is that they havenâ€™t had a single new passenger car since 1990,â€ť personal finance editor Gerri Willis said on the August 21 broadcast. â€śTheir cars, even the locomotives are old and aging; theyâ€™re asking Congress for help. Dick Durbin has introduced legislation into the Senate to try and do something about that. Interestingly, he says that Thanksgiving is going to be a wake up call for Americans as we all try to go visit relatives for the holidays.â€ť
â€śWhat they need is new track, because every Sunday itâ€™s like this all the way up,â€ť co-host John Roberts said while bouncing up and down in his anchor chair, simulating a bumpy train ride.
Co-host Kiran Chetry agreed. â€śThey need more track too,â€ť she said. â€śI mean not just the trains, because a lot of those routes, they need to be able to get more people moving.â€ť
The segment didnâ€™t include any input from opponents of government funding of Amtrak.
The cast also talked about the express train that Amtrak uses called Acela. Willis said the Acela was â€śreally niceâ€ť compared to the â€śnot so greatâ€ť older trains, but pointed out Acela was, â€śnot as new as you would think.â€ť
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., promoted the bill August 21 at an Amtrak maintenance facility in
Durbin said he hoped the bill would encourage rail car production to occur in
The senatorâ€™s August 20 press release dated says the act transfers one-quarter cent of the per-gallon motor fuels tax into a Rolling Stock Trust Fund for three years, generating approximately $400 million/year.
Sun-Times transportation reporter Mary Wisniewski pointed out that, â€śThis could be a tough sell. Another fund paid for by the fuel tax is in trouble â€” the federal highway trust fund. The fund faces a multibillion dollar shortfall next year due to the decrease in driving, down from a surplus of more than $10 billion just three years ago.â€ť
Amtrak, which received $1.3 billion in federal subsidies in 2008, isnâ€™t a consistent performer either.
When Amtrak came out with glowing numbers in 2007, The Heritage Foundationâ€™s Ronald D. Utt pointed out Septemeber 20 of that year that Amtrak's monthly rider numbers do not support their optimistic press announcements, â€śbut instead reveal a still-troubled system losing market share and riders in its key service areas.â€ť
The Reason Foundationâ€™s Michael W. Lynch found in 2002 that Amtrak cost $3.37 for every $1 it took from passengers. In the second half of 2005, Reasonâ€™s Adam Summers said, for every $1 Amtrak receives in revenue, it spends $1.61.
â€śWhen a private company gets caught lying and cheating, it pays. At Enron, voluntary investors and employees take the hit when the company turned out to be a poorly managed product of slick PR and questionable, perhaps criminal, accounting,â€ť said Lynch. â€śWhile Amtrak deserves to come crashing down, it never does. Taxpayers are forced to pay billions in bills to keep the employees in their jobs and the politicians happy.â€ť