Mitt Romney declares to end Amtrak funding if elected. How else will America enjoy drinking from tiny wine glasses and reading Arrive magazine?
Equally as important, how will the 30.2 million passengers every year engage in trans-American travel, an ideal that this nation has been striving towards for decades?
According to Romney, cutting back on Amtrak subsidies, as well as arts subsidies such as PBS, National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, will get the country back on a well-balanced fiscal track. But how much would Romney really be saving, and how much would America be losing, if these subsidies are cut?
To date, Amtrak receives $1.42 billion in government funds. The additional $600 million in arts spending only affords Romney a $2 billion cut in government spending. This is not nearly enough to put a dent in balancing America’s budget. Amtrak recently announced record-high ridership in the last fiscal year, and promises that by 2040, “traffic in the [Northeast] corridor could reach 43.5 million passengers, almost four times the level today.” In this climate, we are in the wrong to be slashing funding on such promise. If Amtrak goes under the knife, government savings will be negligible, and the economic benefit of rail will be vastly felt.
As solutions to strengthen the economy have become localized to promote the economic development of cities, Americans can see this as an opportunity to connect economically viable centers together through rail. Cities with more effective public transportation programs may be better able to recover from economic slumps than those with poor public transit options, and even better is a network of prosperous cities linked through high-speed, intermodal connectivity. Intercity rail service can help cities maintain and develop regional business, cultural and technological centers and support broad-based, long- term economic growth. This level of accessibility, as seen in America’s European counterparts, helps determine the potential for activities and enterprises in one region to reach markets and activities in other regions. Weaving all of America into the economic mainstream helps job growth, cultural enhancement, community well-being and increased property values – none of this is done without connectivity, and rail.
If anything, investing in Amtrak is a more sustainable goal. As the New York Times reports, Amtrak desperately needs an upgrade: “Most days, trains in the Northeast are full. Several locomotives and railcars are 30 years old or more. Aging rails, bridges and tunnels hold down top speeds and limit expansion of the network.” Infrastructure development is in high demand, not only to benefit Americans, but for visitors around the world to easily engage in the country’s social, economic and culture depots. The idea of cutting funding to rail serves little purpose in relieving America’s debt. In fact, it digs the nation into even greater financial turmoil. In this light, it is hard to imagine anyone, especially a candidate for president, to consider derailing the nation away from building a strong transportation system. Mitt Romney has more explaining to do on his draconian budget proposal that is just short of Schadenfreude.