Friday, February 18, 2005

Governor Daniels on Amtrak

No, he's not riding the train, he's in favor of ending the preposterous subsidies Amtrak receives. Daniels will not fight to preserve the subsidies. From the Indy Star:
"Amtrak costs Indiana taxpayers a fortune," Daniels said. "Every time someone gets on an Amtrak train it would be less expensive to buy them an airplane ticket and hand it to them on the platform."
My goodness, but that's a breath of fresh air! Less expensive still would be to allow transportation to be the concern of those using the transportation, but I'll refrain from nitpicking. Right on, Gov!

The downside in the immediate future is that the Amtrak facility in Beech Grove could be shut down without the continued subsidies. That's unfortunate for the workers and families at the facility. I know that they are skilled workers, so they should be able to translate those skills into jobs in other facilities.

The upside is that all residents of this state will be spared some measure of tax burden. This is big picture thinking, and for that, Daniels deserves credit.

Predictably, there are politicians who are looking small picture. US Senator Evan Bayh and US Representative Julia Carson are two have so announced themselves.
"The Beech Grove facility and Amtrak not only provide hundreds of Hoosier jobs but also help improve our air quality and cuts down on traffic congestion and similar problems," Bayh said in a statement.
Unfortunately, the hundreds of jobs that produce for no particular demand is a drag on all six million Hoosiers.

Moreover, the idea that Amtrak reduces traffic congestion is a myth. Most riders are leisure travelers who prefer the leisurely pace of the train. The one exception is the Northeast Corridors, where there is actual commuter demand. Here in Indy? People don't want to take the train. It's way too slow from a-to-b (4:50 by train, 3:00 by car) and still leaves the rider renting a car at the station of destination.

Proof that nobody rides? There is only one direct roundtrip train available daily. The other three offerings are BUS RIDES! This is from Amtrak's website! The current Amtrak fare for an Indy- round trip Chicago is $20. Twenty stinkin' bucks! When demand is low, so is the number of runs, and the prices follow.

Now, let us hope that Daniels, a Republican, can take this very logical position on subsidized rail and prevail on the various Republican regional leaders who are backing another subsidized rail boondoggle on the old Nickel Plate railroad, from Fishers to Indianapolis. Quoth Daniels,
"...the idea of downsizing Amtrak to places where people actually ride trains, as opposed to hitting the taxpayers of Indiana and America over and over for hundreds of millions of dollars to support a losing venture is not something I support."
It's true on the national scale, and true on the local scale.

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