A record number of passengers rode commuter trains in Los Angeles this week as record gasoline prices caused a dip in highway traffic. (Los Angeles Times) Congress recently passed—with enough support to override a threatened veto—a $15 billion bill that would help beef up the national passenger rail service. (AP in the Baltimore Sun)
What the commentators said
The House bill is “well-aimed jab at rising fuel prices,” said The Denver Post in an editorial. It gives Amtrak a 48 percent increase in funding for new equipment and facilities. That’s money well-spent, because inter-city rail service is “America's most fuel efficient form of passenger transport.” President Bush should put away his veto pen and “give American travelers some real relief from soaring fuel prices.”
Congress usually makes a stink about reauthorizing funding for Amtrak, said the Charleston, S.C., Post and Courier in an editorial. “How quickly $4 per gallon gasoline has focused its collective mind.” It’s understandable that President Bush still wants use the veto threat to push Amtrak to make better progress toward self-sufficiency. But the real problem is that Amtrak service is concentrated in the Northeast, and we need more trains in the rest of the country.
The real problem is Amtrak’s shoddy service, said Dan Kennedy in the blog Media Nation. Even in the Northeast, where rail connects the major cities, frequent cancellations and other problems can turn off even devoted train travelers. “It’s a shame.”
It still takes as long to travel from Vermont to New York City or Washington, D.C., as it did in 1938, said the Brattleboro, Vt., Reformer in an editorial. One reason is that freight companies own the rails, so passenger trains aren’t the first priority. "Trains are going to be an important part of the transportation mix in coming years,” but “our rail network is a mess.” It’s time to “put rail travel on the political agenda.”