Making Amtrak A National Priority

<p>With ridership up nationwide, the next president should start getting serious about investing in passenger rail service, argues a recent column.</p>
May 20, 2008, 12pm PDT | Christian Madera | @cpmadera
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"Recently in Indiana, Barack Obama had lunch with an Amtrak machinist who feared losing his job. Obama said, ‘‘The irony is, with the gas prices what they are, we should be expanding rail service.''"

"With Michigan being a swing state, we undoubtedly will be deluged with presidential pandering to the auto industry...American automakers are on the move all right, but to Washington to lobby against higher fuel efficiency. Any steps in the right direction have been baby steps.

High-speed rail could use some of this pampering and pandering. With regular gasoline approaching the $4 mark, and air travel becoming more frustrating than ever, more and more Americans are taking the train. According to news reports, Amtrak ridership - despite its chronic underfunding - is up 20 percent since October in North Carolina and up 19 percent between Chicago and St. Louis.

April ridership between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pa., was up 17.7 percent over April 2007. March ridership from Sacramento to San Francisco rose nearly 17 percent over 2007...And of course, there is the Boston-New York-Washington corridor where Acela ridership was up 20 percent in 2007, to 3.1 million passengers. Yet, at this moment, we have heard more about gimmicks like gas-tax holidays to make $4 gas seem a bit cheaper (Hillary Clinton and John McCain) and the auto industry being part of Obama's $150 billion green economy investments and incentives (read: tax breaks). Yet, most of the developed world continues to laugh at us."

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Published on Monday, May 19, 2008 in The Boston Globe
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