June 17, 2020

We Need More Train Service, Not Less

The Seattle Times has republished a Washington Post article that describes the cuts Amtrak is facing. It includes comments such as this:

"The Long Distance service, which includes 15 routes, is Amtrak’s least profitable. It also is the most dependent on government subsidies. But the routes also have a strong fan base of train aficionados who take to the tracks to travel across America and of people from parts of the country where airports are not easily accessible."

As rail advocates, we recognize that these sorts of statements are misleading, and we believe that the public needs to be aware of the truth:

  1. Passenger rail is the only transportation mode that our government expects to be "profitable." Highways and airports are not held to this standard -- these modes receive subsidies, and rightly so.
  2. Phrases like "fan base of train aficionados" imply that passenger train trips are optional. They are not. Ask the people who use trains for access to medical care and other important travel. Ask anyone who cannot fly. Ask anyone who can't afford a car or is unable to drive. Many would be unable to travel at all without passenger rail service.

We ask you to promote the Amtrak Cascades and the national network with local, state and national officials. In spite of the severe drop in ridership, these are essential services that are lifelines for many people. Passenger rail service should be expanded NOW as an important component of the post-COVID economic recovery plan.

More people are demanding alternatives to driving and flying than ever. High-Speed Rail (HSR) is desirable in the long-term, but adding more Cascades service now will move more people in more communities sooner than waiting for HSR. More service now will create a greater demand for faster service later.

Contact your legislators now and emphasize these points:

  • For many people, especially in rural areas, Amtrak is their only transportation option
  • As we look toward our recovery, we need transportation solutions that produce less pollution and reduce our carbon output
  • Our highways are overcrowded and have a low return on investment
  • We need intercity passenger rail services now while we wait for High-Speed Rail

In these challenging times, ask your legislators to:

  • Restore the full Amtrak Cascades schedule, including
    • 6 round trips between Seattle and Portland
    • 2 round trips between Seattle and Vancouver, BC
    • 2 round trips between Portland and Eugene
  • Restore daily frequencies to the entire Amtrak national network