Coalition takes issue with rail subsidy survey

The States For Passenger Rail Coalition is taking issue with a new report that found nearly all of Amtrak’s 44 nationwide routes lost money last fiscal year. The coalition notes that all forms of transportation receive federal money.

A study from Pew Charitable Trusts’ Subsidyscope project shows that 41 of the 44 nationwide routes were not profitable, and on average had a $32 loss per passenger. During the fiscal year, Amtrak received $1.3 billion from taxpayers, according to Pew.

But, coalition members argue that all forms of transportation – including highways and aviation – receive federal subsidies.

“Why Amtrak was singled out in this study is a mystery,” Wisconsin Secretary of Transportation and Coalition Chair Frank Busalacchi said in a news release. “The fact is all forms of transportation require federal support. A national transportation system cannot exist without all modes receiving support from the federal government. The irony in this study is that it singles out passenger rail, which receives the lowest level of support.”

The coalition also pointed to a March General Accounting Office report – titled “High Speed Passenger Rail: Future Development Will Depend on Addressing Financial and Other Challenges and Establishing a Clear Federal Role” – that cited a number of advantages of rail travel. The benefits include travel time savings, traffic safety, environmental benefits and economic development, land use, and employment.

“As the debate on the future of our nation’s transportation system moves forward, we ask that the many benefits of passenger rail service be seriously considered.” Busalacchi said. “We need to look at the big picture, and focus on how we can move people and freight more efficiently, by advancing the vision of developing a better transportation system for America, in which high-speed passenger rail service plays a significant role.”

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