On Friday I had a post about Rep. Kraig Paulsen wanting the state to disappropriate some $300k for an Amtrak station in Dubuque, Murphy’s home town which doesn’t even have Amtrak service. Then today the trusty Krusty research staff reminded me that some Iowa Dems think that the economic stimulus plan currently being considered by Congress provides an “incredible opportunity to build a modern regional passenger rail network.” Their words, not mine.
I seriously doubt we are going to see the revival of train travel in this country.
Lets say that I’m a big Steelers fan and want to go to Pittsburgh to celebrate their 6th championship. I could travel there one way for $142.00. Below is my itinerary:
Osceola to Chicago - Board at 8:40 a.m. Arrive in Chicago at 3:50 p.m. (7 hours 10 minutes)
Chicago to Pittsburgh – Board at 7:05 p.m. Arrive in Pittsburgh at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow. (9 hours, 25 minutes)
That’s almost 24 hours to get to Pittsburgh. Or I could fly for $400 bucks round trip and get their in five hours. Now I know some liberal is going to come on here and tell me that $116 is a lot of money in this economy. But one also needs to consider how much longer you would need to miss work if you opted for the train.
Our society is never going to embrace something as slow as train travel. Our society values freedom, and instant gratification, meaning if I was going to take that trip, I’d fly, probably rent a car so I didn’t need to depend on public transportation, and most likely drive through a McDonalds for a meal.
Train travel reached its height in 1916, but with the invention of the automobile on the 20s and 30s ridership declined. In the 40s the railroads saw its highest ridership as our soldiers were headed out to fight World War II. After the war however, ridership declines. It gets worse for the railroads in the 50s and 60s as the first passenger planes take to the skies. In the late 60 the two major railroads merge, but just two short years later it too files bankruptcy.
What’s left for passenger rail service is Amtrak, a government owned entity. Amtrak employs 19,000 workers, and had an operating loss of $381.1 million in FY 2008. Yet our federal government wants to throw more and more money into it and Iowa Democrats are leading the way.
January 30, 2009
Contacts: Senator Daryl Beall, 515-573-7889 (Home); 515-570-0779 (Cell)
Senator Jack Kibbie, 712-852-4140 (Home); 712-260-2345 (Cell)
Representative Paul Bell, email@example.com
Laura Kliewer, Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission, 630.925.1922
STATE LAWMAKERS CALL ON CONGRESS AND PRESIDENT OBAMA TO INCREASE FUNDING FOR RAIL IN STIMULUS PLAN
DES MOINES – Three members of the Iowa General Assembly joined colleagues throughout the Midwest today to urge federal lawmakers to invest significantly in intercity passenger rail in the economic stimulus plan working its way through the U.S. Congress.
State Senators Jack Kibbie and Daryl Beall and State Representative Paul Bell are Iowa’s legislatively-appointed members to the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC), a 10-state coalition that advocates at the local, state and federal levels for passenger rail development. The MIPRC commissioners urged the public to contact their members of the U.S. House and Senate, urging support for an increase in funding for passenger rail.
"The economic stimulus plan currently being considered by Congress provides an incredible opportunity to build a modern regional passenger rail network that makes America and Iowa more energy-efficient, sustainable and prosperous, while at the same time putting more Iowans and Americans to work," said Sen. Beall (D-Ft. Dodge), who serves as MIPRC’s financial officer.
Unfortunately, the first drafts of the federal stimulus plan miss the mark, the lawmakers said.
Wednesday night the U.S. House passed its stimulus plan, the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. The bill allocates only $1.1 billion to rail – $800 million to Amtrak and $300 million to state projects to improve intercity rail outside of Amtrak's capital needs. While investing in state projects is the best way to build up the Midwest’s intercity passenger rail network, $300 million is not nearly enough to build up intercity rail.
A much better proposal came from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which recommended a $5 billion total investment in rail: $3.4 billion for state passenger rail projects, $1.5 billion for Amtrak and $100 million for short line railroads.
"The best way to make sure our transportation investments meet our energy policy goals is to invest in intercity rail, said Senate President Jack Kibbie (D-Emmetsburg). "We cannot afford to miss this opportunity to create jobs that lead to long-term prosperity through better intercity rail that connects the Midwest."
Passenger rail is the most energy-efficient means to move people over medium distances (100–600 miles). Increased funding for states to plan, design and construct these interconnected passenger rail systems would bring tangible benefits to the Midwest, not only creating short- and long-term jobs, but building a new, efficient passenger rail system across the region.
Investing taxpayer money into the railroads is just ridiculous. I would suggest the next time Speaker Murphy, President Kibbie, or Sen. Beall or Bell need to travel to D.C. they hope on the train instead of that airplane. Maybe then they will stop wasting our money on foolish projects.