Diane Rehm had a very interesting segment on her NPR radio show about our Amtrak passenger rail system. Her guest speakers were a democratic senator, Frank Lautenberg from New Jersey; a congressman from Oklahoma, Ernest Istook, Jr.; Ross Capon, executive director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers; and Derrick Cain, a reporter for the National Bureau of Affairs.
Apparently, there is a bill that Senator Lautenberg is trying to pass that would allow the requirement that Amtrak become self-sufficient to be lifted and a new program devised to help Amtrak move in a direction of becoming a more passenger-friendly rail system.
The congressman from Oklahoma is not in favor of this bill and thinks that we should demand that Amtrak become self-sufficient.
Let's think about this. Gas prices are sky-rocketing. People are looking for more ways to be 'green.' Air travel prices are going in the same direction as fuel prices. Our population is growing. We need alternative transportation methods that aren't being developed fast enough.
Our passenger rail system is a joke compared to elsewhere in the world. When I road the rail in Germany, their trains are accurate to the MINUTE. If the train is due at 13:43, by golly, it arrives at 13:43! If we need to, let's look to other more efficient systems to use as a model. I'm sure when Europeans come to our country for the first time they are befuddled and bemused that they can't take a train or two to get to where they need to go. "These Americans!'
Senator Lautenberg points out that in every country that has decent passenger rail, they are subsidized by the government. And I can see why.
Rail travel should be the norm in my opinion. This country should have the best and fastest rail systems imaginable. We have the resources. We need to get off our spoiled butts and realize that developing a good country-wide rail system wouldn't be moving backward, it would be moving forward. And the government, with MY money, can help facilitate a well-run system.
I would like to ask Mr. Istook how he votes when it comes to foreign aid. I would much rather MY money be spent on a good, efficient rail system that would blow away Europe's system than to send more of MY money abroad to buy weapons. I only wish that when I paid my taxes I could check off boxes and fill in amounts as to how I want MY money spent.