Americans need passenger rail that serves entire nation — not just the East and West coasts

Amtrak, America’s national passenger rail service, was created to do what freight railroads could not: Provide reliable and efficient passenger rail services to communities and people across this country. Yet, since it was created nearly half a century ago, Amtrak has never received full funding from Congress.

Data from four years of polling show that regardless of political affiliation or geographic location, Americans want more Amtrak service and are willing to pay for it. Amtrak also regularly breaks its own ridership records, with 31.7 million passenger trips in 2017.

To be clear, support is not limited to the Northeast Corridor. Americans across the country want passenger rail services, including more long-distance trains — and for good reason. 

… In small and rural communities across the country, Amtrak is often the only public transportation option available. [emphasis: mine]

…Ticket agents do more than just sell tickets. They help elderly and disabled customers board trains, assist with luggage, and act as Amtrak’s public face. What’s more, [reducing the number of ticket agents] does a grave disservice to many of Amtrak’s customers who are not familiar with or are simply unable to buy tickets online. 

The carrier also announced the elimination of dining-car service on some of its most popular long-distance trains, the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited, both of which service the East Coast. Now, instead of being able to enjoy freshly made entrees on the train, customers’ choices are limited to a handful of premade breakfast and lunch options.

…Further clouding the situation is the fact that Amtrak has made these drastic changes in the dark, without input from the public, stakeholders or lawmakers. 

With strong ridership numbers, national popularity, and service that helps drive local economic growth, Amtrak’s long-distance routes need to be supported. Amtrak [and lawmakers] must commit to fighting for the national passenger rail system so many Americans have come to know and rely on.

Americans need passenger rail that serves entire nation — not just the East and West coasts | TheHill

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