ABC On the Wrong Track with Railroad Story

You know the one thing I think I'd enjoy less than watching a complete stranger's vacation slide show? Subsidizing it with my tax money. But ABC's Bill Redeker (see full story here) failed to raise just how much taxpayers foot the bill for rail enthusiasts who ride Amtrak for a scenic view of the American West, even as he waxed nostalgic for the pre-Amtrak days of the luxurious long-distance train ride.

Today of course rail travel is dwarfed by more competitive, efficient, and convenient air travel while Amtrak all but monopolizes the nation's passenger rail.

But, perish the thought of actually making some cuts in the Amtrak budget:

Splicing his report with dining car scenes from “Silver Streak” and “North by Northwest,” Redeker complained that Amtrak had to skimp on china, stemware and tablecloths to meet budget cutbacks on its California Zephyr rail line.

“It’s not that Amtrak officials wanted to make the cuts; they had no choice,” Redeker complained. “Congress threatened to pull more than $1 million in subsidies unless labor and food costs were reduced,” he said, adding that “the dining car was losing far more than it was taking in.”

Of course while private industry faced with such losses must either adapt or die in such a circumstance, Redeker found Amtrak’s woes worthy of taxpayer sympathy.

At no point in his story did Redeker note that Congress spends more than $1 billion a year on Amtrak – usually far more than what the president requests in the annual budget.

But as Heritage Foundation transportation policy expert Ronald Utt told the Business & Media Institute, for all of the proposed cuts, Amtrak is still heavily subsidized by the taxpayer, costs significantly more than air travel, and has heavy labor costs.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is a writer living in New Carrollton, Md.