With at least seven dead and hundreds more injured in Tuesday’s Amtrak crash, many in the nation have paused for a moment to lament and pray for the dead and wounded. The same cannot be said for Philip Bump of the Washington Post, who rushed on Wednesday to note “House Republicans had planned to spend Wednesday marking up a transportation spending bill that included steep cuts to the budget for Amtrak, the federally funded passenger train service.”
Bump's headline asked "Why is funding Amtrak such a struggle?" He explained why these cut-cut-cut Republicans wanted to cut Amtrak: their constituents don’t use it.
According to data supplied National Association of Railroad Passengers, says Bump, there are 184 districts in parts of the nation where “is simply not that commonly used.” Furthermore, “Of those 184 districts, 116 are currently represented by Republicans. On average, ridership in Republican districts was about 41,000 in 2014 -- compared to 261,000 in Democratic districts.”
In addition to the statistical incentive to be apathetic about the Amtrak funding, Bump notes that “many conservatives consider the idea of a federally funded transportation program to be anathema. And since so few of their constituents actually use the system, there's little incentive to want to offer political support.”
Bump suggests “Tuesday's disaster could shift that thinking, just as it did after the crash in 2008. For some, like Vice President Biden, Amtrak is ‘a second family.’ For people on Capitol Hill, though, it's often more of an unwelcome and voracious guest.”