Letter: Don’t fall for the Amtrak bait

Once again in Sunday’s Rockford Register Star an article was run regarding the money pit we have come to know as Amtrak. In this article, the writer (Chuck Sweeney) has chosen to put the blame on our local Republican legislators for failure of this project moving forward.

He also states in one part of the article that the Union Pacific’s tracks and bridges across the Fox and Rock Rivers must be improved and a connecting track near Elgin be built to connect to Metra’s line. The cost is over $200 million and is for some reason, known to very few, the responsibility of the Illinois Department of Transportation.

I say it this way because further on in the article he states “All passenger transportation, road and water-borne freight is heavily subsidized by government; only the nation’s freight railroads build, own and maintain their right’s of way.” So if the Transportation Department rebuilds bridges and builds a track connecting to Metra’s doesn’t that become a subsidy for Union Pacific’s company?

Wasn’t this whole debacle a ploy by former Governor Quinn to get votes? Why isn’t it ever mentioned that in the first year of operation the line is expected to lose $1.75 million? Tickets are estimated to cost $46 per person round trip, or $184 for a family of four, seriously. So what do they do when they arrive in Chicago, beg for food and drink?

This idea is Pollyannaish and should be scrapped. We had rail service once and it was terminated because of lack of riders, and with today’s “I need it now” consumers this isn’t going to fit. Lastly I will state that, if passenger rail were such a good thing, private enterprise would be all over it. They’re not, it isn’t.

Jake Henry

5 thoughts on “Letter: Don’t fall for the Amtrak bait

  • Apr 1, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    Passenger trains were operated by an over-regulated and over-taxed industry while the subsidies went to the competitors. In fact, railroad properties such as terminals and right of way paid property taxes some of which went to fund construction of and upgrades to airports which have never in turn, paid a dime in property taxes. In addition, railroad ticket taxes went into the Federal General Fund while airline user fees went into an Aviation Trust Fund. Then, when rail passenger service was decimated, the carcass of the remains of the system was rescued by the creation of Amtrak, which at the time was intended as nothing more than a passenger train euthanasia program not to last past 1975. It was only at this time that free market zealots decided that it was of the Devil to subsidize transportation. In fact, before the advent of Amtrak, they saw no contradiction between taking subsidies from railroads to subsidize their competition and free market capitalism. As far as they were concerned, there was no contradiction at all until the remains of rail service began to receive it. And by the way, the next time you fill up your gas tank, remember that beginning in 2003, we spent one trillion dollars on a war in Iraq. It was fought over oil.

  • Apr 1, 2015 at 11:22 pm

    Why would you think for a moment that the construction and growing maintenance costs of your roads, including I-90, are not subsidized; that all such users, including your bus lines, do not pay anywhere near the correct user fees? Why would you think that any air service out of your Rockford airport is not subsidized, let alone how the $300M per year Essential Air Service program subsidizes Decatur (<45 miles from Springfield), Quincy, and Marion airports? Why would you think that the participation of the Union Pacific to re-build its line from Elgin-Rockford would not benefit the local economy?

    Given the plethora of subsidies handed out by the federal government post WWII, to build and maintain the interstate highways and air system, why would you not understand that government interference in the marketplace destroyed the competitive position of the passenger train? Why must we continue to deal with this fable of 'good' and 'bad' subsidies, when in reality, governmental subsidies to all modes of transport are far greater than to rail; yet, rail offers the only opportunity to provide mobility to serve economic growth?

  • Apr 2, 2015 at 10:39 am

    “Lastly I will state that, if passenger rail were such a good thing, private enterprise would be all over it.”

    I’m sure Mr. Henry thinks he was being clever and original. He wasn’t. It shows that all he can do is parrot tea party talking points.

    Let me ask you, Mr. Henry: If airports and highways are such a great idea, why aren’t private businesses building AND FINANCING them? Hmm? What it proves is the hypocrisy in Mr. Henry’s comments: “Subsidies for me, none for thee.” Typical tea party shortsightedness and selfishness.

  • Apr 3, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    $46 per person and 2+ hours and you are still reliant on further restricted transportation when you get dumped off. Stupid. A solar bus is the best idea. After all, the sun is shining all over this cruddy state. And the rainbows are pouring gold coins all over.

  • Apr 3, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    I love the solar bus idea the best! I know they have solar buses elsewhere, WHY NOT in Rockford? Why doesn’t Rauner agree to spend money on those everywhere in the state that just has regular buses? Less pollution, less oil costs, sounds good to me.

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