Rail Advocate: Biden Ascension Wouldn’t Necessarily Help Amtrak

1413945294_468a463930.jpgThe Washington Post today has a piece summing up Joe Biden’s ties to Amtrak. There’s not a lot of new material in the story (Biden takes the train between Delaware and DC, he has a pro-rail record in the Senate, his son serves on the Amtrak board, etc.), but what caught our attention was a quote from David Johnson of the National Association of Railroad Passengers.

Johnson said an Obama-Biden victory wouldn’t necessarily translate into an avalanche of federal funds for Amtrak. He noted that Al Gore was a big booster of passenger rail when he was in Congress "and yet some of the biggest cuts in service came during the Clinton-Gore administration." 

In 2000, President Bill Clinton proposed a $989 million funding package for Amtrak. According to the Post, the FY 2008 Amtrak allocation was around $1.3 billion.

Photo: relvax/Flickr

  • anon

    Congress passes the budget. There was a Republican Congress in the 1990’s.

  • I think the public has a large role to play in all of this. People are starting to notice that having private cars as the only option is incredibility limiting. It means that when gas prices go up you’re on the hook and there is little you can do about it. It was hard to fund things like Amtrak 10 or 15 years ago simply because gas was so cheap and people didn’t see the need for alternatives. People didn’t see the inherit vulnerability of a system dependent on only one mode of transportation.

  • vnm

    Alexander Kummant told something similar to the Observer last month:

    Does Amtrak have a favorite in the presidential election? I’m only asking because Senator McCain has made comments in the past about Amtrak.

    Even if we did, we wouldn’t answer that question. We have to be very apolitical. But let me give you the real answer. The real answer is, if you look historically, there’s very little correlation with the party of the occupant of the White House relative to Amtrak’s fortunes. In fact, some of it has been counterintuitive. What I would say is what we’re hoping for–and there’s nothing on the horizon here–is just a thoughtful–and I’m not saying we don’t today; we have a very thoughtful Secretary of the [Department of Transportation]–but Amtrak’s fortunes often are closely linked with the interests of whoever runs the Department of Transportation.

    So, no, A, we wouldn’t answer that. And, B, I would say if you look at it historically, there’s very little effect on Amtrak relative to who occupies the White House.

    On one hand, Kummant was appointed by Bush, so this is an artful way to avoid criticizing Bush Administration starvation level funding. On the other hand, Amtrak ridership has surged during the Bush whereas it was pretty flat if not declining during the Clinton years. So if you measure success by ridership, then gas prices have more to do with success than who’s in the White House.

    All that said, I’m still voting Obama/Biden, in large part because of their record on Amtrak.

  • Dave H.

    Clinton also killed welfare and passed some of the worst immigration legislation in recent history. Let’s not what forget what Clinton mostly was: a scandal-ridden Democratic president with a Republican Congress.

  • Maybe when (if?) Bloomberg is term-limited out, and if his successor isn’t interested in retaining her services, JSK can get appointed to be Secretary of Transportation?

    Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

  • Two thoughts.

    1- “We are the change we can believe in”. If we the people of America demand the rebuilding of our public transit infrastructure, then an Obama-Biden administration will help work to make it happen. Join NARP (if you haven’t already) and help them keep the pressure on.

    2- Clinton seemed uninterested in really fighting for anything other than NAFTA and welfare reform. There was a lot of talk in the beginning of a New Deal to rebuild America, but it came to nada. I think Obama will have more success getting a result, and we also have the added pressure of $4+ a gallon gas.

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