Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hope?

I don't have much hope for Amtrak.

Before you all get in my face about not supporting Passenger Rail, let me add this:  I never had much hope for Amtrak.

So things haven't changed.  The fact that Amtrak has managed to struggle into its fifth decade proves that I am just a little bit wrong, and also a little bit right.  For any government-created entity to struggle that long while coping with the daily - and I do mean daily - political battles is a massively high-scoring achievement.  Then there are the idiots that run Amtrak.

No, I'm not talking about Amtrak's board, or its management!  I'm talking about Congress and We The People.  Come on folks!  Is this how you'd run a business if it was all your own to run?

There have been times when my hope for Amtrak flickers brighter than now.  And there have been times when I thought it was doomsday for sure.  The Reagan administration was one of the latter.  While I admire Reagan conservatism, I deplore the tendency of conservatives to look at every government subsidy as anathema.  Reagan scared me as far as Passenger Rail was concerned.  He had the guts and the wherewithal and the character to accomplish whatever he wanted.  Subsidizing Amtrak wasn't one of those "whatevers."

But I have never felt so hopeless as today, when it appears that the lip-service to HSR has all been paid out and the next Congress will most certainly cut Amtrak money again, and when there's (sometimes reasoned sometimes not) argument that Amtrak should be broken up and the profitable parts kept and sold to the highest bidder.  (Read "profitable" as not losing as much money as the other parts.)

Don't get me wrong, because I do realize I'm all over the map here.  It would have made a lot more sense to break up Amtrak during boom times rather than on the (very slow) recovery side - and I'm not convinced of that yet - of a major economic recession.

But it's not all gloom.  No matter how dark the days, Amtrak always seems to survive.  And as long as there are tracks, there will be other - I hope better - Passenger Rail projects out there.  If I had the money, (I don't - the recession has crapped on my finances) I would invest in Passenger Rail, but probably not in any part of Amtrak as it exists today.

So I guess I should have opened with:  I have hope, but not much for Amtrak.

©2012 - C. A. Turek - mistertrains@gmail.com

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