May 8th is…National Train Day?
Did you know Saturday is National Train Day?
Neither did we until this morning we saw a full-page advertisement for it in the print edition of USA Today (to the tune of $189,000). Apparently, Amtrak was also able to secure Hollywood actor Taye Diggs to be the official National Train Day 2010 Spokesperson, as evidenced by his face on the Amtrak website devoted to the holiday.
The House of Representatives even passed a resolution yesterday supporting the “goals and ideals” of the holiday. With all of this attention, what better opportunity than this important holiday to revisit all of Amtrak’s problems and their continuing efforts to soak the taxpayer?
Amtrak is the original Washington bailout. Amtrak was created in 1970 by Congress and Republican President Richard Nixon. The government took over private rail routes that had been run by private freight railroad companies, but that had not been profitable for at least a decade. With its creation came a promise that government subsidies to it would end after two years.
Joke’s on the taxpayers: 39 years later and Amtrak has cost American taxpayers a bundle. The government-owned railway got $1.3 billion in stimulus funds on top of the $1.5 billion it receives annually from Congress. As Dr. James Langenfeld of Loyola University points out, the railway takes $1.40 in taxpayer revenue for every $1 it generates selling tickets.
Two years ago former Amtrak president Alex Kummant acknowledged that Amtrak would never be profitable. “I think it is absolute mythology that there’s any national system that is profitable. And I think the naysayers just have to get over it,” he said.
So, taxpayers, “get over it” and accept that Amtrak gets your cash – whether or not you buy a ticket to ride.