Monday, March 16, 2009

Amtrak A Big Winner With Obama

For years our nation's train system has languished with minimal support and easy access for people to use airlines. Now that the cost of flying has skyrocketed and the technology (and political will) for high-speed rail has finally come to America, funding for trains is now a reality. That doesn't mean just talk, it means a huge boost for Amtrak:

WASHINGTON - New England travelers should benefit from faster, more frequent and safer train travel with an extra $1.3 billion pumped into the long-struggling Amtrak, half of it directed to the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington, the Obama administration announced yesterday.

Amtrak, never a favorite of the Bush administration or Republican Congresses, has struggled to retain critical federal subsidies in recent years. But the $787 billion stimulus package recently signed by President Obama will allow the system to renovate trains and stations, improve safety systems, and provide more passenger capacity, administration officials said.

"Amtrak has never been at the trough," said Vice President Joe Biden, rejecting the long-held conservative position that the nation's rail system is a money-losing series of pet projects.

High-speed rail is the key for our short to medium-distance trips. Creating high speed networks is the ideal as we go forward, but for now a large investment in Amtrak is a good start. It will definitely help travelers in the Northeast, but eventually we'll start looking a little more like Europe when it comes to train travel. And no, that isn't a bad thing at all.