Tuesday, June 10, 2008

US House Considers Improving Amtrak

This week the US House is scheduled to consider US House Bill 6003, companion bill to the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement bill approved by the Senate earlier this year.

As fate would have it, I read this news as Liz and I were about to walk out the door and drive her back to Evanston for two days of final exams. She called our congressman's office from the road to support the bill; I struggled to use her Mac to email him the following:
I am excited to be able to ask you to support House bill 6003, the House version of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act.

Amtrak ridership was rising even before the recent surge in gas prices. For years, Amtrak has been forced to go to Congress and fight for funding every year. The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act will provide stable funding for a number of years while cooperating with local funding to expand the system to meet the greater need.

When you wrote me about this issue a few weeks ago, you mentioned the 1997 agreement that Amtrak would be self-sufficient. No other form of transportation -- not even sidewalks -- is self sufficient in the US. There are federal dollars for air transportation, highways, even harbors. So much has changed since 1997. Air travel is now overshadowed by the threat of terrorism. Automobile travel is akin to gambling that you will be able to afford that last tank of gas to get you home again. Knowing that we could count on train travel for our long distance needs means that people in our district can trade down to smaller cars without giving up the option of taking longer trips now and then.

I hope you'll support the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act.

I wanted to talk about reducing carbon emissions by using trains, but I'm not sure my congressman really gets climate change. I've been watching the news of this legislation for a while. One of the interesting parts is seeing how many different localities are interested in using the matching funds feature to resurrect rail travel in their areas. Here is a partial list:

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