October 13, 2011

Amtrak Announces Record Ridership as Republicans Rush to Auction Off its Assets

Washington, D.C. – Amtrak today announced that a record 30.2 million passengers traveled on its trains in Fiscal Year 2011, far surpassing any other year on record.  Despite this record ridership, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives continue to attempt to dismantle the carrier through paltry budgets and a partisan plan to privatize its operations.

“Americans are returning to the rails in record numbers, yet Republicans are pulling out all of the stops in their rush to auction off Amtrak’s assets to the highest bidder on Wall Street,” said U.S. Representative Nick J. Rahall, top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.  “It makes no sense to tear apart a railroad and its workforce while they are succeeding at their jobs. That is no way to run a railroad.”

On June 15, 2011, Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unveiled a controversial partisan proposal to privatize Amtrak that would destroy American jobs, imperil passenger rail service nationwide, and increase costs for the Federal Government, states, commuter rail agencies, freight railroads, small businesses, and American taxpayers.

In July, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) released two reports requested by Rahall that determined the controversial effort to privatize Amtrak would violate the U.S. Constitution.

“Republicans should not railroad the principles enshrined in the Constitution in their flawed rush to stop Amtrak dead in its tracks,” said Rahall.  “They should abandon this unconstitutional power grab by the Federal Government to put Amtrak out of business and should instead work with Democrats to support true high-speed and intercity passenger rail in America.”

Last month, Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee approved a funding bill that will cripple Amtrak’s ability to continue providing service nationwide.

“By slashing funding and routes, Republicans’ gutting of Amtrak will have a crippling domino effect from coast to coast, leaving trains stuck at the station across the Nation,” said Rahall.  “America relies on robust railways, roadways, and runways to efficiently move goods to market, but this short-sighted assault on passenger rail will have long-term negative impacts for communities across the country.”

Compared to other modes, passenger and intercity rail has seen the largest increase over the last ten years.  Domestic enplanements have increased 4.58%, vehicle miles traveled have increased 10.69%, transit ridership has increased 13.23%; and Amtrak’s ridership has increased 28.49%.

“Passenger rail service does not operate in an economic vacuum.  Rail reinvigorates our communities, ties regions of our Nation together, helps alleviate congestion, and serves as a viable mode of transportation for a growing segment of business and personal travelers,” said Rahall.  “Take passenger rail from a community and one study has suggested a loss of up to 30% in direct and indirect spending from a given locale.  Republican efforts are senseless given Amtrak has experienced the largest increase in ridership when compared to the other transportation modes.  Running Amtrak out of business simply does not make financial sense.”