Policy Point #11:
6 August 2002
To the editor:
To the Editor: My colleague on the Amtrak Reform Council, Jim Coston, is “barking up the wrong tree.” To endorse the use of taxes paid decades ago for passenger rail, under a “reparations theory” of public funding, is both bad precedent and bad policy (never mind that the present value of these taxes is less than Amtrak subsidies since 1971). Coston is right to point out that virtually all intercity air and highway public infrastructure costs are financed by trust funds paid by users. A rail trust fund would be a fine idea, so long as rail users pay. Of course, that won’t work because, unlike in air and roads, there is simply insufficient demand. Yes, recent one-time government aid has been given to the airlines, but it is small by comparison to the per-passenger subsidy of Amtrak that has continued now for three decades, and was to compensate for losses from the closure of the nation’s air system after 9-11. We are also rebuilding the damaged infrastructure of two subway systems, and had Amtrak been damaged, it would have been included. The bottom line is that intercity passenger rail’s romantic place in our hearts cannot be translated into a serious transport alternative at an affordable price.
are undertakings of
WENDELL COX CONSULTANCY
P. O. Box 841 - Belleville, IL 62222 USA
Telephone: +1.618.632.8507 - Facsimile: +1.810.821.8134