P. O. Box 1183
Mission, KS 66202-1183
Missouri House committee de-funds Amtrak;
Bush Administrations zeros-out Amtrak funding.
Missouri Amtrak service remains in jeopardy, following a House panel’s budget-cutting that would end state funding for the four daily Amtrak passenger trains that run between St. Louis and Kansas City.
The House Transportation Appropriations Committee voted March 2 to cut the $6.4 million that Gov. Matt Blunt had recommended to fund the service. Earlier in the week, several mayors and officials from cities along the route pleaded with the committee to maintain Amtrak funding.
Blunt proposed adding an extra $200,000 a year – a three percent increase. Blunt said he still thinks Amtrak should be funded. He said the state needs to sustain the current services. Kirkwood Mayor Mike Swoboda told the committee that he understands the tough budget decisions the state has to make, but asked them to keep “this vital route of transportation alive.”
Rail supporters said more people would use Amtrak if there were not a question every year of whether funding would continue. Sen. John Griesheimer, a Washington Republican, said the train is a lifeline to many riders and communities. Ridership falls if the train’s future is uncertain, he said.
According to an Associated Press report, some lawmakers in areas the train doesn't serve have grumbled about the funding. Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons, a Kirkwood Republican, said he plans to work to restore the money cut by the House committee.
The House Transportation Appropriations Committee Chairman Lanie Black, a Charleston Republican, said he expected the Senate to restore the Amtrak funding. The vote came early in the budget process; the committee’s recommendation will be considered by the full House Budget Committee.
The yearly Bush Administration attack on Amtrak continues, with Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta going around the country calling for the end of Amtrak. In his budget recommendation, which as one columnist said cuts everything not related to oil or the Iraq war, President Bush recommended only $360 million for FY 2006 funding to keep Northeastern commuter trains running.
In passing its Fiscal 2006 budget resolution, the House of Representatives March 17 restored the $1.2 billion Amtrak has requested this year. House leaders added room for Amtrak in the budget resolution after 21 Republican members wrote March 2 to Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle (IA), urging him to “provide sufficient funding…to sustain Amtrak’s national network of passenger rail service. The company is moving in the right direction.” Budget resolutions are advisory and are not enacted into law; appropriations laws set exact funding levels for each program, according to the National Association of Railroad Passengers.
The Senate March 16 defeated 46-52 an amendment to the Senate’s budget resolution which would have increased Amtrak funding to $1.4 billion, from the zero President Bush requested. Though four Republicans voted for Amtrak - all Kansas and Missouri senators voted against Amtrak- some other Republicans emphasized that their vote against the amendment was based on concern that the amendment was a closet tax increase. Amtrak is unique in transportation in being responsible for multi-year capital projects but not having any multi-year funding, according to NARP.
DOT secretary Norman Mineta Feb. 23 said the
problem is “Amtrak has failed to keep up with times, stubbornly sticking to
routes and services that attract few users."
"Amtrak clings to routes that have long since faded from use..."
Mineta insisted that Amtrak runs “trains that nobody rides between cities
that nobody wants to travel between."
Narprail.org shows how the long-distance trains are well used and the disingenuousness of the Administration’s plans to bankrupt Amtrak. NARP pointed out that in fiscal 04, the average number of travelers on national network long-distance trains at any one time (measured in passenger-miles-per-train-mile) was 149.3- 12% higher than on short-distance trains, where the comparable figure was 133.9. LD trains account for 48% of Amtrak passenger-miles and 42% of all Amtrak train-miles.
”Any service crossing multiple state lines, including the LD and intercity trains on the Northeast Corridor, require federal leadership and support if they are to survive and prosper and thus are placed at risk by the President's budget. Even where states do provide operating support, they are funding direct operating costs only, not various overhead costs that would be thrust upon them if Amtrak actually did go bankrupt,” NARP stated.
The White House budget is much more generous with other kinds of transit, according to March 13 New York Times article, which noted how the administration is calling for $34.7 billion in highway construction and maintenance funds; $13.8 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration, which provides the nation's air-traffic control system for commercial airliners; $3 billion to the Army Corps of Engineers for ports, harbors and inland waterways, a benefit to operators of barges and ships that transport coal, petroleum, chemicals and industrial metals and consumer goods.
Now is the time to send your letters to your congressional representatives. A list of your representatives’ local and Washington D.C. offices can be found at the MOKSRail Web site.
Attention Kansas passenger rail advocates:
Oklahomans to rally April 11 to support Amtrak service
Monday, April 11, 11:30 a.m., supporters of the Heartland Flyer, the Oklahoma City to Fort Worth, Texas Amtrak train, will rally at the Oklahoma state capitol south plaza to urge state lawmakers to fund the service once federal funding, managed by the state since 1999, ends this fall. Advocates want as many supporters as possible to attend the event, said PassengerRailOk.org executive director Evan Stair. Stamp donations are appreciated. RSVP to PassengerRailOk.org. “We want to cinch the funding and need your help, in numbers, to do so,” he said.
Supporters are looking for increased Kansas support to expand the train north to Newton, Kan., to connect with the Southwest Chief, or to Tulsa, Okla., and Kansas City for connection with the Ann Rutledge, Mule, and SW Chief. The state of Oklahoma seems reluctant to fund service expansion beyond state lines. PassengerRailOk.org is a by-donation, grassroots organization dedicated to the preservation and expansion of passenger rail service in the Oklahoma and Kansas region.
Photo courtesy Matt Thomas
Replacing what many have called for years St. Louis Union Trailer, a new passenger facility opened Dec. 21. The new 4,000-square-foot building, built adjacent to the former station that has served as a “temporary” station since 1978, itself will be an interim facility until the city of St. Louis builds a permanent multi-modal facility at Spruce and 14th streets.
The $600,000 building, constructed of masonry and steel, was built entirely with Amtrak funds, improved Amtrak's presence in St. Louis for its passengers and employees, said Don Saunders, Amtrak’s Central Division general superintendent. For the fiscal year of 2004, 160,093 passengers used the older St. Louis station, up 9% from the previous year.
Though Amtrak’s financial resources were limited, the need for corrective action in St. Louis was so great that approval was given to a plan that will meet short-term and long-term Amtrak needs, Saunders said. Amtrak has agreed to a lease that conveys its station property to the city for construction of the intermodal station. The proposed facility will allow direct access to the MetroLink light-rail and transit bus network as well as intercity motor coach operations.
As the Bush Administration announced plans to stop U.S. passenger trains service, the nation's largest intercity bus company, Greyhound Lines cut bus service to nearly half the country. The cuts will make the system more efficient, a Greyhound spokesman said.
Greyhound has ended its daily service from Memphis to Kansas City which serves Springfield, Warrensburg, Bolivar, Osceola and other Missouri and Arkansas cities. Greyhound discontinued a number of routes in the Northwest last year. The most recently announced cuts affects more than 100 cities in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana, Utah and California.
Starting April 3, Greyhound plans to shut down its Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma Coaches Inc. subsidiary which served communities from Wichita, Kan., to Pueblo, Colo., including Hutchinson, Dodge City and Garden City. Greyhound also cut bus service to Winfield, El Dorado and Arkansas City, Kan. A newspaper article noted how Dodge City and Garden City have commercial air service but not Hutchinson. Amtrak’s Southwest Chief - which is also threatened - serves all three cities.
Public Transportation is under fire by government and the private companies that provide the service, said MOKSRail member Dick Williams. “Greyhound is instituting cuts all across the country - cutting more and more small towns out of their connection to the outside world - except by car,” he said.
Greyhound carries 22 million people a year from 2,100 cities; In 2004, 24 million people boarded Amtrak trains from more than 500 stations in 46 states.
At the Nov. 6, 2004, meeting, Doug Ohlemeier, Independence, Mo., who has been MOKSRail vice president since Oct. 2003, was nominated president. He succeeds John Mills, Topeka, who resigned the presidency he held since 2003. The vice president position is unfilled. Wayne Sangster, Prairie Village, Kan., continues as secretary; John Wegner, Roeland Park, Kan., continues as treasurer. Ohlemeier remains webmaster and newsletter editor, responsibilities he has had since 2002.
Saturday, May 7, 1:00 p.m.
Kansas City Union Station –Food court area. – 2nd floor, east side
Please plan to attend this meeting. We will work to develop ideas to improve membership and activities to help promote increased passenger rail service in Missouri and Kansas, as well as ideas to attract more members and interest from St. Louis and the eastern side of Missouri.
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