FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (#12-10)
September 20, 2012
Contact: Sean Jeans-Gail – 202-408-8362
Convened by the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, A Review of Amtrak Operations, Part III: Examining 41 Years of Taxpayer Subsidies featured (in addition to Capon) Amtrak President & CEO Joseph Boardman, Amtrak Inspector General Ted Alves, American Bus Association President & CEO Peter Pantuso, and Cato Institute Fellow Randal O'Toole.
“We have strongly supported the federal government’s investment in Amtrak since its inception and believe that the investment has been worthwhile and brought important benefits to the nation, including both to passengers and to others,” said Capon in his testimony, providing facts that dispel the misconception that Amtrak is alone in receiving government subsidization:
“Discussion of Amtrak subsidies invariably is accompanied by understating or ignoring huge subsidies to other modes. In 2001, 41% of the $133 billion spent on highways came from payments other than the gas tax, tolls, and vehicle taxes and fees, as follows: 15.3% general fund appropriations; 9.5% bond issue proceeds; 5.8% investment income and other receipts; 5.6% other taxes and fees; 4.8% property taxes. While most of this is at the state and local levels, federal policy encourages this by offering states generous funding matches for highway investments but no match (until recently and then only temporarily) for intercity rail investments.”
Standing in stark philosophical contrast, Mr. O’Toole called
for a complete end to all government involvement in transportation. Some of the committee members in attendance
pressed O’Toole on the practical effects of radical privatization of the
transportation network. Congressman
Peter DeFazio (D-OR) reacted with incredulity when Mr. O’Toole suggested that
the government cede control of
“So in my district, which has rural areas, should there be any program to incentivize availability of transportation?” asked Congressman Harris.
“I live in a rural area… a very rural area,” responded O’Toole. “We certainly don’t have bus service, and I don’t think the government should subsidize my bus service. When I decided to move there, I knew I wouldn’t have access to those things. If I need access to those things, I’ll move to a place where I need to have access. We’re a mobile society… so if people need that at some point in their lives, they can move to a community that has that.”
In his written testimony, Capon offered clear and compelling evidence as to why this course would be a disaster for rural Americans.
“The role of long-distance trains has become increasingly
important as air and fixed-route bus service is withdrawn from rural America,”
said Capon, going on to cite a 2010 U.S. Department of Transportation report
that found an estimated 3.5 million rural residents lost intercity
transportation access between 2005 and 2010, and that an additional 3.7 million
who still had intercity transportation service in 2010 lost access to at least
one transportation mode during the 5-year period.
Capon’s testimony argues that coordination between Amtrak and intercity bus companies in serving markets will benefit passengers and operators alike, whether or not particular routes are part of Amtrak’s Thruway network.
About the National Association of Railroad Passengers
NARP is the only national organization speaking for the
users of passenger trains and rail transit. We have worked since 1967 to expand
the quality and quantity of passenger rail in the