Wall Street Journal takes on Amtrak on ridership numbers

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Democrats have argued that Amtrak, which is a government-owned corporation that is subsidized by Congress, should continue to be supported by the federal government, not replaced.

“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,” West Virginia Rep. Nick Rahall, the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said last week in a statement.

House Republicans have countered that rail service in the populous Northeast should be privatized because non-governmental companies would provide faster service for passengers than the Acela line operated between Washington and Boston by Amtrak.

Amtrak currently has plans to increase the speed of its trains to 220 miles per hour in 30 years, but Republicans said they could achieve such speed on a shorter timetable.

The GOP proposal would remove Amtrak from control of the federally-designated Northeast rail corridor and transfer it to the Department of Transportation. A newly created Northeast Corridor Executive Committee would then oversee the bidding process for rail projects in the region.

The agency said last week that its ridership had increased 5 percent in 2011, and ticket sales had risen 8 percent.

But the editiorial said the number of Amtrak tickets being sold was not the problem.

"This isn't an operation that can make up losses with greater volume," the paper wrote.

-The post was corrected at 5:10 p.m. An earlier version incorrectly attributed the editorial to House Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.).