Biden run could be a boon for Amtrak

Biden run could be a boon for Amtrak
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A 2016 presidential run by Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenReport: Biden to write foreword for memoir by transgender activist Biden to Alabama: No more extremist senators Kasich, Biden to hold discussion on bipartisanship MORE could provide a boost for Amtrak, which for years has drawn fire from Republicans in Washington.

Biden, who is mulling an entrance into the race, is well known for taking frequent trips on Amtrak between Washington, D.C. and his Delaware home.
 
Biden is so much of an Amtrak supporter that he is sometimes referred to as "Amtrak Joe" or in his former Capitol Hill life as "the Senator from Amtrak."
 
Now the vice president in considering launching a late challenge to former secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies DNC, RNC step up cyber protections Gun proposal picks up GOP support MORE for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
 
Amtrak supporters said the potential presidential run by Biden could help raise the company's fortunes in Washington with budget fights looming.
 
"He knows more about Amtrak than anybody else running for president, or anyone that is thinking about running for president," AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Ed Wytkind said in an interview with The Hill.

"He has long-standing personal relationships with the workers...He knows [Amtrak employees] by their first names," Wytkind continued.
 
Biden's ties to Amtrak go back to his first election to the Senate in 1972 at age 29, when he took the train home daily after his family was involved in a deadly car accident.
 
In later years, Biden’s patronage of Amtrak has been used as part of campaign pitches to make him relatable to middle-class voters. 
 
President Obama described Biden during his speech introducing him as his running mate in August 2008 as a "dedicated family man and committed Catholic who knows every conductor on that Amtrak train to Wilmington."
 
Biden himself described Amtrak workers as family when a train crashed in Philadelphia in May, killing eight passengers.
 
"Amtrak is like a second family to me, as it is for so many other passengers. For my entire career, I’ve made the trip from Wilmington to Washington and back," he said after the May accident.
 
"I've come to know the conductors, engineers, and other regulars — men and women riding home to kiss their kids goodnight — as we passed the flickering lights of each neighborhood along the way," Biden continued then.
 
Wytkind said Biden, now 72, has continued championing Amtrak as a worthy recipient of federal money as he ascended from the Senate to the vice presidency.
 
"He has an incredibly rich history with making sure that Amtrak is properly funded and that we're making enough investments in their infrastructure," Wytkind said of Biden's record on Amtrak.

"He was kind of the Senate's ambassador to Amtrak," Wytkind continued. "As vice president, he has also been a very passionate advocate of Amtrak." 
 
Competitive Enterprise Institute Transportation Research Fellow Marc Scribner said there could be plusses and minuses to a Biden campaign for Amtrak because the vice president's presence in the race could remind voters of previous rail accidents and the Obama administration's failure to drastically expand the use of high-speed rail in the U.S., however. 
 
"This would raise the profile of Amtrak, which is not a hot topic in any of the campaigns right now," Scribner said. "From an Amtrak perspective, Republicans in the House are unified around opposition to further rail subsidies and the high-speed rail initiatives that Obama rolled out are nonexistent, other than in California."
 
Scribner told The Hill that a Biden presidential run could further solidify a partisan divide over Amtrak funding that has emerged in recent years in Washington because the vice president is "sort of Mr. Amtrak." 
 
"Obviously it would raise the profile [of Amtrak] because Joe Biden loves trains," Scribner said.  
 
"I can see both sides of it though," he continued. "Amtrak might like it because it would raise the profile, even though [Amtrak CEO] Joe Boardman is a Republican, but it would solidify Amtrak as a Democratic thing, which no one in the rail communities wants."
 
Scribner said the Amtrak's popularity is a "regional thing" that is largely limited to the northeast corridor, which explains Biden's fondness for it, but also makes it hard to translate to voters in the heartland.
 
He added that a Biden presidential bid could remind voters of tragedies like the Philadelphia derailment as much as it boosts Amtrak's esteem in their eyes.
 
"That's the last sort of national memory of Amtrak," he said of the May crash.
 
Scribner noted there is a lot of consternation in Congress about delays in the implementation of automated train technology known as Positive Train Control that could have possibly prevented the May crash. 
 
"After the Philadelphia derailment, you briefly saw Democrats trying to turn this into a funding issue, but they quickly dropping it because funding isn't really the problem with PTC," he said.
 
The AFL-CIO's Wytkind said it would be good if Biden entering the presidential race prompted more discussion about Amtrak and other transportation funding issues.
 
"In previous cycles, not counting 2008 when there actually were some candidates talking about infrastructure, this has been a non-issue [among presidential candidates]," he said.
 
"The people running for president are inheriting the biggest infrastructure deficit in history with no way to pay for it," Wytkind continued. "This is probably going to be one of the two biggest headaches for any new president."