Transit union poll: Swing district voters back Amtrak

A poll conducted by a transportation union found that 70 percent of voters in a group of eight moderate congressional districts backed federal funding for Amtrak.

The poll, which was conducted by the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) union, surveyed voters in Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri.

The result of the polling showed that support for Amtrak was not limited to large cities on the coasts of the U.S., union officials said.

“We polled people who mostly do not live in large passenger rail regions and yet they overwhelmingly said they want the same level of or more federal funding for Amtrak,” SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich said in a statement. 

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“What’s interesting about this poll is that a majority of Democrats, Independents and Republicans alike all want to maintain or expand Amtrak service," he continued. "It is now time for Congress to listen.”

Prior to the shutdown of the federal government, Congress was scheduled to debate an extension of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA), which is the legislation that authorizes federal funding for Amtrak and other rail programs.

Since its inception in 1971, Amtrak has traditionally received about $1 billion per year in subsidies from the federal government.

Republicans in the House have sought repeatedly in recent years to reduce Amtrak's funding, but AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Ed Wytkind said the new poll revealed that voters want Amtrak's appropriation to be increased, not cut.

“This new polling confirms what we have always known: Americans want more, not fewer, transportation choices,” Wytkind said in a statement. “And while too many politicians in Washington are saber rattling about government spending, people across the nation, from conservatives to liberals, believe the federal government has a responsibility to play in supporting and funding Amtrak passenger rail service.”

The current version of the PRIIA bill is scheduled to expire this year.

Previsich said that transportation advocates would use the Amtrak poll to push for more funding for the railway in any extension.

“This polling will boost our effort to advocate for common sense passenger rail legislation that gives Amtrak and its employees the resources they need to deliver first-class passenger rail service that Americans are clearly telling us they want,” Previsich said.

The full SMART union poll on Amtrak can be read here