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My Letter To Bush, Mineta And My Senators

Wed Feb 16, 2005 12:37 pm

This is a letter in support of Amtrak.

Dear Mr. Mineta,

I have a few comments regarding the Amtrak situation. I hope you take
some of these to consideration, and at the very least to heart.

First of all, Amtrak is "dying" because is has been continually
under funded by the government since its inception in 1971. That's as
plain as day to see. Amtrak doesn't have the money to repair its
numerous out-of-service cars. It doesn't have the money to make the
numerous key track improvements in the Northeast Corridor. And it
doesn't have enough money to get itself to a point where adding new
intercity routes is possible. Sure, the railroad has suffered from
mismanagement over the years, but not any longer. You cannot blame the
management today for the poor direction the company was taken in the

Amtrak is a national railroad. It was never formed to be just a
"corridor" or "regional" or "intrastate" operator. Amtrak long
distance trains are well supported sir. Hundreds of small communities
throughout America have been counting on the passenger train for years.
And those communities continue to support Amtrak well. Cutting off
Amtrak service would be like cutting the lifeline for hundreds of
communities across the land. Bus service isn't even an option in many
of these places. And to be honest, who wants to ride a bus for a
journey of more than say five hours? Buses are extremely unpleasant,
while Amtrak trains are comfortable, spacious, and inviting. Killing
off the long distance trains is a flat out dumb decision. No, none of
them make money (just like all Amtrak routes), but that's what the
government is for. The government should support and fund these
routes, as they are quite popular with the American consumer. The
burden should not be placed with the states, as many are cash-strapped
as it is. Perhaps there is a more efficient way to operate some of the
longer routes...using a few less cars per train for instance...but
they should not be cancelled outright. If long distance trains do in
fact get cancelled, the following major cities, to name a few, would
not see any intercity rail service: Atlanta, Charlotte, New Orleans,
Memphis, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Ft.Worth, El Paso, Denver, Salt
Lake City, Albuquerque, Tucson, Minneapolis/St.Paul, Cincinnati,
Indianapolis, and Cleveland. And that does not include medium-sized
cities like Jackson, Mobile, Pensacola, Spokane, Greensboro, Little
Rock, Omaha, Reno, etc.

Yes, the sad truth of the matter is that the Bush administration wants
to see Amtrak die. Every single person that supports the railroad
understands this. Instead of coming out with a plan to improve the
railroad from the get go, the threat of "total funding stoppage" came
to the surface. That's not the way to start off the reform talk, by
threatening the jobs and livelihood of some 20,000 plus workers who
have poured their hearts and souls into the railroad for decades now.
Without question, the constant talk of shutdown affects employee
morale and consumer confidence.

No intercity passenger rail service in the world is sell-sufficient.
Amtrak will never be. Therefore, if this administration truly wanted
to see Amtrak thrive and prosper, than it would fund the railroad
properly, and let the Amtrak management make the decisions that are
best for the company. Mr. David Gunn has done an impressive job over
the past few years in keeping Amtrak's costs down. He has even cut
back on some service, and has plans to do more,. But he and only he
knows what is best for the railroad. Let the man do the job he was
hired to do.

Amtrak deserves full funding and full support from the government. It
amuses me that the government keeps on bailing out airlines (which are
private companies) which consistently post multi-million dollar
quarterly losses. In my opinion, if Amtrak is allowed to be killed
off, then either United Airlines or US Airways should as well. The
Bush administration has talked a lot about "letting Amtrak die on its
own". Why not let United or US Airways die on its own?

Amtrak is the national railroad of America. People depend on it.
People use it. People all over the country support its current
form. If the railroad had the money, it would without question begin
the process of replacing outdated equipment and getting itself back to
a state of good repair system-wide. But that will never be possible
with an administration that clearly doesn't know anything in regards
to railroad operations. The Bush proposal is the easy way out. "Well,
let's just don't give them anything, let them go bankrupt, and then
when we have the time, we'll try to come up with something better." It
doesn't get much better than this sir. All of the routes are there.
All of the equipment is there. There's no use killing off something
that is not without hope of fixing. All Amtrak needs is to have some
dedicated people on its side instead of fighting against it and
remarkable things could happen. Apparently the administration is too
short sighted to see this, which is unfortunate.

Amtrak lets us see this great nation the way it was meant to be seen.
It shows us what is good and not-so-good about America. It shows you
the real that's both grand and not. Step on the
"California Zephyr" or the "Empire Builder" or the "City of New
Orleans" and just witness the kinship of train travel. There is
nothing like it. Have you ever been on a long distance rail journey
sir? If you haven't, you must try it out. There is just no better way
to travel. The people you get to meet and the things you get to see
will forever be implanted in your memory. In a word, train travel is
inspiring. One can hardly say that about airline travel.

To sum up, the government created Amtrak, the government should fix
it. Fixing it does not mean "killing it off and let the states take
over". For a nation as grand as ours to go without grand
traditions such as dinner in the dining car, stargazing from the
observation car, or enjoy a peaceful sleep while listening to the
rhythm of the rails in the sleeping car, would be an incredibly sad

Don't let history go down the drain. Preserve Amtrak so that my
children will become fascinated in it the same way that I am. Nothing
less will be acceptable.

Yours sincerely,

(my name)
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RE: My Letter To Bush, Mineta And My Senators

Wed Feb 16, 2005 1:09 pm

Dude, good luck with that. I don't know that you'll get anywhere, but I understand why you want to do this.
Use the history in your letter to help with emphasis, but make the climax and undertone one of economics in order to gain the most traction with the bean counters who are telling the powers that be to kill Amtrak.

Good luck, again.

Is my Pan Am ticket to the moon still good?
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RE: My Letter To Bush, Mineta And My Senators

Wed Feb 16, 2005 1:21 pm

Hey Ian, I know nothing much will come out of this, but damn it felt good to write something. At the very least these people will know my opinion, and at the end of the day, that's all that I can really ask/hope for. Thanks for the comments.
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RE: My Letter To Bush, Mineta And My Senators

Wed Feb 16, 2005 2:58 pm

I agree with you on the Amtrak issue. I don't think Mineta has that final authority on the Amtrak issue. I am sure he wants to keep it.

Now about your Senator Mary Landrieu. Ask her why she doesn't have a thumbnail gallery at her website. I'd love to see hers. Big grin
Bring back the Concorde
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RE: My Letter To Bush, Mineta And My Senators

Wed Feb 16, 2005 3:13 pm

Superfly, I have no idea, Mary does have potential now doesn't she? Next time I see her coming off a US Airways flight from DCA i'll ask her.
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RE: My Letter To Bush, Mineta And My Senators

Wed Feb 16, 2005 3:22 pm

Steve, that was inspired. I have crossed the country RT twice on Amtrak as well as having used it for years on the San Diegan/Pacific Surfliner Corridor and it is a great way to travel and quite useful, quite often. The Amtrak issue shows the destructive dichotomy in our country. The government not funding things that are inherently governmental, claiming "the free market" should reign and funding programs that the government has no interest or business in other than pure pork for politicians and lobbiests.
Mangeons les French fries, mais surtout pratiquons avec fierte le French kiss
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RE: My Letter To Bush, Mineta And My Senators

Wed Feb 16, 2005 3:42 pm

Well written, I applaud you and hope that you send it.

As for my thoughts on Amtrak, I think it has just become inconvenient for people to travel by train when travel by air is so much quicker and just as cheap if not cheaper. If I want to go Los Angeles to New York of L.A. to Chicago, its fast and cheaper for me as a consumer to fly. It is no longer the cheaper alternative to travel. And for that sole reason alone, I believe that rail will forever be doomed in this country.
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RE: My Letter To Bush, Mineta And My Senators

Thu Feb 17, 2005 6:27 pm

Mineta has little or no authority in business issues concerning Amtrak. As much as I would like to see Amtrak thrive, in many regions including mine it is a burden on the freight railroads. If Amtrak were to pay more than a token fee that would be one thing. It does not and the railroads have to answer to stockholders if they do not perform financially. Amtrak is shielded from its investors by the government.

The specific problem concerning competitive train travel is the great distances between most major cities in the US. With the extensive highway network and low cost air carriers, most of the market has been reduced. Financially, the long haul passenger train is dead and has been so for half a century. Railroads only operated passenger trains as for many years it was a necessity. Passengers were never profitable to speak of. Most passenger trains were supported by the Railway Express and US Mail revenues. The dining car? That was your number one loss generator across the board. Due to the economic realities of passenger operations, they were never profitable but borne as a cost of doing business It is true that the industry is mixed on its opinions of Amtrak. There are those who would like to see it continue, albeit more efficiently and there are those who would love to see it finally die. I would love to see it continue, but my views are tempered in realism after working in the passenger railroad business for a decade.
"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."

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