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Monday, July 28, 2014

Amtrak is off track on subsidy increase

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

"By my calculations, about 500 people use Amtrak daily between the two urban areas."

Let's see just how serious the state is about saving money. A St. Joseph firm has offered to take over Amtrak passenger rail service in Missouri for the twice-daily runs from St. Louis to Kansas City. And their offer promises a savings for the state of Missouri which is currently paying a $5 million annual subsidy to keep the beleaguered train service in operation. To make matters worse, Amtrak wants nearly $9 million in additional subsidies next year.

By my calculations, about 500 people use Amtrak daily between the two urban areas. Well that's not nearly enough to pay for the service so taxpayers throughout the state help pay for the service. I'm not sure why Amtrak can't up their ticket price and pay for the rail line themselves. Either way it's time for all taxpayers to end funding for this limited-use service.

Into the discussion has come a St. Joseph firm which operates other rail lines across the nation. It's far from certain but it appears the firm can save the state money by taking over the operation. Something needs to be done to take this I-70 corridor perk off the backs of hard-working, taxpaying Missourians.

Amtrak has threatened to cut the service to one train daily starting in March unless the Legislature forks over another $1.2 in subsidies. I'd tell them where to shove their train service were it me.

Amtrak has long been a thorn in the side of many people. And judging from experience, the cost to the state is very likely to increase time and time again. Maybe now is the time to explore other options.

On an interesting note, the St. Joseph firm operates other lines but none serve less than 3,500 riders daily. Maybe there just isn't enough interest in the Missouri Amtrak route to support the service here.

Tough economic times deserve tough decisions. Jefferson City needs to be receptive to any decision that will save money in these times. Amtrak is a small drop in the bucket. But it's a starting point.



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