May 9 was the 48th National Amtrak Day, but let’s all get on board with making it a yearlong celebration.
Why not ask our elected officials to support a dedicated capital revenue stream that could include allocating a penny per gallon gasoline tax to Amtrak.
These funds could provide a reliable yearly source for financing capital investments to upgrade tracks, signals, passenger equipment, stations and maintenance facilities.
Any responsible agency needs the assistance of a long-term and dedicated revenue stream. This is needed to develop a capital infrastructure plan for maintaining both an operating system in a state of good repair and any system expansion.
Perhaps establish a reasonable minimum farebox recovery rate of 50 percent to justify continued operation of any route.
Give local governments one year to come up with locally generated operating assistance to support service on routes to those communities that can't meet this goal.
In the long run, these simple reforms would take the politics out of inter-city passenger service.
Ask unions to allow management more flexibility in work rules and assignments to support greater productivity. Share some of the savings accrued from this with workers to foster improved partnering between management and employees.
With all of this in place, many more routes could survive, and some would grow stronger. Service on other high-density corridors beyond the Northeast Corridor routes might also come closer to financially operating with minimal subsidy or even turn a small profit, which Amtrak management could use to support other routes.
How many times have winter storms stranded thousands at airports while Amtrak kept rolling?
The ability of Amtrak to reduce travel time by increasing the speed of the service in high-density corridors can provide consumers with choices other than flying, driving or taking a bus.