On Sunday, Ed Wytkind, the President of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, wrote a letter-to-the-editor of the Wall Street Journal in response to their previous editorial that largely bashed Amtrak. The article is behind a paywall so we’ve pasted the text of the letter below.
We need funding for a national passenger rail system that serves the country, not just the East Coast.
Regarding your editorial “Amtrak’s Rolling Train Wreck” (April 13): Despite Amtrak’s continued growth and widespread popularity, the Journal’s editorial board continues to advance the same old, discredited vision—first starve Amtrak, then push for its privatization. This approach reflects a poor understanding of what the rest of the world knows. Fast, reliable and frequent trains require public investment. This is true of any functioning transportation system, and we know there isn’t a subsidy-free rail transportation system anywhere in the world.
We need funding for a national passenger rail system that serves the country, not just the East Coast. And Americans across the political spectrum agree with that vision. They want more Amtrak service and are willing to pay for it.
With a record of reliability, efficiency and now with new leadership, Amtrak and its employees are getting the job done in the face of punishing austerity budgets. Passengers are flocking to trains, and 2016 marked the sixth straight year that Amtrak served more than 30 million passengers.
It is an awful idea to carve up Amtrak and sell off its most prized assets so that private investors can send profits away as dividends rather than reinvest in better rail infrastructure. Ending long-haul routes as the Journal advocates would isolate already underserved communities that are starving for more, not fewer, transportation options. That doesn’t make sense.
We won’t have more “fast trains,” as the president has advocated, unless we’re willing to pay for them.