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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

The hard ride

I know this is peanuts in the overall government waste, fraud and abuse scandal, but it's still galling:

Taxpayers lost $833 million over the last decade on the food and beverages supplied by Amtrak, which managed to spend $1.70 for every dollar that received in revenue.

“Over the last ten years, these losses have amounted to a staggering $833.8 million,” said Rep.John Mica, R-Fla., in a statement previewing a House hearing today.  “It costs passengers $9.50 to buy a cheeseburger on Amtrak, but the cost to taxpayers is $16.15.  Riders pay $2.00 for a Pepsi, but each of these sodas costs the U.S. Treasury $3.40.”

But Amtrak's president assures us it's getting better. Last year, 59 percent of food-service costs were recovered, up from 49 percent in 2006.


Harl Delos
Fri, 08/03/2012 - 3:58pm

I've heard, over the years, that it tajes a lot if red tape to sell to the government.  It's fairly common for software conpanies to refuse government purchase orders.

Paying $3.40 for a can of pop is appalling.  They ought to have competitive bidding between Coke, Pepsi, RC, Faygo and A-treat for exclusive pouring rights. They would see prices drop like Chich-Fil-A spokesmen

tim zank
Sat, 08/04/2012 - 8:39am

Harl, instead of competetive bidding on pop, how about they just get the hell out of the railroad business, ha?


Christopher Swing
Sat, 08/04/2012 - 1:08pm

It's hard for someone to see the value of national passenger train transit when they're never going to leave their basement in Angola, much less the city of Angola.

tim zank
Sat, 08/04/2012 - 3:05pm

Passenger trains are fun if you want a nostalgic ride, but they are inefficient as all hell. High speed passenger rail is even less efficient and is an absolute loser. Trains were great at the beginning of the turn of the last century, of course so were the horse and buggies. Liberals have a love affair with trains that is absolutely irrational. They only work (economically) in dense urban settings (otherwise know as cesspools but that's another discussion)...

Harl Delos
Sat, 08/04/2012 - 6:03pm

Can you name ANY form if mass transit, Tim, that isn't subsidized ny the government?

If you add up all the profits of every airline that ever flew, you end up with a negative number, and that's after federal money pays for all the runways and all the air traffic control, and all the TSA screeners as a gift to the industry.  In exchange, we get planes that waste immense amounts of energy, spewing it into the air where it contributes to our national health care bill.(avgas IS a caecinogen)

flying in those airplanes is exceptionally dangerous as well - doctors call DVT "economy class syndrome" because sitting in a rigid position is a major cause, but there's only a little moresquirm room in first class.

A well designed high speed rail system - welded twin rails and computer navigation using GPS, and minitrains that leave as frequently as every few minutes, pullman-ytpe cars, let a businnman hop aboad a train in late afternoon and arrive ar his destination city, sgowered, shaved, and fed, without any intermediate stops and without jet lag - and for a lower cosr rgan the true cost of flyinh Sardine Air.

We didn't build the interstate highways because they were good for business; they were originally the Bational Defense Highway System - but they've turned out that way.  A well=designed high speed rail system would save us tax dollaes because they'd reduce the load on interstate highways and airlines, and they would reduce dependence on fireign petroleum imports.

So what's yout objection to high speed rail?  Are you si dimwitted that you think light high=speed passenger trains need to use the same tracks asytains carrying bulk commodities at slow speed?  That's as logical as demanding the auelines land on the ingivifual floors of the office buildings where their passengers are headed,

Spending less in order to get better resukts is something real conservatives have alwats favored.  You're not a conservative, you're sn anarchist.

tim zank
Sat, 08/04/2012 - 9:35pm

Harl, I enjoy your disjointed diatribes just as much as the next guy,  but you're way off base on this one. There simply is no need for high speed rail.  No one is having a problem getting from point a to point b to begin with, and on top of that our country's broke.

Even if our economy was humming along and we had full employmentand our treasury was flush, it would be a colossal waste of money, trains don't turn right or left, they are huge and cumbersome, the tracks would require carving up the coutryside causing myriad problems for landowners and another undeserved bonanza for lawyers...

What is the obsession with spending billions on inefficient, awkward, and obsolete transportation?

Harl Delos
Sun, 08/05/2012 - 2:15am

tom.why are you so insistent on easting mobey ob inefficient/ obdolete and awkward transportation?

A jet airliner takes a gallon of fuel to haul a seat 64 miles.  That's the equivalent of a standard car getting 10 miles per gallon.  There are 10 million planes departing per year compared to 4.5 million in 1976, and there has been no increase in the number of commercial air ports. That doesn't mean we aren;t spending monet on airports.  O'Hare is relocating a cwmwraey to add a eunway as part of a $3,1 billiob expansion.  The 17-mile trip on the Kennedt Expressway from Chicagi takes ab hour, and passengers get trapped on the runway got houts.

The alternative is raking the ubterstates, whuch are constanrly being expanded because of the heavy traffic.  It's been a while since I took a trip by interstate, but ten years ago, they expanded US30 through Lancaster from 2 lanes to 10, and the traffic has to slow to 30 MPH or less because of overcrowding.  Today, it took mr 30 minutes to go fivr miles on this limited-access highway..

If oout economy were hu,,img along. it would cost a lot mote to build high speed rail, because industry would be competing for construction workers.  Right now, not only do we get the construction at a discount, but we take people off untmployment and put them onto the tax rolls.   Trains operated by computer and GPS don't fly into skyscrapers, nor do they have pileups in fog, nor do they have drunkards driving wrong-way on a divided highway.With automated navigation, there's no reason trains need to be bigger than semis.We can put the tracjs next ti interstate highways, which wouold require a limited amount of new land, and would go right downtown with terminals that replace slums.

You ask "What is the obsession with spending billions on inefficient, awkward, and obsolete transportation" but we'rre spending hundreds of billions right now on interstates and air travel, and they are considerably less convenient.  It makes sense to fly across oceans.  It makes sense to use cars to cross town, ekevators to reach the top of sjyscrapers and escalators to reach the upper level at the shopping center.  For trips of 100 to 3000 miles, a high speed rail system is considerably less wasteful.

Sun, 08/05/2012 - 1:05pm

I used to live in Martinsburg, WV (home of Ogden's "The Journal"). Amtrak ran a commuter train from there to Washington, DC. It was always full and certainly served a useful purpose, if only in reducing traffic in DC and reducing the demand for parking spaces.

I''m against high-speed rail just so we can one-up Japan and France, but subsidized transport makes sense in certain situations.

And, as has been pointed out, even driving your car is subsidized. Who do you think builds the roads? Plus, of course, the government simply gives money to Exxon-Mobil, which you'd think would bother conservatives more than it seems to.

Christopher Swing
Mon, 08/06/2012 - 12:51am

Strangely enough, the guy who (allegedly) makes his money selling houses in the suburbs thinks dense urban population is a bad thing. And really, only people different from Tim Zank would benefit from HSR, so that makes it bad too.

And Harl's right, all transport is subsidized to some extent by the government. Especially roads and highways.


Harl Delos
Mon, 08/06/2012 - 11:36am

Tim, if we're going to get out of the railroa business, we ought to get out of the ait transportation business and out of the road business as well.  Shut down all the airports and all the federal highways.  Government shouldn't be picking winnes and losers, right?

You could probably sell the airports to terrorists, and find a private company that would like to turn us 27, us 30, US 33, etc into toll roads.  That would probably reduce demand for gasoline, and reduce imports