Ann Arbor Area Community News
The Detroit News discusses this impact of President Bush’s proposed cuts to Amtrak funding, noting that (along with the rest of the Amtrak system), Michigan’s routes would cease to exist.
At several points in the article, the News implicitly contradicts the idea that Amtrak should be treated as merely a business whose only value is in making money.
The article starts with an anecdote on the role of Amtrak in providing mobility to citizens who cannot drive,
For Romanek, 74, of Westland, trips to see her kids in Chicago will end. “That’d put a real dent in my life, I think,” she said. “At my age, I’m not going to be driving by myself.”
It next mentions a ridership group of particular interest to Ann Arbor – college students in this town, East Lansing, and Kalamazoo. Students seeking to travel to Chicago or between cities served by Amtrak within Michigan would lose that option, and, in the News’ words, be left “looking for a new way to get around.” Undoubtedly, cutting the non-car options available for students to travel to and from Ann Arbor would encourage more of them to use cars to get to town, even if they only used those vehicles at the beginning and end of semesters and left them parked in between – and, of course, a student who owns a car and has it on campus can be expected to use it for local trips during the semester, even when using a car for those trips is not necessary.
Finally, the article notes an economic development incentive for passenger rail,
half [of Amtrak riders] said that if it were not for the train, they would not make the trip they were currently on. “It takes away a travel option, and more choices make cities better places to work, live and invest,” said John DeLora, executive director of the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers
Only at the end of the article, after touching on the impact of losing Amtrak such as decreased mobility for the transit-dependent, increased ownership and use of personal cars (leading to increased traffic and parking congestion), and on Michigan’s cities in general, does the News mention the argument in favor of cutting Amtrak funding – that Amtrak should be “run like a business” and should be forced to run at a profit. Though the article does not make the final connection, it is clear that its writers consider Amtrak to have positive externalities – benefits even for non-riders – providing an economic argument in favor of public funding.
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