Monday, November 09, 2009

Passenger rail coalition questions intent of rail subsidy study

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The States For Passenger Rail Coalition is publicly questioning the recently released study, sponsored by Pew Charitable Trusts, that highlights Amtrak subsidies, pegging the average cost to the individual taxpayer at $32 per passenger trip. Subsidyscope, an arm of Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trusts, conducted the study.

Coalition members are reiterating a common refrain heard by passenger rail advocates for decades: All forms of transportation, including highways and aviation, receive annual subsidies from the federal government.

“Why Amtrak was singled out in this study is a mystery,”Coalition Chair Frank Busalacchi, who is also Wisconsin’s secretary of transportation, said. “The fact is all forms of transportation require federal support. A national transportation system cannot exist without all modes receiving support from the federal government. The irony in this study is that it singles out passenger rail, which receives the lowest level of support.”

Pew’s study, released October 27, said the $32 figure “is four times higher than the loss of $8 per passenger, which was calculated using Amtrak’s own figures. Further, 41 of Amtrak’s 44 lines lost money, between $5 and $462 per passenger depending on the route.  Amtrak received $1.3 billion in direct payments from the federal government in FY2008.”