Remember train called ‘City of New Orleans’? Remember July 31
Those who are about my age might remember a song, “The City of New Orleans.” It was Arlo Guthrie’s biggest hit and was also recorded by Willie Nelson, John Denver, Johnny Cash, Hank Snow, Judy Collins, Jerry Reed and others.
The song is about a passenger train that went from Chicago to New Orleans.
Private companies, who need to make a profit, were getting out of the passenger train business in the 1950s and ‘60s as the automobile and the airplane became better options for the great majority of people. That’s why this passenger train “got the disappearing railroad blues.”
What happened to that train? The federal government, Amtrak, took it over in 1971 along with many other passenger trains. Some supporters of the Amtrak legislation thought that the subsidy would fade away and others thought that Amtrak would support itself. Both were wrong, after 40-plus years, it’s still there and still losing money.
The Public Purpose website cites a U.S. Department of Transportation published report from 2002, studying the years 1990 to 2002. Amtrak subsidies per one thousand passenger miles were $210.31 in 2002.
The “subsidies” for automobiles was minus $1.79. Drivers more than paid for themselves through federal fuel taxes. The government quit producing this report.
Passenger rail is the most subsidized form of transportation there is. Supporters will try to convince you otherwise but it should be obvious to all.
According to Subsidyscope, in 2008 the train City of New Orleans lost $109.91 per passenger carried. You picked up that tab so a select few people can take a leisurely trip from Chicago to New Orleans and enjoy the gourmet meals served on the train.
Local trains are just as bad. They are used by a similar small percentage of travelers/commuters. Due to the population density in the Atlanta area, ridership will be even lower here than elsewhere. Some of these train riders don’t own, or drive, the automobiles that these trains supposedly take off the road. Trains don’t pay for themselves, and they don’t “untie the knots.”
The TSPLOST is filled with projects that were elected for us by our “representatives.” You can believe that some of these projects were selected for their “political value,” to help “sell” the SPLOST to voters, as opposed to their transportation value, and will be useless for improving transportation options in the Atlanta area.
You can also be 100 percent sure that the projects on the list will cost more than the estimates we’ve been given.
That means that the list cannot be completed with the funds that the “10 year” SPLOST can generate.
What government transportation projects can you name that did not cost more than the original estimates? Which ones will be done first, which ones will be started but not completed and which ones will be deferred until the next “10 year” SPLOST? Where will the projects you support fall in that list; done, not completed or deferred?
If you’re ever thinking about voting for the TSPLOST, just think of the song’s lyrics, “15 cars and 15 restless riders, 3 conductors, 25 sacks of mail.” If you don’t want to keep financing those “15 restless riders” forever, vote NO on TSPLOST.
Peachtree City, Ga.
[Pfeifer is a former Fayette County commissioner.]