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Amtrak Subsidy Cuts Could End Rail Service To-From Pasco

Pasco Amtrak train station (Google Earth)
Pasco Amtrak train station (Google Earth)

Amtrak, the government run railroad, has rarely ever operated in the black, and it’s subsidies are among the cuts proposed in President Trump’s America First budget just released this week. If they go through, train service to and from Pasco would likely be cut.

Nearly $2.4 billion dollars is slated to be cut from federal transportation dollars, much of it subsidies that allow over a dozen rail outfits to stay afloat.

These cuts would include the Amtrak Empire Builder, which carries passengers from Pasco to Spokane, Portland and Seattle, and vice-versa. It would also affect the Western Washington Coast Starlight service.

The Empire Builder runs from Chicago to Spokane, where it splits.  The northern line goes on to Seattle, the southern line to Portland by way of Pasco.

The Coast Starlight serves travelers and even some commuters up and down the I-5 corridor.

Although Amtrak reported $2.2 billion in what’s called ticket revenue last year, according to the Tri-City Herald,  the federally-operated railroad also requires at least $650 million in subsidies to maintain operations.

Trump Administration officials say most of the Amtrak losses are from the long-distance lines such as the Empire Builder, and Coast Starlight.  They would prefer to focus on the shorter, more heavily trafficked lines such as the Cascade Line. It’s a northwest only rail service that’s state supported. It runs from Eugene, OR to Vancouver B.C. using the same rail lines as the Coast Starlight.

Opponents say these cuts will affect thousands of travelers, and hurt infrastructure and the communities where Amtrak operates. Those who support cutting the subsidies argue that nobody in the private sector would continue to subsidize a product or service that has continually lost money for decades.

Several railroad advocacy groups are speaking out against the cuts. However, this week reports the service has lost about a billion dollars a year since it’s inception, outside of the Northeast Corridor very few people use it, and most of the people who use it are not low income as some reports would claim.




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