Planners and attendees alike who enjoy taking trains to meetings could see long-distance train routes eliminated in President Trump’s latest budget.
The proposal, which has yet to be taken up by Congress, would ax all 15 of Amtrak’s long-distance passenger rail routes, including the historic New York-to-Chicago train that serves the Northeast. Service contained in the Northeast Corridor (NEC), linking Virginia and Washington, D.C., to New York City and Boston, however, would continue as is under the new budget. Amtrak trains that state governments pay for, such as the three daily trains that run between upstate New York and New York City would also remain intact.
Currently, 23 states (and more than 500 communities) are only served with long-distance trains and would therefore have no passenger rail under the new administration’s proposal, says Amtrak CEO and President Wick Moorman in a statement to Business Insider. It would make it impossible to travel by train to the West Coast, the South or even the Midwest, essentially doing away with the idea of a national rail system.
The goal of the cuts is to allow Amtrak to channel more money to the NEC, which needs $28 billion in repairs, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Infrastructure Report Card. Currently, Amtrak uses profits from the NEC to pay for money-losing services such as the long-distance train routes. In the 2016 fiscal year, the NEC serviced 11.9 million riders, compared to the about 4.6 million people the 15 long-distance trains serviced last year.
“The budget terminates federal support for Amtrak’s long-distance train services, which have long been inefficient and incur the vast majority of Amtrak’s operating losses. This would allow Amtrak to focus on better managing its state-supported and Northeast Corridor train services,” the budget states.
As of now, an unspecified amount would be cut from Amtrak’s budget as part of a $2.4 billion (or 13 percent) reduction in discretionary transportation spending by the federal government, according to the latest budget.