December 19, 2014

NARP calls on Congress to support passenger-rail

As the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee prepares a markup on rail reauthorization legislation, the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) is urging Congress to embrace a national vision for intercity passenger trains.

NARP is concerned that committee leaders may be moving toward ‘shrinking rather than strengthening the nation’s already-limited passenger train network,” NARP officials said yesterday in a press release.

NARP makes the case that Americans want more trains, citing Amtrak’s ridership growth. The national intercity passenger railroad carried 31.6 million riders in fiscal-year 2013, setting the tenth ridership record in 11 years. However, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has questioned the continued funding of some Amtrak long-distance routes.

“What happens to the people that are stranded if Congress kills the long distance trains?” said NARP President Ross Capon. “Because make no mistake: if Congress eliminates operating support for these interstate routes that is what will happen. For many of these communities, it’s their only connection to cities in other states.”

NARP drafted several goals and recommendations for Congress to consider in drafting rail reauthorization legislation. Long-term goals include:

  • expanding service to put 80 percent of Americans within 25 miles of a railroad station within 25 years;
  • constructing at least one dedicated 200 mph high-speed line with operations commencing by 2025;
  • initiating a federal program to strengthen intermodal connections; and
  • improving safety.

Policy recommendations call for including a high-performance rail network in the next surface transportation reauthorization bill and creating a high-performance railroad network account in the Transportation Trust Fund (renamed from the Highway Trust Fund).