City Government

Study Shows Boise Amtrak Not In Financial Best Interest Of USA

After spending at least $374,000,000 to get the tracks and people up to speed, Amtrak would have to charge passengers an average of $353 for each ticket–IF they could get 102,000 riders–just to break even on the cheapest option for trail service to Boise, according to figures released in an Amtrak report.
Politicos with overly optimistic plans were surprised at the projected costs, but not deterred. U.S. Senator Mike Crapo has urged folks to comment at HIS WEBSITE. He wants the train, but the GUARDIAN urges him to do the responsible thing and declare: “the report has clearly shown that AMTRAK service to Boise would not be in the best financial interests of that nation at this time.”

If the senator truly wants to hear a diverse chorus of voices, he should punch the “scan” button on his browser to get off the Team Dave station and see what GUARDIAN READERS SAY.

While taxpayers in the eastern third of the country get the lion’s share of AMTRAK service–and federal subsidy–they don’t get much in the way of benefits from the BLM, Forest Service, or Bureau of Reclamation. Point being, the USA is a vast nation with a variety of public interest projects and services. Just because they have commuter trains in the east doesn’t mean they will serve a public purpose in the west…anymore than a cattle grazing allotment would work in New York.

To put it in perspective, New York CITY has more than four times as many citizens as the entire STATE of Idaho. If $374 million worth of upgrades and $25 million annual subsidy were put into the trains of the Eastern Seaboard, tens of millions of Americans would be served and not a paltry 102,000 nostalgic train buffs. To do anything less is selfish and shortsighted.

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter has taken to “government by resolution” and convinced the city council ro approve a resolution supporting Amtrak’s return to Idaho. These resolutions have no legal standing, but they create the illusion of a broad support for Amtrak and foolishly spending tax money to support a political goal.

For a positive spin on the same facts, check out the Daily Paper, STATESMAN.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. If we can waste money as a nation on Acorn, we can rebuild the rail infrastructure…Think of all the loot poured down the drain that has no value to the nation…all those earmarks, all the pork and vote buying…Tarp II, the Omnibus spending bill, 9000 earmarks. At least this serves the national interest…besides, no road pays for itself either. We wasted more money in payback to the Auto unions than Amtrack costs over a decade…maybe two.

  2. Amtrak’s own FY2007 report showed a load average of 47.2% – meaning that their passenger trains were operating at less than 50% capacity. People are not begging to ride trains. The population density along the Pioneer line is far too low to support its return – that’s why they closed it in the first place.

    Passenger rail receives $186.00 in subsidies per passenger-thousand miles. Airlines receive $6.00. Automobiles are actually a net positive to the government, returning more taxes than they use.

    The train stations along the route are all deprecated facilities that are not up to handling the 21st century traveler. In Boise alone, there would be zero parking for passengers, and there is no supportive public transportation infrastructure to shuttle them.

    The whole notion of returning Amtrak to Idaho is patently ridiculous, not to mention that Crapo already stated that the Idaho taxpayer would be asked to foot part of the bill at the state level. He and Bieter and the other Council members who supported this should be voted out of office.

  3. Amtrak is not feasible; a Downtown Trolley is not feasible; Universal Healthcare is not feasible; a hostile takeover of ambulance service is not feasible; but the mayor supports resolutions for these items. Bieter inherited his standing from his politician father. He doesn’t know the value of a dollar. He does not represent the wisdom or reason of an independent man. We have in Boise the child of a politician not a mayor.

  4. Sigh. Guess the train will not be here in time for me to ride it. It is not fun to fly anymore and I have no stamina for traveling cross country by car, so I’ll just stay home and watch the travel channel.

  5. Den Brockway
    Sep 19, 2009, 2:35 pm

    Mayor Bieter’s parents must have held back on giving Dave a Lionel set when a child; now he seems to be hung up on anything (at any cost) that involves steel rails. Enough, already! I’ll buy you an electric train set if you promise to forget the train or trolley.

  6. So, Jim, Your argument is essentially “look at all the money we waste other places!We should be allowed to waste money as well!” Do I have it correct?

  7. Folk squeal that we are the only industrialized nation in the world without a crappy national health care system. We are also the only one without a decent high speed rail, and high speed rail actually works…

  8. Since when did Amtrak and the government give a damn about losing money on a venture?

  9. I’m in no hurry to have a cheap transportation link between my neighborhood and nampa-caldwell… But it would be way cool to ride the train to the coasts on a long vacation

  10. Note to TJ:
    Take the bus.

    Note to JIMV:
    We pay 100% more for health care than most western countries. Our mortality is around 41st in the world and our infant mortality rate is about the fourth highest in the world. That suggests to me an overhaul is needed.

    High Speend Trains sounds just like the Japanese and HDTV techonolgy in the 1980’s. They were going to kill off the US economy with their HDTV technology. Japan hit the 1990’s with a swoon and lost decade to their economy.

    Note to me:
    There are a lot of really smart, creative and innovative people in this country and I have the faith that these smart people will continue to make this country a world leader.

    We have some warts and blemishes to correct and improve upon but count me as one who loves all the noise and bickering about health care. The right to have a national discourse makes us who we are.

    We are going to get not everything for everyone but some changes to our health system will happen before this is all said and done.

  11. Hey, Paul. What’s the deal about the bus business? Is it comfortable, safe and goes to places people actually want to go? I never hear about the bus system in this country and sort of thought that only people just released from jail or in other serious life circumstances use that service. I am an old person and don’t want to put myself into an unsafe situation. Do you know people who have taken long bus trips? Bus companies certainly never advertise their services. I would prefer that to driving but would like more information about the actual experience before I would expose myself to a long trip without a way to get out of a possible dangerous situation. Tell me how to research this possibility. Heaven knows I have researched rail travel and it is not convenient. The only connection to Kentucky where I have relatives would place me in some little town at three o’clock in the morning about 50 miles from my relatives. God damn the interstate highway system.

  12. “We pay 100% more for health care than most western countries. Our mortality is around 41st in the world and our infant mortality rate is about the fourth highest in the world”

    Paul, the fact is those comparisons are apple and oranges. There are two factors never considered. 1st that every nations tables are subject to error. The USA and Japan measure in the 90’s BUT Europe measures in the upper 70’s and 80’s. Next they define terms like infant mortality and life expectancy differently. Some nations do not count accidental death and others only consider a birth ‘live’ after a period of hours or days…

  13. John Mitchel
    Sep 21, 2009, 9:37 am

    Paul: Alot of this buzz about healthcare is misleading. World Health Org stats about mortality in the U.S. include murder, suicide and accidents. Other countries do not include these categories so the data is skewed. Infant mortality is another misleading stat. 40% of U.S. babies are born to out of wedlock mothers—mostly teens—and the result is LOW birth weight; AND it’s not about “being poor” because Latinos and Blacks actually have a LOWER infant mortality than whites. I don’t know if we have 100% higher medical costs but I do know you can get an MRI or CAT scan in less than 3 days here in Boise–don’t think you find that in “gov’t” run programs. Too little people with ins paying for those that don’t have insurance—that is one problem. Another is over utilization of the ER with runny noses and mild fevers. (solution: Community health clinics staffed with PA’s or Nurse Practioners). Third: address tort reform. Fifth: address personal behavior and responsibility (Health care is not always about health care; alot of it is about personal behavior and choices).
    The problem with the current mentality on Capitol Hill is they want a one size fits all program—it won’t work. Agree that we need overhall but SMALL steps make more sense to me. AND just where are we going to get all the needed primary care physicians to take care of all those new patients?????? (We are retiring more docs in primary care than are coming on board).
    Just my 4 cents.

  14. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan are not feasible. Why didn’t the geniuses on this blog tell us that war is not feasible?

    When did “feasible” become the litmus test for doing anything?
    Are McMansions feasible?
    No taxes?
    The environment?
    Starting a business?
    Public education?
    Having kids?
    Paying for a funeral?

    When gas goes to $5.00/gallon, and airlines quit routes and jack up fares, trains will become feasible to those who think they are unfeasible.

    Unfeasible is building a subway in New Orleans.

    Nothing stays the same.

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