TAXPAYER WATCHDOG GROUP SLAMS AMTRAK'S SAVINGS BOAST ON HEARTLAND FLYER ANNIVERSARY | Citizens Against Government Waste

TAXPAYER WATCHDOG GROUP SLAMS AMTRAK'S SAVINGS BOAST ON HEARTLAND FLYER ANNIVERSARY

Press Release

For Immediate ReleaseContact:  Jim Campi or Aaron Taylor

June 21, 2000

(202) 467-5300

 

(Washington, D.C.) –Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), America's largest taxpayer watchdog group, reiterated its criticism of Amtrak's Heartland Flyer after a year in operation.  When Amtrak launched the new rail service between Fort Worth, Texas and Oklahoma City in 1999, it was estimated that the 180-mile route would cost taxpayers $204 per passenger (for a total of $4.8 million) in the first year of operation.  A year later, the line has proven itself only slightly less dependent on taxpayer dollars, taking a $81.24 subsidy for every passenger who uses the rail line.

Amtrak has announced these figures with great pride, patting itself on the back for requiring the federal government to subsidize only 77 percent of The Heartland Flyer's expenses, rather than the expected 90 percent subsidy. 

"Amtrak seems to expect American taxpayers to praise them for a venture which required $5.2 million in government subsidies just to break even," said a baffled CAGW President Thomas Schatz.  "This is akin to the fox bragging that he didn't take quite as many eggs from the henhouse as the farmer had feared."

In order for the Heartland Flyer to get back on track and make a profit, it would have to carry 600 passengers daily, 365 days a year.  Unfortunately, the train carries only 288 passengers per day.  Taxpayers are also getting railroaded for several million dollars more to upgrade the tracks and depots.

Thirty years ago, Congress gave birth to a federally subsidized railroad, Amtrak, with the intention that within a few years Amtrak would become a self-sufficient provider of public transportation.  Those aspirations for Amtrak never came to fruition.  Over three decades later, Amtrak is still growing fat and complacent on more than $20 billion in federal subsidies since its creation.

"This is no way to run a railroad, and the government shouldn't be in the transportation business anyway.  If Americans want to travel by rail, they will support it through profitable private enterprise without the government subsidies," Schatz concluded.

CAGW is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, mismanagement and abuse in government.

 

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