Monday, July 06, 2009

Amtrack Subsidies Might be Cut But Not Derailed In Michigan

The Detroit News: Michigan may cut Amtrak subsidies
Michigan may cut subsidies that keep Amtrak running along two of its three passenger rail lines in the state, a move critics say sends the wrong message because President Barack Obama is promoting high-speed rail.

The state is paying Amtrak $7.3 million a year to offer roundtrip daily service linking Grand Rapids to Chicago and Port Huron to Chicago.

Funding would drop by half to about $3.7 million starting in October under a budget passed by Senate Republicans. Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm and House Democrats want to reduce the subsidy to about $5.7 million, a 22 percent cut.
. . .
The Wolverine line from Pontiac to Chicago isn't subsidized by the state and wouldn't be affected by the cuts.

"People have grown very attached to both of these lines. We hear from passengers," Michigan Department of Transportation spokeswoman Janet Foran said.

So I'm sure these fond riders wouldn't mind paying full price for it now would they, given their attachment?

The article doesn't mention it, but the Chicago Breaking News Center in its coverage of the story states that
Riders boarding the Grand Rapids-Holland-Bangor-Benton Harbor-Chicago route are on pace to be down 7 percent from last year's 111,000 riders.

But ridership still is up about 0.5 percent on the route linking Chicago, Niles, Dowagiac, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, East Lansing, Durand, Flint, Lapeer and Port Huron. More than 136,000 people rode that route in the last budget year.

Assuming these are distinct individsuals (which is questionable, each rider may repeat this journey multiple times and count as multiple riders - no idea how they did these stats) - we have 247,000 riders each getting a portion of the subsidy of the 7.3 million - or $29.55 per trip. With the Republican proposed cuts, they're only being offered a $14.97 discount on every trip they take.

Given that an adult ticket from Grand Rapids to Chicago is $61.50 (thanks to a quick check of Amtrack website -- quite a bargain as it includes a bus ride to Kalamazoo to get you on the train!) then with the proposed Republican cut to the subsidy it would rise to $76.47 -- except of course it wouldn't be a guarranteed government payment so Amtrack may threaten to close the line in toto rather than depend on a revenue stream from its customers that depends on service and their happiness with the company.

I'm reasonably sure that most people in Michigan would prefer the money go to prevent State Police layoffs and keep other core functions of government maintained rather than subsidize someone else's train trips.

No comments: