The first trains left Baltimore nearly 200 years ago, forging a path through the West and connecting all corners of a burgeoning new country. While much has changed over the last two centuries, the vital role passenger, commuter, and freight rail play for this country and its economy is as important as ever.
America’s freight trains, and the frontline workers who operate and maintain them, move $174 billion worth of goods and raw materials annually. More than 800,000 Americans rely on commuter rail to get them safely to and from home, work, and school. And communities across the country count on Amtrak and its national network for economic growth and development opportunities, good jobs, and as a lifeline to other segments of our transportation system.
Despite the important role freight and passenger rail has played throughout the history of our country, these industries face threats that could impact our entire economy. Our freight rail industry, for example, has long made record profits. Despite this success, Wall Street investors are imposing a dangerous new business model that threatens the integrity of this industry, the good jobs it creates, and opens the door to substantial safety risks for frontline workers and the communities where freight trains operate.
Similarly, Amtrak has repeatedly come under threat by austerity-driven politicians and other anti-government ideologues who want to gut funding for our national passenger rail system. Routes that provide many rural communities with the only viable link to other segments of our transportation network are now being jeopardized by the carrier itself – in the form of reduced service, a degraded passenger experience, and the elimination and outsourcing of good jobs.
2020 candidates must commit to investing in and supporting our commuter and freight rail systems, preserving and expanding Amtrak’s national network, and protecting the good jobs found in these industries.