Long-distance trains provide a vital service

I was disappointed to see The News publish the wire story “Amtrak’s long-distance trains are nearing the end of the line,” which implied that this vital network of nationwide trains is likely to stop operating soon. This is not correct.

The article failed to emphasize the importance of Amtrak’s 15 long-distance national system trains, which in the fiscal year just ended on Sept. 30 carried over 4.7 million passengers. Many of these passengers traveled to or from small communities across the country that have no other public transportation options. Those members of Congress who want to end federal support for long-distance trains offer no alternative travel choices for passengers who would be displaced, especially the elderly, who either can’t or won’t drive or fly long distances.

Buffalo is fortunate to be served by the daily Lake Shore Limited (one of Amtrak’s 15 long-distance trains), which connects New York and Boston with Chicago. This train carried almost 400,000 passengers over the past year between the 25 communities it serves. The second most popular city pair on this route is the 530-mile trip between Buffalo and Chicago, though many Western New Yorkers also use this train to reach smaller cities to the west. Buffalo-area travelers can also take advantage of Amtrak’s three other daily trains that serve many cities across the state en route to New York City.

I encourage readers to not be fooled by the tired old argument that Amtrak’s trains should be self-supporting, while ignoring the simple fact that all transportation modes are heavily subsidized by the federal government. Our country would be much better served for generations to come if our leaders enacted a comprehensive national transportation policy that would recognize the inherent benefits of all travel modes (rail, air and highway) and encourage the use of the mode best suited for the distance and type of trip to be taken.

Bruce B. Becker

President, Empire State Passengers

Association, East Amherst