Letter: Transportation subsidized

I would like to respond to the following quote, taken from Arjun Baindur’s letter in the DI on Feb. 22, “Amtrak and other corporations … are kept alive through government pull …” It is important when considering the funding that Amtrak receives from the federal government to also remember the subsidies that benefit other forms of transportation. Only 65 percent of the cost of building highways is paid for through the gasoline tax; the rest of the funding comes from “non-user” sources, such as sales taxes, real-estate taxes and income taxes. Sixty-five percent recovery is approximately the same as we find with Amtrak. Many businesses benefit from this subsidy, such as the trucking industry and Greyhound, a direct competitor of Amtrak in many cases. Additionally, the Federal Aviation Administration requires huge subsidies to run the Air Traffic Control system and enforce safety regulations, allowing airlines to stay in business. Many airlines have even received money from the government to remain in business during rough periods. Since airlines are competitors of Amtrak, this provides them with an advantage over Amtrak, which receives much, much less in federal funding. These subsidies mean that even taxpayers who never take a plane or drive on a highway are paying part of the cost for those who do. All forms of motorized transportation must be subsidized. It is simply the nature of transportation. But subsidizing transportation is a driving force in business growth, which is why governments subsidize transportation. It is important not to single out Amtrak, which receives a pittance in funding from the government, when compared to the highway and aviation industries.

Aimee Johansen Alnet

graduate student