Monday, June 16, 2008

Walberg Votes Against Amtrak

Thanks again to Eric B. at Michigan Liberal. While I've been otherwise occupied, he's been doing a phenomenal job watching Walberg.

I like Amtrak. I like it a lot. For personal reasons, I travel back and forth between my home here in Michigan and Chicago pretty regularly, and have taken the train from Jackson to Chicago and back four times in the last year. It's a comfortable ride, it takes about as long as driving, it's environmentally friendly, and it saves a lot of money on gas. You can do a trip to Chicago and back for maybe $50 ($25 each way). You're lucky if you can spend that little on gasoline for a trip like that.

Amtrak really is a great service, and I'm not the only one that thinks so. From an Amtrak press release last fall:
WASHINGTON — Amtrak ridership in Fiscal Year 2007 increased to 25,847,531, marking the fifth straight year of gains and setting a record for the most passengers using Amtrak trains since the National Railroad Passenger Corporation started operations in 1971.
That's nearly 26 million Americans riding trains, despite the low funding and almost non-existent advertising for Amtrak. For the Wolverine, which is the route that runs straight through the 7th District, ridership increased from 438,529 in fiscal year 2006 to 449,107 in fiscal year 2007, (a 2.4 percent increase), making it Michigan's most popular route. Here's a map, via Amtrak:

That includes stops in Jackson, Albion, and Battle Creek (as well as Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor, which, while not in the district, are close enough to matter).

This really is a service people use, and are going to use more and more as gas prices rise. Chicago is an accessible tourist destination that can be reached cheaply (and may soon be hosting the Olympics), and Amtrak can connect you to the rest of the country from there. More than that, Amtrak makes it easier for Chicagoans to come to Michigan, which helps them spend money here and help our economy.

Amtrak's very existence even helps our economy. The service employs 114 Michigan residents, and in 2007 the station in Jackson got a $250,000 grant for renovations (data from this .pdf file). As anyone can tell you, these are jobs and investments Michigan desperately needs.

This is an important service for the 7th District. I can't emphasize that enough. That's also something former Congressman Joe Schwarz knew when he represented us. I don't know of any links off-hand, but Edward Sidlow's book on Joe Schwarz (Freshman Orientation) included stories of Schwarz that revealed him to be a big fan of trains in general and of Amtrak in particular. He fought for Amtrak and for the district.

All of this brings us to our current representative, Congressman Tim Walberg.

On June 11, 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives considered HR 6003, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008. The bill would authorize $9.9 billion to cover operating expenses for Amtrak and then spend an additional $5 billion to improve service. The cost comes out to $43 per American over a four year period.

In other words, for the cost of maybe 10 gallons of gas spread out over four years, you would be helping to run and improve a service you should really be using.

To me, this seems like a common-sense vote. It's a part of the government that actually works and directly benefits the people of the 7th District in countless ways. This is the sort of thing people want and people use. This is what we should be doing more of.

The bill passed, 311 to 104.

Congressman Tim Walberg voted No.

Eric at Michigan Liberal sums it up nicely:

So, let's get this straight -- Tim Walberg is demanding relief for average Americans from the high price of gasoline. He is so insistent on it that he wants us to open up places for exploration and drilling that won't produce oil for 10 years, and won't hit peak production for two decades.

And yet, he votes against public transportation. Amtrak, specifically.

I do want to pay less for gasoline. Tim Walberg drilling for oil in ANWR or the Great Lakes isn't going to do that. What will do that is if I use less gasoline, and I can do that by taking the train. It's not the only solution, but it's a part of the broader solution to one of the biggest problems we're facing. It's a necessary component of achieving energy independence.

Tim Walberg doesn't want me to have that option. Why?

We can do better than this.

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You wrote:
This is an important service for the 7th District. I can't emphasize that enough. That's also something former Congressman Joe Schwarz knew when he represented us.

Could it be that the real problem is Tim doesn't really represent us? His priorities and agendas have been dictated to him by his supporters (Club for Growth, the oil industry, etc.). He just needed a district to get elected in, and it happened to be the Michigan 7th.

Hopefully he'll be sent home in November.
Once again, this is a sterling example of Walberg simply voting NO on issues he cannot comprehend or understand. This guy is such a simpleton, he takes the path of least resistance and simply says NO. Doubt he or any of his staffers took the time to study...really study how this impacts our District and at least bring an educated vote to the floor. This guy doesn't belong in politics and doesn't represent me or the 7th District.
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