ST. PAUL, Minn. - Amtrak supporters rallied Friday morning against proposed cuts to the government owned railroad proposed by President Trump.
A few dozen demonstrators held signs outside St. Paul’s Union Depot objecting to a plan that would continue the railroad's profitable East Coast commuter lines, while eliminating more highly subsidized long distance service.
Among the service eliminated would be Amtrak's Empire Builder, the nation's only passenger service to and from Minnesota.
“Airports are very heavily subsidized, roads are completely paid for by the government, I think our country is able to afford a decent train system,” said Cameron Slick, who helped organize the rally for the National Association of Railroad Passengers.
Amtrak carries more than 30 million passengers a year, among them Audrey Edwards who boarded the Empire Builder on Friday with a $12 ticket from St. Paul to Red Wing.
“We can't afford to lose Amtrak,” Edwards said as she waited in the depot for her train.
Outside, Jay Severance, a director with the group All Aboard Minnesota, carried a sign opposing the Amtrak cuts.
"It’s cutting off 200 communities across the country including places like Detroit Lakes and Moorhead and Red Wing and Winona," he said.
The president's proposed cuts are not without supporters.
"The economics really don't make sense," said Peter Nelson of the organization Center for the American Experiment.
Nelson said the country can't afford current Amtrak subsidies of more than a billion dollars a year.
"Let's keep the lines that are making money, let's cut the lines that aren't making money, that's what any business would do," Nelson said.
Phillip Qualy says Amtrak’s subsidies should be kept in perspective.
"We are returning 94 percent of our operating costs from our own revenue. We challenge that against any other mode of transportation," Qualy said.
As he waited for his train home to Chicago after visiting relatives in the Twin Cities, Dennis Cromien defended Amtrak and its service.
“It’s about the price of an airline, I don’t have to go through the hassle of security, I can take public transit to get to it rather than going to O’Hare. It’s just accessible,” Cromien said.
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