New RPA Poll: Bipartisan Support for More Rail Spending
March 25, 2022
By Jim Mathews / President & CEO
Our new national poll proves something most of you already knew: passenger trains are popular among both Republican and Democratic voters, who want more and better trains and are willing to spend more Federal dollars to get them.
Your Association worked with Change Research – a professional public-issues polling firm in California – to commission a nationwide survey of attitudes toward spending on passenger rail in the wake of passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. As of today, all of you advocating for trains in your communities now have one more arrow in your quiver, and we hope you’ll use it!
In brief, we found:
* 78% of Americans support passenger rail investment, including 95% of Democrats and 61% of Republicans
* 60% of those surveyed would have supported spending $100 billion for passenger rail in the infrastructure plan – one-third more than the $66 billion guaranteed in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. And nearly half – 42% -- would have gone even higher!
* Two thirds of those surveyed think there should be a “National” railroad plan. In addition, 66% of Americans also think there should be a National High Speed Rail plan.
* Some 64% of Americans support the idea of using tax dollars to pay for upkeep on tracks and trainsets – roughly similar to the number of Americans who support using Federal dollars to fund the U.S. air traffic control system, and much higher than the 47% who think Federal dollars should be used to maintain airports.
* And then there’s my personal favorite: only 27% think Amtrak should be expected to make a profit for the government; 61% think it should not.
None of that is stopping anti-Amtrak forces in Congress from sharpening up the steely knives as they head into this midterm-election shortened legislative session, however. Just today, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.)’s opposite number on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), introduced a bill with the ominous title “To amend title 49, United States Code, to encourage economic sustainability of intercity passenger rail service, and for other purposes.”
Well, we all know what THAT means.
I warned all of you last year that we will need to stay vigilant and committed this year to ensure that the once-in-a-generation gains we worked so hard to achieve in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law aren’t reversed. One of the most important policy wins was the rewrite of Amtrak’s mission to ensure that passengers were more important than profits, and that communities all across America would be benefit economically from the taxpayer dollars being invested in Amtrak...not just communities that can produce an above-the-rail profit for Amtrak.
For those of you planning to participate in our annual Day on the Hill legislative outreach next week, these new survey results are especially important. They show that broad majorities support the rail investment and policy changes achieved last summer and fall, and that backsliding in a midterm-election year might just be the wrong strategy for a member of Congress. Why would you run against a broadly popular program supported by both parties?
For those of you who haven’t thought about setting up a meeting with your congressional delegation, this is a perfect time to do it! Congress has become used to virtual, Zoom, or online meetings and many of our Day on the Hill meetings scheduled this year are already going to be virtual. So that means even if you can’t make it to Old Town Alexandria, VA, this year, you can still add your voice to the hundreds of others who will be pressing their congressional representatives to HOLD FIRM, and MAINTAIN THEIR SUPPORT for passenger rail. Click on this link for all the tools you need to set up meetings with your congressional delegations, and to let us know about those meetings so we can add them to our campaign!
"The Rail Passenger Association's recognition of the essential work done by SMART-TD members aboard Amtrak during this difficult period is appreciated. The Golden Spike Award serves as a testament to the compassion and dedication our conductors, assistant conductors and other workers exhibit constantly through times both ordinary and extraordinary."
Jeremy Ferguson, SMART-TD President
December 21, 2021, on the Association awarding its 2021 Golden Spike Award to the Frontline Amtrak Employees.