LIRR and NJ Transit to Help Fund Amtrak?

amtrak LIRR and NJ Transit to Help Fund Amtrak?
Slithering out.

Troubled Amtrak has long worked well in the Northeast Corridor–Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, various Connecticut cities, Providence, Boston.

So now the Bush administration, according to The New York Times, has a new solution: Charge surplus-addled commuter rail systems in those cities for their use of Amtrak facilities–tracks, stations, etc.

The plan, according to The Times,

could hit New Jersey Transit hard, because it operates many trains over long routes. The Long Island Rail Road could be charged more for using Pennsylvania Station in New York City. Metro-North Railroad, which terminates in New Haven, runs on tracks owned by New York and Connecticut, but the Shore Line East, which runs east of New Haven, operates on Amtrak tracks and could be hit for more. Septa, which serves the Philadelphia area, and the commuter systems serving Boston, Wilmington and Baltimore would also be subject to new charges.

But can they actually do this? The commuter rails already have arrangements with Amtrak for the use of their facilities.

And in New York, where a greater portion of commuter rail is already funded through fare-paying customers, are Amtrak trains serving the region to be partially subsidized by suburban commuters?

As it is, the successful New Jersey Transit and Long Island Railroad lines are likely to be the ones footing the bill for the new Penn Station–which will be across the street from Amtrak’s old “vomitorium,” Penn Station. Remember the big plans for a rail hub that would welcome commuters to the city? To paraphrase Vincent Scully, now suburban commuters who already work in the city will be entering like emperors, while tourists slither in like rats.

- Tom McGeveran