Amtrak in Texas, 1979 CNXA60 LOS ANGELES NEW ORLEANS LONE STAR /AITEg AMERICAN SUNSET LIMITED Map by Laura Eisenhour Railroading It’s Amtrak-cutting season again, with train-haters inside govern ment and out urging that entire lines be chopped off and services axed. The inevitable result would be another decline in the number of riders, and next year these same opponents would be sure to cite the decline as rationalization for more cuts, or maybe even for killing the passenger train system altogether. Texas will be especially hard-hit if Congress allows the Department of Transportation to implement the reduction scheme its chiefs have drawn up. Only three Amtrak lines currently run through Texas, and DOT is proposing to eliminate two of them altogether \(the while reducing service on the Sunset Limited from daily to thrice weekly. Noting that DOT’s proposal would leave Fort Worth without train service, the Star-Telegram polled its readers last month on the question, “Do you think the Fort-Worth-Dallas area needs passenger train service?” Sixty-three percent of the respondents said “yes.” Such sentiments don’t seem to bother their congressman, however. Rep. Jim Wright has announced his strong support for the scheme, saying, “Sometimes economy has to begin at home.” Wright, in fact, would go even further than DOT; he said that not only the money-losers now on the block but also any other Amtrak routes that aren’t breaking even should be discontinued. That would be nearly all of them. There are people fighting to salvage the Texas Amtrak system, though. They’re led by such unlikely allies as the United Transportation Union and the Austin Chamber of Commerce, who have recently publicized some telling statistics to help us understand why the system fails: San Antonio is an important potential market for rail passenger service, yet the Lone Star arrives in the Alamo City at three o’clock in the morning on its westward run, and at 5 a.m. when it’s headed east. The Inter-American run through San Antonio dumps its passengers at a weed-filled field, because Amtrak will not improve station facilities. Congress appropriated $4.5 million specifically to improve the InterAmerican, but Amtrak diverted $2 million of that to other purposes. Amtrak has refused to repair 35 miles of track between Dallas and Austin, even though the repairs would reduce travel time between the cities by one to three hours and save the system $600 a day in switching charges. Currently, 69 percent of Amtrak’s budget is spent not on operating trains, but on administrative overhead costs. DOT’s latest proposal will cut Amtrak passenger service by 43 percent, but will reduce the agency’s funding requirements by only 8 percent. House members vie for “Child of the Year” When Austin Rep. Wilhelmina Delco offered a resolution to the House to invite Mrs. Andrew Young to address that august body. you’d have thought Delco was asking representatives to wholeheartedly embrace the philosophies of . . . well, of her husband, the outspoken United Nations ambassador. Delco thought it might be nice for Jean Childs Young; a noted educator, to speak to the House and Senate while she was in Austin for a conference on the International Year of the Child. \(She chairs the U.S. commission for this UN Legislators scuttled away from that idea faster than a Padre Island sand crab. Dallas Rep. Fred Agnich, using some logic understood only by him, beseeched members not to suspend the rules to call up Delco’s resolution because he feared the invitation would make the House the “laughing stock of the country” for the second timethe first time was in the 62nd session when that body praised the Boston Strangler for his efforts at “population control.” Dallas Rep. Clay Smothers was more direct in his opposition to the invitation: “I hate that son of a bitch Young,” he told a colleague after the vote. Delco was understandably upset at the 79 to 53 vote refusing to take up her bill, telling her colleagues after their action: “Thank you very much members, and I’m sure Mrs. Jean Young will thank you for the guilt by association.” Such invitations and suspensions-of-the-rules are hardly uncommon in the House already this session, members have verse, and extended speaking invitations to the Reverend Jesse Jackson. President Carter, Vice President Mondale and a State Department’Latin America expert. A week later, House Speaker Bill Clayton, Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and Atty. Gen. Mark White saved the Legislature’s collective face: Hobby made time for Young to briefly address the Senate: she had a chat with Hobby, Clayton and their wives; and White hosted an evening reception in her honor. Said she: “I feel much better to have had the chance to have this dialogue, even if there were some negative overtones to my visit.” Vicki Vaughan 12 MARCH 16, 1979
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