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Letters: Bring back the trains

Johnson City Press • Nov 7, 2018 at 6:00 AM

In a recent Question of the Week, we asked for your thoughts on a proposal to bring Amtrak’s passenger rail service to the Tri-Cities. Your responses were overwhelmingly positive.

Tell me more

I was so excited to see the articles about Amtrak.

We have lived all over the country and retired here to beautiful East Tennessee where I grew up. We had often lived near an Amtrak line and continually searched for a way to get back to the area on Amtrak. It’s such a great way to travel.

What a boon it could be for easy access to our beautiful region. I am hoping to hear more about this and what we can do to encourage the possibility.

MARY FERN HAMPTON PHILLIPPE
Johnson City

Bring back the trains

I would like to see the train service as talked about in the Johnson City Press become a reality but carried even further down the line.

As a child, I recall riding the train from Johnson City to somewhere in Alabama, on what I believe was called the Tennessean with my parents. This train would drop down to Georgia, back to Tennessee, into Kentucky and finally arrive at our destination. Later, I rode the train to Knoxville on my way to basic training in Texas with transfers to bus and plane. I cannot recall the places or reasons very well, but the train rides will never be forgotten.

I am now 80, and if it was possible to catch a train in Johnson City and wind up on the trains in British Columbia (if I could afford to), I would sign up instantly. I have been in airplanes, cruise ships, buses and cars, but nothing is remembered as favorably as a trip on a train.

I recall the train stations, and on Saturdays we would go down and watch the trains pull in and out of the two stations. We had relatives somewhere in Virginia and would catch the passenger train up for a visit and return back home the same day.

I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the above other than the fond memories of riding the rails and the clacky-clack of the rail joints. It would be a shame if this transportation mode would disappear from our life.

I said all this to put me down as a YES, bring back the trains.

BOBBY R. HUFF
Johnson City

Federal subsidies are not an issue

The possibility of rail passenger service coming to Johnson City offers a viable alternative to the residents of upper East Tennessee for long distance travel.

Naysayers who deride the National Railroad Passenger Corp. (DBA as “Amtrak”) as a money-losing, government-subsidized entity do not look objectively at the facts.

Other modes of long distance travel, such as the airlines, indirectly depend on public subsidies to operate. User fees that airlines pay to airport terminal authorities only fractionally pay the total operating costs of these facilities. If the private airlines were responsible to own and maintain their own terminal facilities, pave and maintain their own runways, and pay for their own air controller services, then they too, would require a DIRECT taxpayer subsidy to operate.

In like fashion, the fuel taxes paid by motor coach operators do not totally fund their use of the public highways. They too, receive an indirect form of taxpayer subsidy from the driving public who pay gasoline taxes.

With these facts in focus, one can see that taxpayers already indirectly subsidize other modes of the passenger transportation industry, so the argument that only Amtrak drains the public coffers is not practicable.

For those who have flown recently and miserably dealt with the cramped conditions aboard an airliner, Amtrak offers wide aisles, comfortable reclining seating, and reasonable fares. Weather delays and cancellations are practically non-existent.

I urge the citizens of Upper East Tennessee to convince our local legislators and policymakers to support the extension of Amtrak services to Johnson City and beyond.

MIKE HOPSON
Johnson City

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