We were surprised and pleased that a plank supporting passenger
rail service found its way into the Republican party platform at
the GOP Convention in Philadelphia last week.
It states: Our national railroad network is a crucial
component of our public transportation system ..., and our national
passenger railroad network remains a precious resource that can
play a key role in transportation and economic growth. Republicans
support a healthy intercity passenger rail system, and where
economically viable, the development of a national high-speed
passenger railroad system as an instrument of economic development
and enhanced mobility.
This is a big change from the Reagan administration, whose
budget proposals always included a big zero where the Amtrak
subsidy was supposed to be.
It is also noteworthy that this reversal comes at a time when
the GOP nominee is the governor of Texas, a state where high-speed
rail advocates lost a bloody battle a decade ago to gain support
for a network of fast trains to link the state's major cities.
No offense to Southwest or any other airline, but we've long
felt that Houston, Austin, Fort Worth and Dallas deserve high-speed
rail service at least as much as New York, Philadelphia and
The turnaround in the GOP's rhetoric is largely the work of
Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson, who chaired the GOP Platform
Committee and who also happens to be chairman of the Amtrak
Is this a great country or what?
The GOP platform also makes a passing reference to travel and
tourism as "a vital force for job creation with a positive annual
trade balance to boot."
That was nice, but, gee, it was only a passing reference. Maybe
the Democrats can do better.