The Michigan Transportation Committee should be applauded for its approval of a subsidy to keep Amtrak service in East Lansing.
A $5.7 million subsidy to Amtrak was approved to keep the East Lansing stop in the Chicago-to-Toronto route for the 2001-02 fiscal year. Last year, the state Senate approved a $5.23 million subsidy to continue service.
In February 2000, Amtrak announced plans to eliminate the East Lansing, Durand, Flint, Lapeer and Port Huron stops in an effort to increase revenue by rerouting between Chicago and Toronto.
More than 107,000 trips are taken each year on Amtrak from East Lansing.
Amtrak service is critical to many students. Some students have few transportation options, and Amtrak is an inexpensive and efficient way for many to get home for holidays, family emergencies or weekend visits. Students who live in Chicago, Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Flint, Toronto or other cities serviced by Amtrak benefit from its services.
Not all students have access to a car, and parents may not be able to pick up students at a moments notice. Some students may be forced to find rides with strangers or be stranded in East Lansing. Although the bus is a possibility, it is good to have other options, and for some routes, it is comparable in price or even cheaper to take the train.
It is nice to see the Michigan Legislature is looking out for the needs of students. By approving the subsidy, more students have other transportation options. Although Amtrak service benefits the whole community by bringing more money into local businesses and providing an alternative to air and road travel for local residents to visit out-of-state cities, students stand to benefit the most from continued service.
Taking the train is also a convenience when taking vacations. Travelers do not have to worry about the cost of fuel, parking availability and fees, or traffic at their destination. It is also a cheaper alternative to air travel for longer trips.
Amtrak service also provides an alternate way for those who live outside East Lansing to attend MSU sporting events and other activities around campus. The university could only benefit from more visitors.
The Michigan Department of Transportation should also be applauded for working to improve Amtraks customer service and train arrival times.
MDOT has worked out a contract with Amtrak concerning the rail companys performance. The contract is waiting for approval by the state administrative board in early February.
East Lansing and surrounding areas benefit in many ways from Amtrak service. Rail service from East Lansing is critical to many students and beneficial to local businesses, residents and the university.
The subsidy to Amtrak is an admirable move by the Michigan Legislature and it should continue to subsidize Amtrak to keep students and East Lansing residents riding the rails.