The sign at Princeton Junction, one of New Jersey’s biggest train stations, says it all: “Attention, this is a minimal service Amtrak location.” Even though we are the most densely populated state in the nation, Amtrak does its best to ignore us despite the heavy subsidies they receive from our tax dollars.
Let’s compare New Brunswick (pop. 50,000) with Aberdeen, Maryland (pop. 14,000). Where does Amtrak stop more? In a given direction, trains stop five times each weekday in Aberdeen, but only twice daily in New Brunswick.
Let’s compare airport service. Newark Airport has an average of 432 flights per day, and gets 10 northbound Amtrak stops a day. Baltimore-Washington Airport has an average of 292 flights per day, and gets 27 northbound Amtrak stops daily. Which airport do you think serves more federal bureaucrats?
Finally, let’s compare New Carrollton, Md., and Princeton. The Maryland station gets 20 northbound stops while Princeton gets only 10. Amtrak serves both ends of the state by stopping in Newark and Trenton, but ignores the rest of the state.
The discrimination extends to price. It takes about 40 minutes to travel from Washington to Baltimore on Amtrak. A regular train costs $19. This works out to just under 50 cents a minute. It takes about 48 minutes to go from Princeton Junction to New York. A similar train at the same time of day costs $54, or more than twice as much per minute.
Amtrak not only refuses to stop and pick us up, but they also insist on the right to delay New Jersey Transit trains. Amtrak says that since they own the tracks, they have the right to make our trains wait whenever we might be in their way. It is akin to having a street intersection where the traffic light turns red on us anytime a car with out-of-state license plates approaches the intersection.
Generally, New Jersey gets back fewer federal dollars as a percentage of federal taxes paid than any other state. So we’re doing more to subsidize Amtrak than anybody. No state has greater mass transit needs. Still, they refuse to provide us with a reasonable service or fair fares.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Rep. Frank LoBiondo are New Jersey’s congressional members on the Senate and House committees that deal with transportation issues. If you care, let them know. We subsidize an operation that abuses us. If Amtrak went bankrupt, the tracks would still be there. A successor entity could hardly do a worse job serving New Jersey. We should have the leverage in Congress to force Amtrak to provide better service to us.