Long distance Amtrak service may be cut from the Emeryville station if the Trump administration has its way. The White House has proposed cutting about half of the agency’s budget this coming fiscal year. Such a deep cut would end Amtrak long-distance train service nationwide, leaving just short-haul service intact.
If implemented, many small cities across America would lose a major form of transportation. Emeryville would not suffer the same fate, but the cut would sting nevertheless. Especially as one of Emeryville’s major points of pride.
Serving almost 600,000 passengers last year, our city’s Amtrak station was the fourth busiest in California and twentieth busiest in the nation. Since 1993, the station has been the hub for Bay Area train service. It took over Amtrak service from West Oakland’s 16th Street station after being damaged by the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.
More importantly, Amtrak service has brought name recognition to our small city. We’re the end of the line for historic California Zephyr service from Chicago and a major stop for the Coast Starlight and San Joaquin long distance trains. Its service rolls into our city with dining cars, sleeper cars, and other rolling artifacts that harken back to a long-distance train travel era of the past.
Emeryville’s name is also printed on timetables, station departure boards, and route maps nationwide. Not to mention appearing in innumerable Amtrak fan videos posted to YouTube and personal travel journals published online as well.
It’s the kind of cachet and name recognition that cities will pay thousands of dollars for. And brand recognition that cannot be easily replaced.
The effects of diminished service could also have a ripple effect on our hotels and the small businesses that rely on the traffic that the station generates. “I’d have to close,” noted kiosk operator Maryam Ettehadieh in this SF Chronicle piece. “The people making the decision, what do they care? They only care about money. You think the president cares about people without money?”
It is likely the greatest impact would be to the lower-income people who use the service as a cheaper alternative to flying. “Many other small towns across the USA would lose their ability to travel to the outside world to seek medical help, educational opportunities and job opportunities” as stated the below online petition that has already garnered over 200K signatures.
To be clear, train service wouldn’t disappear overnight if the budget cuts were approved. Regional service on the Capitol Corridor will continue through Emeryville. The service connects the Sacramento Region to San Jose with up to 15 trains a day.
This evening, Emeryville City Council will consider adopting a resolution authored by Vice Mayor John Bauters, imploring our federal representatives to oppose the Amtrak budget cuts. We at The E’ville Eye fully support this resolution.
It seems that every couple of years, we hear of a politician advocating for the complete privatization of Amtrak or to slash its federal subsidy. Back then, each threat came up empty. But under this new administration, such a service cut is more likely than ever to happen. Emeryville residents ought to support a historically significant service, a driver of economic growth, and a major point of civic pride.
Feature Image: Gfoley4 via Wikimedia Commons
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