By Corinne Murdock |
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego heeded the call of Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner, urging for the addition of a public railroad to the city.
Gallego said that the railroad, or passenger railway, would make long-distance travel easier for both locals and visitors.
“An @Amtrak connection in Phoenix would make long-distance travel easier for Phoenicians and bring more visitors. Let’s get it done!” said Gallego.
The renewed calls for a public railway came after Gardner singled out Phoenix in recent public comments on his company’s intent to expand nationally. Gardner said it was an “embarrassment” that Phoenix doesn’t have his passenger railway company.
“(It is) frankly an embarrassment that we don’t serve such a major, prominent city,” said Gardner.
Amtrak applied for $716 million in federal funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to launch 16 projects nationwide, including Phoenix. The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) submitted a proposal to the federal Corridor Identification and Development Program (Corridor ID Program) to assist in the expansion. Additionally, ADOT provided $3.5 million.
Another proponent of the Amtrak expansion into Arizona, Rep. Greg Stanton (D-AZ-04), claimed that passenger railway would reduce the number of cars and therefore result in significant emissions reductions.
In a press release, Stanton also claimed that a public railway would provide an economic boost for the state.
“[It’s an] opportunity to connect our communities, make them more accessible and productive, and more internationally competitive,” said Stanton. “Opportunity to boost our regional economies with better access to jobs and more private investment along the route. Opportunity to ease congestion along Interstate 10 and help reduce air pollution.”
Likewise, Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) said Phoenix needed to join the other major cities in the country served by Amtrak.
“Phoenix is the largest city in the country not served by Amtrak, but thanks to our Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we’re working to fix that,” said Kelly. “This support for the Return to Phoenix Project will finally bring together Arizona communities, the railroads, and Amtrak to develop a comprehensive plan to connect Phoenix and Tucson with passenger rail and connect Phoenix to Amtrak’s nationwide network.”
Public railway, like other forms of public transit, suffers from high crime rates. According to Amtrak police, there were around 6,000 incidents and over 456,400 calls for police assistance in 2021. That’s based on the latest National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) data from the FBI.
That’s compared to about 5,000 incidents and 412,000 calls in 2020; around 6,700 incidents and 419,700 calls in 2019; around 6,100 incidents and 254,700 calls in 2018.
Amtrak has 30 routes consisting of 500 stops along 46 states. Based on their latest crime data report (2021), that’s about 12 incidents and 912 calls to Amtrak police at each stop annually.
In a press release on Monday, Amtrak explained that their applications were submitted through the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) programs funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA): the Corridor ID Program and the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Program. The essential goal of the programs is to establish a comprehensive national passenger rail network.