Dave Weigel tries to find the answer to the burning question “Why do conservatives hate trains so much?”:
But it could hardly make less sense to liberals. What, exactly, do Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians have against trains? Seriously, what? Why did President George W. Bush try to zero out Amtrak funding in 2005? Why is the conservative Republican Study Committee suggesting that we do so now? Why does George Will think “the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism”?
“You need to distinguish between Republicans and conservatives and libertarians when you look at this,” says William Lind, the director of the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation. “It’s the libertarians who push this crap.”
Libertarians, of course, have no problem with trains (see, e.g., Atlas Shrugged). They do have a problem with federal spending on transportation, as do many Republicans. Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957; Amtrak took over the rails in 1971. Since then, conservatives will sing the praises of private rail projects but criticize federally funded projects that don’t meet the ideal. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., for example, pushed a high-speed rail initiative through Congress in 2008. By 2010, he was denouncing “the Soviet-style Amtrak operation” that had “trumped true high-speed service” in Florida. In 2011, as the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, he is interested in saving the Orlando-Tampa project by building 21 miles between the airport and Disney World. This is about 21 miles farther than local Republicans want to go.