Photo Credit: @CassMcD via Twenty20
How Amtrak Service Cuts Will Hurt Black Communities
Amtrak’s long-distance trains have operated daily for almost 50 years. Still, once the coronavirus pandemic hit, the train service is joining the travel industry with cutting back on services and limiting routes.
On. Oct. 1, most of Amtrak’s long-distance trains will go from daily operations to just three times a week.
Amtrak’s chief marketing and commercial officer, Roger Harris, told USA TODAY that the changes are not intended to be permanent, and it’s Amtrak’s full intention “to go back to daily.”
But these temporary cuts will largely impact majority-Black communities in southern states where Amtrak is used more by this demographic than the general population.
According to a passenger survey, African Americans are 13% of the U.S. population, but 19% of Amtrak’s ridership. Amtrak’s train routes serve numerous predominantly Black-communities such as Greenwood, Mississippi, where more than 70% of residents identify as Black.
According to Amtrak, Greenwood is the second-busiest stop on the City of New Orleans between Memphis and New Orleans. According to Census data, other busy stops include Jackson, Mississippi, and the Crescent, where more than 60% of residents are Black.
Amtrak’s Role In The Great Migration
Amtrak was created in 1970, but the company inherited trains that played a key role in transporting African Americans from the south to the north known as the Great Migration.
The Illinois Central, the Southern, the Atlantic Coast Line, the Seaboard Airline have all since merged into other companies but was responsible for routes from New Orleans to Chicago, the Crescent to New York, and so much more.
Even though the means of transportation has evolved, Amtrak sill operates its trains on the same rails that remain vital to travelers of color.