Tom Carper of Macomb has completed his four-year term as chairman of the Amtrak Board of Directors.
Carper feels Amtrak enjoyed success during that period, though sometimes it was frustrating because the federal government has no dedicated source of funding for passenger rail service.
“So every year, we’re in the budget. So every year, people who don’t like passenger rail or whatever can take a whack at Amtrak. That’s frustrating,” Carper said.
He pointed out Amtrak never knows what its funding level is going to be from year-to-year, which makes it more difficult to plan for the future.
Nonetheless, Carper said it was a great experience to serve as chair. He said ridership and revenues are up for Amtrak, and he praised CEO Joe Boardman and others who’ve been hired to run the passenger rail service.
Carper served as Macomb’s mayor from 1991 – 2003, and he said that provided valuable experience for serving as board chairman.
“Being the mayor of an Amtrak community – I think if you put that term in there it makes a big difference. You know what passenger rail can do for your community, and I’ve seen that firsthand, not only in Macomb but in all the other communities in Illinois and around the country,” Carper said.
Carper said he had no thoughts of becoming chair when he was appointed to the board. He just wanted to serve and do the best he could.
Carper said it was an honor to serve on behalf of something that he philosophically believes in, and he said it’s gratifying to have people from across the country look at Illinois as the model for creating successful in-state Amtrak routes.