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Keep the trains on track

The Reagan administration wants to eliminate subsidies for Amtrak, commuter rail, and mass transit. Funding at state and local levels can't preserve a national or a regional system, because they can seldom agree on what each government should do. The amount saved would be minimal, compared with what is spent on other government programs, including airports and highways. Between 1981 and 1985, Amtrak reduced its dependence on federal subsidies by 23.7 percent; and revenue-to-cost ratio has risen 21 percent (1985 estimate). Since 1971 Amtrak has replaced all the worn-out cars and locomotives with new or rebuilt equipment; built new repair shops to maintain equipment; replaced steam heat with electric -- to eliminate former freezing problems; obtained agreements with unions for more productivity; secured better cooperation from the railroads on which its trains run; upgraded the tracks Amtrak owns; improved its on-time performance; rebuilt or replaced many stations; and installed a nationwide computer reservation system. This investment will be thrown away if the government withdraws its support.

Commuter rail and mass transit would be affected as well. John J. Bowman Jr. Lancaster, Pa.

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