They've attacked Amtrak's federal subsidies, pared back routes, been stingy in replacing worn-out equipment — anything to kill passenger rail.
But Amtrak has hung on, fortunately, and may be hitting its stride, proving that in many situations the rails are a preferred alternative to travel by auto or air.
The railroad reports that ridership on its Springfield-to-New Haven shuttle, which runs up the Connecticut River Valley, reached an all-time high in March and is growing at nearly 5 percent for the year.
The total year-over-year ridership for Amtrak's nationwide network grew 4.8 percent in July to more than 2.9 million passengers — the most it has ever carried in a single month.
It is projecting a record-breaking year overall. "Amtrak is delivering record ridership across the country," says President Joe Boardman.
These impressive gains should aid efforts in Congress to fend off proposals to slash Amtrak's funding by more than 25 percent.
Amtrak is not in the same league as many rail passenger services in other developed countries. Still, more and more people are choosing it instead of inconvenient short-haul air travel or the hazards and cost of driving.
This promising preference for public transit is good news for planned Amtrak improvements and mass-transit projects such as commuter rail in the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield corridor and CTfastrak, the New Britain-Hartford busway.