Leaders of RailPAC, All Aboard Arizona, Southwest Passenger Rail Association and the Rail PAssenger Association (NARP) met in Mesa AZ Saturday in the first steps to set up a coalition to support the National Network trains, especially in the west. We’ll be working to add support groups in Colorado, Oregon and Washington, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and New Mexico. We are gravely concerned at what seems to be the determination of Amtrak to find a reason to stop running trains 3 and 4 (Southwest Chief). Is Amtrak merely trying to dump the expenses onto the States (by law, if there is no freight traffic then Amtrak must pay for maintenance), or is this the first step in removing the trains, soon to be followed by the Sunset Limited and other routes.
Our strategy is simple. Numbers count. We need to make a lot of noise, to show Amtrak and the Congress that we will not accept any curtailment in the National Network and indeed we insist that these trains get a reasonable share of Amtrak’s capital grant. In simple terms that means locomotives and cars. It’s as basic as that.
We have friends in the Congress. We need to add the California and Nevada delegations to this group.
More information will be posted here in the next few days.
Take a look at the announcement for the Summer Train Fest:
As I write we have not received an invitation, even though we were regularly invited to National Train Day activities. Apparently we have to be approved by Metro, Metrolink and LOSSAN, possibly Amtrak as well although since Amtrak laid off all their marketing staff they are unlikely to participate. And since Amtrak is also doing its best to eliminate private cars from its trains I hear the organizers are having a tough time lining up much of a display.
Whatever happens, I’ll be there representing RailPAC, and I’ll have information to distribute about the Southwest Chief, and other hot topics. If you care to join me please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Amtrak Press release:
Amtrak to Improve National Network Locomotive Fleet
New or rebuilt locomotives will provide more reliable service, a smoother ride and improved safety features
WASHINGTON – With demand for Amtrak service at record levels, Amtrak is moving to either acquire new locomotives or rebuild its current diesel fleet of locomotives to supplement and replace its aging National Network diesel locomotive fleet used on Long Distance and some State Supported routes.
In a Request for Proposals (RFP), Amtrak is seeking to rebuild its current diesel fleet or purchase a minimum of 50 to 75 next-generation locomotives, with options to rebuild or acquire additional units. The locomotives will offer the latest safety features, have more horsepower, and the lowest emissions possible.
“Our diesel locomotive fleet is nearing the end of life expectancy and we must act now to modernize Amtrak for the future,” said Amtrak President & CEO Richard Anderson. “We expect that any new, state-of-the art locomotive will offer improved reliability, a smoother ride, improved safety features and make major contributions towards lowering emissions and we’ll also consider how rebuilding options of the current fleet could achieve these goals.”
The rebuilt or new locomotives will primarily replace Amtrak’s aging P40 and P42 locomotives, some of which have been in service for more than 25 years. As part of the contract award for the locomotives, Amtrak will also seek to enter into a multi-year Technical Support, Spares and Supply Agreement to ensure an optimal and cost-effective maintenance strategy.
Amtrak is working aggressively to make immediate changes to the customer experience with improvements including refreshed trains, new fare structures, improved on-time performance, enhanced Wi-Fi connectivity, upgraded facilities and expanded onboard experience options.
Additionally, the rebuilt or new locomotives are part of Amtrak’s long-term upgrades that include buying modern equipment, including new Acela trainsets; ongoing improvements at New York Penn Station and the new Moynihan Train Hall; and further development of stations in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia.
A link to the RFP can be found here.
Amtrak offers a more comfortable and convenient travel experience with free Wi-Fi on most trains, plenty of leg room and no middle seat. With our state and commuter partners, we move people, the economy and the nation forward, carrying more than 30 million Amtrak customers for each of the past seven years. Amtrak operates more than 300 trains daily, connecting more than 500 destinations in 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian Provinces, and reaches 400 additional destinations via connecting bus routes. Learn more at Amtrak.com.
We’ve only been waiting for about 20 years. it will be interesting to see what level of emission controls they will get from rebuilt P42s. At least some of the will likely go to Siemens at Sacramento for Charger diesels but at $7 million each they won;t get many for their money. I also hope that they will incorporate the emissions systems developed by Rail Propulsion Systems in Fullerton. Go California!
Amtrak’s actions regarding the Southwest Chief, threatening to stop running the train through western Kansas, Colorado and eastern New Mexico via the Raton Pass have run into opposition from the Senators for those states.
RailPAC will be asking California and Nevada Senators to write in support of their colleagues. Please support our efforts by writing to Feinstein and Harris, or Cortez Masto and Heller if you are in Nevada quoting the above news report. Any curtailment in the operation of the “Chief” sets a very serious precedent for the national system which we cannot let pass.
Here are a couple of sample letters to cut and paste in whole or in part. The first objective is to get our California Senators, Feinstein and Harris, to recognize the problem and to take action with their fellow Senators:
Dear Senator ( ):
Thank you for your support of passenger rail, including the Amtrak national network. I believe that this system of trains and connecting buses is a great asset, providing essential mobility and links between both urban and rural America. Amtrak is carrying record numbers of passengers on ALL its routes, many of which serve communities where there are no longer alternatives such as local air service or intercity bus. Many people choose rail, even with a longer journey time, because of the greater comfort and on-board experience, and many people simply have a fear of flying.
We know that Amtrak is not a profitable operation. We do know that most public support goes to maintain the expensive infrastructure of the North East Corridor (“NEC”). We also know the State supported corridors are either a break even or profit center for Amtrak. The long-distance trains are a bargain for the taxpayer and represent about a third of Amtrak’s business. Without them the States would be paying far more for their corridor services, especially California.
It has become apparent that Amtrak management, using metrics and policies based on airline experience, is obsessed with destroying the national network. Recently retired Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman has just issued a statement with the same message. By cutting on board dining and other amenities, and failing to invest in locomotives and coaches for the past twenty years, they are deliberately downgrading the service and driving away customers. We believe they are doing this in attempt to squeeze more money from the States, in order to fund the backlog of infrastructure projects on the NEC. The NEC is important, but not at the expense of passenger rail for the rest of the country.
We believe that investment in and improvement of the national system is the way to go. California can build the locomotives and passenger cars needed to expand and replace the existing fleet. A positive approach from a new Amtrak management team will attract more business, including tourists, as well as a growing population of retirees.
I request that you work with your fellow Senators to pressure transportation Secretary Chao to appoint knowledgeable and forward-thinking members to the Amtrak Board who can then appoint a CEO that wants the company to succeed, not to destroy.
Next is a generic letter for your Mayor, County Supervisor, Chamber of Commerce etc.
Dear Mayor ….
Amtrak’s national system of trains and connecting buses serves hundreds of communities throughout the country. It is a vital link between urban and rural America providing basic transportation needs to many communities that no longer have intercity bus or local air service. In addition, many Americans simply have a fear of flying, and many more have a preference for the ambience of train travel without the stress of airports. Amtrak is also a tourist attraction, bringing in revenue from overseas visitors.
Recently appointed Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson (formerly with Delta Airlines) does not understand the passenger rail business and is foolishly trying to save money by breaking up the network into short corridors. His purpose is to save money by transferring the financial responsibility of these short corridors to the States through which they run, so that Amtrak’s federal funds can be used to rebuild the North East Corridor (“NEC”). I acknowledge that the NEC is important and has major problems, but these should not be fixed at the expense of the rest of the country.
Joe Boardman, recently retired Amtrak CEO has just has just issued a similar warning, that Amtrak management is destroying the national network.
Please join the Rail Passenger Association of California and other advocates around the country in fighting to preserve this mobility option. Let Senators Feinstein and Harris know that we support their efforts to appoint pro-rail members to the Amtrak Board, and to replace the management with positive, forward-thinking individuals who believe in their mission.
Amtrak Campaign – Talking Points
If you are contacting any of your elected representatives, here are some talking points:
If the western long-distance trains are eliminated:
There will be no connected train network, only isolated corridors or local services. A connected network of over 500 stations will be replaced by “islands” of service with many fewer travel choices.
If the western states want passenger rail they have to pay, no more federal program. The corridors Anderson proposes will require state funds, which most states cannot afford or will not support.
Another massive transfer of funds to the Northeast Corridor (“NEC”).
Amtrak deliberately running the service down. No new investment in Superliners and locomotives for 20 years or more, now removing diners, parlor cars, station agents.
Brand New Dining Cars going into storage.
Will destroy most passenger rail service west of the Mississippi.
Loss of jobs, especially in California. Train crews, on board service, car attendants, maintenance personnel.
Transfer of costs to State corridors. Currently the California corridors share administrative and maintenance facility costs with the long-distance trains. Amtrak will be California 100% of these charges if the long-distance trains go away.
Many of Amtrak’s initiatives have been tried before. They more revenue than the costs that they cut.
By all means add in your own thoughts, experiences etc.
Here are some useful links:
Find your Senator and Representative
Let’s get busy and make some noise. We need to contact our representatives at every level to express our concern. TODAY!
Any questions, contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
In a surprise development, Joe Boardman, former Amtrak CEO, has written a scathing article in Railway Age criticizing the policy of the current Amtrak Board and CEO. When I get permission I’ll reproduce it here. Boardman states that the national network, and especially the long distance trains, are threatened by a philosophy that seeks to convert the system to short haul day only trains, sponsored by the States, so that the federal funds given to Amtrak can be used for NEC projects like “Gateway”. Sound familiar?
Here is the full story, courtesy of Railway Age. Joe Boardman writes:
Having spent much of my productive life at the state and federal levels observing, studying, regulating and then leading a rail management team, I am appalled with what increasingly appears a unilateral violation of the public trust by Amtrak’s current leadership to dismantle our interconnected, intercity rail passenger network, beginning with hollowing out of its long-distance passenger train service.
Amtrak is not a privately held corporation whose fate is to be determined by a few individuals behind closed doors. It was created by the people and for the people and is funded by taxpayers who help to supplement Amtrak’s farebox revenue. Amtrak provides a cherished public service, with opinion polls repeatedly validating support for its existence and even expansion.
The role of Amtrak leadership is to operate the railroad and its various lines of business safely, efficiently and in accordance with congressionally approved statutes. It is the role of congressional lawmakers who answer to the public to determine the fate of Amtrak, and only through a transparent legislative process.
From materials I have seen submitted to congressional staff, Amtrak management has begun surgical communications in a way that does not provide a transparent discussion of what management is doing or intending to do. Quite the opposite of being transparent, Amtrak management is limiting the substance of public briefings, denying journalists access to relevant management officials and making decisions in isolation.
Evidence points to a covert effort to divide Amtrak’s political constituencies and create distrust and discord. Consider a current effort by Amtrak management to convince opinion leaders and decision makers that providing service via the Southwest Chief passenger train, which makes 31 stops between Chicago and Los Angeles, is somehow too costly.
Confirming this intent to eliminate the service, Amtrak has informed elected officials in Colfax County, N.M., that it will not provide its match for a recently awarded congressional grant intended to sustain operation of the Southwest Chief. This directly undermines a federal grant program that, while Amtrak president, I personally brokered with BNSF CEO Matt Rose to improve the BNSF route used by the Southwest Chief—a joint benefit to freight trains and Amtrak.
Additionally, Amtrak management is engaged in “weaponizing” safety to attack more broadly Amtrak’s long-distance network. Under a façade of “safety first,” there are threats to discontinue Amtrak operated passenger trains by Dec. 31, 2018, wherever Positive Train Control is not installed and operating. That is neither acceptable nor responsible.
Yet on route segments—some 100-miles or longer—where the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has decided to exclude a requirement for PTC, Amtrak responsibly intends to utilize a highly respected Federal Aviation Administration safety program to assess risks.
Certainly, commuter carriers operating in the congested Northeast will continue operating on non-PTC equipped track beyond the Dec. 31, 2018, deadline for its installation because other FRA safety measures will govern operation.
Halting New Jersey Transit or Metro-North commuter railroads because a PTC deadline cannot be met and other safety measures are in place would be ridiculous. If commuter carriers in the Northeast can continue operating beyond the Dec. 31, 2018, PTC deadline, then certainly the Southwest Chief can, also.
Indeed, there is additional mitigation for safety risks, such as Automatic Train Stop or even solar powered switch position indicators. And, yes, it will take time and funding, but neither Amtrak management nor its board of directors has made clear whether service would be continued while those mitigations are funded and completed. If it is not made clear by July, then Amtrak management and its board is validating my allegation of “weaponizing” safety to attack Amtrak’s national interconnected passenger train network.
Make no mistake: I am strongly in support of Positive Train Control technology, and my record as the nation’s rail safety regulator speaks for itself. Safety conscious railroaders know that PTC is not an off-the-shelf technology, and where the FRA has allowed extensions and exclusions, there are available safety mitigations.
A pattern is emerging of Amtrak management and its board of directors seeking, on its own and without public input and transparency, to hog all Amtrak federal financial assistance to complete Northeast Corridor (NEC) rail projects such as the Gateway Program, to procure new “city pair” trainsets for off-NEC operation, and to shorten Amtrak long-distance routes so as to shift costs to states, ultimately destroying Amtrak’s national interconnectivity.
I think current Amtrak management and its board of directors have drawn a line in the sand at the foot of Raton Pass, targeting the Southwest Chief as their first—but not last—long-distance train to target for cutting.
The Southwest Chief issue is the battleground whose outcome will determine the fate of American’s national interconnected rail passenger network. Said more simply, the battle is Raton Pass vs. Gateway. The history of public policy toward Amtrak is that you cannot have one without the other.
Congressional leaders have long asserted that without support for Amtrak’s long-distance trains, federal support for the Northeast Corridor will evaporate.
While there is eminent good reason to fund Northeast Corridor projects, there is equivalent good reason for preserving daily train service to, for example, Dodge City, Kan., La Junta, Colo., and Havre, Mont., where the economic impact is significant and other options non-existent.
Ignoring the political process and unilaterally abandoning service linking Denver with Albuquerque and Los Angeles is equally absurd and would not survive a transparent public process were it allowed.
Joe Boardman retired in 2016 after eight years as Amtrak president and CEO, making him second only to W. Graham Claytor Jr. as Amtrak’s longest serving CEO. Previously (June 2005-December 2008), he was President George W. Bush’s Federal Railroad Administrator. Earlier, Boardman was the longest serving Commissioner of Transportation in New York State history. In 2014, he was Railway Age’s 51st Railroader of the Year.
RailPAC Board members Doug Kerr and Steve Roberts attended this event, and their report follows. Chad Edison and State staff have been working hard to bring together the many State rail and transit agencies to make travel easier for the passenger, a long standing RailPAC goal.
On May 1 and 2 Steve Roberts and I (Doug Kerr) attended the California Integrated Travel Conference held on the UC Davis campus. Steve and I put together this summary. The conference was put on by the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA), Caltrans, and the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority. The two-day conference contained a large amount of content presented by many speakers. This is just a short overall summary. The major factor driving this initiative is the need to fully utilize existing and planned transportation assets if the state is to avoid transportation gridlock. Population growth in California will continue. We cannot continue to offer the same disjointed product, continue doing the same things we’ve done for the last fifty years.
If one thinks of the service integration as a three step process – First, gateway with a single portal to link systems with information and service options, Second, specific travel/schedule choice, ticketing/payment and ticket verification, and Third, station navigation, train boarding and connections – this conference focused on the second step, specific travel/schedule choice, ticketing/payment and ticket verification.
The conference was a first step in providing a process to integrate travel across the many modes, jurisdictions, and agencies that exist in the state. The end goal is to provide methods to plan a trip using multiple modes (such as corridor trains, rail transit, bus transit, and rideshare) and provide a single method for fare payment. As was noted above the conference focused on journey planning choice, ticketing and payment. While it appears the overarching goal is to incorporate all three steps, the immediate focus is on step two because the fast evolving technology and protocols can be rolled out in the near future. These innovations will drive customer service improvements and lower ticketing transaction costs. Needless to say, full service integration would require progress on the other two steps especially schedule coordination. The terms used often at the conference were Urban Mobility and Public Mobility. Transit services are looked at as one part of mobility which also includes rideshare, bikeshare, and any other mode to get from point A to B.
While some integration exists today in the US, for example Bay Area Clipper Cards can be used on BART, Muni, SMART, Golden Gate Ferry and others, there are still many exceptions such as Capitol Corridor trains do not accept Clipper Cards. There is also some integration on travel planning provided by sites such as Google, but these often don’t include all options and pricing.
In Europe and Asia the technology and protocols are more advanced. Examples of successful travel integration were presented from London, Toronto, Hong Kong, Sweden, Switzerland, and Germany. In all cases the integration produced increases in ridership and revenue justifying the time and expense of producing seamless travel. It also generated improved customer satisfaction by eliminating the frustration of searching different carrier websites and buying multiple tickets in order to complete a single journey.
Some emerging trends:
- More robust stored value cards (Clipper Card, TAP card, etc.) linked to a customer profile and database that would allow not only multi-carrier use, but calculate a through journey distance discount, discounts based on usage in lieu of 10-ride and monthly fare plans, and passenger class discounts (students, seniors, seniors, disabled, etc.) without the need to produce multiple types of cards.
- Solutions for the unbanked customers are under development. One near-term strategy pivoting around the reduction of the number types of stored value cards (i.e. student, senior, disabled, etc.) is increasing the number of distribution outlets (i.e. retail stores, 7-11’s, etc.).
- Information standards to allow easy merging of data sources i.e. carrier fares, inventory and schedules, etc. across multiple transportation operators.
- Calculation of the best fare. An underlying goal is for the customer to have confidence that the fare/ticketing system will always calculate the best fare. This does not mean that parallel transit bus, commuter rail and intercity rail have the same fares, it means the fare/ticketing system will always generate the lowest applicable fare for the journey choices of the customer.
- Contactless use of a credit card for fare payment. This is the next wave for credit purchases not only for transportation fares but for small retail purchases (i.e. Starbucks). This eliminates the stored value card for most riders. Linked with a customer profile and database all the features of an advanced stored value card fare payment are available, just tap your credit card and go.
- Mobile ticketing. Travel and schedule choice, ticketing and payment and ticket verification will be done via Smart Phone. The phone will be virtual wallet electronically scanned as the rider passes the platform entry gateway or barrier. Smart phones as virtual wallets that may soon be available for lower value purchases in retail stores.
All of these emerging trends increase customer convenience, reduce ticket transaction and settlement costs, get cash out of the system and speed the platform entry process. However, there is a need for non-carrier funding to jumpstart the process.
Some of the issues/barriers identified that hinder implementation include the following:
- Ease of use must be top priority. Often it is not. Sometimes what is done is what is most convenient for the operator. Focusing on this goal is important because the personal automobile travel often wins out because it is easier and simpler to use than figuring out public transit.
- The main impediments to integration are not technology based, but are tied to interagency agreements, governance, agency concern about loss of revenue and agency perceived threats of loss of independence.
- Public transit serves everyone, including those without smart phones, bank accounts and credit cards. Methods must still exist to accept cash payments.
- A multi-agency fare policy is critical. Fare policies, particularly involving discount amounts and requirements for various passenger classes (students, seniors, disabled, etc.) need to be “harmonized” across agencies.
- Integrated fares do not exist today. Transferring from one mode to another requires payment of separate fares and can become costly because the customer does not received the value of the distance based discount also known as a fare taper.
- The goal is to create one network consisting of multiple operators.
There were also some higher level discussions concerning the current poor utilization of urban streets, the need for right-of-way management and road pricing reflecting that road capacity is a scarce resource. Alternatives discussed were dedicated bus and bicycle lanes reducing the space allocated for personal automobiles.
Overall the conference, attended by over 100 people, was optimistic that integrated travel can happen in spite of the large amount of work to get there. CalSTA seemed willing to lead the way in the effort.
The recording of Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson’s presentation, plus audience questions, is now available. The Anderson segment begins at approximately One Hour and 46 minutes.
It seems to be taking an awfully long time for the implications of these remarks to sink in. RailPAC is currently reviewing the options, and sounding out potential allies, for a coordinated campaign to restore sanity to Amtrak policy. Stay in touch.
Why Anderson thinks he can, and should, destroy the National Passenger Rail Network
Paul Dyson, RailPAC President
Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson has interpreted PRIIA and other Amtrak legislation, and together with Amtrak’s flawed management information systems, has concluded that the national Network is a hopeless money loser. It is therefore his job to get rid of these losses by converting parts of the routes to “corridors”, i.e. day trains only up to about 400 miles maximum, and abandoning service on the rest. These corridors will be State subsidized or they will not exist. Do the Governor’s know this? I don’t suppose that Congress, especially the more rural districts with Amtrak service, expected this as the “thank you” for increased spending in the new budget.
The text below in black was provided by Jason Abrams. Amtrak Corporate Communications. It outlines the justification that CEO Anderson believes he has to convert the long-distance trains to shorthaul corridors, and thereby destroy the national network. Note that nowhere in the text does National network appear, nor overnight train, nor long-distance, in either a positive or negative light. Where were the passenger rail advocates when PRIIA was written, (me included)?
My comments are in Italics. Draw your own conclusions. As always your comments are welcomed. email@example.com
Amtrak’s Mission and Goals As Defined by the U.S. Congress through the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA) and codified in 49 USC 24101:
Our Mission “The mission of Amtrak is to provide efficient and effective intercity passenger rail mobility consisting of high-quality service that is trip-time competitive with other intercity travel options.”
Does Amtrak eliminate the route if not “trip-time competitive”?
Amtrak shall— 1) Use its best business judgment in acting to minimize United States Government subsidies, including— A) increasing fares; B) increasing revenue from the transportation of mail and express; C) reducing losses on food service; D) improving its contracts with operating rail carriers; E) reducing management costs; and F) increasing employee productivity;
2) Minimize Government subsidies by encouraging State, regional, and local governments and the private sector, separately or in combination, to share the cost of providing rail passenger transportation, including the cost of operating facilities;
For “Government subsidies” read Federal Government subsidies.
3) Carry out strategies to achieve immediately maximum productivity and efficiency consistent with safe and efficient transportation;
4) Operate Amtrak trains, to the maximum extent feasible, to all station stops within 15 minutes of the time established in public timetables;
5) Develop transportation on rail corridors subsidized by States and private parties;
Note that this ties in with Anderson’s remarks in Los Angeles 4/19/18. Convert a Federal program into a State program, keep the Federal money for….well guess where.
6) Implement schedules based on a systemwide average speed of at least 60 miles an hour that can be achieved with a degree of reliability and passenger comfort;
Most long-distance trains average about 40mph. The corridors are not much better. How will this be done?
7) Encourage rail carriers to assist in improving intercity rail passenger transportation;
8) Improve generally the performance of Amtrak through comprehensive and systematic operational programs and employee incentives;
9) Provide additional or complementary intercity transportation service to ensure mobility in times of national disaster or other instances where other travel options are not adequately available;
10) Carry out policies that ensure equitable access to the Northeast Corridor by intercity and commuter rail passenger transportation;
Open access for a competitor intercity operator?
11) Coordinate the uses of the Northeast Corridor, particularly intercity and commuter rail passenger transportation; and
12) Maximize the use of its resources, including the most cost-effective use of employees, facilities, and real property.
Minimizing Government Subsidies — Amtrak is encouraged to make agreements with the private sector and undertake initiatives that are consistent with good business judgment and designed to maximize its revenues and minimize Government subsidies. Amtrak shall prepare a financial plan, consistent with section 204 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, including the budgetary goals for fiscal years 2009 through 2013. Amtrak and its Board of Directors shall adopt a long-term plan that minimizes the need for Federal operating subsidies.