Amtrak National Network Campaign 2018, Commentary

Why Anderson thinks he is doing the right thing – Amtrak’s mission statement

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.


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”?

Our Goals

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.


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