Boardman: Out With A Whimper, Not A Bang.
Being supporters and, in fact, active advocates for passenger rail in this country is a frustrating way to spend one’s time, energy and money—principally because we often don’t get much help from the people for whom we’re doing our advocating.
We keep suggesting ways to grow ridership and revenue, but in a hopeless attempt to placate the elements in Congress demanding they break even, Amtrak keeps taking the nickel and dime approach—cutting costs. First to go were the nice little touches that made a long-distance ride on Amtrak such a pleasurable experience . . . an experience for which we were once happy to pay top dollar. Today, it seems like we’re paying even more, but getting less.
Comes now Amtrak president and CEO, Joseph Boardman, who will be leaving his post in favor of retirement in the Fall of this year. In what was apparently supposed to be a confidential internal memo, Boardman has just asked every department head to come up with cuts to their individual budgets of 3.8 percent.
I clearly remember my former boss, the mayor of Honolulu, scoffing at that approach. “It’s the simple, lazy way out,” he said, his point being that some departments provided more critical services than others . . . that it was better to take the time and trouble to go through the budget item by item and cut where there would be the least impact on critical services for the taxpayers.
But here’s my favorite part of the Boardman letter:
“Revenues are continuing to decline,” he wrote, “and we haven’t successfully managed our costs, especially in the areas of salaries, wages and overtime.”
Did you note that phrase “and we haven’t successfully managed our costs … ”? I sure did. And you can bet your bippy that Congressman John Mica did, too.
Walt Kelly’s comic strip character, Pogo, said it best: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”