Let’s Go to Bat for Passenger Trains.
Over the past couple of years, at least two or three dozen of you have either posted comments or emailed me directly expressing disapproval of the direction being taken by Amtrak’s president, Richard Anderson, and his management team. Specifically, you have objected to Anderson’s “quick fix” efforts to achieve break-even by ruthlessly cutting costs, adversely affecting the long-distance train travel experience.
Unfortunately, some of the costs already cut had been providing special experiences and services that made long-distance train travel so enjoyable.
The harsh reality is that Amtrak’s long-term survival rests with Congress. The Rail Passengers Association has a list of concerns which are the basic talking points that our staff and our members have been presenting to Congress in the hopes of increased Congressional support.
1. We’re asking senators, who vote for appointees to the Amtrak Board of Directors, to reject nominees who do not acknowledge the need for Amtrak’s national network. (One pending nominee, whose name was submitted by President Trump, is a former Member of Congress who voted against any federal funding for Amtrak on at least three occasions.)
2. Ask also for the Congress’ support in repealing former Rep. John Mica’s ill-conceived requirement that Amtrak must break even on food service.
3. Acknowledge that reasonable minimum levels of onboard service and staffing of stations must be maintained throughout the national system and paid for through both appropriations and reauthorization.
4. Ask that they oppose any future efforts by Amtrak management to do away with or break up the routes of any of the long-distance trains.
5. Remind legislators that for millions of Americans all across the west and midwest, long-distance trains are the only affordable public transportation available to them.
There’s more, of course. A lot more. But if a majority of the members of Congress acknowledges and agrees with these five points, we can all stop trying to SAVE Amtrak and start trying to IMPROVE it.