NARP: Just Another Audience to Amtrak President.

The first two days of the annual Spring meeting of the National Association of Railroad Passengers are almost over and, with something like 120 attendees, it is the most successful in NARP’s history. Yesterday was spent with meetings, panel discussions, and preparation for today, when we all disbursed on Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress as advocates for more and better and faster trains.

 The guest speaker at lunch yesterday was Joseph Boardman, president and CEO of Amtrak and there had been a great deal of speculation about what we might expect from his speech. Hopefully, we would get some real insights into the difficulties he has faced trying to run a national passenger rail system with 535 members of Congress and a politically appointed board of directors all telling him what to do.
It was not to be.
Boardman began by telling us this would be the third time he has delivered this particular speech. More than a few of us were taken aback by that comment because it meant we were essentially being blown off as just another audience. Once he got into his speech–which he read from rumpled sheets of paper–it was clear his remarks were indeed intended for audiences that don’t know a helluva lot about passenger rail.
He was, however, speaking to people who are very well-informed on this subject . . . members of a 50-year-old organization who came here from all over the country at their own personal expense and are spending the entire day today meeting with their senators and representatives urging more support for Amtrak, the chronically underfunded railroad of which Boardman is the president.
Joe Boardman has announced that he will be retiring in September. Clearly, it’s time.