As America increasingly is sheltering in place, losing unprecedented numbers of jobs and retirement savings, fearful of COVID-19, and facing a stress level unfamiliar except to those who have endured war zones, Amtrak and its workforce face only unpleasant choices if the railroad and their jobs are to survive. Fare-paying passengers have vanished—almost entirely on Northeast Corridor Acela trains; significantly on all others.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued an NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) for measuring the performance and service quality of Amtrak intercity passenger trains that operate on host freight railroad trackage. The proposed rule “would define Amtrak intercity passenger train on-time performance, and would set forth—on average—a minimum on-time performance standard of 80%,” FRA said.
William J. Flynn will become Amtrak’s next Chief Executive Officer and President on April 15, 2020, succeeding Richard Anderson. Flynn’s appointment follows “a planned executive succession process undertaken by the Board of Directors,” Chairman Anthony Coscia said.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) President of Construction & Development Janno Lieber detailed some of the core projects that will be awarded in 2020 as part of the historic $54.8 billion 2020-2024 Capital Program. In addition, the Partnership for New York City’s Transit Tech Lab, MTA and four other transportation agencies announced that nine start-up companies have been selected to pilot cutting-edge technologies that aim to improve accessibility, revenue generation and traffic congestion.
The first of 28 new Acela Express high-speed trainsets that Alstom is building for Amtrak in Hornell, N.Y., departed for the Federal Railroad Administration facility in Pueblo, Colo., for high-speed testing on Feb. 17.
Color it neither Democratic nor Republican. It’s Amtrak—or, more precisely, the Amtrak déjà vu. Since its 1971 creation by Congress as America’s national intercity passenger railroad, Amtrak’s survival has been a near-run thing dependent on a never absolutely certain—but always occurring—bipartisan congressional willingness to cough up subsidy.
How can the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania be freed from Amtrak’s abusive monopoly on intercity passenger rail service? This editorial is based on my Dec. 17, 2019 testimony before the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Transportation Committee, during which I spoke about creating viable rail passenger opportunities for Western Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia-Harrisburg corridor that could serve as a template for other states currently paying for Amtrak service under the bizarre federal legislation called PRIIA.
WATCHING WASHINGTON, RAILWAY AGE FEBRUARY 2020 ISSUE: Spending others’ money as if it were one’s own isn’t successful politics. Yet notwithstanding Congress’ current appetite for trillion-dollar annual deficits, there are limits to federal spending—especially on Amtrak, which labors perennially for but a miniscule portion.
The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) announced today that the Amtrak Downeaster achieved record-breaking ridership of 574,404 passengers in 2019, a 7.8% yearly increase. The previous ridership record of 546,056 passengers was set in 2017.
When it comes to the news of Jan. 16, 2020 of Amtrak approaching the State of Tennessee to gin-up interest in its latest pitch for the highly questionable PRIIA legislation, it is best to remember what long-ago Supreme Court Associate Justice Louis D. Brandeis once said: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” As this action looks like a maneuver to manipulate Congress to allow Amtrak to disassemble long-distance trains and reallocate their equipment, I intend to ensure sufficient sunlight is evident here when Amtrak touts its newly discovered Nashville-Atlanta route.