Starlight should go to Klamath Falls and Eugene with bus bridge   February 12th, 2008

Further communication from the RailPAC President to the Amtrak President NOTE: Full restoration of service for trains 11/14 is anticipated for March 3, but LIKELY will be much later. Also see “Partial restoration” article below.

11th February, 2008
Mr. Alex Kummant
President and CEO
Washington DC


Dear Mr. Kummant:

I just watched the CBS evening news with a very positive segment about Amtrak, and a quote from yourself to the effect that you could grow the business by 50 to 100%. We agree, we are equally positive about passenger rail and go out of our way to campaign for improved and new passenger service. Indeed, with perhaps the exception of Apple, I doubt that any corporation in the USA enjoys as much loyalty from its users as does Amtrak. One of the selling points touted in the CBS segment was reliability. While admitting that the national system was not so good, the implication was that rail travel could not only be a more reliable alternative, but overall a better experience than travel by air.

It is for that reason that I am writing again to urge you to re-instate the Coast Starlight throughout its length, with a bus bridge between Eugene and Klamath Falls. If you truly wish to grow the business then we believe you have to demonstrate that your service can be relied upon, even under these difficult circumstances. And you have to demonstrate this not only to the traveling public but also to the federal, state and local politicians on whom you rely for funding. The alternative, indefinitely suspending the service until well into the spring, can only have a disastrous effect on your summer bookings as passengers will make other plans.

I have heard various objections to re-starting the service, both operational and economic. I have made my own enquiries, and I believe these naysayers are being entirely too negative. Indeed, for the few days that you operated to Klamath Falls I am told that the operation went quite smoothly after the first couple of days. I also believe that the cost of the bus operation could be reduced if you give the operator a contract for three or four weeks, as appears to be necessary.

You could turn this into a positive by demonstrating to the towns along the route with press releases etc. that Amtrak is in business and doing its best to get people to where they want to go. There are plenty of local papers and radio stations with low advertising rates where you can place station specific adverts letting people know what you are doing. We have advocated this type of low cost, route specific selling for many years.

On a slightly different note, I received a letter from your General Superintendent, Mr. J.W. Deely, dated January, 24. In it he includes the following statement after mentioning the President’s Emergency Board award: “Additional service cuts are also presently being considered to accommodate the award on a system-wide basis”. I view this as an extraordinarily negative statement, particularly when compared to your positive outlook on CBS this evening. I hope Mr. Deely does not represent Amtrak’s philosophy. We’ve been along the road of trying to cut service in order to reduce the deficit and we know it doesn’t work. I hope he was shooting from the hip rather than presenting company policy. All the statistics we receive indicate increasing revenues, and overall growth in the use of the system. We’d like to be reassured that Amtrak intends to grow itself to prosperity by running more trains and selling more tickets, not by the previously tried and failed means of reducing service.

You can be assured that any positive moves on Amtrak’s part to restore service, and overall to grow the system, will be welcomed by this and like-minded groups throughout the country. We are your best (and least expensive) public relations, word of mouth sales, and political lobbyists. The ball is in your court.

Yours faithfully,
Paul J. Dyson

PS: Someone needs to update your website. There is NO mention on the home page that the Coast Starlight is not running, nor will you find this out in the schedule or fare section. If you try and buy a ticket for the non-operating segment you are given a message that no train exists! No apology, no “hope to resume service soon”, nothing! Attention to detail is important.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 12th, 2008 at 2:53 PM and is filed under Commentary, Issues.