Amtrak advisory, and a comment

See the special commentary at the end.

Special employee advisory
September 8, 2011

Message from Joe Boardman

Dear Co-workers,

The House Transportation Housing and Urban Development Appropriations
Subcommittee has released a proposal for FY ’12 that would significantly reduce Amtrak’s federal funding, specifically the operating support.

The proposal also prohibits the use of federal operating funds provided to Amtrak to be used for state-supported trains. If enacted by the full Congress, it would effectively eliminate nearly 150 weekday state-supported Amtrak trains and negatively impact the more than nine million passengers who ride those trains each year, and the communities they live in.

While I am intent on doing our very best to continue to carry out our mission of providing national service, the cuts in funding would mean job losses for Amtrak.

The House proposal is shortsighted and steers our national transportation policy down the wrong road. It will force states that have made decades of investment in passenger rail, and have made rail an important part of their future transportation plans, to eliminate service.

Under PRIIA, which was passed by Congress in 2008, we are already working cooperatively with our state partners to shift more of the costs of state-supported trains directly to the states.

Amtrak is part of the solution, not the problem. We’re on the verge of setting new ridership and ticket revenue records. We serve as a local and regional economic engine for communities across the country, we help relieve congestion and we help reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil. And we provide 15 states — nearly half of our departures — the service they want to meet their transportation needs.

We will continue to meet with members of Congress to make our case nd explain the repercussions of this budget proposal. This is the start of the legislative process for FY ’12, but don’t expect this to be like other years in recent history. We are living in a very tough political and economic climate, and it’s going to be a challenge.

Sincerely,
Joe Boardman
President and CEO

Comment by Russ Jackson, RailPAC Associate Director This is definitely not good news for passenger rail in California and other states that support rail corridors such as Washington, Oregon, Illinois, New York, and North Carolina. With the exception of North Carolina, each of these states is considered a “blue” state. North Carolina currently has a “blue” Governor. Politics is the enemy of the continuance of government-supported passenger rail, whether it be Amtrak’s long distance trains or, as we now find, state-supported corridor trains are included. If the motivation is to get the states to contract with private operating companies instead of Amtrak, that idea has some merit. In the short run we are sadly now entering another trauma for not only Amtrak but also for passenger rail at all levels. We know much of the fault for this situation lies with Amtrak’s past refusal to actively pursue growth that would contribute to a more prosperous bottom line. The fact is we are at a point in history where the entire concept of intercity and interstate passenger, high speed or conventional rail, is facing problems beyond the squabbles of the past. While I don’t think the Congress will approve of draconian measures for passenger rail or most anything else under attack, passenger rail supporters must keep aware of the possible consequences ahead.

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