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House subcommitee to hold hearing on Amtrak NEWSWIRE

By Bob Johnston | November 12, 2019

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WASHINGTON — A hearing Wednesday to be held by the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials is expected to provide a forum for state operating authorities, unions, and the Rail Passengers Association to directly air concerns to lawmakers about the way current Amtrak management conducts its business.

“Amtrak Now and Into the Future will examine recent service changes implemented by Amtrak and consider the needs of the nation’s intercity passenger railroad to sustain and strengthen its existing network,” according to a statement released by subcommittee chairman Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.).

Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson is scheduled to appear. Trains News Wire has learned six other witnesses will provide different perspectives on how company policies are impacting the constituencies they represent. They include:

— Oregon state legislator Nancy Nathanson

— San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority Executive Director Stacey Mortenson

— Rail Passengers Association President and CEO Jim Mathews

— AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department Secretary-Treasurer Greg Regan

— Transportation Communications Union National Vice President Jack Dinsdale

— Sheet Metal Air Rail Transportation Division Illinois Director Bob Guy     

Topics likely to be addressed are Amtrak’s decision to reduce on-board food service options for coach and sleeping car passengers on its eastern trains; elimination of station agents and checked baggage service; Anderson’s stated intention to truncate long distance routes into disconnected short corridors; and the requirement that when buying a ticket, passengers are required to accept arbitration to settle disputes with Amtrak, rather than having the ability to sue.

It is also possible that questions regarding a recently filed lawsuit over Amtrak’s lease of HHP-8 locomotives may be raised by Subcommittee members. [See “Amtrak sued over lease of retired locomotives,” Trains News Wire, Nov. 12, 2019.]

The hearing will take place at 10 a.m. EST and will be live streamed here. It will be going on at the same time as the nationally televised Presidential Impeachment Inquiry hearings held elsewhere at the U.S. Capitol.  

15 thoughts on “House subcommitee to hold hearing on Amtrak NEWSWIRE

  1. This is why Amtrak will never succeed. All those decisions were good business decisions made with the intent of satisfying Congressional mandates to cover operating costs and save the taxpayers money. There are 3 union representatives, a railfan representative and 2 that I can’t figure out why they’re there. Where is the representative of the taxpayers? They are the ones that have the biggest concerns.

  2. ROBERT

    Best comment ever

    Regardless of how well or how poorly Amtrak is being run, these horses’ rear ends will not help.

  3. Robert and Charles,

    Just who do you think Oregon state legislator Nancy Nathanson represents…taxpayers, just because it’s one particular states taxpayers doesn’t mean taxpayers don’t have a representative. Also, Amtrak is like the US Postal Service, and the taxpayers have no say in how it’s run. As for the comments about those decisions being good business decisions made with the intent to satisfy Congressional mandates…I could propose decision that are 100% the opposite of the ones made with the same intent and design…and meet the same goals, but no one running Amtrak has common sense(which is really almost all a CEO needs, and a good grasp of what he’s dealing with…in this case Anderson has no grasp because he’s an airline executive and knows nothing about passengers that take trains and running trains).

    Am I saying I could do a better job…yes, I am…and I have just as much experience running a railroad as Dick does…except I read, have ridden and I know how people think.

  4. our country needs long distance amtrak trains without them people will never be able to eat, sleep, and see the country by rail.

  5. Having now looked her up on the internet at various sites, I can definitely say my local and rural PA state legislator and this Oregon state legislator from Eugene appear to have very little or nothing in common. Saying that we should accept the Oregon one as representing all American taxpayers is as meaningless as saying mine should represent all taxpayers.

    Having union and railfan representatives is also meaningless as all they want to do is basically try to recreate government passenger rail in either (1) the old private rail image or (2) in the image of the highly government subsidized rail in western Europe–all of whose countries are much smaller with totally different LD travel needs than the US. The passing of time eliminated the stagecoach in the US and the passing of time is eliminating the need for most of the traditional LD rail service in the US.

  6. What I would do if I met Nancy Anderson in a dark alley … well, let’s just say that’s for me to know and you to find out …

    The above comments are genetic in nature and do not form the basis for an attorney/client relationship. They do not constitute legal advice. I am not your attorney. Follow the yellow rubber line to your seat.

  7. Yo Steve! Just so you know the maintenance of America’s Highways and Airports cost way, way more than the subsidies that Amtrak receives from the Federal Government. You can look it up! Just as a FYI trains are the most efficient form of transportation there is. Each plane and bus can hold only a finite number of passengers; however a train is capable of adding more cars in order to accommodate more passengers if needed. Today’s locomotives use far less fuel per mile than a bus or car does; they are also way less polluting. So why do many politicians and some sectors of the American People think of Amtrak as a “tax eater” when it consumes far lower taxes than highways or airports; the latter being viewed as “investments.” Another little tidbit that I would like you to know, Steve, is that a growing segment of the population in the U.S. are rediscovering trains and want more train Service. Amtrak’s ridership level is expanding each year. I would also like you to know that all of Amtrak’s long distance trains are sold out months in advance each and every day.

  8. LOL! That witness list looks like the Empire is striking back to paraphrase the title of a Star Wars movie. Really do not care about the complaints of the unions, RPA, various state agencies that no longer get their way. I want Amtrak fixed at the National Level and Congress to give it a stable funding source that continues year to year without Congressional approval.

  9. ELIZABETH – Most people who comment on this site support the Amtrak subsidy. I should say subsidies plural, as Amtrak is subsidized at both the state and federal level. Including Republican me, and including Republican legislators and governors from my home state which is Wisconsin. We are past the point, though, ELIZABETH, where feel-good platitudes can substitute for analysis. You say trains are “far” more efficient than other forms of transport. “Way less polluting” you say. Both claims may approximate the truth, but there’s no overwhelming consensus of these two assertions. You say that the Amtrak subsidy is less than the highway subsidy. Yes, a chipmunk eats less than an elephant.

    Amtrak has been around for the best part of a half century – in other words, about half the time of what we now know as passenger trains has been in the Amtrak era. In that time – half the modern passenger train era – Amtrak has yet to prove its sustainability.

    ELIZABETH – To a substantial extent the free market works and to a substantial extent a serious examination the result of free market choices answers serious questions. End to end (Milwaukee to New Orleans, Chicago to LA, Florida to Washington) there’s no case to be made for Amtrak. The train’s only value is for intermediate markets – Carbondale to Chicago, Memphis to Jackson (Mississippi), Albuquerque to Barstow (California), Fargo to Spokane. Amtrak needs to show value to those markets or it’s gone.

  10. I for one think this hearing has better odds of revealing something of substance than the other media hyped circus in the adjoining room!

  11. All transport is subsidized. What would an airline ticket cost if there were no subsidy? Add it up. Airline operating and investment costs, airline profit, airport costs, FAA costs, and TSA costs. I would think far fewer could afford
    the tariff. That’s why the gov’t through taxes, subsidy’s are necessary to promote commerce. Same for our roads, and for that matter, trains.

  12. CHARLES – thank you for setting Elizabeth straight. I’m certain Elizabeth is now enlightened and grateful. I only wish that the rest of us were as knowledgeable as you think you are CHARLES.

  13. The Federal Govt has always “partnered” with aviation & highways to ensure they thrive & grow. Over 100 billion trfrd from the General Fund to the Hwy Trust fund since 2008 to keep it solvent. Amtrak has never been granted this status which explains its minimal role compared to passenger rail in other countries. The freight railroad have not benefited from this arrangement either which explains their dwindling role today and the future.

  14. You get what you pay for. In the case of Amtrak we(the taxpayers) have not paid hardly anything. And that is what we get from Amtrak hardly anything.

  15. Well, CHARLES, you sound like a bucket of laughs. Could you be any more condescending to a fellow reader? Please name me a passenger rail system anywhere in the WORLD, CHARLES, that is truly profitable when all expenses are accounted for. Last I knew, there might be one in Japan. But that’s it. I too have been a (moderate) Republican proponent of Amtrak, all while understanding that these trains cost a lot relative to the number of passengers hauled in some corridors — especially when compared to the airlines. But as usual, you’re using a double-standard, expecting Amtrak to be “sustainable” (please define?) while we know not a single airline in the U.S. would make a profit if they had to fully fund/maintain the ATC system and airports. So what’s the difference? Why is Amtrak required to be profitable by bureaucrats like Mitt Romney and Todd Rokita? And don’t even talk about the environment — do some homework on the carbon footprint of jets, OK?

    Many of Amtrak’s issue go back to 1971, when it was created with the expectation that it would just “go away” in a few years, but the public has voted for it to stay even though it has been treated like an unloved child by Congress for 48 years. The other issue has been that some of the unions have had a stranglehold on Amtrak for years, and it operates more like “government” than “quasi-“. Perhaps Amtrak as it is now needs to be “off’ed” and a new entity created. I’m an optimist, but after 48 years as that unloved child — just enough funding to survive but never able to thrive, and a lot of bad actors around it — our government either needs to get serious about realistic expectations or start anew. But, we’re talking the federal government here, so we know what’s going to happen. Nothing. And people like Mr. Landry will just get to keep complaining and enlightening the unwashed.

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