Happening Now

What Are We Doing About 3x Service?

July 2, 2020

There’s a lot happening right now, and it can be hard to keep up to date. This page is a resource to let you know about everything the Rail Passengers Association is doing to keep America’s trains running through the coronavirus crisis. We're speaking up for passengers at Amtrak, in the halls of Congress and in newspapers, radio and websites. But we're doing more than talking -- we're working with Congress to secure protections for passengers. Keep checking back on this page for the latest.

Speaking Up for Passengers

On June 15th, we issued a press release in response to Amtrak’s announcement that they would temporarily reduce operations on the long-distance routes to three times per week and cut state-supported services by 24%, calling the decision disappointing and misguided. We told Congress that any additional funds appropriated for Amtrak needed to buy certainty for workers and passengers over continued service.

We then immediately set about working with congressional allies to rally support for these essential services and the idea that the passenger rail network should continue to connect Americans during the pandemic:

Getting Results for Passengers

But it’s not enough to just talk about what we want—Rail Passengers has been working with Congress to ensure that real protections for sustainable service levels are passed into law.

Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2)

Through the Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2), which passed the House on July 1, Rail Passengers staff has successfully secured the following wins for passengers:

  • 400% increase in funding for passenger trains, for a total of $58 billion for passenger trains over five years;
  • Stipulated in law that Amtrak must provide reliable national intercity passenger rail service now and, in the future, reflect the needs of all passengers, and support the U.S. workforce;
  • Supported the passage of an amendment by Rep. Cohen (D-TN) to reinstate the recently eliminated dining car service on long-distance routes;
  • Secured concrete protections for Amtrak’s statutory right to preferential dispatching from host railroads, ensuring improved on-time performance;
  • Realigned the makeup of Amtrak’s board of directors to better reflect the interests of passengers and Amtrak-served states, securing a National Network seat on the board;
  • Supported creation of a working group—with passenger representation—charged with developing recommendations, and issuing a report within one year, on how to improve onboard food and beverage services;
  • Defeated an amendment by Rep. Crawford (R-AR) to eliminate Amtrak’s Preference Enforcement, which allows Amtrak to enforce its statutory right to preferential dispatching by initiating action before the Surface Transportation Board.

House FY2021 Transportation Funding Bill

House appropriators with jurisdiction over transportation programs gave Rail Passengers another significant victory on July 8, releasing a draft Fiscal 2021 proposal boosting regular Amtrak appropriations, setting aside at least $26 billion in additional emergency grant funds for Amtrak and public transportation, and tying the money to a requirement that Amtrak not cut staff or routes. Much of this reflects the priorities outlined by Rail Passengers in its March 17th request to the House appropriators supporting additional rescue funds for Amtrak and public-transportation agencies.

Program

House FY21 THUD Funding Levels ($M)

Rail - FY21

Amtrak - National Network

750

Amtrak - Northeast Corridor

1,300

Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements

500

Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair

200

Magnetic Levitation Technology Deployment Program

5

Rail Subtotal

2,755

Transit - FY21

Formula Grants

15,900

Capital Investment Grants

2,200

Transit Infastructure Grants

510

Transit Subtotal

18,610

BUILD Grants - FY21

1,000

Economic Recovery Funds - Rail and Transit

Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements

5,000

Magnetic Levitation Technology Deployment Program

100

Amtrak - National Network

5,000

Amtrak - Northeast Corridor

3,000

FTA Capital Investment Grants

5,000

BUILD Grants

3,000

Economic Recovery Funds Subtotal

21,100

Read more about the bill here.

Giving Passengers Access to Congress

We've built a tool to let you write to and Tweet your members of Congress. Many of you have already sent many thousands of messages. But we need you to send thousands more. Click here to use our tool to tell your Senators and congressional representatives YOUR story about how these cuts would affect you. We've done most of the work for you. Just click the link below, fill out some details, add your own story, and then send. It's that simple!

Just click here and make your voice heard!

In The News: Setting the Record Straight

CEO Jim Mathews and VP Policy Sean Jeans-Gail have been giving interviews to newspapers, radio and websites since May 25th, getting the facts out to the public to help raise awareness and activate the public. We've also given our data and talking points to Council members so that they can work with local reporters as well.

Critics Fear Amtrak Is Using Pandemic to Cut Service That Won’t Return – The New York Times

Amtrak to reduce New York-Florida trains starting July 6, with more cuts coming Oct. 1, USA Today

Amtrak to cut back on its longer routes because of virus, Associated Press

In transportation bill, a call for finer dining on Amtrak, Roll Call

Amtrak to end daily service on most long-distance routes starting in October, Chicago Tribune

Amtrak plans triweekly service for almost all long-distance trains as of Oct. 1, TRAINS Magazine

Congress, rail passenger association question Amtrak cutting schedule, Havre Daily News

Amtrak to Reduce Service on Long-Distance Routes, Flathead Beacon

Reports: Amtrak to reduce service to Tampa, Lakeland, Tampa Bay Business Journal

Amtrak to cut back service to New Orleans, other routes in October due to coronavirus, NOLA.com

Amtrak Slashing Service. Will It Be Permanent?, Railway Age

Amtrak to cut service routes, Daily Journal

Amtrak cuts back service to Okeechobee, Lake Okeechobee News (Steve Sayles)

Amtrak trims New York-Florida route, additional cuts expected later this year, Yahoo! Finance

U.S. House to Amtrak: we may have some extra money for you, but you gotta run trains to get it, RT&S

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