Happening Now

What Are We Doing About 3x Service?

October 9, 2020

Updated on October, 9th

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 September 9th, Rail Passengers President & CEO Jim Mathews testified before the U.S. House of Representatives' Transportation & Infrastructure rail subcommittee's hearing explicitly about "Amtrak and COVID." Jim shared our economic impact analysis, and called on the Congress to require Amtrak to maintain at least daily service and to preserve the workforce involved in providing it. He also recommended in testimony -- written and oral -- that instead of cutting frequencies Amtrak could simply run shorter consists.

-- House and Senate committee staffs, who have been alarmed by what they're seeing, asked our Association to supply our economic-impact data from these cuts formally. We have done so. We have also helped committees develop questions for the record that Representatives or Senators can pose directly to Amtrak -- either in writing or during an open hearing -- in order to put Amtrak on the record and make them accountable for their position.

-- Since August, we have worked with Senate offices to generate BI-PARTISAN letters of support from Senators whose states would be hurt the most. These letters were from Senators like Senator Daines, co-signed by Republicans and Democrats, to Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn, expressing the sense of the Congress that they have authorized and appropriated money to Amtrak so that the railroad will MAINTAIN service, not cut it. We have been able to rally support for these essential services and the idea that the passenger rail network should continue to connect Americans during the pandemic.

This work includes:

-- 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.

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.


House FY21 THUD Funding Levels ($M)

Rail - FY21

Amtrak - National Network


Amtrak - Northeast Corridor


Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements


Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair


Magnetic Levitation Technology Deployment Program


Rail Subtotal


Transit - FY21

Formula Grants


Capital Investment Grants


Transit Infastructure Grants


Transit Subtotal


BUILD Grants - FY21


Economic Recovery Funds - Rail and Transit

Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements


Magnetic Levitation Technology Deployment Program


Amtrak - National Network


Amtrak - Northeast Corridor


FTA Capital Investment Grants


BUILD Grants


Economic Recovery Funds Subtotal


Read more about the bill here.

Giving Passengers Access to Congress

We've built a tool to let you call, write, and tweet your members of Congress. As for early October, this has helped us generate 15,000-plus constituent emails to our elected officals from citizens around the United States, with more coming in every single day. We have literally covered every single House and Senate office -- all 535 have heard from someone in their district because of this campaign. But we need you to help 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!

We have also created social-media templates for activists and supporters with a number of infographics and messages that you can use on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other similar tools to generate awareness and support among your friends and contacts. Click here to find our full call to action, a donation link, several links to the various landing pages on the Rail Passengers website, a link to a graphics folder where you can download images to share, and a number of suggested social media posts based on the data from Jim Mathews' House T&I testimony.

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

Amtrak CEO: $4.9 billion needed to avoid cuts to long-distance trains, workforce, Trains

Amtrak Chief Pleads for Nearly $5 Billion to Survive Pandemic, New York Times

Amtrak asks for $4.9 billion to stay afloat, Roll Call

In congressional grilling, Amtrak chief says railroad needs nearly $5 billion in federal aid, Washington Post

Amtrak warns an additional 2,400 jobs will be cut without more federal aid, Washington Post