Author Topic: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson  (Read 2419 times)

danielm75

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Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« on: March 02, 2019, 01:56:41 PM »
I don't know if this has been posted anywhere else on here, but here's a link to the letter that Congress has written to Amtrak President Richard Anderson regarding his plans to redo Amtrak routes, and eliminating the long-distance trains:

https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/7c8e6b_eee64e5f666340a986eb501785146e9f.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1mM5IMKoaFRRaAVQaa9jkP8ardl5IxXhj1g-5Mia9xywHEPbvqAmdLJAM

Webnauseum

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2019, 05:39:14 PM »
Perhaps this is the opportunity that Anderson has been waiting for, an invited opportunity to leverage sufficient monies to operate the network properly? And he'll correctly be able to say "well,  you asked me".

DRLOCO

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2019, 08:24:14 PM »
For the local connection, Andre Carson D Rep Indianapolis is a signatory to this letter to Amtrak.
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Webnauseum

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2019, 12:05:29 PM »
Looking at the entire picture,  The people running Amtrak have never been given the freedom and the funding to do the job right. IT would be interesting if all of the commotion that Anderson has managed to stir up has been part of a plan to get congress "on board" with him.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2019, 03:14:45 PM by Webnauseum »

DRLOCO

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2019, 07:30:40 PM »
Amtrak will never be that.  Anderson isn't a railroader, he's an airline industry guy.  You can't make amtrak act like an airline, unless you want to subsidize it to the level that airlines are!
So far he's doing the easy stuff- things that airlines did long ago- cutting out deluxe meals, cutting back on reservation desks and other "amenities" and the big one, OUTSOURCING.  Those are things to quickly bring up the bottom line.
I hope I'm wrong, but I seriously doubt he wants to rattle all these cages just to get congress to give him what he wants.  He works for them, they don't work for him...and he's not at a private airline, he's at a quasi-public company, and he should act as such.
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CSX2605

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2019, 06:53:58 AM »

So far he's doing the easy stuff- things that airlines did long ago- cutting out deluxe meals, cutting back on reservation desks and other "amenities".
Kind of like farming. Working on a $200,000 tractor and dad flips out because I used an extra plastic zip tie on a wire harness. That's it, chapter 11 & call the auctioneer, farm's done for!  ;D

Well said DRLOCO!

Webnauseum

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2019, 06:45:01 PM »

I hope I'm wrong, but I seriously doubt he wants to rattle all these cages just to get congress to give him what he wants.

I just don't think that he's as dumb as he would have top be to be doing the things that  he's doing, unless he's got an ulterior motive. I could be wrong, but I hope not.

CSX_CO

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2019, 10:07:14 PM »
You can order anything in the world at our fingertips.

 In this day and age, who walks into a train station or airport and buys a ticket?  I can see dropping ticket counters.


danielm75

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2019, 03:28:35 PM »
Here is an article on the Rail Passengers Association's website:

https://www.railpassengers.org/happening-now/news/blog/remember-national-or-nothing/

(RPA is also on Facebook.)

MSchwiebert

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2019, 08:08:44 PM »
It'd be nice to see some numbers to either support or not support the proposal.  For example,  how many people ride the long distance trains "all the way through" from end point to end point, as well as those that connected from one LD train to another. 
Speaking personally,  I'd gladly trade off (for example) The Lakeshore Limited for say 3 Chicago-Buffalo and 3 Buffalo-NYC trains in each direction. Take the first train out of Chicago, get to Buffalo, have a nice lunch somewhere etc. and take the 2nd or 3rd train on into the city.   One of the advantages from Amtrak's perspective has to be better equipment utilization (with leadership being from the airline industry, I'm sure seeing how inefficiently Amtrak uses & turns its consists has to be aggravating to say the least) which should mean more trains with the same amount of equipment (or making it easier to justify new equipment on the basis of utilization).

Kim_Heusel

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2019, 11:23:06 PM »
It'd be nice to see some numbers to either support or not support the proposal.  For example,  how many people ride the long distance trains "all the way through" from end point to end point, as well as those that connected from one LD train to another. 
Speaking personally,  I'd gladly trade off (for example) The Lakeshore Limited for say 3 Chicago-Buffalo and 3 Buffalo-NYC trains in each direction. Take the first train out of Chicago, get to Buffalo, have a nice lunch somewhere etc. and take the 2nd or 3rd train on into the city.   One of the advantages from Amtrak's perspective has to be better equipment utilization (with leadership being from the airline industry, I'm sure seeing how inefficiently Amtrak uses & turns its consists has to be aggravating to say the least) which should mean more trains with the same amount of equipment (or making it easier to justify new equipment on the basis of utilization).

There are 4 trains between Buffalo and NYC in each direction now, including the Lake Shore.

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MSchwiebert

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2019, 11:22:06 AM »
A little brain-lock on my part,  thanks.   

There are 4 trains between Buffalo and NYC in each direction now, including the Lake Shore.

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IndyHog

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2019, 11:44:43 AM »
on a sad note ex-Amtrak president Joe Boardman passed away today. He was a vocal critic of Anderson.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2019, 12:21:27 PM by IndyHog »
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danielm75

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #13 on: March 07, 2019, 12:27:10 PM »
on a sad note ex-Amtrak president Joe Boardman passed away today. He was a vocal critic of Anderson.

May he rest in peace.

Kim_Heusel

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #14 on: March 07, 2019, 02:36:11 PM »
A little brain-lock on my part,  thanks.

Maybe add at least one more-Chicago Buffalo train that would have better times across northern Indiana and Ohio. Unfortunately, all trains leaving Buffalo do so early in the day, which would make scheduling a connection from a Chicago-Buffalo train difficult.

Kim Heusel

rrnut282

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #15 on: March 11, 2019, 10:44:07 AM »
You can order anything in the world at our fingertips.

 In this day and age, who walks into a train station or airport and buys a ticket?  I can see dropping ticket counters.
Well, if you want a ticket you can hold in your hand from the ticket counter, there is a FEE for that. 
rrnut2-8-2
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IndyHog

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #16 on: March 11, 2019, 11:01:14 AM »
Quite often you walk into an airport or train station and check your bags. Also not everyone is computer literate. Much can be done on the internet but I believe there is still a need for Ticket Agents. They do much more than sell tickets.
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Rick

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #17 on: March 11, 2019, 12:10:44 PM »
Quite often you walk into an airport or train station and check your bags. Also not everyone is computer literate. Much can be done on the internet but I believe there is still a need for Ticket Agents. They do much more than sell tickets.
I know plenty of people who still have flip phones and a few who still don’t own a computer. 


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CSX_CO

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #18 on: March 11, 2019, 01:09:50 PM »
I know plenty of people who still have flip phones and a few who still don’t own a computer. 

And those people are in an ever decreasing minority.

So a company should be expected to keep paying employees when the vast majority of transactions aren’t even taking place at a ticket counter?


IndyHog

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #19 on: March 11, 2019, 01:40:07 PM »
A company whose sole purpose is to provide a service has a duty to do so. That said, Ticket Agents do more than sell tickets.
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CSX_CO

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #20 on: March 11, 2019, 07:00:16 PM »
A company whose sole purpose is to provide a service has a duty to do so. That said, Ticket Agents do more than sell tickets.

Ok.  I’ll bite.  Like what?

Rick

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #21 on: March 11, 2019, 07:13:35 PM »
So, you are going to ask for volunteers to work for free to open up the stations that these passengers come to? 

I know the one in Elkhart is volunteer run but that’s because it’s right across from the museum and they supplied or still supply the few people who volunteer their time to be there at 7-10am and 10-1am roughly every single day.  All times contingent on Amtrak of course. 


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CSX_CO

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #22 on: March 11, 2019, 07:25:51 PM »
So, you are going to ask for volunteers to work for free to open up the stations that these passengers come to? 

I know the one in Elkhart is volunteer run but that’s because it’s right across from the museum and they supplied or still supply the few people who volunteer their time to be there at 7-10am and 10-1am roughly every single day.  All times contingent on Amtrak of course. 

Last I knew Lafayette was volunteer, if they even had a “station agent”.  I haven’t looked in years, but they didn’t sell tickets. Either bought ahead, or on train.  Might be a self serve kiosk at the station now to buy tickets, and took it out of the conductors hands.

So, are we talking the agents that sat behind the counter in Chicago Union Station selling tickets, or the “Station Agents” who helped passengers to the trains, made announcements, sold to tickets, etc.?  Or are they cutting everyone who deals with ticket sales?

AFAIK METRA doesn’t staff every station on their lines.  Tickets sold by conductor, or beforehand via app or kiosk, and station announcements are automated unless someone does a manual one from a remote location because of a delay.


Rick

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #23 on: March 11, 2019, 07:31:46 PM »
Last I knew Lafayette was volunteer, if they even had a “station agent”.  I haven’t looked in years, but they didn’t sell tickets. Either bought ahead, or on train.  Might be a self serve kiosk at the station now to buy tickets, and took it out if the conductors hands.

So, are we talking the agents that sat behind the counter in Chicago Union Station selling tickets, or the “Station Agents” who helped passengers to the trains, made announcements, sold to tickets, etc.?
Beside the big stations aren’t those the same person nowadays?  I’ve personally never been on Amtrak so I can’t say for sure.  Elkhart, the conductors help people get on and off the train and the volunteers just maintain the building, clean, sell snacks, keep the bathrooms up to par, inform passengers if someone has a question, the city keeps the outside clear of snow though since it’s city property. 


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Webnauseum

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #24 on: March 11, 2019, 08:21:45 PM »
And those people are in an ever decreasing minority.

So a company should be expected to keep paying employees when the vast majority of transactions aren’t even taking place at a ticket counter?

Some of us dinosaurs prefer to pay cash.  (and not leave a paper trail)

IndyKing

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #25 on: March 12, 2019, 12:13:44 AM »
Kirkwood, MO is staffed by volunteers, who make announcements, help passengers to the train, and otherwise provide assistance when needed.  They do not sell tickets per se, but there is a ticket machine in the depot and the volunteers do help passengers with use of it, when needed.  I am not sure, but I think Jefferson City may also be "staffed" by a volunteer.  There is no depot or ticket machine there, so I think the volunteer just helps passengers on and off the train.  In both cases, the volunteers show up at a certain time before the train comes, then pack up shop after it leaves, until the same time before the next train.  It seems to work very well.  I don't know if it is completely unstaffed, but every time I have been to Effingham, IL there has been nobody there.  In fact, I don't even know if there is a ticket office there?

Regarding the need for a ticketing agent, or similar role, I use e-tickets when I fly, which is fairly often.  However, once in a while my phone goes on the fritz, with no e-mail connection, and I need to get a paper ticket from the gate agent to board the plane.  I think it is always a balance between need and cost.  At St. Louis airport, where there are 30-40k passengers each day, the need is definitely there during the day.  However, I think even those ticket agents leave at night, when there is no need for them.  There is definitely nobody at the gates during that time, when there are no outbound flights.
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CSX_CO

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #26 on: March 12, 2019, 03:22:31 AM »
Quote from: IndyKing link=topic=21072.msg192301#msg192301
I think it is always a balance between need and cost.  At St. Louis airport, where there are 30-40k passengers each day, the need is definitely there during the day.  However, I think even those ticket agents leave at night, when there is no need for them.  There is definitely nobody at the gates during that time, when there are no outbound flights.

And while there are 30k to 40k a day at that airport, the Hoosier State takes all year to move that many.  With many printing their own tickets at home or stored on the phone.

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #27 on: March 12, 2019, 09:45:26 AM »
Kirkwood, MO is staffed by volunteers, who make announcements, help passengers to the train, and otherwise provide assistance when needed.  They do not sell tickets per se, but there is a ticket machine in the depot and the volunteers do help passengers with use of it, when needed.  I am not sure, but I think Jefferson City may also be "staffed" by a volunteer.  There is no depot or ticket machine there, so I think the volunteer just helps passengers on and off the train.  In both cases, the volunteers show up at a certain time before the train comes, then pack up shop after it leaves, until the same time before the next train.  It seems to work very well.  I don't know if it is completely unstaffed, but every time I have been to Effingham, IL there has been nobody there.  In fact, I don't even know if there is a ticket office there?


Kirkwood is a very nice place to watch trains. When I was there in 2015, the volunteers kept the station open all day as a kind of social hall between trains. I stopped at Effingham back in October, and there is no ticket machine. Only a restroom, a bench inside and a vending machine.

DRLOCO

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #28 on: March 12, 2019, 10:29:44 AM »
Another more selfish issue to consider, especially those of you (like me) that are railroaders and pay into the railroad retirement system...If Amtrak goes, so do about 20,000 employees paying into the retirement fund.  Currently, our fund allows us to retire at 60 years of age with 30 years of service. Essentially, the fund pays a bridge to cover railroaders from 60 to the age they go on social security.  Amtrak gone? Don't expect to retire at 60--more like 65-67 if you are lucky-Probably 70 for me, who has several years to go.  The fund simply could not take that kind of hit and be expected to provide the same benefits.  I know most of us that have been railroading a while are counting the days and years expecting to retire at 60...
I'm just praying i can make it...

Ok, railroading aside, again we are all discussing the core issue, and struggle of amtrak...is it a government subsidized entity created for the public good, or is it a corporation expected to return a profit?
I vote for the former-since we dont expect our roads to be profitable...and we subsidize them heavily...
But that just, llke, my opinion, man. 
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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #29 on: March 12, 2019, 10:12:40 PM »
Perhaps 5-6 years ago, when I was at Effingham, the door was on a timed lock so only around the time of train stops will the door be open...not sure what happens when trains are significantly late.

CSX_CO

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #30 on: March 13, 2019, 07:56:32 AM »
Ok, railroading aside, again we are all discussing the core issue, and struggle of amtrak...is it a government subsidized entity created for the public good, or is it a corporation expected to return a profit?
I vote for the former-since we dont expect our roads to be profitable...and we subsidize them heavily...
But that just, llke, my opinion, man.

I don’t expect them to be profitable, but just because any Government agency basically has a blank check when it comes to expenses, they should do everything they can to keep expenses to a minimum.

ckpcpqq

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #31 on: March 13, 2019, 10:51:34 AM »
I don’t expect them to be profitable, but just because any Government agency basically has a blank check when it comes to expenses, they should do everything they can to keep expenses to a minimum.
Let's be a little clearer about this.  Amtrak is not a government "agency," nor is it an "administration" or a "bureau."  It is a corporation with a board of directors and has issued both common and preferred stock.  Only the latter has voting rights and is 100% owned by the federal government.  Board members are nominated by the president subject to congressional approval.

Amtrak does not have a blank check.  In addition to its revenues, it receives an annual finite subsidy authorized by Congress and the president.  If the subsidy is cut back in a given year, Amtrak typically responds by reducing service and expenses.  That's why, for example, trains such as the National Ltd have disappeared over the years, and why manned depots have declined in number.


pabrankle

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #32 on: March 13, 2019, 11:05:41 AM »
From Trains Magazine     trainsmag.com

Trump administration budget would end long-distance Amtrak trains, cut DOT spending

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration’s proposed 2020 budget calls for refocusing Amtrak on routes of less than 750 miles and would slash discretionary funding for the U.S. Department of Transportation by 21.5 percent, a decrease of $5.1 billion.

“Simply put, Amtrak trains inadequately serve many rural markets while not serving many growing metropolitan areas at all,” the plan states. Instead, the administration envisions a partnership between Amtrak and bus operators to serve rural areas and requests $550 million in “transitional funding” to help states take over these routes. Grants to Amtrak for the Northeast Corridor would also be cut in half from $650 million to $325.5 million. There is no funding for the Gateway Tunnel project.

In all, the budget’s $1.49 billion in Amtrak funding represents a 22 percent cut from the 2019 figure of $1.9 billion.

The Capital Investments Grant program, which funds commuter rail, light rail, and streetcar systems along with bus rapid transit and ferries, would be cut by $800 million.

In general, the budget seeks to shift much of the responsibility for transportation project to state and local entities. “The 2020 Budget continues certain important transportation infrastructure investments,” the document states in its summary of the DOT, “but in a way that also recognizes that the federal government is not — and should not be — the primary funder of the nation’s transportation systems.”

That concept received a cold reception from Democrats, who control the House of Representatives. In a statement, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said, “In effect, the Trump budget would shirk federal responsibility when it comes to our nation’s infrastructure, putting a massive burden on cash-strapped states and local communities and doing nothing to meaningfully address our nation’s infrastructure needs.”

There are bright spots for transportation in the proposal. The budget fully funds FAST Act programs and calls for long-term surface transportation reauthorization. It doubles funding for INFRA grants to $2 billion, which can be used for ports, intermodal, or rail projects including grade crossing separation, in addition to highway projects. And it provides $1 billion for BUILD grants, previously known as TIGER grants.

The administration also requests $200 billion for “other infrastructure projects,” but points those toward “visionary projects” such as 5G cellular communications and artificial intelligence.

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #33 on: March 13, 2019, 02:18:22 PM »
The Railroad Retirement Board’s annual financial report states “
barring a sudden, large, unanticipated large decrease in railroad employment the Railroad Retirement system will experience no cash-flow problems for the next 29 years. “.  The destruction of Amtrak would surely damage the system heavily as it is approximately 10% of railroad employees.
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CSX_CO

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #34 on: March 13, 2019, 02:44:42 PM »
Let's be a little clearer about this.  Amtrak is not a government "agency," nor is it an "administration" or a "bureau."  It is a corporation with a board of directors and has issued both common and preferred stock.  Only the latter has voting rights and is 100% owned by the federal government.  Board members are nominated by the president subject to congressional approval.

Amtrak does not have a blank check.  In addition to its revenues, it receives an annual finite subsidy authorized by Congress and the president.  If the subsidy is cut back in a given year, Amtrak typically responds by reducing service and expenses.  That's why, for example, trains such as the National Ltd have disappeared over the years, and why manned depots have declined in number.

I was speaking in generalities.  When was the last time you saw a Government agency actually “go away” because their funding was cut completely?  It doesn’t happen very often.

I have to pay taxes, and really have 0 say in how money taxes are spent.  The least the Government can do (at any level) is do their best to keep expenses in check.  Given our ever burgeoning deficit, change has to come from somewhere.  With estimates of almost 10% of the workforce employed by some level of Government, it’s apparent that the “producers” need to continue to support the ever present Government.

It would appear that Amtrak will have to increase belt tightening, or states will need to pay more for the service.  Given the current state of AMTRAK, despite being a railroader, I have no problem with either.  There is a thread on here where people said they were unimpressed with what AMTRAK offers.  Lack of funding causing it? Acceptance of “status quo”?  Probably a subject for another thread.

We have a broken infrastructure funding system where there are states who get back less in funding, then they contribute.  Michigan getting ready to roll out an additional $.4 a gallon in taxes to fund infrastructure projects.  Michigan for years has had crumbling roads, and got back less per dollar, then they contributed. Indiana was in the same boat.  There are roads i know of up there they broke the asphalt up on, and revered to gravel the situation is so bad. With the electric cars entering the market, despite using the roads, funding will continue to be an issue.  Unfortunately, we all know that even if we give more in taxes, there’s no assurance it will ever make it to fixing roads.  To much corruption and back room deals for that to happen.


ckpcpqq

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Re: Congress' letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson
« Reply #35 on: March 14, 2019, 12:30:09 PM »
We have a broken infrastructure funding system where there are states who get back less in funding, then they contribute.  Michigan getting ready to roll out an additional $.4 a gallon in taxes to fund infrastructure projects.  Michigan for years has had crumbling roads, and got back less per dollar, then they contributed. Indiana was in the same boat.  There are roads i know of up there they broke the asphalt up on, and revered to gravel the situation is so bad. With the electric cars entering the market, despite using the roads, funding will continue to be an issue.  Unfortunately, we all know that even if we give more in taxes, there’s no assurance it will ever make it to fixing roads.  To much corruption and back room deals for that to happen.

I don't know what this has to do with my original comments, but since you brought it up:

The federal gas tax was last raised in 1994, 25 years ago.  Given inflation since then and cars with improved mpg, it needs to be raised now.  Despite the  support by many politicians in both parties for doing this, nothing has happened.  Since a small percentage of those revenues goes for transit and commuter rail, it's affecting rail transport as well as road maintenance and construction.  So the highway trust fund continues to languish and will be reduced to a critical level in just a few years.

The introduction of electric and hybrid cars also affects the funding crisis.  But at the state level the problem is being addressed both in Indiana and many other states.  I own a Camry Hybrid and pay a surtax added to my registration fee each year.  I have no objection to that, but something along those lines needs to happen at the federal level.  Perhaps a surtax added to the purchase price of a new or used electric/hybrid.