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FRA Releases Long-Distance Study Materials

February 24, 2023

The Rail Passengers Association staff toured the nation over the past three weeks to take part in with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)-led Amtrak Daily Long-Distance (LD) Service Study. These meetings—which included state and federal officials, freight railroads, and passenger advocacy groups—looked at options for restoring discontinued LD routes, adding frequencies to existing routes (particularly the Sunset and the Cardinal), and even creating new LD routes.

This week, the FRA released these meeting materials to the public—and they’re asking for input from local advocates and rank-and-file train passengers. The materials page includes the master presentation, along with the Working Group materials from the Northeast, Southeast, Centra, Midwest, Northwest and Southwest regional breakouts.

The FRA took time to help participants understand the structure of the study, which will ultimately deliver a report to congress that:

  • Outlines the preferred options for restoring or enhancing service;
  • Provides a prioritized inventory of capital projects and other actions required to restore or enhance the service, including cost estimates for those projects and actions;
  • Recommends methods by which Amtrak could work with local communities and organizations to develop programs that continuously improve service along each route; and
  • Identifies Federal and non-Federal funding sources so this report translates into real-world improvements, and doesn't just gather dust on a shelf.

The FRA also took pains to explain what this study is not setting out to do:

Our advocates have expressed a keen interest in what routes are being considered, and we're pleased to report that the study materials go into great detail about which towns lost service, when they lost it, and the consequnces of these cuts. The below map doesn't provide the full context (see page 65 of the main presentation for more details), but it does give a good overview. (Nb., the FRA has made clear that they are open to new/altered route configurations if they can be shown to better respond to the needs of 21st Century America.)

The FRA is asking Rail Passengers to solicit input from our members. The study leads are particularly interested in getting feedback on the following prompts:

1. Are there state or local initiatives that could inform potential new or restored Long-Distance services?

2. What previously discontinued Long-Distance services should we consider and why?

3. What new routes or communities do you want to extend Long-Distance service to and why?

4. In thinking about existing Long-Distance routes – what new frequencies and service changes should we consider?

Members of the public can submit their feedback at FRALongDistanceStudy.org. As you consider these prompts, keep in the mind the following timeline: