Happening Now


June 15, 2020


For Immediate Release (20-07)

Contact: Sean Jeans-Gail, Rail Passengers Association (202-320-2723; [email protected])

June 15, 2020

WASHINGTON - Rail Passengers President and CEO Jim Mathews issued the following statement today about Amtrak's planned coronavirus-related service reductions.

"Given CEO Bill Flynn's May 25th letter to Congress, this decision is unsurprising. But the fact that it was expected doesn't make it any less disappointing, nor any less misguided than it was 22 days ago when Amtrak telegraphed its intentions and provoked congressional leaders. For that matter, it is as misguided as it was years ago when the folly of three-times-weekly service was first foisted on Amtrak and American policymakers.

Let's be clear: this is penny-wise and pound-foolish. Amtrak famously looks for 'demand signals' to tell it when to add service. Chopping back to 3X will mute any demand signal before it gets to management. The long-distance services declined the least among Amtrak's three business lines during the coronavirus-induced slowdown, and its services remain essential to the hundreds of small communities across the United States with fewer options than Philadelphia or Boston or New York City.

It's no coincidence that the worst-performing trains in Amtrak's system are the two less-than-daily long-distance services. Remaking the entire National Network to emulate this failure is no solution to a temporary -- if dramatic -- decline in ridership. Working with legislators and policymakers to find a way through is the right answer.

Moreover, Amtrak may be setting itself up for failure by losing operating slots on host railroads, losing employees it will need to restore service and possibly losing the rolling stock as well.

Congress has said unambiguously and repeatedly that it views Amtrak as a public benefit and it does not tie Amtrak's continued operation to its ability to make a profit. And this Congress has been willing to put money where its mouth is, appropriating coronavirus rescue funds for the railroad and contemplating a surface-transportation bill that would give Amtrak three times more money than it has ever had before. While Congress might well not 'support us indefinitely to run mostly empty trains,' congressional leaders have demonstrated a willingness to do so in the short-term to preserve the Network and its utility for millions of Americans who may have no other choice.

Our position remains what it was on May 25th: like many congressional leaders, Rail Passengers strongly supports the need to get Amtrak through this crisis with additional funds. Also like many congressional leaders, however, we insist that any additional funds appropriated need to buy certainty for workers and passengers alike. Daily train service must be the very minimum service level."


About the Rail Passengers Association

The Rail Passengers Association is the oldest and largest national organization speaking for the more than 40 million rail passengers in the U.S. Our mission is to improve and expand conventional intercity and regional passenger train services, support higher speed rail initiatives, increase connectivity among all forms of transportation and ensure safety for our country's trains and passengers. All of this makes communities safer, more accessible and more productive, improving the lives of everyone who lives, works and plays in towns all across America.