From: firstname.lastname@example.org (NARP) To: email@example.com Subject: News Release; memo Date: Tue, 3 Dec 1996 17:16:16 To: NARP board/ARP Representatives NOTE--a separate memo for you is after the release on this message. 96-11 December 3, 1996 Contacts: Jack Martin (404/233-7991) Ross Capon, Scott Leonard (202/408-8362) RAILROAD PASSENGERS WARN TIME IS RUNNING OUT FOR AMTRAK The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) cautioned today that recent reductions proposed for Amtrak's already-skeletal long-distance passenger train network could lead to eventual elimination of that network. Intercity rail passenger service would survive only in the Northeast and perhaps a handful of other short-distance corridors. NARP noted that, as work on the federal fiscal year 1998 budget begins, Amtrak's survival is at stake. Amtrak must be provided sufficient operating support to continue running its entire, existing network. Without a truly national system, neither Amtrak nor any other form of vital, national, intercity rail passenger services will survive. That would make the United States the only advanced, industrialized country without meaningful national rail passenger service. Amtrak has made significant progress in reducing its operating costs and improving its efficiency, but still faces severe financial pressures in its quest to reach Congressionally-imposed operational self-sufficiency by the year 2002. The failure of the last Congress to provide a stable source of capital funding and to legislate other needed changes vital to self-sufficiency is in part responsible for the present financial crisis facing Amtrak. NARP believes Amtrak cannot reach self-sufficiency by further reducing its limited network. Amtrak's attempt to improve its financial position by reducing services during 1995 instead appears to have aggravated the situation--the 1995 cuts are in part responsible for the crisis Amtrak now faces. NARP believes the existing Amtrak intercity rail network falls significantly short of a truly national system, and decries the further reduction of that network as planned by Amtrak for May 10, 1997. NARP calls on all Americans who believe this country needs an alternative to the continuing destructive effect and high cost of the automobile to write to President Clinton and to their elected representatives. Letters should call for additional funding sufficient for Amtrak to continue operation of the threatened services, and a long-term, permanent source of capital funding for improved, expanded rail passenger service. In large part, the historical pro-highway, pro-aviation, anti-rail bias in Federal transportation policy is responsible for Amtrak's dilemma. To require Amtrak to achieve operational self-sufficiency when competing modes are the recipients of huge amounts of tax dollars, many from general revenue sources, makes no sense in a responsible transportation policy. NARP feels Amtrak's agreement to achieve operating self-sufficiency by 2002 was ill-advised in the absence of an in-place commitment to the necessary capital funding by the Congress. Americans repeatedly have indicated their interest in improved rail passenger service and have expressed a willingness to have part of their gasoline tax payments dedicated toward such service. It is time for the Congress to provide a stable funding source for Amtrak. It is time for federal transportation policy to respond to the public, to focus on moving people, not on moving vehicles. Survival and expansion of intercity rail passenger service, including the long-distance routes, are essential to this goal. It is essential also that Amtrak continue its efforts to build revenue and better utilize its equipment and other resources, and continue to make itself an increasingly important part of America's transportation future. The trains Amtrak now plans to discontinue on May 10, 1997, are: --The St. Louis-Little Rock-Dallas-Fort Worth-San Antonio portion of the Chicago-El Paso-Tucson-Los Angeles Texas Eagle, which runs three days a week; --The Salt Lake City-Las Vegas-Los Angeles portion of the Chicago-Omaha-Denver-Los Angeles Desert Wind, which runs three days a week; --The Denver-Wyoming-Ogden-Boise-Portland portion of the Chicago-Seattle Pioneer, which runs three days a week; and --The daily Albany-Boston segment of the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Ltd. Initially, on August 8, Amtrak had announced that these trains would be discontinued effective November 10, 1996. On November 10, Amtrak did make one change included in the August 8 announcement: the tri-weekly Los Angeles to Miami Sunset Limited was truncated at Sanford, Florida, 24 miles short of Orlando. Amtrak says this will generate major savings; NARP fears the move will be counterproductive, significantly reducing Sunset ridership and revenues. Amtrak's August 8 announcement set off a virtual firestorm of public reaction, in many cases highlighted by cities that would lose all their Amtrak service. These services often utilize facilities in which the cities have made substantial financial investments, some of those investments as recent as this year. Congress responded by appropriating additional funds to support the continued operation of the affected trains for six months - through May 10, 1997. Congress acted to provide time for other solutions to be sought for the continued operation of these trains. NARP is alarmed by the tone and substance of Amtrak's recent actions following Congressionally-mandated continuance of the four threatened routes. Amtrak's decisions leading to the August 8 announcement were made without public hearings or other opportunities for the public and elected officials to have meaningful input and to take action to head off the discontinuances. The process leading to the announcements failed to take into account the public investment in Amtrak and rapidly rising public support for rail passenger service in this country. Customer demand for the threatened services had been high. In recent months, Amtrak has turned away thousands of potential riders for these services, partly by focusing its resources on other services. It appears the decision to discontinue the Albany-Boston segment of the Lake Shore Limited was driven by operational convenience, rather than any financial reason. This practice is sadly reminiscent of the days when the individual freight railroads operated the nation's passenger trains. In conjunction with the announced discontinuances, Amtrak stated it would make cost-effective service improvements to other routes, returning to daily operation the Chicago-Portland/Seattle Empire Builder, the Chicago-Bay Area California Zephyr and the Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans. Amtrak also said it would inaugurate two new services, reinstating the Broadway Limited between New York and Chicago by way of Pittsburgh and adding a third New York to Florida train - the Silver Palm. To date, Amtrak has added the third New York to Florida train and has extended to Chicago the coach-only, New York to Pittsburgh Three Rivers. NARP is disappointed by Amtrak's failure to restore the full-service Broadway Limited and to return daily service to the other routes, as contemplated in Amtrak's business plan. NARP believes most of the other planned improvements can be implemented quickly and urges Amtrak to do so. NARP challenges Amtrak's assertion that it does not have sufficient equipment to implement the improvements while continuing the Congressionally-mandated services. Noting that Amtrak has displayed an almost grudging reluctance to continue the operation of the trains subject to the Congressional mandate and the additional funding provided by Congress, NARP calls on Amtrak to take immediate steps to realize the potential of these trains and to maximize their ridership. Since these trains must run, make them succeed. Finally, NARP is concerned by the recent action of the Amtrak Board directing management to discontinue the four trains no later than May 10, 1997, the date the Congressionally-mandated operation expires. Amtrak's Board stated that the threatened routes can be continued after May 10, 1997, "only to the extent that state and local funding becomes available to support their continued operation." For the Board to implicitly tell management that state or local funding represented the only acceptable alternative to discontinuance reflects an unacceptable bias against these services. Amtrak Management should exert every effort to find viable ways to continue operation of the threatened trains or to provide suitable service alternatives to the affected communities in order to avoid further reduction of Amtrak's already-skeletal system. Such is consistent with the Congressional intent manifested in the service-continuation mandate. Amtrak must find a way to continue these services or provide suitable alternate services to the important cities along these routes. It is time for Americans to speak up in support of their rail passenger services--and demand a truly national system. The failure to speak out today may mean it is too late tomorrow. # # # TO: NARP Board December 3, 1996 FROM: Ross Capon Enclosed is the final version of the "St. Louis" news release (above) ....Tough sledding: Amtrak's operating-grant request for FY '98 is $245 million. Thisis another "tight fit" for Amtrak's business plan let alone the additional service. Look for OMB to cut this request significantly. Pena as a lame duck is not in the best position to argue against OMB's cut in the White House. Slater, the FHWA head and a candidate to succeed Pena, reportedly did the heavy lifting in such arguments (DOT-wide) a year ago. [The other serious DOT candidates are Mineta, former California Congressman; and Chicago Mayor Daley if he doesn't get Commerce.] Chairmanship of the Senate Commerce Subcomm. on Surface Transportation chairmanship seems likely to stay with Hutchison (R-TX), notwithstanding earlier rumors about a change. [This is late info not reflected in the mailed hard copy; please disregard what you get in the mail and feel free to alert colleagues not on e-mail.] Amtrak has part-time baggage people at Sanford at Sunset Ltd. train-times. Latest word on transferring South Florida Sunset passengers in DeLand instead of Jacksonville is that Amtrak wants to do it and is working on "how to make it work in ARROW" [the computer res system]. That train is about to get some Los Angeles-Sanford headend business. The Great American Station Foundation (September News, page 3) is intended to be a catalyst for public-private partnerships aimed at revitalizing rundown stations and to serve as a national clearinghouse and a source of matching financial support and technical assistance. Please tell me if you have any suggestions about worthy candidates for stations that might be included in this effort. Of particular interest: stations whose renovation others might also have an interest in funding. Are there any other investors with an across-the-board interest in many stations similar to Amtrak's? (Clearly, Amtrak alone cannot keep the foundation going.) Thoughts provided to me by Tues., Dec. 10 would be particularly useful as I may be in a meeting sponsored by that Foundation that day. FYI--Alliance for a Paving Moratorium seeks support (i.e., our name and some newsletter coverage) for their effort to fight NAFTA superhighways. Port Huron-Indianapolis I-69 is proposed to be extended to Houston--possibly via northwestern Mississippi due to Sen. Lott (R-MS). Also, I-49, which runs from I-10 west of Baton Rouge to Shreveport, is proposed to be extended north to Kansas City. Says an October 7 Philadelphia Inquirer news story, "Texas is Shuster's (R-PA) biggest donor state after Pennsylvania. 66 of Shuster's 77 biggest Texas contributors live along proposed I-69 corridors in Texas....Rep. Tom DeLay's (R-TX) younger brother, Randy, serves as a $300,000-a-year lobbyist for the I-69 coalition....But does it take a new transcontinental Interstate to make NAFTA work? One group of experts--truckers--scoffs at the idea. "Texas back roads are a lot better than some interstates I drive, like the Pennsylvania Turnpike," opined flatbed driver John Stevensen, at a truckstop north of Austin. "And your Mexican highways are a lot worse,_ chimes in [another long-distance trucker]." To contact the Alliance directly, it's PO Box 4347, Arcata, CA 95518, 707/826-7775.