From: (NARP)
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)


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

--The Salt Lake City-Las Vegas-Los Angeles portion of the
Chicago-Omaha-Denver-Los Angeles Desert Wind, which runs three days a

--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.