San Joaquin Authority May Consider Another Operator

Recent testimony before a congressional committee hinted that some California officials might be thinking about finding another operator for trains serving the San Joaquin Valley.

Amtrak has operated the San Joaquin service between Bakersfield and Oakland since 1974, but some on the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority are unhappy about the national passenger carrier’s lack of transparency as to costs.

During a hearing before a subcommittee of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Authority’s executive director, Stacey Mortensen, said Amtrak charges three times as much per passenger to run the San Joaquin trains than Herzog Transit charges to handle the Altamont Corridor Express.

Mortensen also heads the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission.

In her testimony, Mortensen said her agency has asked Amtrak for cost-sharing and maintenance data for years but never received it.

“Our attempts to discuss these issues with various Amtrak leadership typically starts with, ‘We will look into it.’ Ultimately though the transition to defensiveness, resistance and then, in the end, futility,” Mortenson said.

“Amtrak, exceeds its own budget projections year after year with little or any explanation. Their only remedy has been to seek additional funding from our state,” she said.

A California television station asked Amtrak for comment on Mortenson’s testimony, but responded with a statement that said nothing of substance or illumination.

“We look forward to continuing to provide more information to state partners and serving more customers in California,” the Amtrak statement said.

Amtrak’s contract with the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority must be approved annually.

Mortensen indicated that the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority might look into finding another provider to operate passenger trains on the San Joaquin route.

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One Response to “San Joaquin Authority May Consider Another Operator”

  1. wildbillfromusa Says:

    This is EXACTLY the kind of exposure Amtrak needs!!! I saw that Anderson made absolutely no attempt to respond to this issue. There has to be an awful lot of corruption going on inside. It is absolutely mind-boggling to see the kind of response from Amtrak to the CA TV station and the failure to give an adequate response to Ms. Mortensen. I’m certain that it would be found that the extravagent over-charging is to make the NE Corridor look so great. It is high time and past time for Amtrak to face a complete reorganization.

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