Posts Tagged ‘budget cuts’

Budget Proposal Slashes Amtrak by More than 50%

February 13, 2020

The Trump administration this week released its federal fiscal year budget proposal and to no one’s surprise it has proposed slashing Amtrak funding by more than half.

The budget proposal also recommends funding cuts to rail-related transportation of nearly $900 million when compared with the last two budget cycles, most of which would be achieved by appropriating less money for federal agencies that oversee rail transportation activities.

For Amtrak, the administration has proposed cutting spending on the Northeast Corridor from $700 million to $325 million.

Support for the long-distance service would fall from $1.3 billion to $611 million with those trains being phased over in the next few years.

The budget document released by the U.S. Department of Transportation calls for funding of a vaguely defined account that is meant to transition long-distance routes into corridor services of between 100 to 500 miles that would be funded in part by state and local governments.

These grants would be known as “National Network Transformation Grants — Long Distance Routes” and would receive $550 million.

Amtrak’s overall funding will decline from $2 billion in the 2020 budget to $1.5 billion in 2021.

The focus on corridor services would be in line with the vision for Amtrak that the carrier’s president, Richard Anderson, and its senior executive vice president, Stephen Gardner, have been talking up for more than a year.

Indeed the DOT budget document uses language similar to that used by Anderson and Gardner in saying that long-distance routes have outlived their usefulness and Amtrak needs to transform into a corridor-oriented operation linking urban centers.

“Long-distance routes continually underperform, suffering from low ridership and large operating losses of roughly half a billion dollars annually,” the DOT budget document states. “Amtrak trains inadequately serve many rural markets while not serving many growing metropolitan areas at all.”

This of course raises the question of whether DOT is parroting Anderson and Gardner or whether the Amtrak executives are mouthing what DOT has told them to say.

DOT said it would release later this year details about the long-distance route transformation program as part of its recommendation for a re-authorization of the FAST Act.

The administration’s budget proposal also recommends $13.2 billion for public transportation, a $303 million increase from the FY2020 enacted level, but would reduce passenger-rail grant programs by $712 million for a total of $1.8 billion.

The budget proposes a 10-year, $810 billion plan for surface transportation reauthorization to replace the FAST Act, which expires Sept. 30. That is $75 billion above the current authorized level.

Public transit would receive $155.4 billion over the next 10 years. The administration stated that it would submit a comprehensive surface transportation reauthorization proposal in the coming months, APTA officials said in a legislative update.

The Federal Railroad Administration would receive just under $2 billion compared with nearly $2.8 billion budgeted in 2020.

MoDOT Says Missouri River Runner Service Will Continue Despite Taking a $500,000 Budget Cut

January 18, 2017

The Missouri Department of Transportation has said Amtrak’s Missouri River Runner service between St. Louis and Kansas City will continue to operate at its current level despite a budget cut.

Amtrak Missouri River RunnerMissouri Gov. Eric Greitens in a budget submitted this week announced a $500,000 cut in MoDOT’s budget for rail service as part of a larger $146 million budget reduction.

Missouri funds two roundtrips a day between the Show Me State’s largest cities.

MoDOT is paying Amtrak $9.6 annually to operate the service, which serves 10 stations.

Michelle Teel, director of multimodal programs at the Missouri Department of Transportation said that passengers should see no change in the schedule for the foreseeable future.

The governor’s office said in a news release that most of the budget cuts were aimed at rolling back earmarks, new spending items, programs with no established track record of success, and services that are duplicated elsewhere in government.

The $500,000 cut will be rolled into what MoDOT will owe Amtrak in the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Teel said MoDOT will negotiate with Amtrak on how to close the funding gap. One option might be to increase fares.

Missouri River Runner ridership in the past fiscal year, which last June 30 was down 7.3  percent from the previous year. Amtrak said ridership was 172,032.