Posts Tagged ‘Charles Wick Moorman’

Trump Wants to Cut Amtrak Long-Distance Train Funding, Trim Public Transportation Spending

March 16, 2017

Here we go again. Another president has taken aim at Amtrak’s federal funding.

The proposed fiscal year 2018 budget released by the Trump administration this week calls for eliminating federal funding of Amtrak’s long-distance trains and would impose other steep cuts in transportation spending.

Amtrak would not lose all funding, but the funding it receives would be focused on supporting services within specific regions, specifically the Northeast Corridor and state-funded corridors in the East, Midwest and along the West Coast.

The budget described long-distance trains as inefficient and incurring the vast majority of Amtrak’s operating losses.

Trump is seeking to cut the U.S. Department of Transportation budget by $2.4 billion or 13 percent.

If Congress adopts the Trump budget blueprint, DOT will receive $16.2 billion.

Also slated for deep cuts in the budget are Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants.

Funding of the New Starts program of the Federal Transit Administration will be slashed and limited to projects with existing full funding grant agreements.

In a statement with the budget, Trump said the DOT budget is being revamped to focus on “vital federal safety oversight functions and investing in nationally and regionally significant transportation infrastructure projects.”

A statement with the budget request said that the blueprint seeks to reduce or end “programs that are either inefficient, duplicative of other federal efforts, or that involve activities that are better delivered by states, localities or the private sector.”

In a statement, Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman said that Amtrak’s 15 long-distance trains offer the only service in 23 of the 46 states that the carrier .

“Eliminating funding for long-distance routes could impact many of the 500 communities served by Amtrak,” Moorman said.

“These trains connect our major regions, provide vital transportation to residents in rural communities and generate connecting passengers and revenue for our Northeast Corridor and state-supported services. Amtrak is very focused on running efficiently  — we covered 94 percent of our total network operating costs through ticket sales and other revenues in FY16 — but these services all require federal investment.”

Moorman pledged to work with the Trump administration, including U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Congress to “understand the value of Amtrak’s long-distance trains and what these proposed cuts would mean to this important part of the nation’s transportation system.”

As for transit funding, the budget blueprint says that curtailing federal funding leaves funding up to “localities that use and benefit from these localized projects.”
The American Public Transportation Association issues a statement saying it was surprised and disappointed with the budget details so far.

APTA noted that the administration has been touting a broad plan to spend $1 trillion for infrastructure investment, but “the White House is recommending cutting billions of dollars from existing transportation and public transit infrastructure programs.”

The trade group said the budget cuts would affect projects underway in Kansas City; Dallas; Fort Worth, Texas; Indianapolis; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Fort Lauderdale, and Jacksonville, Florida.

The cuts to the TIGER program is aimed at what the budget described as “unauthorized” projects. In January before Trump was inaugurated , DOT had announced that $500 million was available. The TIGER grants were first awarded in 2009.

Among the 2016 grant recipients are San Bernardino County, California., which received $8.6 million for passenger rail service; Mississippi’s 65-mile long Natchez Railway, which received $10 million for rehabilitation and upgrades for five bridges; and Springfield, Illinois, which received $14 million to build two underpasses for proposed high-speed service between St. Louis and Chicago.

Amtrak Favors Gulf Coast Service Restoration

March 4, 2017

Amtrak is in favor of restoration of service along the Gulf Coast east of New Orleans.

destinations-logo2Charles “Wick” Moorman, Amtrak’s president, recently expressed that support in a letter of the Southern Rail Commission.

The letter spoke of Amtrak’s “firm commitment to the Gulf Coast project, and our interest and support for other projects that are underway in (the) region.”

Until August 2005, Amtrak’s Sunset Limited had operated between New Orleans and Orlando, Florida, as part of its transcontinental route.

But the service was suspended in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which heavily damaged the CSX tracks used by the train and some Amtrak stations.

The tracks have been repaired, but the service has yet to resume.

“We are committed to operating both the long-distance and corridor services on the Gulf Coast route as soon as the necessary funding can be arranged, and the necessary agreements are in place to implement the service,” Moorman wrote.

The Southern Rail Commission is made up of representatives of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. It has formed a Gulf Coast Working Group to come up with a plan to restore daily Amtrak service between New Orleans and Florida.

The group is also seeking to create a second train that would originate in Alabama and terminate in New Orleans. The final report from the working group has yet to be released.

Members of the working group also include representatives of Amtrak, CSX, the Federal Railroad Administration.

In his letter, Moorman said Amtrak also “strongly supports” the Commission’s efforts to launch a Baton Rouge-New Orleans corridor and an extension of a section of the New York-New Orleans Crescent west from Meridian, Miss., to Fort Worth, Texas.

Moorman pledged to “obtain the necessary commitments from host railroads to determine the capital and operating needs of each service in order to advance all of these important projects.” The host railroads would be Kansas City Southern and Union Pacific.

The Fort Worth extension of the Crescent proposal dates to the late 1990s when Amtrak was activity courting mail and express business.

Trains magazine recently reported that an Amtrak study has found that the Fort Worth train would have enough ridership to make it worthwhile.

It is not clear, though, if Amtrak has enough rolling stock to equip all of the services being sought by the Southern Rail Commission.

Moorman Urges Rail Infrastructure Investments

February 16, 2017

Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman told a Senate committee this week that the United States needs a new era of infrastructure investment in order to ensure a healthy future for long-distance passenger rail travel.

Wick Moorman

Wick Moorman

Speaking to the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security, Moorman said, “The time is now to invest in our aging assets.

“More than ever, our nation and the traveling public rely on Amtrak for mobility, but the future of Amtrak depends on whether we can renew the cars, locomotives, bridges, tunnels, stations and other infrastructure that allows us to meet these growing.”

Noting that Amtrak posted a record ridership of more than 31 million passengers and ticket revenues of $2.2 billion in 2016, Moorman said. “I’m certain that we can get even better by relentlessly improving our safety culture, modernizing and upgrading our products and strengthening our operational efficiency and project delivery.”

Moorman called for additional support from Congress and the Trump Administration to upgrade aging assets in order to continue to provide reliable services and network operations.

Among the improvements that Moorman cited as urgently needed are construction of tunnels and bridges on the Northeast Corridor; expansion of stations in Chicago and Washington; construction of a fleet of new or rebuilt diesel locomotives; and construction of track, signaling, and other improvements to remove choke points on host railroads or restore service in key underserved markets, such as along the Gulf Coast.

Moorman said Amtrak is focusing on identifying ways to improve collaboration with the 21 states and various commuter agencies that it partners with to provide service on corridors across the country. He urged the federal government to explore different ways to support intercity passenger rail service.

This could include direct investments, public-private partnerships and innovative financing, streamlining of the environmental review process, and less bureaucratic red tape.

“Investments in these sectors can help spur the rebirth of America’s passenger rail manufacturing and supply sector,” Moorman said.

Amtrak Names New Financial Vice President

February 1, 2017

William N. Feidt has been named Amtrak’s executive vice president and chief financial officer.

Amtrak logoThe appointment is effective Feb. 6. Feidt, who most recently was vice president of financial operations at Cable & Wireless Communications in Miami, will report to Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman.

Feidt will be be responsible for the company’s finance, treasury, accounting and control functions.

“Bill is an experienced and operationally-oriented financial executive with a strong technology background,” Moorman said in a statement. “He will be joining Amtrak’s executive team as we look to continue to improve our finance capabilities and lay the foundation for continued growth.”

Feidt will replace Gerald Sokol, who will leave the company after helping to transition Feidt into his new position.

Amtrak CEO Moorman Talks About His Vision for the Future of the U.S. Rail Passenger Carrrier

January 30, 2017

Since taking over last fall as the CEO of Amtrak, Charles “Wick” Moorman has given hints here and there about his vision of America’s national intercity rail passenger carrier.

Wick Moorman

Wick Moorman

Columnists and editors of Trains magazine sat down with Moorman in December to discuss that vision.

Columnist Don Phillips was there and wrote about it for the March issue of the magazine that will be in subscriber mailboxes soon.

Phillips recently sent advance copies of his columns to those on an email list that he maintains. Presumably, there will be another report in the March issue written by the magazine’s passenger rail correspondent.

Moorman told the Trains representatives that he sees a future for long-distance passenger trains, but it is less clear if he sees any expansion of them.

He does see potential growth in medium-distance service, which is paid for by the states.

The proposed restoration of service along the Gulf Coast east of New Orleans has been gaining political support and may end up becoming an extension of the Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans.

But that hinges upon the federal government making a financial commitment to the service.

Moorman said during the interview that the new Viewliner equipment for eastern long-distance trains that is being built by CAF USA will be finished according to a new production schedule that the company and Amtrak have agreed upon.

Other items of interest include Moorman’s view that something needs to be done about the quality of food service aboard Amtrak trains, and the aging diesel locomotives and passenger cars used by trains outside the Northeast Corridor.

In regards to food service, Moorman said the pressure that has come from Congress in recent years to cut the cost of food service is lessening and what Amtrak needs to do is sell more food.

Another high priority on Moorman’s list is the institution of a training program for on-board employees, including conductors.

But the top priority on Moorman’s list is rebuilding infrastructure in the Northeast Corridor. That includes replacing bridges, tunnels and catenary, as well as building a replacement for New York Penn Station.

The takeaway from the Phillips column: Look for a better on-board experience but with little to no expansion of the existing routes and levels of train frequency.

Amtrak Reorganizes Management Structure

January 5, 2017

Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman announced this week a management structure change that will restructure the six management team into two six units. They include:

  • Operations: Scot Naparstek, chief operating officer
  • Marketing and Business Development: Jason Molfetas, executive vice president
  • Finance: Jerry Sokol, chief financial officer
  • Law: Eldie Acheson, general counsel and corporate secretary
  • Administration:  D.J. Stadtler, chief administrative officer
  • Planning, Technology and Public Affairs: Stephen Gardner, executive vice president

Amtrak logoTrain operations will be managed regionally through three general managers and supported by mechanical, engineering, network support, police, and security organizations.

The marketing and business development group will be expanded beyond its traditional role to include product development, planning, and contract management functions of the current business lines.

A new administration group will manage administrative and support functions including human resources, labor relations, procurement, and enterprise project management.
Certain corporate planning, information technology, and station and facility functions, as well as the government affairs and corporate communications division, will be transferred to the new planning, technology, and public affairs group.

Amtrak’s Moorman Favors Negotiations With Railroads Rather than Government Force

December 22, 2016

Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman prefers negotiations with its contract railroads rather than government regulation or court action when it comes to improving the passenger carrier’s on-time issues.

Amtrak logoMoorman said during an interview with Politico that on-time performance is a sensitive subject, but he thinks the freight railroads are amendable to talking about how to improve Amtrak’s performance.

Moorman said he knows that delays caused by freight trains are hindering Amtrak’s long-distance trains, but he also believes the railroads are putting forth their best effort to give passenger trains good on-time performance.

In recent years, the on-time performance of passenger trains has been the subject of a U.S. Surface Transportation board rule-making proceeding and Amtrak has filed complaints with the STB about the dispatching practices of certain railroads, notably Canadian National.

The STB has said it will examine on a case-by-case basis situations in which a freight railroad is to blame if Amtrak is unable to meet an 80 percent on-time performance goal.

The STB also will implement new formulas for calculating on-time performance.

Boy Scouts Urge Daily Operation of The Cardinal During 2017, 2019 Jamborees in West Virginia

December 21, 2016

Boy Scouts of America is urging Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman to operate the Cardinal daily during July 2017 when the Scouts will hold their National Jamboree at Mount Hope, West Virginia.

amtrak-cardinalThe Summit Bechtel Reserve at Mount Hope will also be the site of the World Scout Jamboree in 2019 and the Scouts would like to see daily service during that event, too.

The jamboree location is within the 70,000-acre New River Gorge National River recreation area. The Chicago-New York Cardinal operates tri-weekly.

The Boy Scouts became aware of the movement to urge Amtrak to operate the Cardinal on a daily basis during a conference held in September in Cincinnati.

“I hope Amtrak will consider the opportunity to take advantage of the Jamboree window to operate daily service on the Cardinal and to work with local tourism representatives to maximize this unique opportunity,” BSA Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh wrote in a letter to Amtrak. “I know I speak for all when I say that enhanced service would be a welcome addition offering the possibility of increased ridership and visitors to the New River Gorge.”

All Aboard Ohio, a rail passenger advocacy group, said that Amtrak cannot legally expand service that increases its operating losses without identifying funding to offset it.

AAO noted that Amtrak has estimated that it has enough equipment to operate the Cardinal as often as five days a week.

The equipment pool available to expand operations of the Cardinal to seven days a week may be sufficient by next summer due to Amtrak taking delivery of new Viewliner cars being built by CAF USA.

Moorman Looks to Future at Amtrak

December 13, 2016

Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman has said little in public about his vision for Amtrak since replacing former Amtrak President Joesph Boardman last September.

But Moorman and Amtrak Chairman Anthony Coscia gave a glimpse of the future in an interview with Progressive Railroading.

Amtrak logoCoscia said Amtrak plans to emphasize convincing stakeholders that the passenger carrier serves its passengers well despite having limited resources.

“This is not about being profitable, it’s about being well run,” Coscia said. “It’s about using our resources wisely, and looking for creative and intelligent ways to run the company . . .”

For his part, Moorman told the magazine,  “What we need to do at Amtrak is make sure that we are running an efficient company that provides a great product to the 30-plus million people who use our services every year. If we do that, I think we should be able to answer effectively to anyone on Capitol Hill — or anyone else — who has criticisms about us.”

Moorman said he wants to focus on building a stronger safety culture and then begin working on improving customer service.

He said Amtrak is, “not at the place that the class I carriers are in terms of a safety record and safety culture.”

Customer service may also need some attention. “One of the things we’re going to pay a lot of attention to going forward is the customer experience,” Moorman said. “We’ll balance the customer service needs with our ability to be more efficient and effective, particularly in those areas that don’t directly affect the customer.”

Moorman is activity seeking to recruit new members to his management team, including retired NS executives.

Already, Moorman has discussed with those executives the areas where Amtrak needs improvements.

One former NS manager, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Manion, has agreed to work with Amtrak.

Moorman also plans to work to improve Amtrak’s relationships with its contract railroads.

Those became strained during a Surface Transportation Board proceeding pertaining to on-time performance standards and regulatory authority.

“The relationships with the class Is are not terrible by any means. I think we can work through a lot of the issues around things like on-time performance,” Moorman said.

“We need to make sure the class Is see us an ally in creating a positive public image; in working on issues that are important to both of us on Capitol Hill; and as a card-carrying member of the railroad industry,” he said.

Moorman will be getting a first-hand look at Amtrak’s service because he rides the Crescent between his home in Charlottesville, Virginia, and his office in Washington.

Although he did not offer any concrete plans for service expansion, Moorman said there are opportunities for expansion, primarily on the state routes.

“I think there will be a ton of opportunity to continue to come our way as the years go by, and we at Amtrak need to be a company that understands that, is prepared for it, and operates that service effectively with our state partners,” he said.

Moorman Likens Amtrak to an Old House That Needs Attention, But Not Reconstruction

November 22, 2016

Although he has been in office less than three months, Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman doesn’t expect to be around for a long time.

Wick Moorman

Wick Moorman

“My wife has told me that,” Moorman said at the Rail Trends 2016 Conference last week.

In his speech, Moorman said he is attempting to make Amtrak highly efficient, develop a stronger safety culture, and find the right person to lead the passenger carrier over the long term.

He also is seeking to build relationships with Amtrak’s host railroads.

He cited as an example his desire for Norfolk Southern chief dispatchers to get to know Amtrak operating officials so that they can solve problems together.

Moorman said that developing better relationships with its contract railroads is critical to being able to expand regional services.

He sees growth opportunities for regional trains and state-supported services in shorter corridors because they are attractive transportation alternative when compared to the hassle of flying and dealing with airport security.

“Amtrak’s bag fees are very low,” Moorman said. “And, you’ll hear this in our marketing, ‘there’s no middle seat.’ ”

Moorman described the long-distance trains as the “political glue” that holds Amtrak together and which play an essential role in providing transportation to underserved regions of the United States.

The Amtrak president said that although replacing Amtrak’s tired fleet of P42DC locomotives could be done relatively quickly, there is no fast solution to replacing Amfleet I and II equipment

That will require a source of funding as well as a new design. “We want to nail down what the cars should look like first,” Moorman said.

In the meantime, Amtrak has announced the replacement equipment that will be built to replace the Acela Express train sets with Moorman calling that a game-changer for high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor.

“It’s going to be a better product in every way,” Moorman said about the equipment that will be delivered starting in 2021.

Moorman sees Amtrak as having similar characteristic as an old house. It needs some attention, but not radical reconstruction.

“Amtrak’s not broken. There are things to be fixed,” Moorman said. “Think of me as the plumber.”

Moorman retired as head of Norfolk Southern in 2015 and initially spurned Amtrak’s overtures to replace Joseph Boardman as president.

He changed his mind after the Amtrak board of directors persisted in seeking him.

“I am not doing this for the money,” Moorman said. “I am doing this because the future of Amtrak is important to this country.”

He has brought on board some fellow retired NS executives, including Chief Operating Officer Mark Manion

Moorman said it will be easier to get legislators and others to support Amtrak if they can see that is is efficient and well-managed.

He said increasing efficiency means reducing operating losses while providing better service.

Although he sees Amtrak as safe and getting safer, Moorman said there is still work to be done to create a stronger safety culture.