Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Boardman’

Gardner to Become Amtrak President Dec. 1

December 1, 2020

Amtrak said on Monday that one of its vice presidents will become its president on Dec. 1.

Stephen Gardner

Stephen Gardner, currently Amtrak’s executive vice president and chief operating and commercial officer, will replace William Flynn.

Flynn, who became Amtrak’s president and CEO in April, will remain with the passenger carrier as CEO and a member of its board of directors.

The promotion of Gardner to president had been widely expected by many rail industry observers.

Railway Age reported that Gardner has been making most of the major decisions and setting policy during his time as an Amtrak senior vice president.

His elevation to the president’s chair coincides with the election of Joseph Biden as president. Gardner, like Biden, is a Democrat.

Earlier in his career, Gardner served in staff positions for Congressional Democrats on Capitol Hill, including Delaware Senator Tom Carper.

He joined Amtrak in 2009 after having helped develop railroad and transportation policy for the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Before coming to Washington, Gardner worked for Guilford Rail System (now Pan Am Railways) and the Buckingham Branch Railroad.

Railway Age said Gardner is widely recognized as one of the principal authors of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008.

The magazine said Gardner was unlikely to become Amtrak’s president so long as Republicans controlled the White House and the Department of Transportation.

In a prepared statement, Amtrak said the change in leadership was “part of a broader set of actions taken . . . to ensure that Amtrak is well positioned for success in fiscal year 2021 and beyond.”

The statement said Gardner will lead day-to-day operations and oversee marketing, operations, planning, government affairs, and corporate communication.

Historically, Amtrak’s president has been its top executive, but during the tenure of the late Joseph Boardman the company added the CEO title to his duties.

Amtrak’s statement said the carrier faces “two urgent challenges in 2021” including weathering the COVID-19 pandemic and bolstering Amtrak’s future.

Amtrak’s presidency has been a revolving door in recent years with no one person holding the position for more than a few years.

Charles “Wick” Moorman, a former CEO of Norfolk Southern, came out of retirement in 2016 to serve as Amtrak president and CEO in what at the time was described as a transitional appointment.

Moorman became co-CEO of Amtrak with Richard Anderson in June 2017, an arrangement that continued through the end of 2017.

Anderson, a former CEO of Delta Air Lines, served as Amtrak’s top executive until being replaced in April 2020 by William Flynn, a former CEO of Atlas Air.

Toys for Tots Train Won’t Operate This Year

November 21, 2019

The Toys for Tots train in New York State has been scrapped after Norfolk Southern declined to agree to host it again.

Sponsored by the U.S. Marine Corps, the train distributes toys to children in the Capital Region of the state.

Last year Amtrak declined to cooperate in the running of the train, but NS and private car owners stepped in and rescued it.

In a statement, NS said that it had told Capital Region Toys for Tots last year that it would not participate in the train excursion in the future.

The Toys for Tots train has operated for the past 20 years and in 2018 it operated between Binghamton and Delanson, New York.

Marine Staff Sgt. Patrick Lurenz, who helps coordinate the train, told Trains magazine that the death of former Amtrak President Joseph Boardman last March appeared to have played a role in the train’s demise.

Lurenz said Boardman was a vocal supporter of the train and helped smooth the way for it to run every year.

Bennett Levin, who owns locomotives and passenger cars that operated on last year’s train, said the discussions about this year’s operation never got to the point where a consist was being planned.

He also noted that NS only committed to operate the train last year.

Lurenz said he had discussions with NS about hosting the train this year. “My impression is not that they don’t want to do it, I just don’t think right now they can do it, or it just didn’t happen in time this year,” he said.

“It’s not that we took it for granted. We didn’t know there was that much logistical work to do,” Lurenz told Trains.

In 2018 the Toys for Tots train delivered 18,000 of the 250,000 toys the group distributed to local organizations.

He said most of those organizations cannot afford to send trucks to the distribution centers in the immediate Capital Region.

Therefore, Toys for Tots is working on assembling teams of trucks to handle the deliveries to the localities the train would have served.

Although the toys will get distributed, Lurenz said what will be lost is showing donors a sense of what their gifts mean.

He also said the train served as a publicity tool for the project.

Horn Blast Paid Tribute to Boardman

March 22, 2019

A former Amtrak locomotive horn was sounded at 11:01 a.m. last Friday in tribute to the late Joseph Boardman, who was Amtrak’s president for nine years.

Boardman

The tribute took place as Boardman’s funeral was being held in Rome, New York.

A horn from a retired Amtrak F40PH locomotive was set up outside St. Paul’s Church and given a long blast in tribute to the man who served as Amtrak second longest tenured president.

More than a hundred current Amtrak employees, political leaders and friends attended the service.

Musing Aboard Boardman’s Legacy

March 18, 2019

In my world Joseph Boardman was just another name and visage I knew only from a printed page or megapixels on a computer screen.

Our paths never crossed and even if they had our relationship would have been brief and superficial.

Following his death on March 7 several transportation industry leaders issued warm statements about the life and career of Amtrak’s ninth president who died at age 70 after suffering a stroke while vacationing with his family in Florida.

The tributes were the predictable things that people say when a high-profile person passes away.

There’s nothing wrong with that. They are paying homage and not writing a biography with detail, context and nuance.

Some tributes described Boardman as a friend of long-distance passenger trains.

He gladdened the hearts of passenger train advocates by attacking the efforts of the current Amtrak administration to replace the middle of the route of the Southwest Chief with a bus bridge.

Boardman was a persistent critic of current Amtrak management, which was enough to make him a hero in the eyes of some.

Of the many tributes paid to Boardman, two have particularly stood out to me because they hint at a cautionary tale for those wanting to see Amtrak expand its network.

A friend of mine in announcing Boardman’s death during a local railroad club meeting said he didn’t agree with all of Boardman’s policy decisions as president of Amtrak, but understood the pressures and realities he had to deal with and how those shaped his behavior.

Jim Wrinn, the editor of Trains, sounded a similar theme in his tribute posted on the magazine’s website.

Acknowledging he didn’t know Boardman well, Wrinn recalled a comment Boardman made at a 2010 conference in Chicago.

In responding to the many questions posed of him about when this or that was going happen at Amtrak, Boardman often replied, “Not in a time frame that you and I would find acceptable.”

In an interview with a Trains reporter last September, Boardman said he had been unable to persuade the Amtrak board of directors to find and spend more money on the carrier’s national network.

So such things as daily operation of the Cardinal and Sunset Limited were not accomplished on Boardman’s watch.

There are two ways to look at that.

One view suggests Boardman lacked the communications skills necessary to persuade those board members to adopt his point of view.

Could a more skilled communicator have succeeded where Boardman failed?

Maybe not and that raises the second way to look at Boardman’s comment about being unable to persuade the board.

There are powerful institutional forces surrounding Amtrak that for the most part made Boardman little more than a keeper of the status quo.

These forces stymie the type of expansion that passenger advocates crave and ultimately will hamstring the vision of the current Amtrak management to restructure the passenger carrier into a series of corridor services and a few experiential long-distance trains.

Boardman’s defense of the Southwest Chief could have been motivated by a desire to preserve what he viewed as one of his crowning achievements. Maybe he did believe in the long-distance passenger train.

Yet that network remained frozen in place between 2008 and 2016 when he served as CEO.

We await a comprehensive review of Boardman’s time at Amtrak that will provide an in-depth examination of the successes and shortcomings of his distinguished career.

That includes a review of his interaction with the carrier’s board of directors, Congress, the U.S. Department of Transportation and transportation policy makers at the federal, state and local levels.

That review might find that Boardman was not quite the friend of the long-distance train that some have made him out to be or it might find that no one person no matter how personally dedicated he or she is to long-distant trains would have been able to move the mountain standing in front of having more trains not to mention enhanced services aboard those that exist.

Work Progressing on Rebuilding SW Chief Route

March 15, 2019

Engineering work is underway for the latest phase of a project to upgrade the tracks used by Amtrak’s Southwest Chief in New Mexico.

This includes tie replacement between Springer and Las Vegas, New Mexico; addressing signal system issues; and rebuilding culverts in the Devils Throne area near Lamy, New Mexico, to mitigate damage from rock slides.

Once completed, the work will result in 29 miles of now jointed rail having been rebuilt to Federal Railroad Administration class 4 standards.

That will enable a top speed of 79 miles per hour. It will also leave 27 miles of jointed rail in western Kansas and southeastern Colorado still needing to be rebuilt.

Setting aside those 27 miles, the efforts to rebuild the route of the Chief covers 42 miles and includes welded rail on curves that BNSF track workers have already laid.

Much of the present construction is being funded by a $16 million federal TIGER grant landed by Colfax County, New Mexico, as well as funding provided by host railroad BNSF and local governments.

Amtrak until recently had been withholding $3 million it had earlier pledged to contribute to the work.

The passenger carrier had said it would not release the funds until a comprehensive funding program to finish improvements of the Chief’s route was completed.

However, Congress last month approved legislation directing Amtrak to spend $50 million on the route.

Officials along the Chief’s route will now turn to finding a city sponsor to seek a Consolidated Rail Infrastructure Safety and Improvement or a Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grant in the next budget cycle.

Some cities that might consider doing that include Dodge City and Garden City in Kansas, and Lamar, Colorado.

An earlier $9 million federal CRISI grant will be used to install positive train control between Dodge City and Las Animas, Colorado.

“The combined grants and matches have already generated more than $100 million for Southwest Chief route improvements. We’re not about to stop now,” said La Junta city manager Rick Klein.

Noting that the Chief improvement project was a priority of the late Joseph Boardman, who served as president of Amtrak between 2008 and 2016, Klein said we owe it to him to finish the job.”

Boardman Funeral Mass is Friday

March 14, 2019

A funeral mass for former Amtrak president Joseph H. Boardman will be held on Friday in Rome, New York, at 11 a.m. at St. Paul’s Catholic Church.

Visitation will be today between 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. at the Barry Funeral Home in Rome.

Mr. Boardman, who served as Amtrak’s ninth president, died March 7 at age 70 after suffering a stroke while vacationing in Florida at a home he owned in Pasco County.

He headed Amtrak between 2008 and 2016. Previously, Mr. Boardman served as head of the Federal Railroad Administration between 2005 and 2008.

The Boardman family has suggested that memorials be made to Unity Acres in Orwell, New York; Health Friends of Utica, New York; or the Epilepsy Foundation.

Mr. Boardman is survived by his wife, Joanne; two sons, a daughter and four grandchildren.

Ex-Amtrak President Joseph Boardman Dies

March 9, 2019

Former Amtrak President Joseph H. Boardman, 70, died this week after suffering a stroke.

Mr. Boardman

Mr. Boardman, whose career also included serving as New York State Transportation Commissioner and Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, was Amtrak’s second-longest-serving president.

He died on March 7 after being stricken two days earlier while vacationing in Florida with his family.

As head of the FRA, Mr. Boardman served on the Amtrak board of directors as the representative of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

He was named Amtrak’s ninth president in November 2008 after Alexander Kummant stepped down.

At the time, the Amtrak board appointed Mr. Boardman to a one-year term.

In January 2010 the board announced it had extended Mr. Boardman’s term indefinitely.

Mr. Boardman retired as Amtrak president in September 2016 and was succeeded by former Norfolk Southern CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman.

His eight years as Amtrak president trails only the late W. Graham Claytor in tenure as head of Amtrak. Mr. Claytor served as Amtrak president between 1982 and 1993.

During Mr. Boardman’s tenure, Amtrak purchased 28 Alstom Avelia Liberty trainsets for use in the Northeast Corridor on Acela Express service and during his watch the passenger carrier initiated the acquisition of 200 Viewliners cars from CAF-USA.

The latter were plagued with production and delivery delays and the full order has yet to be completed.

Mr. Boardman was described by those who worked with him and knew him at Amtrak as a very hands-on manager.

He often rode Amtrak trains in a business car to see the network for himself.

A retired Amtrak car attendant told Trains magazine that Mr. Boardman would encourage on-board employees to come to his car Beech Grove during those inspection trips and say what was on their mind.

In the past year Mr. Boardman had become sharply critical of current Amtrak management, particularly after it indicated that it wanted to replace the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief between Dodge City, Kansas, and Albuquerque with bus service.

Mr. Boardman was particularly passionate about the Chief because he had overseen as president of Amtrak an effort to win federal, state and local grant money to be used to rehabilitate the tracks that the Chief uses on a lightly-used BNSF line over Raton Pass.

In a statement released by Amtrak, board Chairman Anthony Coscia and President Richard Anderson said, “we are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Joe Boardman.”

The statement said that during his tenure as FRA administrator and Amtrak president Mr. Boardman had been a tireless advocate for passenger rail and the nation’s mobility.”

“During his eight years at the helm, Joe helped the company make significant progress in reducing our debt, improving our infrastructure and raising our cost recovery performance,” the statement said.

Mr. Boardman was a lifelong resident of New York state and was raised on a dairy farm in Oneida County.

In 1966 he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served in Vietnam between 1968 and 1969.

After his discharge from the Air Force, he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture Economics from Cornell University and a Master of Science Degree in Management Science from Binghamton University.

He was appointed by President George W. Bush as FRA administrator, a position he held between 2005 and 2008.

Other positions that he held included serving as chairman of the Executive Committee of the Transportation Research Board, and serving as chairman of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ Standing Committee on Rail Transportation.

He was a commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation for eight years.

Boardman Critical of Amtrak in Trains Interview

February 5, 2019

A former Amtrak president sharply criticized the management of his former employer, aiming many of his barbs at current Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson, but also being critical of former Amtrak head Charles “Wick” Moorman.

Joe Boardman

Joseph H. Boardman, who was president of Amtrak between November 2008 and September 2016, spoke during an interview with Trains magazine on such topics as rail safety, operations, and dining car service.

The interview was published in the April 2019 issue that recently has been arriving in the mailboxes of subscribers and hitting newstands.

“Cost has become a driver in a way that it has begun to damage the system,” Boardman said in the interview. “We had an overall revenue goal. But individual management goals that influence monetary bonuses were based on cost targets, not revenue. The incentive program needs to be revamped so cutting expenses is not the sole focus.”

Trains said it sought comment from Amtrak to Boardman’s statements and received a reply from a spokeswoman that defended an incentive plans to help improve performance that had been recommended by the Government Accounting Office and encouraged by Congress.

“Congress expects Amtrak to reduce costs, increase employee productivity and maximize the use of our resources and property,” the spokeswoman said.

The Amtrak statement said the incentive plan focuses on operating loss, customer service and ridership.

“Like any business, we want to strike a balance between reducing the costs of operations and growing the ridership and revenue associated with the service we provide. This isn’t an either-or proposition — our incentive plan aims to control costs and increase ridership and revenue. The better we are at providing service efficiently, the more resources we can invest into our long-standing capital needs and the more our customers will choose Amtrak as the way to travel,” the Amtrak statement said.

Boardman is Again Critical of Amtrak

August 29, 2018

Former Amtrak head Joseph Boardman has again criticized the passenger carrier’s stance on operating on routes lacking positive train control.

Boardman

Boardman told Trains magazine that the Amtrak board of directors has not seriously considered the consequences of an earlier statement that the carrier will not use routes lacking PTC by a Dec. 31 deadline for implementation set by federal law.

In particular, the carrier has indicated that is considering sending Southwest Chief passengers by bus between Albuquerque and Dodge City, Kansas, or La Junta, Colorado.

A sticking point is how Amtrak will treat route segments that are exempt from the PTC requirement.

“If Amtrak requires PTC on any exempted portion the full cost of the PTC installation and maintenance becomes Amtrak’s. So they could load up costs for these routes or pass them on to states (sponsoring service),” Boardman said.

“It’s just ridiculous and it is not necessary in the sparse operating environment of the FRA-exempted track areas. It is also not financially sensible to burden this cost on Congress or a state given the operating situation.”

Boardman said passenger trains can operate safely on track lacking PTC.

He said Amtrak should stop ignoring the judgments of the Federal Railroad Administration and continue to operate safe railroading without PTC on the FRA-judged low risk sections of track that received PTC exemptions in order to fulfill the “public service” mission it was created for.

“If the board made this decision then it has been poorly advised,” Boardman said. “Risk management and behavioral safety training is not new with the SMS [Safety Management System] adopted from the FAA and recently promoted within Amtrak.

Boardman described SMS as a “formal, top-down, organization-wide approach to managing safety risk and assuring the effectiveness of safety risk controls.”

Amtrak created a risk management department following an Inspector General recommendation several years ago, but it was ended in 2017.

As he has argued in the past, Boardman believes recent Amtrak management decisions and actions have resulted in “serious missteps with Amtrak stakeholders, customers, and members of Congress.”

Calling this unacceptable nonsense, Boardman said it is time to move on and provide customer and stakeholder service and commitment.

“It’s creating an unprofessional situation for Amtrak that is reprehensible and unsustainable in the eyes of Congress and Dodge and Garden City, Kansas; La Junta and Trinidad Colorado; Raton, and Las Vegas, New Mexico; BNSF Railroad employees, private car owners, and even the United States Marine Corp. And those disgusted stakeholders are only the tip of the problems.”

Rail Consultant Upbraids Boardman

May 16, 2018

Former Amtrak President Joseph Boardman got a lot of favorable reviews for a letter he recently wrote to public officials across the country criticizing current Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson for what Boardman believes is are effort by him and the Amtrak board of directors to dismantle the carrier’s network of long-distance trains.

However, in a column published on the website of Railway Age, a railroad passenger consultant took Boardman to task, saying that he created the situation that current Amtrak management might be exploiting.

M.E. Singer, a principal at Marketing Rail Ltd. in Chicago, argues that it was Boardman and the same board of directors under whom Anderson is serving who left Amtrak in a state of disrepair after years as president and who created the movement to force states to pay to renovate the tracks used in parts of Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico by the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

In his letter, Boardman had contended that current Amtrak management is drawing a line at the base of Raton Pass as an opening move to curtail long-distance trains.

Boardman was referencing a letter that Amtrak’s government affairs office sent to public officials along the route of the Chief stating that Amtrak would not match a federal grant obtained by Colfax County, New Mexico, to be used to help rebuild the route of the Southwest Chief in New Mexico until all of the parties have agreed on a comprehensive funding plan to complete renovation of the route.

During Boardman’s time at Amtrak, host railroad BNSF said it would no longer maintain the former Santa Fe route used by the Chief in western Kansas, southeast Colorado and northern New Mexico to passenger train standards because the freight carrier seldom used it.

The Amtrak letter noted that in some places Amtrak is the sole user of the line.

“Despite what Boardman said, the irrefutable facts clearly indicate the first attempt ever at shaking down states for funding passenger rail infrastructure (Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico) was designed and initiated on Boardman’s watch, with the support of the same Board of Directors and executive line of management who were in place when he made these decisions . . . ,” Singer wrote.

Singer charged in his column that during the Boardman administration at Amtrak the carrier’s best managers were encouraged to take buyouts “during multiple reorganizations that only depleted vital institutional knowledge.”

Although Boardman in his letter accused Amtrak of a lack of transparency, Singer said Amtrak also worked in secrecy during the Boardman administration.

“In reality, Boardman barely provided lip service to the long-distance routes, as evidenced by the lack of any pro formas to Congress to factually detail the number of passengers turned away, and loss of revenues, due to the lack of space on those trains; and to identify the need for more equipment to expand frequencies and to meet new route opportunities,” Singer wrote.

Singer contends Amtrak’s board of directors and its top management has a “singularly focused” commitment to serve their political patrons of the Northeast Corridor at the expense of the national system.

“What apparently puzzles Boardman is how quickly his inner circle turned their loyalty to the new CEO, Richard Anderson, continuing to focus on ensuring their own survival by placating a very conflicted Board,” Singer wrote.

Singer called for a redefinition of Amtrak to serve all interests, including the national system.

“In the end, what is critical to acknowledge is that given the vast amount of continuing infrastructure investment required for the NEC, the initial action to force those select states along the Southwest Chief route to pay tribute was abhorrently wrong. Now, that should be clearly acknowledged and corrected by federal grants and funds to maintain the national network,” Singer wrote.