Posts Tagged ‘National Association of Railroad Passengers’

Observers Give Their Take on Amtrak’s new CEO

June 29, 2017

So who is this former airline executive that Amtrak has chosen to take over as its CEO later this year when Charles “Wick” Moorman retires?

Richard Anderson

Richard Anderson was the head of Delta Air Lines, but he also at one time served as a prosecutor and the vice president of an insurance company, United Health.

His father, Hale, worked for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe in Texas and the family moved multiple times as the elder Anderson held office jobs at posts from Galveston to Dallas and Amarillo.

When he was in college, the younger Anderson’s parents died of cancer and he subsequently had to raise his two younger sisters as he worked to earn college tuition money.

After earning his law degree, Anderson worked in Texas for nearly a decade as a prosecutor.

His entry into the airline industry began in the legal department of Houston-based Continental Airlines.

He would later join Northwest Airlines and became its CEO three years later. As Delta Air Lines was emerging from bankruptcy in 2007, its board of directors asked Anderson to become its CEO, which meant that he succeeded Gerald Grinstein, a former CEO of the Burlington Northern Railroad.

“Richard has a hands-on, roll-up-your-sleeves, let-me-see-how-this-thing-really-works kind of approach,” John Dasburg, Northwest’s former president, told USA Today in 2008.

During his time at Delta, Anderson sometimes sought unconventional solutions to solve problems.

For example, in an effort to cut fuel costs, Delta purchased an oil refinery near Philadelphia in 2012.

Industry reaction to Anderson being named co-CEO of Amtrak – Moorman won’t be retiring until late December – has been mostly positive.

He received unqualified endorsements from Linda Bauer Darr, president of the American Short Line and Regional Rail Road Association, and from Ed Hamberger, the president of the Association of American Railroads.

Jim Mathews, head of the National Association of Railroad Passengers lauded Anderson’s transportation experience.

“NARP is very pleased Amtrak is making the sensible move of bringing in an executive with strong management experience in a customer-service oriented transportation company,” Mathews said.

Former NARP executive director Ross Capon said the fact that Moorman will be Amtrak’s co-CEO through December shows the two men will likely have a good working relationship and that Anderson will be able to learn from Moorman.

Not all advocacy groups were enthusiastic about Anderson’s appointment.

Charles Leocha, chairman of Travelers United and an airline consumer advocate, said in an interview with Trains magazine that Anderson is “a real charger” who “has not been a friend of consumers, but ran an efficient airline as consolidation was completed . . .”

Richard Rudolph, the president of the Rail Users Network, said Amtrak needs someone who knows railroads, knows how to run a company and can stand up against Congress and President Donald Trump.

Also expressing skepticism was former Amtrak President and CEO David Gunn.

“If he can’t coax people at Amtrak who know how to run a railroad out of their fox holes, he’s doomed,” Gunn said in an interview with Trains. “And you have to convince them you have a plan that makes sense operationally and is not driven by politics.”

Gunn said the best hope is that Anderson has some knowledge of railroad operations.”

Jackson McQuigg, a railroad historian and passenger advocate based in Atlanta, told Trains that he sees in Anderson a man with a demeanor similar to that of W. Graham Claytor Jr. between 1982 and 1993.

“He had a stellar reputation in Atlanta and cared about the city and its history,” McQuigg told Trains.

While at Delta and Northwest, McQuigg noted, Anderson had a reputation for being a tough guy who wasn’t afraid to mix it up with the airline unions.

“Maybe that bunch in the White House will listen to him,” McQuigg said of Anderson. “It will be interesting to see if that happens or if Anderson presides over dismemberment instead. All I know is that the long-distance trains had better be preserved or the whole thing will go up in political flames.”

Advertisements

NARP Plans Rallies for Amtrak Long-Distance Trains

June 9, 2017

The National Association of Railroad Passengers is planning a series of rallies across the country on June 23 to drum up political support for saving funding for Amtrak’s long-distance trains.

The Trump administration has proposed ending funding of long-distance service in the fiscal year 2018 federal budget, which NARP says would end intercity rail passenger service at 220 communities in 23 states.

“If Congress enacts this budget, our national passenger rail network will largely cease to exist,” NARP President and CEO Jim Mathews says. “Communities and rail passengers need to clearly and loudly tell Congress that our communities and citizens rely on trains as important travel options.”

More information about the rallies is available at www.townswithouttrains.com.

Endangered Transit Projects Listed

March 27, 2017

News media accounts indicate that the “skinny budget” recently released by the Trump administration would put at risk 16 transit projects in the United States.

The projects include: Phoenix Light Rail; Los Angeles Westside Subway Extension (Section 3); San Jose and Santa Clara BART Silicon Valley extension (Phase 2); Santa Ana/Garden Grove Streetcar; Fort Lauderdale Streetcar; Lake County, Indiana Commuter Rail; Maryland Purple Line; Minneapolis Light Rail (Blue Line); Minneapolis Light Rail (Southwest); Durham-Chapel Hill Light Rail; New York – New Jersey Hudson Tunnel; New Jersey Portal North Bridge; New York Second Avenue Subway (Phase 2); New York Bus Rapid Transit (Woodhaven Boulevard); Seattle Light Rail (Federal Way); and Seattle Light Rail (Lynnwood Link Extension).

The projects are at risk because they lack “full funding grant agreements,” which are needed in order to receive a New Starts grant from the Federal Transit Administration.

The National Association of Railroad Passengers said if the funding rule proposed in the budget is enacted, these projects would either have to seek other funding sources or they would not be built.

NARP noted that the budget’s call for end federal funding for Amtrak long-distance passenger trains would end rail service to 220 communities nationwide. Those trains last year carried 4.6 million passengers.

NARP Decries Amtrak, Public Transit Funding Cuts

March 17, 2017

The National Association of Railroad Passengers said Thursday that the Trump administration budget for Amtrak for the fiscal year 2018 appears to have been adopted from a model proposed by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

The administration described the budget blueprint as a “skinny budget” and it contains few program details.

NARP contends that while President Donald Trump has talked up the need for transportation infrastructure investment, “his administration’s first budget guts infrastructure spending, slashing $2.4 billion from transportation. This will jeopardize mobility for millions of Americans and endanger tens of thousands of American jobs.”

The budget, which must be approved by Congress, would end all federal funding for Amtrak’s national network trains.

NARP said this would leave 23 states, including Ohio, without rail passenger service.

The Trump budget would also cut $499 million from the TIGER grant program, which has been used to advance passenger rail and transit projects and eliminate $2.3 billion for the Federal Transit Administration’s “New Starts” Capital Investment Program, which is used to fund the launch of transit, commuter rail, and light-rail projects.

Political analysts have noted that no budget proposal sent to Congress has emerged without changes.

It is likely that transportation advocacy groups will lobby Congress hard to restore the funding that Trump wants to cut.

Schenectady Passengers Might Have to Make Do With a Shelter Until a New Station is Built

February 2, 2017

Schenectady, New York, officials knew that Amtrak passengers in their city would need to use a temporary facility while a permanent station was being built.

But it may be that the temporary facility will provide far less comfort than anyone expected.

Amtrak 4The Albany Times-Union reported that  in a cost-cutting move the New York Department of Transportation is looking at building what would be little more than a shelter that would not have a ticket office or restrooms.

A temporary station with those amenities was to have been completed by late 2016, but work has yet to begin on it other than the construction of stairs and a ramp.

Since 1979, Schenectady has been served by an Amtrak-built modular station that few have liked.

Since 2007, city and state transportation officials have been planning to replace the 1970s Amtrak station with something more modern and attractive.

But that project suffered a setback when the lone bid for the new station came in last year $10 million over the $12 million to $15 million budget for the depot.

The new station remains on track with Gov. Andrew Cuomo allocating $15 million for the project in his proposed state budget. That is in addition to $15 million already in hand, giving planners $30 million for the station project.

The temporary station is expected to be located north of the site for the permanent station, which is expected to open in late 2018.

Bruce Becker, vice president of operations at the National Association of Railroad Passengers and a former head of the Empire State Passengers Association, said he was concerned about the proposed temporary facility.

“Our concerns are for both the benefit and the safety of the passengers,” he said.

Schenectady is served by Amtrak’s Empire Corridor trains, the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited, the New York-Montreal Adirdondack, and the New York-Rutland, Vermont Ethan Allen Express.

Report Claims That Autonomous Cars Will Hurt Passenger Rail; Others Aren’t So Sure About That

October 25, 2016

A study projects that self-driving cars could have an adverse effect on rail passenger ridership, reducing it by 40 percent.

Amtrak 4The study by the Boston Consulting Group, titled “Will Autonomous Vehicles Derail Trains?” suggests that in some communities trains could be replaced by self-driving motor vehicles.

“The advent of autonomous vehicles could well affect passenger rail travel as profoundly as did the automobile 125 years ago,” the report states.

It remains to be seen when self-driving vehicles will appear on roads and streets on a large scale.

A number of pilot programs are underway by such companies as Tesla, Uber and Google.

Uber recently began a test program of driverless cars in Pittsburgh and the U.S. Department of Department of Transportation has written new regulations for the cars.

The Boston group report cited a survey of 5,500 people in 10 countries that found that 50 percent of them would ride in a driverless car.

The Boston group said an advantage of self-driving vehicles is that they can deliver passengers right to the doorstep of where they want to do.

The study also said that the technology to regulate autonomous vehicles would cost less than a passenger rail system.

Passenger rail carriers could take advantage of self-driving vehicles, the study said, by having a fleet of such vehicles at the ready to take passenger the last few miles of their journey once they step off a train.

Not all rail passenger advocates agree with the conclusions of the study.

Andy Kunz, president and CEO of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association, told Trains magazine that the idea that driverless cars would replace passenger trains is “absurd.”

“They want to spend a trillion dollars to try to make cars operate closely spaced as a ‘platoon’ with no proof whatsoever it will ever work, when we already have trains that rapidly move people closely spaced together, and have been proven and successful for 150 years,” Kunz said. “There is no way this driverless car system will ever come close to moving the high numbers of people across a region that high speed rail can do now.”

Kunz cautioned that driverless cars could become the target of hackers, citing how Chinese security researchers figured out how to control a Tesla car remotely.

“They think people are going to get into their driverless car, program in a destination, and then sit back and read the newspaper while the vehicle does the navigating, when we already have taxis, Uber, and trains that do this now without having to invent anything new,” Kunz said.

Also critical of the report was the National Association of Railroad Passengers, which said the report ignores new trends in resettlement patterns that have seen young and educated professionals moving to cities and walkable communities.

“That has led to steady growth in passenger rail service, with cities and states looking to develop new rail lines and multi-modal stations,” NARP said. “In addition, rail transit is technology that that readily available for the development of passenger rail networks, and it is a mode of transportation that people are familiar with, and can rely on.”

Challenges of Building New Amtrak Station in Buffalo Addressed During Public Hearing

October 21, 2016

Building a new Amtrak station in Buffalo, New York, will take some time and it won’t come cheap.

But those pushing for a new station are optimistic that it will be built.

Amtrak 4That was the consensus at a recent public meeting to discuss what needs to be done to get a depot to replace the current Exchange Street station.

That facility closed last month after its ceiling caved in following heavy rains.

Amtrak’s Empire Service and Maple Leaf continue to stop at Exchange Street.

For now, the only open station building in Buffalo is in suburban Depew, which is also served by the Lake Shore Limited.

Among the options for a new station are building in Canalside or restoring Central Terminal, which has not hosted scheduled passenger trains since 1979.

Speakers at the hearing said that before a station can be built, the region needs to undertake a study, obtain funding and get the support of political officials.

Bruce Becker, vice president of operations for the National Association of Railroad Passengers,  said it remains to be seen if if the city or the state should guide the process.

“The key is finding the right agency or government organization to take the lead,” Becker said. “The City of Buffalo would be a natural to do that because it’s in the City of Buffalo, and would benefit the City of Buffalo. But somebody has to say, ‘I’m going to step up because this is important.’ ”

An advantage of using Central Terminal is that it would be able to serve all Amtrak trains passing through Buffalo.

Niagara Falls (New York) Senior Planner Tom DeSantis said his city spent nearly two decades planning and constructing a new station that Amtrak still has not agreed to use.

“You’re in a much better place. The state is in a much better place. And I think your experience with this is going to be a lot quicker,” he said. “It won’t probably be any less contentious, but it should go a lot quicker, arriving at kind of A-OK, we’ve gone over all of the options. We’ve weighed all of the alternatives. We think we know what we want.”

The Niagara Falls station cost $43 million.

Becker said rehabilitating Central Terminal would be a more complex project than was constructing the station in Niagara Falls.

“We all know the topic of Buffalo Central Terminal is on the table and needs to be fully explored, but certainly I think realists would agree that that means in conjunction with redevelopment of that landmark,” Becker said. “A new train station cannot be that sole redevelopment. It needs an overall project because that’s a huge undertaking.”

The challenge of renovating the existing Exchange Street Station is that is in a less than ideal location and is not handicapped accessible. The station, the platform and the tracks have different ownership.

Removal of Dining Cars From Lake Shore Limited Described by Amtrak as Temporary Measure

July 25, 2016

Amtrak has confirmed removing Heritage Fleet dining cars from the Lake Shore Limited and substituting Amfleet II café cars.

Although Amtrak said that table service on linen is being provided, one report from the train posted on a railfan chat list indicated that the silverware was plastic and the meals were pre-pared and merely heated by an attendant.

Amtrak logoAs a safety concern, the Heritage diners, which were built in the streamliner era following World War II, were sidelined due to cracks in their frames.

The National Association of Railroad Passengers reported that the removal of diners from Nos. 48/49 is temporary until new Viewliner diners enter service.

The Amfleet café cars are featuring a menu similar to that of the Cardinal and City of New Orleans, trains that have modified dining service.

NARP said it was told by Amtrak that repairing the cracks would require a major effort to repair. Currently, Amtrak has 12 Heritage diners in service.

The Lake Shore Limited was chosen to lose its Heritage diners because it has the fewest full meal periods of Amtrak’s single-level long- distance trains.

Viewliner dining cars are part of an order of new equipment being built for Amtrak by CAF in Elmira, New York.

Amtrak officials said the Viewliner diners are now in production and CAF is addressing a “punch list” of items that Amtrak has created.

NARP said Amtrak officials expect the new Viewliner diners to enter revenue service as early as late summer, which it defined as August or early September.

NARP said Amtrak has assured the passenger rail advocacy group that once new diners are available, a more conventional dining service would return to the Lake Shore Limited.

New Viewliner sleepers are expected to begin leaving the CAF plant during the fall.

A review of Amtrak’s CAF Viewliner order conducted by the Government Accountability Office found that the cars are three years overdue.

Amtrak ordered 130 cars for $300 million in 2010 and thus far the only cars to be placed into service have been baggage cars.

The order included 25 dining cars. The GAO report said the order won’t likely be completed until at least 2017.