Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Feinberg’

Amtrak Board Nominees Sent to Senate Floor

September 17, 2020

Three nominees to the Amtrak Board of Directors have advanced to the Senate floor, but a Kansas senator has placed a hold on two of them

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation approved the nominations of Chris Koos, Sarah Feinberg and Todd Rokita, but Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) is demanding that Rokita and Feinberg provide credible evidence that they support Amtrak’s long-distance services.

Moran’s staff indicated that Koos, the mayor of Normal, Illinois, has provided such evidence, but Feinberg’s statement needs more detail.

Rokita, a former Indiana congressman, did not respond to the senator’s request to provide a written statement.

The Senate committee voted unanimously to advance the nominations of Feinberg and Koos, both Democrats, but advanced Rokitas nomination on a party line 14-12 vote.

All 12 dissenting votes came from Democrats. Rokita is a Republican.

Feinberg is a former head of the Federal Railroad Administration and is currently interim president of the New York City Transit Authority.

Amtrak Board Nominees Tell Senate Committee They Support Keeping National Network

August 21, 2020

Amtrak board of directors nominee Chris Koos told a Senate hearing that although he is “very committed” to Amtrak’s national network he also views the carrier’s proposed reduction of frequency of service on long-distance routes as a temporary measure.

Testifying to the Senate Commerce Committee on Aug. 6, Koos, the mayor of Normal, Illinois, said that without long-distance trains Amtrak doesn’t have a national network.

“I understand the need to be prudent about the frequency of those routes in a COVID world. I am strongly committed to returning to daily service on the long-distance routes,” he said.

Amtrak plans to operate all of its long-distance trains except the Auto Train on tri-weekly or quad-weekly schedules.

The New York-Miami Silver Meteor and Silver Star began operating on a less-than-daily basis in early July and the remainder of the trains will move to tri-weekly in October.

Also testifying and supportive of the reduction in long-distance service was board nominee Sarah Feinberg,

“I believe Amtrak is taking the right steps — cleaning, masks, matching service levels to current ridership demand,” said Feinberg, who is currently the interim president of New York City’s public transit system and former head of the Federal Railroad Administration.

Some Senators during the hearing expressed reservations about Amtrak’s plans.

“I’m very concerned that these cuts may significantly harm communities and threaten the long-term viability of the national railroad,” said Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) and the ranking minority member of the committee.

Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) was particularly outspoken in his view that Amtrak is biased against long distance trains.

“I am here to make sure that the nominees understand what they’ve just answered in Senator Cantwell’s question about their commitment to long-distance service,” he said.

“My view is that Amtrak is designed to provide long-distance service across the country.

“The metrics of whether or not it should exist is not whether or not it is profitable. We have a nationwide system designed to make certain that that service is available to all Americans with geographic dispersity across our country.”

Moran was among a group of senators who opposed an earlier Amtrak plan to break the Chicago-Los Angles Southwest Chief into two trains with passengers traveling by bus between western Kansas and Albuquerque.

Amtrak backed away from that plan in the face of congressional opposition.

Moran saw some parallels between the fight over keeping the route of the Chief intact and Amtrak’s plans to reduce the frequency of operation of the long-distance trains.

“But, now with COVID, there is an opportunity and perhaps an excuse for the diminution of service which I understand. What I am concerned about is the return of the service,” he said.

“I want to make certain that responding to the challenges financial and otherwise of COVID pandemic is not used an excuse to now terminate or significantly reduce, where it no longer is viable, long-distance service on the Southwest Chief and other long-distance routes.”

Moran expressed skepticism about Amtrak’s stated criteria for determining when a long-distance train would return to daily operation.

Among other things, ridership in the first quarter of federal fiscal year 2021 must be within 90 percent of Amtrak’s projected numbers.

“That requires me to have a lot of faith in the projections of Amtrak, so that something less than what you project doesn’t automatically become an explanation for why we no longer can support long-distance passenger service,” Moran said.

The Kansas senator asked Koos and Feinberg to respond in writing their commitment to long-distance service and suggested he might delay their confirmations without that.

Moran had earlier delayed the confirmations of other Amtrak board nominees.

He said to Feinberg and Koos that he hopes the Amtrak board will not look for the excuse that COVID-19 might present for the elimination or significant further reduction of that service.

“In other words, we struggle with maintaining our service for the needs on a daily basis,” Moran said. “Now, with reduced service, I think ridership is going to be less viable not more viable, and so the criteria that Amtrak is creating is making it more difficult in my mind to see that Amtrak is on a path to restoration of service.”

Feinberg said at the hearing she understood the importance of the trains because she is from West Virginia where they are important.

Koos talked about how important the Texas Eagle is to his community and smaller communities across the nation.

“”The first quarter of Fiscal Year 21 seems to me like a tenuous benchmark, because I don’t know where we’re going to be the first quarter of ’21 with COVID-19,” he said.

“ I think we have to recognize the mood of the country and people’s willingness to public transportation again in a post-COVID world and that is the metric that I would use to judge the viability of the long-distance routes.”

2 Named to Amtrak Board of Directors

May 19, 2020

The Trump administration announced it intends to nominate Sarah E. Feinberg and Chris Koos to Amtrak’s board of directors. Both are Democrats and would fill seats on the board set aside for that party.

Feinberg is interim president of MTA New York City Transit and previously served as Federal Railroad Administrator and as chief of staff to former Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.

She also once served as director of policy communications at Facebook and director of Global Communications and Business Strategy at Bloomberg.

A West Virginia native, she is the founder of Feinberg Strategies and received her B.A. from Washington and Lee University.

Koos has been mayor of Normal, Illinois, since 2003. He serves on the advisory board of Transportation for America, is a member of the Uptown Normal Business Association, and, since 1979, has served as the owner and operator of the retail specialty stores Vitesse Cycle Shop and Often Running.

Both nominations require confirmation in the U.S. Senate.