Amtrak’s Flynn on impact of COVID-19

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

20th Century Rider

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
469
Saw this on the CBS Morning News show. Of interest to many is his comment on maintaining LD service, even if reduced frequency as a result of 85% drop in ridership.
The Amtrak CEO was certainly right and I was impressed with the interview. Certainly Amtrak is a victim of the pandemic as are so many other travel businesses. But I was also encouraged by the Montana governor pushing for as much service as possible. We all should understand that when there is some semblance of normal at the other end of the pandemic, demand for rail traffic will be greater than ever as cars once again clog the roads.

And like so many others, I hope the new chapter in America's transportation will bring innovation to the rails!
 

Ziv

OBS Chief
Joined
Oct 25, 2011
Messages
630
This video reinforces the concern I have about Amtrak weathering this storm. The cleaning protocol is a good thing, and I hope that this means that the LD services are seeing the bathrooms getting cleaned more frequently while enroute than they use to see. But even after we beat this bug there may be a lingering concern about germs and that could make cars even more attractive in the future. In other cultures it is mass transit or you don't travel due to the expense of owning your own car. Here car ownership isn't quite as expensive and the roads are efficient enough to get us all to where we want to go with a minimum of hassles. Europeans and Asians pretty much have to use mass transit and will do so in the future. Americans don't have to and US mass transit as a whole may see a drop in usage in the years to come. I hate to even think about what impact this will have on traffic in medium to large cities in the years to come.
It is nice to see Senator Daines, about as conservative a Republican as you will find, touting the Empire Builders Long Distance service. On this issue there is bipartisan support and I think that will be what keeps Amtrak fully funded and will return the service levels to pre-pandemic levels relatively soon, even if ridership takes years to recover.
 

Willbridge

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
401
This video reinforces the concern I have about Amtrak weathering this storm. The cleaning protocol is a good thing, and I hope that this means that the LD services are seeing the bathrooms getting cleaned more frequently while enroute than they use to see. But even after we beat this bug there may be a lingering concern about germs and that could make cars even more attractive in the future. In other cultures it is mass transit or you don't travel due to the expense of owning your own car. Here car ownership isn't quite as expensive and the roads are efficient enough to get us all to where we want to go with a minimum of hassles. Europeans and Asians pretty much have to use mass transit and will do so in the future. Americans don't have to and US mass transit as a whole may see a drop in usage in the years to come. I hate to even think about what impact this will have on traffic in medium to large cities in the years to come.
It is nice to see Senator Daines, about as conservative a Republican as you will find, touting the Empire Builders Long Distance service. On this issue there is bipartisan support and I think that will be what keeps Amtrak fully funded and will return the service levels to pre-pandemic levels relatively soon, even if ridership takes years to recover.
MP David Kilgour (Edmonton-Strathcona) who was quite a student of parliamentary structures once told me that if the Canadian Senate had the power of the U.S. Senate, Canada would have retained a national rail passenger system. Every U.S. federal administration since Johnson has tried to cut back Amtrak; it's been the Senate, working as the Founding Fathers intended, that has kept us together.
 

Trogdor

Conductor
Joined
Aug 3, 2004
Messages
5,455
Every U.S. federal administration since Johnson has tried to cut back Amtrak; it's been the Senate, working as the Founding Fathers intended, that has kept us together.
Can you give an example where the previous administration tried to cut back Amtrak service?
 

Willbridge

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
401
Can you give an example where the previous administration tried to cut back Amtrak service?
Having followed this since the 1960's I would say that the previous administration might have been the least bad - or the most subtle - in its dealings with Amtrak. Things that they signed off on set the stage for others to subsequently be blamed.


Putting the states in a situation in which they can get up to 90-92% from the Feds for highway projects or pay 100% of the cost for Amtrak service is a kind of land mine that will go off when a budget crunch hits.

Setting the land mine analogy aside and switching to a ticking time bomb analogy, how many new cars were delivered during -- to be fair -- the second term? Every time I ride from Denver to Portland the coaches are older. Seasonal short-turn CHI<>DEN sleepers or coaches, extra capacity at peak fares, that were nicknamed the "Denver Zephyr" vanished.

And finally, in North American transport planning, if you're not looking ahead, you're falling behind. When we started in on citizens' involvement in the three big Congressionally-mandated studies of restoring service on three long-haul routes, Amtrak assigned a young man with a (Portland Tri-Met) transit planning background to be our liaison. That was fine, because urban transit planners are used to a very open process. Two things happened in 2009: advocacy groups made progress (gaining community involvement, potential support, market research, alternative schedules, facilities inventories) and Amtrak transferred the decent young man to another city and another job. I don't know if he was replaced, because immediately relations turned ice cold, a FOIA inquiry was needed, etc. And the three studies each came out with different methodologies, no chance for critiquing them, overblown costs, etc.

When we were working on this, we assumed that any amount of new long-distance service would be unlikely, but thought that a fair-minded study might set the stage for some future decision. That apparently was too dangerous to let more than the status quo happen in the new administration.

Let me note that I've worked in administrations of more stripes than most and party labels have revealed little regarding the actual behavior (or in Canada, behaviour).
 

Trogdor

Conductor
Joined
Aug 3, 2004
Messages
5,455
Having followed this since the 1960's I would say that the previous administration might have been the least bad - or the most subtle - in its dealings with Amtrak. Things that they signed off on set the stage for others to subsequently be blamed.


Putting the states in a situation in which they can get up to 90-92% from the Feds for highway projects or pay 100% of the cost for Amtrak service is a kind of land mine that will go off when a budget crunch hits.
A couple of points:

1) The requirement that states pay full load was part of the PRIIA act of 2008, passed and singed into law before the administration in question took office, and

2) The bill was passed by the very Senate you claim consistently saves Amtrak from doom.
 
Joined
Jul 2, 2020
Messages
6
Can you give an example where the previous administration tried to cut back Amtrak service?
It was CEO Anderson who first proposed cutting Amtrak LD trains. This while the former CEO Boardman warned of the loss of income from the LD trains. CEO Anderson had pre pandemic began cutting crews on dining cars and replacing with TV dinners. So this is how the previous administration had tried to cutback. Please notice former CEO Anderson has stayed on as a consultant.
 

Trogdor

Conductor
Joined
Aug 3, 2004
Messages
5,455
It was CEO Anderson who first proposed cutting Amtrak LD trains. This while the former CEO Boardman warned of the loss of income from the LD trains. CEO Anderson had pre pandemic began cutting crews on dining cars and replacing with TV dinners. So this is how the previous administration had tried to cutback. Please notice former CEO Anderson has stayed on as a consultant.
I'm referring to President of the United States, not President of Amtrak. I thought that was clear from the context of the series of messages quoted.
 

Willbridge

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
401
Since Johnson? Amtrak was established by Nixon. There was no Amtrak during the Johnson years.
The Johnson administration implemented a drastic change in postal transport policies in September 1967 that resulted in train-off applications by the score. While many people today think only of the glamorous streamliners, the "mail trains" filled in schedule gaps, backed up missed connections, and shared fixed costs with better known trains. Some of them had customer loyalty, mainly among small city business people or family travelers: the Mainstreeter, Western Star and Portland Rose were all in that class.

The media were fed stories that played on stereotypes: air service would be used, rather than slow, plodding passenger trains. In fact, mail sorting was centralized, losing the time advantages. AND, the method of using air transport was changed, eliminating the guaranteed space that Air Mail had paid for. Instead, the post office had to use the schedules that airlines offered. They did patch some of the holes by contracting with small aviation contract operators, one of which hired the postal official who had coordinated the whole change (according to the WSJ).

Subsequently contract trucking filled many of the gaps. The main problem with that is weather disruptions. Lower classes of mail now have intermodal scheduled freights for rail transport. If you have access to LinkedIn, I've an essay posted there titled "Stamped Out" that tells more about it from the postal customer point of view.

The mass filing of train-off cases led to interest in a national solution, rather than just letting the NEC rust away by itself. Western railroads being profitable faced losing in ICC cases, such as for the Rose, and being forced by regulators to carry passengers.
 
Last edited:
Top