Amtrak Board and STB Senate hearings 9/7/22 10am

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Just to summarize the makeup Coscia and Weissmann are the Northeast Corridor representation.

Capozzi is the ADA/access representative.

Lathem is the organized labor representative.

Koos is assumingly one of two state supported representatives.

The three not yet named Republican members will be an additional state supported representative and two long distance representatives. Unsure of where the senate GOP caucus is on sending Biden a slate.
 
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I highly recommend watching the 1'20" hearing on Amtrak Board Nominees posted on YouTube. The first 30 minutes or so was mostly the nominees introducing themselves. After that it was quite interesting during the discussion on Gulf Coast service, the Cascades, and mention of a second Minneapolis service as well Senator Moran on the SWC and Senator Tester on the Empire Builder. Senator Moran was particularly effective in making the nominees go on the record in supporting long distance service. While talk may be cheap, at least they were talking about something other than NEC service.

There were a number of annoying ads that can be skipped after a few seconds.
 
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I highly recommend watching the 1'20" hearing on Amtrak Board Nominees posted on YouTube. The first 30 minutes or so was mostly the nominees introducing themselves. After that it was quite interesting during the discussion on Gulf Coast service, the Cascades, and mention of a second Minneapolis service as well Senator Moran on the SWC and Senator Tester on the Empire Builder. Senator Moran was particularly effective in making the nominees go on the record in supporting long distance service. While talk may be cheap, at least they were talking about something other than NEC service.

There were a number of annoying ads that can be skipped after a few seconds.
I'm in the middle of watching it myself. Just got through Moran's segment and agree.
 
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Well, one piece of hard data from the article. Cosica (presumably under oath) said that Amtrak has hired 2,800 people out of its target of 4,000.
I'm sure it's true they've hired 2800 - not sure if that's really out of that target though as they've likely had turnover during the period they've hired the 2,800 which is likely the number of hires during the period since they got the American Rescue Plan funds.
 
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It looks like this is what we have to work with for now. Biden didn’t do Amtrak any favors with this batch of nominees save for maybe Koos. They said the right things but nothing they promised is binding unfortunately.


The Republican picks will make or break Amtrak. Those picks could run the gamut from someone similar to Senator Moran to someone that wants to defund the system like Trumps unsuccessful 2019 appointee Todd Rokita.

The last paragraph of the article directly above wouldn’t bode well if it comes to fruition either, we don’t need more of the same.

“It is not known if either Moreland or Beall, or both, want to be nominated for another term, or if the Administration would offer that, if they did”.
 

jis

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I am left scratching my head as to why Sen. Moran for example does not whisper a name in the ears of Biden. Afterall the remaining three have to be Republicans.

I think it would have helped if a Democrat from California was nominated as part of the max 5 Democrat contingent. As it stands the Democrat contingent is too NEC heavy, and is not going to help the overall cause of Amtrak as much as it could, if it were better distributed across the country.
 
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I am left scratching my head as to why Sen. Moran for example does not whisper a name in the ears of Biden. Afterall the remaining three have to be Republicans.

I think it would have helped if a Democrat from California was nominated as part of the max 5 Democrat contingent. As it stands the Democrat contingent is too NEC heavy, and is not going to help the overall cause of Amtrak as much as it could, if it were better distributed across the country.
The propensity to favor the NEC over other routes seems like a continuing problem. I did appreciate Sen. Tester's stressing the importance of Amtrak in states with low population densities, such as Montana. The long distance Amtrak trains through rural areas of the country should be top priority for Amtrak.

These hearings always depress me. Seems like most of them are just gobbledegook. I wished there was more of a discussion regarding the declining quality of onboard train experience and on-time problems with Amtrak. But, maybe that wasn't part of the agenda.
 

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I agree it’s depressing. It will probably come down to Congress continuing to mandate they run the long distance trains. Amtrak may or may not continue to “run” them into the ground in the process.

I’m happy RPA has a seat at the table but the timelines of these groups seem to be out of whack. Is a working group to find a way to feed coach passengers really a 12 month process? Unfortunately since it’s likely the BOD will not tackle these issues sufficiently it’s going to be Congress and groups like RPA, and people like Evan Stair, and us for that matter that will be holding Amtrak accountable from the outside in.
 
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That site should have also noted the primary purpose of Capozzi and Lathem - they weren't really picked to represent the NEC states though they are of course from NEC states (as as a result the 3 Republicans will need to be from outside the NEC). Capozzi is the ADA/access advocate (which is a new requirement under the IIJA) and Lathem is the pick from the organized labor community. Coscia and Weissmann are the two picks to primarily represent the NEC. Certainly would be nice if they had increased the geographic diversity by appointing someone from California or the Midwest for the ADA/labor positions, but in fairness to Biden I got the impression that Capozzi and Lathem were mainly picked for their background in those areas.
 
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I think it’s also important to add that, while I agree a bit more geographic diversity in these picks may have helped demonstrate a little more of a commitment to a national Amtrak on the board, just because one is from the northeast doesn’t mean they are or would be bias or antagonistic towards the national network. Certainly someone from the northeast cannot completely understand the importance of the eagle, zephyr, or Chief from a local perspective, but that does not mean they cannot understand the importance at all. I live in New England but certainly understand how crucial the network is. I personally was not overly concerned about anything I heard from the ADA or labor rep - the latter specifically making a point to mention rural rail as a priority of his which is positive when one is talking about the network. Weissmann also made a comment about how the network is important not just because of the mobility but because of the economic benefit it brings to the regions it serves which is a key thing to understand. Certainly I would have liked to see some more in depth questions pressing them on how Amtrak is going to deal with these staffing shortages and what their thoughts are on what Amtrak needs to do, but I would also say this could have been much worse too. They could have been a lot more dodgy and non committal about the LD question than they were.
 
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I would however add that getting the right GOP picks is absolutely crucial. We need to make sure guys like Moran push to get the last 3 Republican seats filled with PRO Amtrak picks and not purist budget hawks who want to defund Amtrak as AmtrakFlyer mentioned. I think pro Amtrak GOP picks from Florida, Kansas, and Montana would be a good mix.
 

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The early Amtrak board included Prof. Ed Ullman, University of Washington expert on rail geography. He escorted Paul Reistrup on a Vista-Dome journey with narration on a Portland to Seattle trip. I don't see that level of knowledge or participation in any of the current biographies.

I wish they would prove me to be too cynical.
 
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