New Infrastructure Spending

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fredmcain

Service Attendant
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Sep 20, 2017
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198
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Northeastern Indiana
Group,

What exactly is happening with the massive infusion of funding that Congress so generously gave to Amtrak? Does Amtrak really have a specific plan in place? New equipment? New Superliners maybe?

After Googling, all I could find was an official statement from Amtrak that stated “Amtrak plans to use the $66 billion in funding it receives from the newly passed federal infrastructure bill to advance rail projects along the Northeast Corridor and possibly expand service to 160 communities across the country…”

And THAT was from last November – nearly four months ago! Amtrak’s official statements so far have sounded really positive and upbeat but appear vague and lack specifics. In the old words of a former president, “where’s the beef”?

As time goes by, I’m afraid I’m losing more and more faith in the Amtrak organization. When the infrastructure bill was passed, Amtrak should’ve IMMEDIATELY began accepting bids for new L.D. equipment IF that’s even what they ever intended to do. I realize that they did order some new equipment last year but that was long before the infrastructure bill was passed and I don’t think new Superliners were on that order,

Here is a nightmare scenario that could very possibly happen: Many political pundits are predicting a landside Congressional election victory for the Republicans in the fall. Has it even occurred to anyone that if this massive infusion of money is not spent or at least committed that a more hostile Congress could actually “claw back” much of it?

I’m not making any predictions here but there is most clearly cause for concern.

A rail-friendly administration and rail-friendly Congress gave Amtrak a huge gift last fall and they appear to be asleep at the switch.
 
Joined
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Boston
You could argue that Amtrak saw the money coming and made a preemptive move here:

Given how Amfleets tend to be older than Superliners, and that the vast majority of Amtrak travelers use NEC amfleets, using some of that federal money to buy 7.2 billion worth of equipment is smart if you ask me.

Furthermore, there is talk of replacing the LD fleet in their 5 year plan. It’s a good read; check out Amtrak’s actual plans before mud-slinging
 

jis

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There is indeed always a concern about what will come out the other end of the sausage maker, when it is all said and done.

Fortunately at present there are projects in the pipeline for a substantial part of the funding that has been appropriated and there even are projects that will need the appropriation of the balance of almost $40 Billion authorized beyond the appropriated $66 Billion.

But most of them are capital programs that will take 5-10 years to materialize. Meanwhile all that we can do is see where the money actually gets allocated and how those projects are progressing. If we don't see any details by the end of this year it would be time to start getting really concerned. Right now it is a tad bit too early in my reckoning.
 
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mikewrite

Train Attendant
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Aug 7, 2022
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21
Location
North Carolina
Having not ridden Amtrak in 15 years, and taking the California Zephyr in a few weeks, I'm curious if this allocation has affected the morale of train employees at stations and onboard. Is there a sense of hope and positivity among them, or is it not something they seem to think about?
 

TransitTyrant

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 13, 2022
Messages
37
Location
Chicago
Having not ridden Amtrak in 15 years, and taking the California Zephyr in a few weeks, I'm curious if this allocation has affected the morale of train employees at stations and onboard. Is there a sense of hope and positivity among them, or is it not something they seem to think about?
I highly doubt it. Almost half the 66 billion is allocated to potential new services. A good chunk of the rest is going to maintenance backlogs.
 

Maybrook Valley

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Northeast
With regards to the long distance fleet, Trains Magazine did an interview with Marc Magliari recently. Nothing earth shattering was mentioned. He said that with the infrastructure bill, they’ll have the money to replace the entire fleet starting with the Amfleets and then move on to replace the long distance fleet.

I remember a year or so ago watching a video from one of the executives part of the Superliner refresh program. He mentioned that they were having a hard time hiring necessary people for the procurement process of both the Amfleet and long distance replacements. This was causing them to focus solely on the Amfleet replacements first and then moving on to the Superliners. That was at least a year ago, so I’d bet things have changed.
 

Maybrook Valley

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Jul 29, 2022
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I agree. That’s what I meant when I said that things have probably changed. They have so many issues going on right now.
I'd bet otherwise. Amtrak isn't even competent enough to hire enough HR people so they can hire enough people needed for operations, let alone procurement for equipment that's years down the road.
 

TransitTyrant

Train Attendant
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Jul 13, 2022
Messages
37
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Chicago
With regards to the long distance fleet, Trains Magazine did an interview with Marc Magliari recently. Nothing earth shattering was mentioned. He said that with the infrastructure bill, they’ll have the money to replace the entire fleet starting with the Amfleets and then move on to replace the long distance fleet.

I remember a year or so ago watching a video from one of the executives part of the Superliner refresh program. He mentioned that they were having a hard time hiring necessary people for the procurement process of both the Amfleet and long distance replacements. This was causing them to focus solely on the Amfleet replacements first and then moving on to the Superliners. That was at least a year ago, so I’d bet things have changed.
I believe Amtrak is now contracting out the Superliner refresh because they don’t have enough employees to maintain cars, return stored cars to service, and refurbish cars completely. Prior to this they’ve only released a few Superliners that received the refresh treatment.
 

VentureForth

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For decades, Amtrak was running off fare box + roughly $1B in subsidies. A few times, some extra cash was dumped into the system. But - and I'll be honest here, not looking stuff up (Sorry Ryan) - my understanding was that under Trump, then Biden, that number was increased exponentially to the tune of $10's of Billions.

Has that money been dispersed?

Has it been spent?

Have there been any operational improvements?

I'm still seeing skeleton service along the Silver route. What's up?
 

TransitTyrant

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 13, 2022
Messages
37
Location
Chicago
For decades, Amtrak was running off fare box + roughly $1B in subsidies. A few times, some extra cash was dumped into the system. But - and I'll be honest here, not looking stuff up (Sorry Ryan) - my understanding was that under Trump, then Biden, that number was increased exponentially to the tune of $10's of Billions.

Has that money been dispersed?

Has it been spent?

Have there been any operational improvements?

I'm still seeing skeleton service along the Silver route. What's up?
There was no large infusion of cash for upgrades under Trump, only via the Biden IIJA passed last November. Half of that money is gonna be used to start new services and upgrade current routes. Some of the money is going into purchasing new equipment. Amtrak currently applied for some of money namely for the Hudson River tunnels and the new projects associated with Chicago Union Station.
 

Ziv

OBS Chief
Joined
Oct 25, 2011
Messages
986
For decades, Amtrak was running off fare box + roughly $1B in subsidies. A few times, some extra cash was dumped into the system. But - and I'll be honest here, not looking stuff up (Sorry Ryan) - my understanding was that under Trump, then Biden, that number was increased exponentially to the tune of $10's of Billions.

Has that money been dispersed?

Has it been spent?

Have there been any operational improvements?

I'm still seeing skeleton service along the Silver route. What's up?
Amtrak used to get around $0.9Bn to $1.6Bn from 2003 to 2016, if the FRA link below is accurate.


The amount appropriated did increase in 2016 and passed $2.0Bn in 2017 and went over $3.0Bn in 2020. So Amtrak has been getting a larger appropriation for some time. Wiki cite for 2009 through 2022 appropriations below:

Total federal grant appropriations per year (billions) per Wiki
Fiscal YearAppropriation
2009$1.488
2010$1.565
2011$1.484
2012$1.418
2013$1.374
2014$1.370
2015$1.375
2016$1.837
2017$2.202
2018$2.447
2019$2.675
2020$3.018
2021$4.700
2022$6.731
 

TransitTyrant

Train Attendant
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Jul 13, 2022
Messages
37
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Chicago
Amtrak used to get around $0.9Bn to $1.6Bn from 2003 to 2016, if the FRA link below is accurate.


The amount appropriated did increase in 2016 and passed $2.0Bn in 2017 and went over $3.0Bn in 2020. So Amtrak has been getting a larger appropriation for some time. Wiki cite for 2009 through 2022 appropriations below:

Total federal grant appropriations per year (billions) per Wiki
Fiscal YearAppropriation
2009$1.488
2010$1.565
2011$1.484
2012$1.418
2013$1.374
2014$1.370
2015$1.375
2016$1.837
2017$2.202
2018$2.447
2019$2.675
2020$3.018
2021$4.700
2022$6.731
Those are grants used for things other than operating budget. Amtrak does not 6 billion to operate their network.
 

NYP2NFL01

Service Attendant
AU Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 8, 2014
Messages
132
The VL1 sleepers desperately need updating and/or replacing. Check out these pictures of my cup holder in a VL1 roomette on a very recent Lake Shore Limited trip, and my low-tech “hack” to make it usable:
3EC86A0F-4DA5-4688-A831-F906B7E80D5A.jpeg 3C6E18FB-D04B-4868-A88F-DA7DD40CE2B0.jpeg
No one should have to pay these high prices for such dilapidated equipment!
 
Joined
Sep 15, 2017
Messages
1,840
The VL1 sleepers desperately need updating and/or replacing. Check out these pictures of my cup holder in a VL1 roomette on a very recent Lake Shore Limited trip, and my low-tech “hack” to make it usable:
View attachment 29149 View attachment 29150
No one should have to pay these high prices for such dilapidated equipment!
There’s a plan for it - but it’s behind schedule due to shortages of staff at the mechanical shops. Amtrak has looked into outsourcing the equipment refresh. We’ll have to wait and see what happens. That sort of thing would also get fixed during an overhaul I’d imagine.
 

Ziv

OBS Chief
Joined
Oct 25, 2011
Messages
986
Those are grants used for things other than operating budget. Amtrak does not 6 billion to operate their network.
I agree, I tried to state that these were appropriations for Amtrak, and I should have said that they are not its actual operating budget. There are jobs like bridge replacements and tunneling for the Gateway Project that soak up huge amounts of money but should not be listed as the operating budget. And I am sure I have missed others as well.
But for me it is hard to look at the appropriations and not think that Amtrak could be doing better with regards to growing their inventory of rolling stock and adding additional train frequencies on routes that would support the increase.
To demonstrate my confusion on this issue just a little more, are the appropriations in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 included in the appropriations numbers in the Wiki cite or are they counted separately? Judging from the timing of the increases in appropriations, I have to think that they are in the figures I linked to above, but I don't know enough to know that for sure. But even with those acts there are slips between the cup and the lip, because I think half of the spending authorized by the CAA got zeroed out a year later.
My beef with Amtrak is that they would be well served to fight tooth and nail for more Amtrak. I get it that I don't understand the budgeting process on the Federal level, but the loudest chick gets the worm.
 

fredmcain

Service Attendant
Joined
Sep 20, 2017
Messages
198
Location
Northeastern Indiana
Having not ridden Amtrak in 15 years, and taking the California Zephyr in a few weeks, I'm curious if this allocation has affected the morale of train employees at stations and onboard. Is there a sense of hope and positivity among them, or is it not something they seem to think about?
Well, although it was a number of months ago now, back in March my wife and I took the Southwest Chief out to Arizona and back. It was one of the best trips on Amtrak that I've ever had. The on-board service crew was very helpful and friendly.

Our best experience was in the dining car. At that time, due to COVID (supposedly), they were not serving coach passenger in the diner. That was bad news for coach passengers but it was great for sleeping car passengers like us. It struck me that the dining car staff didn't feel so pressured or something and had more time to wait on tables and even visit a little bit with the customers. The food was great, too. I can't predict how things will be going forward but it was a good trip nonetheless.
 
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