New President of Amtrak

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

Joined
Sep 15, 2017
Messages
1,748
He did approve the last Parlour car overhauls, ones that never took place since Anderson prompted cancelled them and retired the fleet.

He didn’t seem to agree with the Anderson/Gardner regime at the time.

“Following a Chicago luncheon on May 25, 2017, former Amtrak President and CEO Wick Moorman told Trains that long-distance trains “break even on direct costs.”

From article below.

I’ll try to find it. It was a recorded interview.

Here it is:

 

Siegmund

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Nov 19, 2018
Messages
378
Location
northwestern Montana
Unfortunately it looks like Congress may not be planning to fund the full operating budget.

Frankly, I find it hard to blame Congress for wanting to do so right now.

They provided a ton of extra money to ensure the return of service to pre-pandemic levels and the railroad did not fulfill its contract, re-cutting service when there was no shortage of riders. If Amtrak was funded on the same kind of grants that paid my salary when I worked at a research lab, it would be ordered to return about $500M of this year's money for failure to deliver.

I DO want to know where the hell all the money went, if it didn't go to operations, didn't go to staff salaries, and didn't go to catching up a backlog of maintenance.
 

cirdan

Engineer
Joined
Mar 30, 2011
Messages
3,027
Especially now that the House has proposed Amtraks 2023 budget at a level below what Gardner claims he needs to run the long distance trains. There‘s still a long way to go and the number will have to be hashed out with the Senate but this is where we need management that fights for Amtrak as whole and doesn’t favor one area over another. Not a great omen considering this is a pro Amtrak Congress.
Exactly,

Now is a once in a lifetime opportunity with a pro Amtrak POTUS and a largely pro-Amtrak congress. Now would be the time to set great things into motion but instead I feel the goodwill and advantage is being frittered on small details and irrelevent nonsense while the clock ticks and we are slowly sliding towards a situation that will be much more adverse to Amtrak's needs.
 

toddinde

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Apr 23, 2015
Messages
492
Location
Sierra Vista, AZ
Let us not forget that railroad man Moorman is the one that brought in the broken auto dispatcher at NS before leaving it and eventually landing up at Amtrak to find a jewel like Anderson to succeed him. If that is an example of a railroad man heaven save us from such! ;)

In any case Gardner is now Mr. Strategy, so that may be a bit of a problem for LD trains, but not for Corridor trains where most of Amtrak's ridership is. Harris is operations so there is still hope even for LD trains. I don't worry as much about whether someone came from airline or not. There are good airline executives and bad ones, and the good ones often are quick learners. Amtrak has unfortunately gotten arrogant blowhards in the past.
Moorman also brought us Richard Anderson and was an implacable foe of the long distance trains.
 
Joined
Feb 2, 2005
Messages
840
Moorman spoke highly of the long distance trains in testimony before Congress while he was CEO, even going farther than any CEO I remember saying the long distance trains cover most operating costs. He also said the right things to employees, approved the Parlour car overhauls as previously stated, etc. He was only planning to be CEO for a year or so but left suddenly to spend time with family after 8-9 months. Fast forward 2 years later we get that in-depth interview Lordsigma posted. Moorman seems to have done a 180. It’s a head scratcher. Everything is a head scratcher these days with the network trains and the fact Amtrak management isn’t getting more push back on what many see as bogus accounting.

RPA is a great advocate before Congress but instead of always backing up Amtrak’s claims for more funding they might want to start holding Amtrak more accountable for what Congress has already given them in my opinion.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
4,888
Location
Baltimore. MD
Frankly, I find it hard to blame Congress for wanting to do so right now.

They provided a ton of extra money to ensure the return of service to pre-pandemic levels and the railroad did not fulfill its contract, re-cutting service when there was no shortage of riders. If Amtrak was funded on the same kind of grants that paid my salary when I worked at a research lab, it would be ordered to return about $500M of this year's money for failure to deliver.

I DO want to know where the hell all the money went, if it didn't go to operations, didn't go to staff salaries, and didn't go to catching up a backlog of maintenance.
"Failure to deliver" what? The whole point of scientific research is that a lot of times (maybe most of the time) the researchers don't discover anything. I think it's called "null results" or something like that. And since scientific journals don't like to print reports of null results, even if they really should, how can a funding agency justify forcing someone returning money for coming up with a null result? I knew our system of funding for science research was screwed up, but I didn't think it was that bad.

Another analogy would be venture capital start-ups. They take zillions of dollars from venture capitalists, who, nevertheless will not be asking for money back when the venture crashes and burns, as most of them do. Apparently, there are entrepreneurs out there who make a good living being business failures. the venture capitalists tolerate this state of affairs because one success will recover all of the other losses and more.

As for Amtrak, we know what the problem was, two bad management decisions made in response to the pandemic -- laying off too many staff and putting rolling stock into mothballs. This was exacerbated by the fact that they insist on using hair follicle testing to screen for cannabis use at a time when cannabis use has become legal. This is probably making it harder for them to hire people in many locations, which means that intake of replacement workers has slowed. Under those conditions, the service cutbacks are no surprise. As for what they've done with the money appropriated earlier this year, the vast majority of it is for capital projects, which take years to be completed, and it seems that we're getting reports that things are starting to move on many of them.

As for the Amtrak operating subsidy, the House approved $2.3 billion. Yes, I know that Amtrak asked for $3.3 billion and the White House proposed $3 billion, but it wasn't to long ago that the enacted appropriated operating subsidy was on the order of $1 billion, with the White House proposing to zero out all funding. Sure, I know that RPA and other rail advocates have to keep on pushing for the full amount until the funding is finally enacted, but a $2.3 billion operating subsidy is a lot better than what we've had in recent years.
 

crescent-zephyr

Engineer
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
4,186
Fast forward 2 years later we get that in-depth interview Lordsigma posted. Moorman seems to have done a 180.
I’m wondering if he wanted to echo Anderson’s leadership and talking points?

I’m personally convinced that Amtrak needs to split up into long distance, state corridors, and NEC. They are 3 different businesses and Amtrak shouldn’t have leaders that pick and choose which of the 3 they like or don’t like.
 

Siegmund

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Nov 19, 2018
Messages
378
Location
northwestern Montana
"Failure to deliver" what? The whole point of scientific research is that a lot of times (maybe most of the time) the researchers don't discover anything.... I knew our system of funding for science research was screwed up, but I didn't think it was that bad.

It isn't.
There wasn't any particular pressure to find interesting vs. boring results, or good vs. bad news. But you have to perform the work you promised to do, and submit a report at the end of the year describing what you did. If you get a grant to study coral reefs, and you spend all your time in the Bahamas suntanning on the beach instead of in the water, you are certainly not going to get funded to go again next year, and you might be about to get a bill to reimburse the government for vacationing instead of working.

From where I sit, Amtrak was paid to run trains for a year, and ran about 70% of them.

As for Amtrak, we know what the problem was, two bad management decisions made in response to the pandemic -- laying off too many staff and putting rolling stock into mothballs.

In most businesses that type of decision comes with severe consequences for the company as a whole and for management.
They got a pass for 2020 - and they got extra money to recover from it, and trains ran again in 2021. I am not giving a free pass for 2022, which looks entirely self-inflicted.

This was exacerbated by the fact that they insist on using hair follicle testing to screen for cannabis use at a time when cannabis use has become legal.

That part isn't Amtrak's fault, but federal law, and affects airlines, defense contractors, and the park service in the same way. (Amtrak seems to be having a harder time dealing with it than those other folks are, and I am not sure why.)
 

AmtrakBlue

Engineer
Gathering Team Member
Joined
May 6, 2011
Messages
14,069
Location
Delaware
That part isn't Amtrak's fault, but federal law, and affects airlines, defense contractors, and the park service in the same way. (Amtrak seems to be having a harder time dealing with it than those other folks are, and I am not sure why.)
Are you sure about that? Isn't short staffing one of the reasons the airlines are cancelling flights?
 

jis

Chief Dispatcher
Staff member
Administator
Moderator
AU Supporting Member
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
33,179
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
Are you sure about that? Isn't short staffing one of the reasons the airlines are cancelling flights?
Some airlines are canceling upto 10% of their scheduled flights. I think they are having a difficult time caused by their attempt to over schedule flights. The crew is now complaining and a few of them may be heading for a little bit of job action. Meanwhile it is a quite a chaos at many airports. Sounds familiar? ;)
 

Siegmund

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Nov 19, 2018
Messages
378
Location
northwestern Montana
Are you sure about that? Isn't short staffing one of the reasons the airlines are cancelling flights?

Yes, they are shortstaffed, playing catchup, cancelling flights, and sometimes dropping cities from their map, as we saw in the SkyWest thread this past weekend.
But none of them cancelled half their flights for several months.
 

cirdan

Engineer
Joined
Mar 30, 2011
Messages
3,027
Yes, they are shortstaffed, playing catchup, cancelling flights, and sometimes dropping cities from their map, as we saw in the SkyWest thread this past weekend.
But none of them cancelled half their flights for several months.
I think airlines, like Amtrak, overreacted to Covid and laid off staff.

It's understandable to lay off staff in hard times but a well managed company has a strategy and lays off the most dispensable staff first and does what it can to keep the most competent.

Being or not being vaccinated does not correlate with professional competence.
 
Joined
Mar 5, 2014
Messages
3,662
I think airlines, like Amtrak, overreacted to Covid and laid off staff.

It's understandable to lay off staff in hard times but a well managed company has a strategy and lays off the most dispensable staff first and does what it can to keep the most competent.

Being or not being vaccinated does not correlate with professional competence.

I agree with most of your post, but, no one had a strategy to deal with a pandemic, including all 50 state governments and the Federal Government. Such a sudden contraction of Amtrak's and the airlines' business with the severe loss of revenue, many decisions had to be made quickly. And like some decisions, there are unintended consequences that result.
 

cirdan

Engineer
Joined
Mar 30, 2011
Messages
3,027
You can have a whole bunch of money, but if you don't have the labor force to do the maintenance, it ain't gonna get done.
Things like infrastructure maintenance are often contracted out so Amtrak not having the staff should not be a main obstacle.
 

cirdan

Engineer
Joined
Mar 30, 2011
Messages
3,027
I agree with most of your post, but, no one had a strategy to deal with a pandemic, including all 50 state governments and the Federal Government. Such a sudden contraction of Amtrak's and the airlines' business with the severe loss of revenue, many decisions had to be made quickly. And like some decisions, there are unintended consequences that result.
Anybody who has lived through more than one crisis or even opened a history book knows that following a crisis there is typically a recovery. When you go into a crisis mode you don't cut off your means to get out of it. When you lock yourself up in your basement you don't throw away the key. Some serious questions need to be asked about the competence of the managers who did so.
 

Ryan

Court Jester
Joined
Apr 14, 2008
Messages
17,891
Location
Off looking for his sense of humor
Well, it's pretty clear the funding hasn't paid for "catching up a backlog of maintenance." At least not effectively.

Was any of the funding intended for use to "catch up on backlog"? I had not heard that.

I don't know. I was responding to Ryan's skepticism about evidence it had NOT been spent for that. Obviously, it wasn't. At least not effectively.
The skepticism was that it went to something other than "operations, staff salaries, catching up a backlog of maintenance". If it all went to operations and staff salaries (because revenue dropped to near-zero there for a while), then it could have been all used on the first two without the nefarious getting spent on "something else" that was implied.
 
Top