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Stephen Gardner new Amtrak president

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Trogdor

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OBS

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I’m willing to bet that Gardner and the upcoming Biden Administration share the same viewpoint regarding the future of Amtrak.
I think it is more likely being done following the lead of our current President, ie Place people in positions now before the new Administration takes office.
 

AmtrakFlyer

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Fundamental I don’t see it as major change. We all have considered Gardner the #2 guy at Amtrak for quite a while. Flynn is still CEO and Gardner will have the title of President and still be the #2 guy.

This does put Gardner closer to President and CEO if and when Flynn leaves but a lot of things can and probably will happen before then.

I don’t like the fact Gardner is in tight with prominent Dems but that’s a case of, it is what it is and let’s see what happens.
 

jiml

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If, as is often suggested in this forum, Mr. Gardner is the architect of recent cutbacks and reductions at Amtrak, this certainly gives him the opportunity to complete the job before your incoming administration has an opportunity to react. Persons recently appointed to senior corporate positions like this can be difficult (costly) to remove - especially before those signing the checks have the chance to assess "the lay of the land". This might make routes and services cut more difficult to restore. :(
 

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I think it is more likely being done following the lead of our current President, ie Place people in positions now before the new Administration takes office.
I stand corrected. According to the article in Railway Age, Gardner has been positioned to become President since 2017, but not acted upon since they knew Elaine Chao and The Republication administration would not approve. But Biden provides the green light to make the change.

Not good IMHO....
 
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jis

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Re-arranging the deck chairs on the titanic IMHO and an effort to pass the blame before Biden becomes president and names someone who knows what they are doing.
Sorry to be the bearer of some unpalatable set of facts. Make what you might of them. But they are known facts....

Gardner was the lead of the Senate Transportation Committee under Biden's colleague from Delaware Senator Tom Carper (D, DE) before coming to Amtrak, as a result of what I gather was Carper's recommendation. Carper was on the Amtrak Board. Gardner has also got extremely cordial relationship with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D, NY).

Based on this my recommendation is don't pop the Champaigne corks based on the fantasy that this is a departing move by Trump that will be undone by Biden. My guess is it won't. So at least wait till the fat lady sings, if she is even on the stage at all.
 

Dakota 400

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I’m willing to bet that Gardner and the upcoming Biden Administration share the same viewpoint regarding the future of Amtrak.
I don’t like the fact Gardner is in tight with prominent Dems but that’s a case of, it is what it is and let’s see what happens.
I stand corrected. According to the article in Railway Age, Gardner has been positioned to become President since 2017, but not acted upon since they new Elaine Chao and The Republication administration would not approve. But Biden provides the green light to make the change.

Not good IMHO....
Now, I am confused. The expectations seem to have been that having Amtrak Joe as POTUS, this had the possibility of being to Amtrak's benefit. But, if Mr. Gardner is the villain, as he has been pointed out to be by many, many posts on the Forum, how does being connected to prominent Democrats is thought to be a negative piece of news?

If chrisjrcj is correct and the President-Elect (who we expect will be an Amtrak supporter) and Mr. Gardner share the same view of Amtrak, does Mr. Gardner change from being the villain in this drama to becoming the savior?
 

AmtrakFlyer

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He’s connected to a few NEC Dems who may or may not have a positive view of the long distance network.

He’s a horrible choice and needs to be shown the door not a promotion.

Not all Dems are pro Amtrak, not all Republicans are anti Amtrak. For the most part Amtrak is bipartisan now but I really hope Biden doesn’t let this fox whose caused so much damage sneak farther in the hen house.
 

jis

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Actually I have no idea whether Biden and Gardner share detailed views about Amtrak, and I also doubt that Biden has very detailed views about Amtrak.

All that we know are the political linkages and often those tend to win out over down in the weeds views about a specific topic. Again I have no idea how this specific case will play out. I'd take a wait and watch approach rather than getting overly enthusiastic on either side of the equation at this point.
 
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Acela150

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I’m willing to bet that Gardner and the upcoming Biden Administration share the same viewpoint regarding the future of Amtrak.
I'm extremely interested to hear where in the world you came up with this.... Gardner has been part of the reason for the extreme decline in the GOOD things of Amtrak.

Richard Anderson was following what the board wanted him to do. I personally believe that Mr. Gardner was in the board ear about it.

I'll include an interview that he did with WSJ last year. I'll let his words do the explaining on why he shouldn't even be employed in the roll, let alone with Amtrak.

 

lordsigma

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I don’t think this means much - really just a reorganization and changing around of titles. He is still the #2 guy in charge of day to day as he was before. First of all I don’t think anyone at Amtrak wants to eliminate all 15 long distance routes. I think they have issues with some routes and believe in some network changes to help reposition the focus to spurring corridor growth but even Gardner has stated that there are “appropriate long distance routes” that they should operate.

Now obviously for many of us cutting even one of the routes is not or shouldn’t be considered acceptable - but there is a difference between wanting to make changes and wanting to eliminate altogether. And I think Gardner (along with Amtrak’s board) is the former.

As a former Congressional staffer I’m sure he knows more than anyone than when it comes to Congress you never get completely your way. If Gardner has to keep running the long distance routes to get more money for corridor development he’ll happily do it.
 

LookingGlassTie

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I don’t think this means much - really just a reorganization and changing around of titles. He is still the #2 guy in charge of day to day as he was before. First of all I don’t think anyone at Amtrak wants to eliminate all 15 long distance routes. I think they have issues with some routes and believe in some network changes to help reposition the focus to spurring corridor growth but even Gardner has stated that there are “appropriate long distance routes” that they should operate.

Now obviously for many of us cutting even one of the routes is not or shouldn’t be considered acceptable - but there is a difference between wanting to make changes and wanting to eliminate altogether. And I think Gardner (along with Amtrak’s board) is the former.

As a former Congressional staffer I’m sure he knows more than anyone than when it comes to Congress you never get completely your way. If Gardner has to keep running the long distance routes to get more money for corridor development he’ll happily do it.
^This^
 

Lonestar648

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Promoting Gardner opens the door for increased salary and bonus as a reward by the Board for his work at Amtrak. I do not see this as a good thing for Amtrak long term. Unfortunately, Amtrak is like a single penny in a bucket of a million when it comes to the demands on a President, irregardless of who holds the office. Delegating to someone, who most likely will delegate to another staffer, is SOP. Amtrak is way way down on the food chain of importance, at least at this current time.
 

Devil's Advocate

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We're in the middle of a pandemic during the early days of a clumsy and divisive transition with executive tantrums and millions of lives on the line. Perhaps it's a little premature to establish a meaningful narrative for Amtrak's future direction just yet. Considering everything that is going on right now this may turn out to be a holding pattern move.
 

jis

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I'm extremely interested to hear where in the world you came up with this.... Gardner has been part of the reason for the extreme decline in the GOOD things of Amtrak.

Richard Anderson was following what the board wanted him to do. I personally believe that Mr. Gardner was in the board ear about it.

I'll include an interview that he did with WSJ last year. I'll let his words do the explaining on why he shouldn't even be employed in the roll, let alone with Amtrak.

I will just point out that each significant person who played a significant part in elevating Anderson and then Kelly and previously and now - Gardner are all close friends of Biden.

The very Board that you speak of that Amtrak management was doing the bidding of, was led by someone that was elevated to that position by Biden's friends.

Can things change? Sure. But the current alignment of the political connections involved is not all that encouraging, unless one fantasizes that suddenly for the sake of Amtrak, Biden has abandoned all his political friends from the past, that have been a critical part of his own political success. But I guess these are days of building fantasy castles. So what can I say?

Most interestingly, a few vocal Republican Senators from the sticks may continue to be greater champions for Amtrak LD service than Biden, even though Biden will certainly increase overall funding of Amtrak by a quantum leap, and I am not saying this because I have any love lost for anyone who wears the Republican banner these days. Reality sometimes is strange and belies all simple explanations.

Having said that I will also say that as a matter of policy LD trains being restored to daily is something that everyone will agree to as soon as adequate funding is put in place, which I expect it will be, Mitch willing, unless of course Georgia goes a certain way, which could make it a lot easier.
 
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Seaboard92

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I've always heard from my sources that Mr. Gardner has rubbed Dr. Jill Biden the wrong way and that she wants him gone.

Personally I think Mr. Gardner should have to suffer the indignity he has provided so many people over the years. First he attacked me and my colleagues on private cars, next he attacked the hard working OBS on the eastern long distance dining cars, after that he attacked the Southwest Chief with the idea of a bus in the middle of the route, and then using the guise of a virus he attacked all of the National Network trains. He should have to be filing for unemployment benefits like so many people he has hurt with his short sighted decisions. He should be the one worrying about where his next meal is going to come from because of the loss of his job. I don't think Mr. Gardner truly understands how much damage he has done to the National Network, but even more he doesn't understand the damage he has done to the NEC.

I can see a future where if the National Network trains don't get restored to their full service levels that the rural Senators start questioning why the federal tax payers are paying for the NEC. I mean why should Senator Graham or Senator Manchin support funding for a rail network if it only exists between Washington, DC and Boston, MA? Trains that don't actually run in those states don't benefit the population of those states. So why should a tax payer in rural West Virginia support a network that doesn't benefit them at all? If the Cardinal and Capitol Limited go away they have no reason to support Amtrak at all.

You can make that argument for almost every state in the country. Amtrak's support would dry up and die then the corridor would die a slow painful withering death. The thing is too even if they would reverse course the damage to the NEC has been done. You have people like me who are staunch Amtrak supporters arguing to defund and divest of the NEC to a private operator. I really would like to cut the NEC out of the picture so Amtrak would then have to focus more on the Am part of the name Amtrak which stands for America. Amtrak should be serving all Americans not just those who live in the 400 miles between Boston and Washington.

If Amtrak doesn't want to fund the National Network that's fine we should then get a private operator to run the long distance trains with the existing subsidy that Amtrak gets and let Amtrak have their precious corridor. So the long distance trains would see new levels of success while the NEC just withers up without the support of the network. I am not convinced that the National Network trains are money losers. I am more of the thought process that Amtrak's "Creative Accounting" (Fraudulent Accounting) makes them look far worse than they are while promoting the NEC.

He has already done tremendous damage to the North East Corridor because of his animosity and contempt of the rest of the country. When a firm supporter of Amtrak has turned against them because of his attitudes there is real damage. I know I am not alone in this sentiment because I've discussed it with multiple people on this board, and multiple people across the country that feel the same as I do. We are all tired of the Us Vs. Them arguments and feel like it is time to end them. Mr. Gardner has led to a rise in animosity amongst employees who feel devalued, Private Car owners who see their businesses threatened, local leaders who are worrying about the future of their train, passengers who are struggling to find the right day where they can make all their onward connections, and in our National Leaders particularly from rural states who see the great experiment of Amtrak unraveling before their eyes. That animosity that has built up is enough to destroy not just the National Network but the NEC too. We all know if the NEC would shut down the economy would immediately enter a recession because of the sheer economic activity that rides upon it.

But that won't matter because it takes a big picture person to see that the NEC contributes to a significant part of the GDP of the United States. A rural Alabaman, or Kentuckian won't see that. They will see that the "Elites" in the Northeast want to suck up more funding for themselves and leave them to starve in a transportation dessert. Which will be the final nail in the coffin when their rural senators vote to eliminate funding for the NEC.

In conclusion Mr. Gardner is horrible for the employees, the National Network, and his beloved NEC. His horrible Us Vs Them arguments between the corridor and the National Network trains has led to the demise of both networks. So I feel I'm right on this. Mr. Gardner needs to be given his pink slip instead of a promotion and he should have to learn first hand what his decisions have dealt to the thousands of people who have lost their jobs because of him.

Wouldn't it be funny if Mr. Gardner would respond to us on here talking about him. I am sure he must be reading some of what the forums state because I know when I'm in the news I read every discussion about it.
 

railiner

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If Amtrak doesn't want to fund the National Network that's fine we should then get a private operator to run the long distance trains with the existing subsidy that Amtrak gets and let Amtrak have their precious corridor.
I actually feel the opposite...Let Amtrak run the long distance trains, and let the Northeast Corridor Region become an independent entity owned by a consortium authority of the states it serves, with the same proportional federal subsidy provided to Amtrak, or local urban mass transit districts...

Hopefully, this would end the arguments about one cross-subsidizing the other, either way....let them stand on their own merit.
 

jis

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It shows a lack of understanding of how funding is determined for each sector of Amtrak operations to claim that Amtrak decides the proportions. Actually the proportion is specified in the appropriation quite clearly and it requires Congressional approval to move money between the buckets.

As the British have discovered over the years, it is quite non-trivial to get private operators to deliver on their promise, and it requires a large government organization to chase after them and clean up after them. So private operation, contrary to the beliefs of some here, provides absolutely no nirvana. It just shifts the problems to a different plane while unscrupulous operators pocket money that could be better spent on providing service.
 
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MARC Rider

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As has been pointed out, Amtrak funding is a deal whereby the Members from rural states consent to funding for the NEC and the members from the NEC states consent to funding for the national Network, But it;s not quite that simple. After all, there's a lot of National Network that runs in NEC states -- LSL runs in MA, and NY, CL runs in MD and PA, the Cardinal runs down the NEC and VA, and, of course, the Silver service connects the NEC with the southeast. Then there's the issue of the non-NEC corridors, which, presumably the anti-LD folks in Amtrak support, but are hobbled by the 750 mile rule and require the interest of the states to provide funding. This is not true of the NEC, but apparently the state commuter agencies there do contribute a lot of $$$ to building and maintaining the infrastructure.

The problem with the anti-LD crowd (of people who otherwise support passenger rail, remember there are a lot of people who think that rail is outmoded 19th century technology and should be replaced with hyperloops or whatever) is that they can't see that LD rail does have a place in the national transportation mix, and if properly marketed, can even pay for itself. So, as jis points out, Mr. Anderson or not, Congress is probably going to appropriate money and force Amtrak to run something like the existing National Network, but people like Mr. Anderson don't have the imagination or inclination to see the National Netowrk as anything but a nuisance foisted on him by congress.

Moving forward, what I would support is to eliminate the 750 mile rule (or appropriate money to the states to support corridor service, or both) and develop more corridor services co-located along National Network routes. This allows the LD trains to share the overhead costs, thus improving their financial performance and also feed passengers between the two types of service. Finally, the leadership of Amtrak should out and about in both Congress and the transportation industry cheerleading for passenger rail and explaining why its not some washed up 19th century technology, but rather a solid component of any advanced nation's transportation system, as indeed one can see in all of the other advanced industrial nations.
 
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