July 3, 2020 - RailPassengers.org - Jim Mathews, President/CEO -
There’s a lot happening right now, and it can be hard to keep up to date. Rail Passengers Association has set up a webpage as a resource to let you know about everything the Rail Passengers Association is doing to keep America’s trains running through the coronavirus crisis. https://www.railpassengers.org/happening-now/news/blog/what-are-we-doing-about-3x-service/
We're speaking up for passengers at Amtrak, in the halls of Congress and in newspapers, radio and websites. But we're doing more than talking -- we're working with Congress to secure protections for passengers.
On June 15th, we issued a press release in response to Amtrak’s announcement that they would temporarily reduce operations on the long-distance routes to three times per week and cut state-supported services by 24%, calling the decision disappointing and misguided. We told Congress that any additional funds appropriated for Amtrak needed to buy certainty for workers and passengers over continued service.
We then immediately set about working with congressional allies to rally support for these essential services and the idea that the passenger rail network should continue to connect Americans during the pandemic:
A bipartisan letter to Amtrak from Senators Daines (R-MT), Udall (D-NM), Heinrich (D-NM), Bennet (D-CO), Cramer (R-ND), Braun (R-IN), and Hoeven (R-ND) opposing plans to terminate one out of every five employees, putting thousands out of work, and reducing the frequencies of the National Network long distance trains. A letter from Senators Tester (D-MT), Rosen (D-NV), Cortez-Masto (D-NV), and Manchin (D-WV) to Amtrak demanding a commitment from Amtrak on what the conditions and timelines of a full resumption of 7-day-a-week service on all long-distance routes would look like, and the costs associated with the reduction and resumption of service. A letter from Senators Wicker (R-MS), Moran (R-KS), Gardner (R-CO), (R-WV) Capito, and Johnson (R-WI) to Amtrak to receive commitments that any reductions are only temporary and that there is a plan to bring daily service. An amendment to H.R. 2 by Reps. Kaptur (D-OH) and Ryan (D-OH) expressing Congressional disapproval of Amtrak's recent announcement drastically limiting daily long-distance train service to hundreds of communities across the nation.
TAKING ACTION FOR PASSENGERS But it’s not enough to just talk about what we want—Rail Passengers has been working with Congress to ensure that real protections for sustainable service levels are passed into law. Through the Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2), which passed the House on July 1, Rail Passengers staff has successfully secured the following wins for passengers:
400% increase in funding for passenger trains, for a total of $58 billion for passenger trains over five years; Stipulated in law that Amtrak must provide reliable national intercity passenger rail service now and, in the future, reflect the needs of all passengers, and support the U.S. workforce; Supported the passage of an amendment by Rep. Cohen (D-TN) to reinstate the recently eliminated dining car service on long-distance routes; Secured concrete protections for Amtrak’s statutory right to preferential dispatching from host railroads, ensuring improved on-time performance; Realigned the makeup of Amtrak’s board of directors to better reflect the interests of passengers and Amtrak-served states, securing a National Network seat on the board; Supported creation of a working group—with passenger representation—charged with developing recommendations, and issuing a report within one year, on how to improve onboard food and beverage services; Defeated an amendment by Rep. Crawford (R-AR) to eliminate Amtrak’s Preference Enforcement, which allows Amtrak to enforce its statutory right to preferential dispatching by initiating action before the Surface Transportation Board.
GIVING PASSENGERS ACCESS TO CONGRESS We've built a tool to let you write to and Tweet your members of Congress. Many of you have already sent many thousands of messages. But we need you to send thousands more. Click here to use our tool to tell your Senators and congressional representatives YOUR story about how these cuts would affect you. We've done most of the work for you. Just click the link below, fill out some details, add your own story, and then send. It's that simple!
Just click here and make your voice heard! IN THE NEWS: SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT CEO Jim Mathews and VP Policy Sean Jeans-Gail have been giving interviews to newspapers, radio and websites since May 25th, getting the facts out to the public to help raise awareness and activate the public. We've also given our data and talking points to Council members so that they can work with local reporters as well.
Amtrak to reduce New York-Florida trains starting July 6, with more cuts coming Oct. 1, USA Today
Amtrak to cut back on its longer routes because of virus, Associated Press
In transportation bill, a call for finer dining on Amtrak, Roll Call
Amtrak to end daily service on most long-distance routes starting in October, Chicago Tribune
Amtrak plans triweekly service for almost all long-distance trains as of Oct. 1, TRAINS Magazine