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Richard Anderson replacing Wick Moorman as Amtrak CEO

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If Mr. Anderson really wants to focus on something, he should focus on fixing things that he has control over, that desperately need fixing, first, rather than fixating on grand ideas about "fixing passenger rail in the country" which is way beyond his remit. He has a company to run first and foremost. So far he has not shown much of a vision beyond replacing seat cushions on some cars (a good thing I might add) about even running said company, which is his primary responsibility. He is currently coasting along on projects that were all initiated before his arrival. Miracles are always possible though.

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Good point, because Amtrak and passenger rail are not Delta Airlines and the Airline industry. Yes both move people from city to city, but it ends there.

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But a fair question is "what should that public service be"? One possible answer is "the one that serves the maximum number of people". Not the maximum number of seat miles, but the raw passenger count. If focusing the service on high traffic corridors/pairs results in the daily passenger count going from X to 2X (or anything greater than 1X), there's an argument to be made that the public benefit has increased too.

While passenger count is certainly very relevant, distance traveled is also an important component that should not be ignored. It would be rather ridiculous to suggest that a train that carries x number of people from CHI-MKE is worth the same amount as a train that carries x number of people CHI-EMY. Obviously it is far more complicated than that as most passengers do not ride end-to-end and the CHI-MKE trip would be much cheaper to operate, but the point is still valid.

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Also remember the partial air line shut down due to Mt. St. Helens eruption. another was the Iceland volcano. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. A volcano ash cloud can easily block all satellite transmissions especially GPS. There goes the PTC that is GPS based !

Edited by west point

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Also remember the partial air line shut down due to Mt. St. Helens eruption. another was the Iceland volcano. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. A volcano ash cloud can easily block all satellite transmissions especially GPS. There goes the PTC !

Only of the I-ETMS variety which depends critically on GPS will be affected

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum

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If Mr. Anderson really wants to focus on something, he should focus on fixing things that he has control over, that desperately need fixing, first, rather than fixating on grand ideas about "fixing passenger rail in the country" which is way beyond his remit. He has a company to run first and foremost. So far he has not shown much of a vision beyond replacing seat cushions on some cars (a good thing I might add) about even running said company, which is his primary responsibility. He is currently coasting along on projects that were all initiated before his arrival. Miracles are always possible though.

 

So, now that is seems he is focusing on things he has control over, what do you think of vision?

 

I'll ask this question again in about.....90 days or so and we'll see if there is any change in your answer.

Edited by Thirdrail7

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If Mr. Anderson really wants to focus on something, he should focus on fixing things that he has control over, that desperately need fixing, first, rather than fixating on grand ideas about "fixing passenger rail in the country" which is way beyond his remit. He has a company to run first and foremost. So far he has not shown much of a vision beyond replacing seat cushions on some cars (a good thing I might add) about even running said company, which is his primary responsibility. He is currently coasting along on projects that were all initiated before his arrival. Miracles are always possible though.

 

So, now that is seems he is focusing on things he has control over, what do you think of vision?

 

I'll ask this question again in about.....90 days or so and we'll see if there is any change in your answer.

 

 

I do wonder if he had an effective testimony before congress. Amtrak did come out pretty good, and suddenly there was money for PTC added to the budget.

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If Mr. Anderson really wants to focus on something, he should focus on fixing things that he has control over, that desperately need fixing, first, rather than fixating on grand ideas about "fixing passenger rail in the country" which is way beyond his remit. He has a company to run first and foremost. So far he has not shown much of a vision beyond replacing seat cushions on some cars (a good thing I might add) about even running said company, which is his primary responsibility. He is currently coasting along on projects that were all initiated before his arrival. Miracles are always possible though.

So, now that is seems he is focusing on things he has control over, what do you think of vision?

 

I'll ask this question again in about.....90 days or so and we'll see if there is any change in your answer.

While I may not like a few details, he is certainly focusing on things where he can make a huge difference as opposed to fiddling in the peripheries.

 

He is definitely managing the finances though it is not quite clear what his overall vision of Amtrak the Corporation is. He has not articulated that yet. But that may be a strategic move to keep those that would attempt to lop his head off if they knew his vision, at bay. I have seen this play both by successful and disastrous CEOs. So the jury is still out.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum

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I think Anderson's overall vision is to save as much money as possible by removing anything left that is not a basic train necessity and making Amtrak into essentially the equivalent of an NJ Transit bus, but on the rails. No frills, no courtesy, no service. Just pay us a lot of money, then sit down and don't bother us til we throw you off at your stop. Exactly why I don't fly, and will probably not do much train travel this year.

 

I am very disappointed in Wick Moorman, though--not that he's retiring, of course he deserves to--but that he seems to have joined the corporate world and isn't disagreeing (at least publicly) with any of the changes.

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Wick Moorman is and has always been part of the corporate world. I have no idea from where people develop these romantic ideas about specific individuals thus setting themselves up for disappointment ;) Just because someone has a PV hobby does not mean that he would let that cloud his decisions when he is working as a CEO or the right hand man of a company. I would expect him to put the interest of the organization that he is CEO of first.. Of course I also do not know for sure what has been discussed among the Board, Moorman and Anderson, so who knows? But the last thing I would expect is to see Moorman publicly criticize Anderson's actions.

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I agree, jis, that while Wick Moorman is officially working for Amtrak, he would certainly be professional and not criticize Anderson's actions. I am just surprised that he hasn't retired and gotten out of having to be in that position.

 

I think many people liked Wick Moorman because he seemed to be truly interested in everyone, from the highest-level worker to the lowest, and apparently spent time talking to everybody. So yes, of course he's part of the corporate world--he just never seemed to present that aloof corporate image.

Edited by Mystic River Dragon

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I think Anderson is trying to make Amtrak a lot like Delta. He wants Amtrak to run safely, on-time, with equipment being in as decent of shape as practical. He wants pricing to be dynamic; in general, flat discounts off pretty much any fare are out, but with targeted deeper discounts than we've seen before (the 33% off sale is even better than most of the SmartFares.) I think he'll keep the leg room and basic amenities of coach the same, but work to make business class and sleeper class more of a defined, specific type of service with as little of the variability between trains as possible. He'll probably try to streamline food and beverage service and make it more airline-style (which, as long as they source the right type of meals, should still work out fine.)

 

As far as I'm concerned, If Amtrak can have the reliability and consistency of service that Delta seems to have, I think it'll be a good improvement.

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As someone who has personally worked around wick I can attest to his people skills. No matter what your job was the man always took an interest in his employees and made small talk. My best memories of working around him was doing the 21st century steam program in 2016. He was always around for at least one trip each weekend.

 

The first two times he saw me was in the two minutes I was taking a water break. So the last time in Manassas that season he saw me and asked "where's your water bottle." I told him I didn't have time to grab one because I was busy trying to fix a leaky compressed. And five minutes later he came back with a bottle of water for me. He was and is a truly great man.

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I have done my small part. I got an email from America by Rail and unsubscribed, and when they wanted to know why, I told them that I will not be taking long trips on Amtrak while it has a CEO with an airline background whose changes I disagree with. A drop in the bucket, but it doesn't hurt to let advertisers know this could affect their bottom line.

Edited by Mystic River Dragon

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I have done my small part. I got an email from America by Rail and unsubscribed, and when they wanted to know why, I told them that I will not be taking long trips on Amtrak while it has a CEO with an airline background whose changes I disagree with. A drop in the bucket, but it doesn't hurt to let advertisers know this could affect their bottom line.

 

 

The problem with that plan is that there might not be a train at all if you wait too long to come back. I never took the train before. It was expensive and I didn't have the extra vacation time to spend on travel. Now later in life I have the time and the money. And I read the writing on the wall. I want to get my rides in before the train goes the way of the stage coach ;)

 

I just wish I started riding sooner. Reading some of the posts here about the way it was, really makes me jealous. ;) But I will be happy to get the crumbs in the few remaining years.

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Maybe we're underestimating Mr. Anderson. Consider:

 

I think Anderson's overall vision is to save as much money as possible by removing anything left that is not a basic train necessity and making Amtrak into essentially the equivalent of an NJ Transit bus, but on the rails. No frills, no courtesy, no service. Just pay us a lot of money, then sit down and don't bother us til we throw you off at your stop. Exactly why I don't fly, and will probably not do much train travel this year.

 

 

 

Let's see. He's overseeing the cuts in amenities, services and sooner or later, probably routes or stops. However, it is also going after things like specials, charters and pet projects of supporters. He wants to get back to the "core" business, but wants to make a profit.

 

As such, people are writing their representatives, high profile groups are starting to complain and that leads to lobbying.

 

All the while, he's clutching PRIIA and saying this is what you want!

 

At that point, they'll either say continue on and he'll be justified or they'll either have to fund what he cuts or write it into some kind of law, at which point he'll say "stop complaining."

 

This was similar to Gunn's way of doing things. Perhaps he is starting to push the right buttons.

 

Continue to write....and soon!

Edited by Thirdrail7

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What you're describing sounds like the Washington Monument strategy -- any time the Park Service's budget is threatened, that's the first thing they say they'll close. It's real and it works.

 

That said, I'm not seeing that. Arguably, eliminating chefs will result in better and more consistent food – the public won't complain about that.

 

From the voting public's – and therefor most congresscritters' – private cars are the least visible service Amtrak offers. I've been reading the threads on Train Orders, too. Lots of wailing from rail fans, but there are also people on that board with decades of railroad operating experience, and they've all been saying that cutting private cars in/out at midpoints causes service delays. Eliminating a service that benefits less than 1% of Amtrak customers and improving service, even marginally, for the 99+% is not exactly a way to strike fear in a senator's heart (assuming such a thing exists :-).

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This was similar to Gunn's way of doing things.

Gunn was a failure at Amtrak. While I share Gunn's desires, it is unarguable that his management of Amtrak failed outright. So I conclude that Gunn's tactics were bad. Frankly, Warrington's tactics were more effective, if you look at *results*. (Both were better than Downs or Lewis, but that's not saying much.)

 

I'm fine with restricting charter moves to those which don't interfere with regular operations.

 

I'm fine with changes to dining service in general, but *I want my fresh-cooked eggs back*, and seriously, grilling some eggs costs next to nothing compared to the customer benefit they give. The downgrades are undoubtedly leading to less business in the dining car: I witness it on the LSL each time I travel. Since most of the costs are fixed costs rather than variable costs, this is idiocy.

Edited by neroden

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As for less-than-daily service, Anderson isn't an idiot. He won't propose *that*. Only complete and total idiots propose *that*. Anderson is not an idiot.

 

I will boldly predict that Anderson would kill the Sunset Limited or the Cardinal outright before he'd downgrade any daily train to less-than-daily service. Because he's not *stupid*.

Or he could go for a less-than-LD service. Take the Cardinal for example. For slightly less train miles per week the Cardinal could be restructured into daily 1RT CIN-CHI plus 1RT IND-CHI daytime coach trains. Presto! An inconvenient 3X weekly LD train becomes a useful corridor service. Higher ridership, lower costs. IMHO that is the future of passenger rail.

 

Sure; but the first problem is, if you look at the ridership, you've done it wrong. You're losing three of the ten top city pairs by ridership:

* Charlottseville - Chicago *

* Chicago - DC *

* Charleston - Chicago *

 

And, more importantly, the top four by revenue:

Charlottesville - NY

CHI - DC

CHI - NY

Charlottesville - CHI

 

I'm all for a focus on corridors with frequent service in the corridors, but it has to be data-driven, not driven by arbitrary preconceived biases. I demonstrated at one point that an LSL sleeper makes more money than an LSL coache; another fellow here showed that the LSL was the exception and the reverse was true on the Star, Meteor, and Crescent. (Interesting, surely.)

 

In the case of the Cardinal, the data says that a replacement with corridors as you suggest would also demand an additional Charlottesville-NY frequency, and an improved way of getting people from Charlottesville to Chicago (improved Capitol Limited or whatever). Minimum. That's if you don't think Charleston WV is significant (and it may not be, given the depopulation of WV and its bad political situation).

 

That said, would I trade the Cardinal for a daily route which ran Chicago-Cincy-Columbus-Cleveland? In a heartbeat.

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That would also require the host railroads and the states to play ball.

Honestly, if you added capacity (particularly CVS-NYP), there's a case for running CIN-NYP as a "state supported" train of some sort. I suspect that if Amtrak were willing to give VA/WV a deal similar to the Lynchburger, the resulting train (as a "day train") might make sense from the states' perspective (considering the cost recovery situation on the Lynchburger and how the Cardinal plays into VA's overall schedule, it would likely at least break even); operation to CIN would probably border on being a fiction in terms of ridership, but it would at least preserve track access. What you don't want is to go to a "bus bridge" situation HUN-CIN, if only because of the resulting loss of access.

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So I conclude that Gunn's tactics were bad. Frankly, Warrington's tactics were more effective, if you look at *results*.

What “results” would that be?

 

Warrington left Amtrak basically a couple months from insolvency (they would not have been able to make payroll). Warrington mortgaged Penn Station just to pay current operating expenses. Amtrak had a bunch of usable, repairable equipment rotting away at Beech Grove because Amtrak couldn’t afford to repair them. The equipment that was running, if not brand new (Acela and some California equipment), was generally in terrible shape with interiors that hadn’t been touched since the 1980s.

 

Gunn came on and convinced congress and a very hostile administration to give Amtrak additional money to make it through the year, plus enough to keep things running, rebuild damaged equipment at Beech Grove, refurbish most of the Superliner fleet, and generally operate more reliably. His one failure is that he didn’t play politics, and because he said some mean things about the Bush Administration’s budget proposals, the Bush-appointed board fired him. But Gunn’s legacy basically carried Amtrak through the next decade or so. Warrington’s legacy would have had the network shut down within the year following his departure had someone like Gunn not come in and used straight, no-BS talk about the reality of the situation.

 

I’m sorry, but to suggest that Warrington did better than Gunn at anything other than leaving voluntarily is one of the most asinine things I’ve read on this forum in many years.

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Gunn was fired, and managed to discontinue three of the most important routes in the system (both in terms of network connectivity and financials) before he got fired (they haven't returned).

 

Warrington kept the system running. Gunn didn't. He failed and then was fired.

 

I know a lot of Amtrak fans love Gunn, but objectively, he was a failure.

 

Having actually analyzed the Warrington era in detail, he did his best to dig out from under the even larger disaster which was the Downs period. (Which, to be fair, was partly Claytor's fault... but it was mostly Downs's fault.). Some of Warrington's initiatives worked out poorly, others worked out well, but in the end he left the railroad in a better place than when he inherited it, *just as bankrupt and unable to make payroll*, from Downs. Arguably he was a miracle worker, put in an impossible situation.

Edited by neroden

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Warrington played a large number of stupid games, but they very arguably got us the Acela (which, though it has created all sorts of issues with company focus, has arguably closed the total operating loss and made it far harder to "get away with" killing Amtrak even before you take the Senate into account). The problem that we are facing is that Amtrak is so painfully close to break-even overall that it is hard not to just try and knock out some costs and fill that gap accordingly...even if the Acela IIs should fix the problem as a whole.

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Gunn was fired, and managed to discontinue three of the most important routes in the system (both in terms of network connectivity and financials) before he got fired (they haven't returned).

 

Warrington kept the system running. Gunn didn't. He failed and then was fired.

 

I know a lot of Amtrak fans love Gunn, but objectively, he was a failure.

 

Having actually analyzed the Warrington era in detail, he did his best to dig out from under the even larger disaster which was the Downs period. (Which, to be fair, was partly Claytor's fault... but it was mostly Downs's fault.). Some of Warrington's initiatives worked out poorly, others worked out well, but in the end he left the railroad in a better place than when he inherited it, *just as bankrupt and unable to make payroll*, from Downs. Arguably he was a miracle worker, put in an impossible situation.

 

 

Your original statement was (putting nicely) extraordinary. Mr. Warrington did not keep the system running. He did the same thing as Mr. Boardman. He tried to expand business opportunities in the hope of reducing deficits. However, Mr. Warrington met with far less success by kicking too much of the can down the road. he lied to himself and others by not asking for capital and deferring maintenance to dangerous levels (where have we seen this recently?). That yielded sidelined trains due to lack of equipment, a lack of credibility, extra expenses to catch up on maintenance and poor relationships with the hosts, Congress and his own workforce.

 

Mr. Gunn came in and attempted to dig out the mess that was Amtrak. He concentrated on the basics, streamlined the operation, marched through the larded workforce like General Sherman and actually brought back training. He prioritized getting the railroad back into a state of good repair. He teamed with states to work on the infrastructure and also reestablished working relations with Congress, who ignored Bush and funded Amtrak. Of course he discontinued routes that were based upon Mail and Baggage hocus pocus when Mr. Warrington left Amtrak with no equipment, no capital, no credibility and a bunch of extremely hostile hosts.

 

His failure to shut down the railroad, keep the politically "endorsed" positions and embrace the lie that Warrington stated and Bush wanted him to say (this railroad can run without subsidies) is what got him fired. If he had been allowed to continue his work, we probably would have been better off. One thing is for sure, this place may not have existed this long without him.

 

He's actually what this placed needed when MR. Boardman left.

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Gunn was fired, and managed to discontinue three of the most important routes in the system (both in terms of network connectivity and financials) before he got fired (they haven't returned).

 

Warrington kept the system running. Gunn didn't. He failed and then was fired.

 

I know a lot of Amtrak fans love Gunn, but objectively, he was a failure.

 

Having actually analyzed the Warrington era in detail, he did his best to dig out from under the even larger disaster which was the Downs period. (Which, to be fair, was partly Claytor's fault... but it was mostly Downs's fault.). Some of Warrington's initiatives worked out poorly, others worked out well, but in the end he left the railroad in a better place than when he inherited it, *just as bankrupt and unable to make payroll*, from Downs. Arguably he was a miracle worker, put in an impossible situation.

 

This is just hilarious. I don't know any other way to put it.

 

I wasn't following Amtrak during the Downs era, so can't comment on their financial situation at the end, but I have a hard time believing they were burning through cash vs. appropriations at the rate that they would entirely run out of cash three months before the end of the fiscal year / next year's appropriations. That's where Warrington left the company.

 

He also spent a billion or so dollars (I can't find the exact number right now, but my memory tells me it was in this ballpark) on a failed freight initiative (money that could have gone into passenger equipment; all the new Viewliners folks are foaming over now could have been on the property 15 years ago, extra sleepers and coaches to make longer revenue consists, etc.). We got trains to such exotic places as Janesville, WI and Louisville, KY (if it was possible for a train to have negative passenger counts, these trains would have found a way to do so, but they had to settle for single digits; sometimes including 0).

 

Then there was the "Service Guarantee" initiative that cost Amtrak a ton of money and didn't even provide any meaningful way of improving the service (just gave free trips to people who didn't like that the fabric on the seat next to them was torn).

 

I'm actually curious what initiatives he had that you think worked out well.

 

 

Warrington played a large number of stupid games, but they very arguably got us the Acela (which, though it has created all sorts of issues with company focus, has arguably closed the total operating loss and made it far harder to "get away with" killing Amtrak even before you take the Senate into account). The problem that we are facing is that Amtrak is so painfully close to break-even overall that it is hard not to just try and knock out some costs and fill that gap accordingly...even if the Acela IIs should fix the problem as a whole.

 

Most of the Acela project (including equipment acquisition and the electrification NHV-BOS) was underway before Warrington came in. What he brought us was the name and marketing, including the confusing branding of turning the then-Northeast Direct trains (but, IIRC, only certain ones) into Acela Regionals.

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