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Acela150

Current Leadership Letter

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Hi All,

I was hoping to be able to go to the day on the hill with NARP this year, but things are a bit wacky money wise here, so I'll have to pass this year. 

In the coming days I will be drafting a letter to send to my local representatives. 

The letter will be addressing the current leadership team that is in place at Amtrak from the Board, Mr. Anderson, Mr. Gardner, etc. I will also be addressing possible ways to help secure funding for Amtrak on a long term basis. 

I am turning to my AU friends for some facts regarding the current leadership team that are of concern to you. Basically things that need to be addressed. 

Anything that you can think of would be much appreciated. 

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You've probably already thought of this, but I'm mainly thinking about the general fact that they really doin't seem to care about the overall Amtrak experience. As I've said countless times, long distance trains simply can't rival the sheer speed and availability of air travel, so Amtrak really needs to focus on what makes the experience special. By making all these cuts to F&B,  gradually getting rid of checked baggage, and worsening the refund policy, they are taking away what makes train travel special.

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Help stop the elimmination of OBS on LD  Trains!

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Most issues, except the inept leadership that was put in place by Republicans to destroy Amtrak, would self-resolve if Amtrak had a significant, steady stream of dedicated funding on auto-pilot. So long as it is a political football things will not change. In fact they will likely get worse.

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30 minutes ago, Skyline said:

Most issues, except the inept leadership that was put in place by Republicans to destroy Amtrak, would self-resolve if Amtrak had a significant, steady stream of dedicated funding on auto-pilot. So long as it is a political football things will not change. In fact they will likely get worse.

Your going to get nailed for that on here. Your right though look no further than every one of Trumps board nominations. Heritage, Cato,  as anti Amtrak as they get. Mick Mulveney, Elaine Chao and the Trump Administration gave us Anderson and the anti national network agenda. That all can’t be denied. (Moorman was irrelevant as soon as he announced he was leaving so I’m leaving him out of this).

To be fair though overall Republicans minus the group mentioned above have been more open to Amtrak funding then anytime in the past.  The bi partisan SWC delegation. The 94-6 Senate vote,  all bode well for Amtrak if the cancer from within can be extracted. 

I am interested to see how the GOP votes now that we have a divided goverment again. Will there still be bipartisan bills or will it go back to how it was under Obama with the scorthed earth obstruction to anything and everything? Hoping for the best.

Edited by Amtrakfflyer

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Anderson was actually hired by a Board consisting of Obama appointees and has little to do with Trump.

As it turns out, the Trump Amtrak Board nominations have been sitting in purgatory with different Senators having put blocks on different ones for various reasons.

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The biggest issue is that Amtrak's accounting is fundamentally fraudulent.  This means that Amtrak doesn't actually *know* which routes make money or lose money, or how much.  Amtrak officials such as Stephen Gardner have made various dishonest claims about route profitability, but they're bogus.  There's an entire RPA white paper about this:

https://www.railpassengers.org/happening-now/news/releases/amtraks-route-accounting-fatally-flawed-misleading-wrong/

Congress should demand that Amtrak actually start tracking its costs rather than using bogus, dishonest "allocations" which are actually KNOWN to be FLAT OUT WRONG -- such as the case of the erroneous double allocation of costs to the Lake Shore Limited due to it having two train numbers.

The second major complaint: it is known that sleeper cars on the Eastern trains are highly profitable, as they can charge very high ticket prices and still fill up.  (Despite Amtrak's bogus and dishonest accounting, it's clear.)  There are a bunch of half-finished Eastern sleeper cars, paid for, at CAF.  Why the hell aren't they finished, in service, and making money?  This is leaving cash on the table.  Congress should demand that Amtrak get these cars delivered and in service making money.

Edited by neroden

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2 hours ago, cpotisch said:

You've probably already thought of this, but I'm mainly thinking about the general fact that they really don't seem to care about the overall Amtrak experience. As I've said countless times, long distance trains simply can't rival the sheer speed and availability of air travel, so Amtrak really needs to focus on what makes the experience special. By making all these cuts to F&B,  gradually getting rid of checked baggage, and worsening the refund policy, they are taking away what makes train travel special.

If you're a congress-critter, or even one in your state-house or local government, their point of view has to be 'transportation is transportation'.  They're more or less willing to (somewhat/mostly) fund whatever it takes to get people from here to there, with the ultimate goal of getting your votes later on. 

Getting you from here to there has (in their opinion) no relationship to 'experience'.  When's the last time any daily scheduled common carriers taunted 'luxury bus experience' or even 'luxury airplane experience'?  So WHY would/should any of them give any consideration whatsoever for 'passenger train experience'?  Especially since they almost NEVER ride Amtrak?  Remember (as far as I know) NONE of them have any prior travel industry experience whatsoever. 

And all Anderson did at Delta, from what I've read, is push for 'get the passengers from here to there'...period.  No frills, no charters, more fees for everything...that's his track...er...air...record.  So, what's the odds of Anderson ever going face to face with Congress and testifying of the 'need' to enhance rail passenger 'experience'?

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One idea is to run Amtrak less like a bureaucracy and more like a business. As mentioned earlier, use more sleepers on the eastern trains. From a passenger train consist listing from the mid 1960's the Silver Meteor often ran with 16+ cars, not counting head end equipment, with two diners. Today's Meteor looks more like a local. Of course, Seaboard Air Line was very aware of being in the passenger business, as well as freight. Amtrak should be learning from the Brightline/Virgin folks about marketing, as well as squeezing every dime it can from the NEC infrastructure.

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On 2/4/2019 at 8:04 PM, AGM.12 said:

One idea is to run Amtrak less like a bureaucracy and more like a business. As mentioned earlier, use more sleepers on the eastern trains. From a passenger train consist listing from the mid 1960's the Silver Meteor often ran with 16+ cars, not counting head end equipment, with two diners. Today's Meteor looks more like a local. Of course, Seaboard Air Line was very aware of being in the passenger business, as well as freight. Amtrak should be learning from the Brightline/Virgin folks about marketing, as well as squeezing every dime it can from the NEC infrastructure.

Amtrak has lost a lot of equipment since then and there hasn't been a lot of will to add to the LD network. The CAF fiasco certainly isn't helping.

As for running it as a business, that is why you are not seeing trains in inclement weather. They are running like a business. Your letter should state they run Amtrak as an essential service.

Edited by Thirdrail7
left out an operative word.

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On 2/4/2019 at 8:04 PM, AGM.12 said:

One idea is to run Amtrak less like a bureaucracy and more like a business

Most businesses are bureaucracies.  Also, most businesses are extremely poorly run.  But I guess you meant that Amtrak should be more "businesslike", something which many businesses really ought to do too.

That's why I was a little more specific than that.  For example, Amtrak needs to actually track its costs rather than just throwing them into one big pool of "miscellaneous payments to employees" and then guessing what was spent on what route or project -- which is what they currently do.  Amtrak needs to put its customers' desires, specifically the ones which will increase ridership and revenue, before its employees' convenience.  Things like that.  (There are plenty of businesses which are just as bad as Amtrak.)

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11 hours ago, neroden said:

Most businesses are bureaucracies.  Also, most businesses are extremely poorly run.  But I guess you meant that Amtrak should be more "businesslike", something which many businesses really ought to do too.

That's why I was a little more specific than that.  For example, Amtrak needs to actually track its costs rather than just throwing them into one big pool of "miscellaneous payments to employees" and then guessing what was spent on what route or project -- which is what they currently do.  Amtrak needs to put its customers' desires, specifically the ones which will increase ridership and revenue, before its employees' convenience.  Things like that.  (There are plenty of businesses which are just as bad as Amtrak.)

This. It really is impossible for any company to accurately or effectively determine what it should and shouldn't be spending money on, if it has no idea where that money is coming from and going to. They also need to understand what is supposed to be a revenue source, and what is a loss leader. Checked baggage is never going to turn a profit, but it shouldn't have to, because it is a service that gets people to ride. In many ways, the same can be said about meal service. Amtrak just doesn't seem to recognize what role the different services are supposed to play overall.

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4 hours ago, cpotisch said:

This. It really is impossible for any company to accurately or effectively determine what it should and shouldn't be spending money on, if it has no idea where that money is coming from and going to. They also need to understand what is supposed to be a revenue source, and what is a loss leader. Checked baggage is never going to turn a profit, but it shouldn't have to, because it is a service that gets people to ride. In many ways, the same can be said about meal service. Amtrak just doesn't seem to recognize what role the different services are supposed to play overall.

Amtrak Or Congress?

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3 minutes ago, Thirdrail7 said:

Amtrak Or Congress?

Is there a congressional mandate to de-staff dozens of stations and take the baggage car off multiple trains?

Edited by cpotisch

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Just now, cpotisch said:

Is there a congressional mandate to de-staff dozens of stations and take the baggage car off multiple trains?

Yes...there is a congressional mandate to minimize losses,  reduce expenses, reduce the necessary subsidy, and(paraphrasing)eliminate the need for a food service subsidy whole attempting to operate like the charter stated: as a for profit corporation.

With a mandate like that, they aren't really interested the same rhetoric that has been spouted for years about food service being a loss leader, baggage cars being a loss leader, private cars "possibly" bring riders to a train.

They key word is "loss" and that is what they want to eliminate.

 

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16 hours ago, Thirdrail7 said:

Yes...there is a congressional mandate to minimize losses,  reduce expenses, reduce the necessary subsidy, and(paraphrasing)eliminate the need for a food service subsidy whole attempting to operate like the charter stated: as a for profit corporation.

With a mandate like that, they aren't really interested the same rhetoric that has been spouted for years about food service being a loss leader, baggage cars being a loss leader, private cars "possibly" bring riders to a train.

They key word is "loss" and that is what they want to eliminate.

 

Oh my God, I hope they don't get the idea that the restrooms have to pay for themselves. :)

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On 2/8/2019 at 11:17 AM, Thirdrail7 said:

Amtrak has lost a lot of equipment since then and there hasn't been a lot of will to add to the LD network. The CAF fiasco certainly isn't helping.

As for running it as a business, that is why you are not seeing trains in inclement weather. They are running like a business. Your letter should state they run Amtrak as an essential service.

Running anything like a business is a meaningless, and quite often a destructive cliche in the US. Afterall the entire country is now running like a business LOL!

Edited by jis

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