Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

The Amtrak Board vacancies

First of all, TFA considers the departure of Alex Kummant as President and CEO to be generally bad news in that it breeds still more instability into an already unstable corporate picture.

It also seems to me that, since we are talking about public money in Amtrak financing, any disagreement between the Chairman and President of such magnitude ought to gain some congressional oversight. 

I raised the question about Amtrak board vacancies and an alert reader has done more research than I might imagine. Some of this info comes from the National Corridor Initiative. Here goes.

In following your speculation about the departure of Kummant (no great loss), you raise questions about the Amtrak board.  You are correct in that the board is composed of all Bush appointees, with only two being reasonably certain of being pro-Amtrak, those being Hunter Biden and Tom Carper.  The Amtrak authorization bill just passed and signed last month has a clause on the board of directors…..

‘Sec. 24302. Board of directors

        ‘(A) The Secretary of Transportation.
        ‘(B) The President of Amtrak.
        ‘(C) 7 individuals appointed by the President of the United States, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, with general business and financial experience, experience or qualifications in transportation, freight and passenger rail transportation, travel, hospitality, cruise line, or passenger air transportation businesses, or representatives of employees or users of passenger rail transportation or a State government.
    • ‘(1) The Amtrak Board of Directors (referred to in this section as the ‘Board’) is composed of the following 9 directors, each of whom must be a citizen of the United States:
      ‘(2) In selecting individuals described in paragraph (1) for nominations for appointments to the Board, the President shall consult with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the minority leader of the House of Representatives, the majority leader of the Senate, and the minority leader of the Senate and try to provide adequate and balanced representation of the major geographic regions of the United States served by Amtrak.
      ‘(3) An individual appointed under paragraph (1)(C) of this subsection shall be appointed for a term of 5 years. Such term may be extended until the individual’s successor is appointed and qualified. Not more than 5 individuals appointed under paragraph (1)(C) may be members of the same political party.
      ‘(4) The Board shall elect a chairman and a vice chairman, other than the President of Amtrak, from among its membership. The vice chairman shall serve as chairman in the absence of the chairman.
      ‘(5) The Secretary may be represented at Board meetings by the Secretary’s designee.
  • ‘(a) Composition and Terms-
    ‘(b) Pay and Expenses- Each director not employed by the United States Government or Amtrak is entitled to reasonable pay when performing Board duties. Each director not employed by the United States Government is entitled to reimbursement from Amtrak for necessary travel, reasonable secretarial and professional staff support, and subsistence expenses incurred in attending Board meetings.
    ‘(c) Travel- (1) Each director not employed by the United States Government shall be subject to the same travel and reimbursable business travel expense policies and guidelines that apply to Amtrak’s executive management when performing Board duties.
    ‘(2) Not later than 60 days after the end of each fiscal year, the Board shall submit a report describing all travel and reimbursable business travel expenses paid to each director when performing Board duties to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate.
    ‘(3) The report submitted under paragraph (2) shall include a detailed justification for any travel or reimbursable business travel expense that deviates from Amtrak’s travel and reimbursable business travel expense policies and guidelines.
    ‘(d) Vacancies- A vacancy on the Board is filled in the same way as the original selection, except that an individual appointed by the President of the United States under subsection (a)(1)(C) of this section to fill a vacancy occurring before the end of the term for which the predecessor of that individual was appointed is appointed for the remainder of that term. A vacancy required to be filled by appointment under subsection (a)(1)(C) must be filled not later than 120 days after the vacancy occurs.
    ‘(e) Quorum- A majority of the members serving shall constitute a quorum for doing business.
    ‘(f) Bylaws- The Board may adopt and amend bylaws governing the operation of Amtrak. The bylaws shall be consistent with this part and the articles of incorporation.’.
    (b) Effective Date for Directors’ Provision- The amendment made by subsection (a) shall take effect 6 months after the date of enactment of this Act. The members of the Amtrak Board of Directors serving as of the date of enactment of this Act may continue to serve for the remainder of the term to which they were appointed.


Now….. after reading all that political doubletalk, according to, the current board is made up of the following individuals:

National Railroad Passenger Corporation Board of Directors

Mr. R. Hunter Biden
Vice Chairman of the Board

Thomas C. Carper

Ms. Donna McLean
Chairman of the Board

Nancy A. Naples

The Honorable Mary Peters
Secretary of Transportation

HR 2095 was signed into law by Bush on October 16, 2008.  That would seem to mean that the “new” 9 member board, including the 4 above members (continuing to serve if they desire), plus a NEW sec of Transportation, plus 4 more people to be selected by Obama, could be in place by mid-April 2009.  As I read it, Obama gets to appoint 4 new members, plus replacement for any of the existing four who do not wish to continue serving.


Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

From the Times: Detroit bailout should make automakers “transport makers”

Robert Goodman, a professor at Hampshire college in Massachussets, has an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times about steeting any potential automaker bailout towards a more transport friendly economy. That is, attaching strings so that they’ll start building things like train stock for HSR in addition to fuel efficient automobiles.

The Obama administration should ask the companies, as a condition of financial assistance, to begin shifting from being just automakers to becoming innovative “transportmakers.” As Barack Obama’s new chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, recently said: “You don’t ever want a crisis to go to waste. It’s an opportunity to do important things you would otherwise avoid.”

As transportmakers, the companies could produce vehicles for high-speed train and bus systems that would improve our travel options, reduce global warming, conserve energy, minimize accidents and generally improve the way we live.

This sounds all well and good, but unless we want to lead these companies into more trouble, we can’t ask them to make these products without creating a market for them. Which would, ideally, mean creating that first-class rail system Biden mentioned on the campaign trail.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , ,

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November 2008