Trains For America

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Unions oppose Boardman

Not everybody is pleased with the appointment of a new Amtrak president. 12 unions has expressed strong opposition, as reported by Progressive Railroading.

Senior Vice President of Operations William Crosbie — who briefly served as interim president — will continue to focus on day-to-day operations, while Boardman concentrates on Amtrak’s future direction.

“Amtrak is at a critical juncture and needs a vigorous management vision and ability to take advantage of this unique time,” said Amtrak Chairman Donna McLean in a press release announcing Boardman’s appointment.

However, leaders of 12 Amtrak labor unions believe the interim appointment was an attempt by the Amtrak board to deter the incoming Obama Administration from determining the railroad’s direction. The unions had requested that Amtrak install Crosbie as acting CEO until the Obama Administration selected a new transportation secretary and appointed its own Amtrak board members.

“It is unfortunate that the current board of directors would not wait to give President Obama the first opportunity to shape Amtrak’s future,” union leaders said in a joint statement. “Instead, the board rushed to put its stamp on Amtrak’s future, first by encouraging the resignation of Alex Kummant … and then installing the person who represented the Bush Administration on the board as interim president and CEO.

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

Vermont looking to cut back on Amtrak, despite continued ridership increases

Seems to be a trend we’re seeing a lot these days, doesn’t it?  The Burlington Free Press reports that the state needs to cut $21 million in transportation spending, and the state’s $5 million Amtrak subsidy is looking pretty appealing to those bearing the red pens. Fortunately, neither of the state’s two lines, the Vermonter to DC and the Ethan Allen Express to  New York, would be facing total elimination. Of course this is despite a 17% increase in Vermont Amtrak ridership from last October. The VT Agency of Transportation says it might even be able to make some of these cuts without legislative approval:

Several scenarios of cutbacks are being considered, Zicconi said, including eliminating one of the two lines or shortening The Vermonter’s route. The shortened route would eliminate service from St. Albans to White River Junction, cutting out stops in Essex Junction, Waterbury, Montpelier and Randolph in the process.

The Douglas administration has the authority to make some service cutbacks without legislative approval, Zicconi said. “There are other things that need to be done with legislative approval,” he said.

Zicconi did not immediately know the extent of the governor’s authority to curtail Amtrak service.

I’m obviously a supporter of Amtrak subsidies, and indeed generous subsidies for public transportation in general. But unlike a sheerly market oriented approach, subsidies don’t necessarily increase funding as use of the service increases. When this hard economy is creating governmental budget shortfalls all over the country at the same time America is increasingly turning back to the rails, we start to see this ugly paradox in action.

Hopefully some astute Vermont lawmakers will step in to make sure the state can stay competitive when it comes to rail transportation…. especially considering that neighboring states are looking at expanding their own services.

Filed under: Uncategorized

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