Comment on A blueprint for Amtrak success from T4A Chair John Robert Smith by Evan Stair


Amtrak leadership would beg to differ with the Honorable John Robert Smith’s characterization of long-distance sector. Amtrak’s own balance sheet reflects heavy losses for the same. In contrast, contemporary Amtrak balance sheets reflect above-the-rail profits for a few Northeast Corridor routes.

Questions abound:

1. Why would Amtrak or any member of Congress seek to continue long-distance operations with such financial results?
2. Why would Amtrak attempt to deceive through accounting tools created by the USDOT?
3. What kind of fiscal miracle transformed the money-hemorrhaging, 457-mile, Penn Central Northeast Corridor (NEC) into an Amtrak profit center?
4. Why does the NEC still receive federal appropriations if it is profitable?
5. Why was the NEC divested to Amtrak in advance of the Conrail takeover if the corridor was potentially profitable?
6. Did government finally succeed with an enterprise… something northeast railroad capitalists could not achieve?
7. Why wasn’t the NEC divested from Amtrak once profitability was achieved?
8. Why isn’t the fiscal genius who turned the NEC into a profit center running the federal government?

All of the above is a sarcastic perspective, but it is what current Amtrak leadership wants its funding partners in the White House, Congress, state legislatures, and moreover the general public to swallow. This is the Big Lie that began seeping into colloquial conversations around 1976.

A larger question is why would Amtrak seek to deceive? Maybe those federal representatives and officials who lurk in the shadows pulling Amtrak’s puppet strings could answer. Let’s look at Amtrak’s current leadership. Let’s ponder a plethora of potential provincial puppet-masters who placed Amtrak leaders in their present positions.

The current Amtrak board of directors is led by a two-term board member, acting chairman, and Biden Administration nominee. This individual is a northeast developer, northeast law partner, and northeast financier.

Amtrak’s present CEO arrived in 2009 following a career as a former northeast congressional staffer. Earlier, he was employed in the northeast freight carrier business as a railroad worker and manager.

Amtrak’s president arrived on the scene in 2019 from Aeroméxico, and earlier a plethora of other airlines. He was assigned as Amtrak’s chief long-distance administrator upon arrival. Why wasn’t this an internal promotion – someone with Amtrak operating experience?

Even the Biden Administration seems confident that provincialism will lack any significant political consequences. Only one of the administration’s board nominees resides outside of the northeast. As of yet, the administration has not nominated any Republican board candidates in accordance with the law. They must be difficult to find in the northeast.

In conclusion, Amtrak’s current service meltdown is going unnoticed. Whether the meltdown has been caused by executive incompetence, provincial malfeasance or a percentage of both is immaterial. The damage done since 2016 is not easily repaired. How many more months, or even weeks can Amtrak survive without intervention from underrepresented congressional districts west of Washington D.C.?