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Date: 12/01/22 10:22
This person’s take on the Amtrak Board Q&A session
Author: OnTime

Just finished watching the Amtrak Board Q&A session. Lots of info. Wish I had heard a stronger commitment on improving/expanding the LD network. Basically said they would do whatever Congress told them to do. Can’t they think out of the box and use their own initiative to make needed improvements?

Anyway two things stood out for me; 1) I think it was Gardner who said 90% of pandemic “furloughed” employees are back. I can’t dispute the veracity of what he said. I have to decide if it falls into the “too good to be true” category. Is indeed good news. 2) he said there is active ongoing planning and within a month a request for RFPs will be going out to potential LD car builders will going out. Single level? Double deckers? No info. But glad to see progress on this.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/01/22 10:23 by OnTime.



Date: 12/01/22 10:30
Re: This person’s take on the Amtrak Board Q&A session
Author: lordsigma

OnTime Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Just finished watching the Amtrak Board Q&A
> session. Lots of info. Wish I had heard a stronger
> commitment on improving/expanding the LD network.
> Basically said they would do whatever Congress
> told them to do. Can’t they think out of the box
> and use their own initiative to make needed
> improvements?
>
> Anyway two things stood out for me; 1) I think it
> was Gardner who said 90% of pandemic
> “furloughed” employees are back. I can’t
> dispute the veracity of what he said. I have to
> decide if it falls into the “too good to be
> true” category. Is indeed good news. 2) he said
> there is active ongoing planning and within a
> month a request for RFPs will be going out to
> potential LD car builders will going out. Single
> level? Double deckers? No info. But glad to see
> progress on this.

The first request is more of a developmental request from carmakers to help inform the final scope and decision making. The finalized RFP kicking off the actual procurement is targeted for this summer according to the presentation.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/01/22 10:35 by lordsigma.



Date: 12/01/22 10:34
Re: This person’s take on the Amtrak Board Q&A session
Author: lordsigma

He also mentioned no mechanical or engineering employees were involuntarily furloughed and that the shortages there are entirely due to attrition (attrition would likely include the voluntary separation and retirement if the incentive program did include mechanical) and the hiring freeze during late FY20 and early FY21. And as OnTime noted for the employees who were furloughed 90% of those involuntarily furloughed returned. It sounds like the major source of the staffing shortages system wide is attrition and not the 10% that didn’t return. This includes a high amount of attrition during COVID (including retirements - some incentivized), the hiring freeze during COVID, continuing high rates of attrition, and the labor market. In other words what’s facing most businesses.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 12/01/22 10:36 by lordsigma.



Date: 12/01/22 10:41
Re: This person’s take on the Amtrak Board Q&A session
Author: GenePoon

Talk is cheap.



Date: 12/01/22 10:43
Re: This person’s take on the Amtrak Board Q&A session
Author: lordsigma

Also - there’s a new map for expansion purposes. Amtrak has put out a new map based on the corridor ID responses. And this new map includes some long distance - including the NCH and getting the full gulf coast connecting back to Florida.



Date: 12/01/22 11:26
Re: This person’s take on the Amtrak Board Q&A session
Author: scott9915

Do you have a link to Amtrak's new map?  Or can you post it?
I'm curious as to what Amtrak's new routes look like like now.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/01/22 11:27 by scott9915.



Date: 12/01/22 11:34
Re: This person’s take on the Amtrak Board Q&A session
Author: lordsigma

scott9915 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Do you have a link to Amtrak's new map?  Or can
> you post it?
> I'm curious as to what Amtrak's new routes look
> like like now.

Was difficult to see on the zoom. Will have to see if they put it out for general consumption.



Date: 12/01/22 11:43
Re: This person’s take on the Amtrak Board Q&A session
Author: joemvcnj

OnTime Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Just finished watching the Amtrak Board Q&A
> session. Lots of info. Wish I had heard a stronger
> commitment on improving/expanding the LD network.
> Basically said they would do whatever Congress
> told them to do. Can’t they think out of the box
> and use their own initiative to make needed
> improvements?

Like asking an el ed teacher to teach Calculus ? Can't use what they haven't got. Do you think any of these people have ever stepped foot on such a train ? Graham Claytor would have rented out a sleeper room and gotten angry at a sleeper attendant who gave him special treatment. I don't think any Amtrak office cars were parked at St :Louis either. 

> Anyway two things stood out for me; 1) I think it
> was Gardner who said 90% of pandemic
> “furloughed” employees are back. I can’t
> dispute the veracity of what he said. I have to
> decide if it falls into the “too good to be
> true” category. Is indeed good news. 2) he said
> there is active ongoing planning and within a
> month a request for RFPs will be going out to
> potential LD car builders will going out. Single
> level? Double deckers? No info. But glad to see
> progress on this.

Anderson got rid of a lot of people in 2018 and 2019. They have to get grown back too.
Single level or bi level, pro and cons to each. I can be talked into either one. 



Date: 12/01/22 11:45
Re: This person’s take on the Amtrak Board Q&A session
Author: pdt

"We will do what congress tells us to do"     OMG truer words were never spoken.  Welcome to Amtk Mgmt.     Nothing that happens is our responsibility, we are just following orders.

It will take someone, somewhere in this country to actually see rail  as a viable and desirable form of transportation on the federal level, for Amtk to progress at all.    Right now, its just "we here at top management are doing this cause someone else told us to"  No more, no less.  Classic govt pencil pushers.

Even this administration, which was supposed to be amtk friendly, isnt doing much of anything with amtrak.  At least its better than the administrations that were always trying to shut amtrak down.   



Date: 12/01/22 11:52
Re: This person’s take on the Amtrak Board Q&A session
Author: pdt

I cant believe the ppl here who are whining about new equipment.   Who the hell cares about something thats 5 or 10 years down the road, when Amtk cant function right now?

FIX THE EQUIPMENT U HAVE NOW, and run a railroad.    Its not rocket science.

Maybe we should have the National Guard or the Army Corps of engineers run amtk national.   At least they are mission completion oriented, and arent afraid to make decisions.



Date: 12/01/22 11:56
Re: This person’s take on the Amtrak Board Q&A session
Author: njmidland

pdt Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Even this administration, which was supposed to be
> amtk friendly, isnt doing much of anything with
> amtrak.  At least its better than the
> administrations that were always trying to shut
> amtrak down.

I am going to be counterintuitive here.  It seems like Amtrak has operated its best in the times when there was an administration hostile to it.  Perhaps it was the motivation to prove the critics wrong.  The greatest cutbacks were when "friendly" Carter and Clinton administrations were in place.  And certainly now no one in the current administration is basking in glory for any Amtrak improvements. 



Date: 12/01/22 11:57
Re: This person’s take on the Amtrak Board Q&A session
Author: joemvcnj

pdt Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> "We will do what congress tells us to do"    
> OMG truer words were never spoken.  Welcome to
> Amtk Mgmt.     Nothing that happens is our
> responsibility, we are just following orders.

Which begs the question, why is there an Amtrak Board at all ?  Cut out the middleman. 



Date: 12/01/22 12:04
Re: This person’s take on the Amtrak Board Q&A session
Author: stevef

I listened. I was disappointed about the discussions on Western Long Distance equipment. It seemed like there were lots of excuses to making long distance equipment available for service. 

For example, to get western long distance equipment available for Western trains, they could begin to talk about as the new Midwest equipment is put in service that they plan to redeploy those superliners to long distance services to get more revenue and ridership from those trains. Some are still used on Midwest corridor services to lengthen trains to make the grade crossing signals activate. 

No priorities seemed to be given to get other cars repaired, only excuses.

No possibilities, potentials, solutions or answers to immediate problems, only excuses and many reasons as to why there is no long distance equipment available. 

 



Date: 12/01/22 12:13
Re: This person’s take on the Amtrak Board Q&A session
Author: SanDiegan

njmidland Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> pdt Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Even this administration, which was supposed to
> be
> > amtk friendly, isnt doing much of anything with
> > amtrak.  At least its better than the
> > administrations that were always trying to shut
> > amtrak down.
>
> I am going to be counterintuitive here.  It seems
> like Amtrak has operated its best in the times
> when there was an administration hostile to it. 
> Perhaps it was the motivation to prove the critics
> wrong.  The greatest cutbacks were when
> "friendly" Carter and Clinton administrations were
> in place.  And certainly now no one in the
> current administration is basking in glory for any
> Amtrak improvements. 

Just a thought. The Democrat base is the Northeast and West Coast. The other side might be more interested in LD trains serving their base in flyover country. Could be a factor in congressional committees etc.

Posted from iPhone



Date: 12/01/22 12:15
Re: This person’s take on the Amtrak Board Q&A session
Author: SanDiegan

stevef Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I listened. I was disappointed about the
> discussions on Western Long Distance equipment. It
> seemed like there were lots of excuses to making
> long distance equipment available for service. 
>
> For example, to get western long distance
> equipment available for Western trains, they could
> begin to talk about as the new Midwest equipment
> is put in service that they plan to redeploy those
> superliners to long distance services to get more
> revenue and ridership from those trains. Some are
> still used on Midwest corridor services to
> lengthen trains to make the grade crossing signals
> activate. 
>
> No priorities seemed to be given to get other cars
> repaired, only excuses.
>
> No possibilities, potentials, solutions or answers
> to immediate problems, only excuses and many
> reasons as to why there is no long distance
> equipment available. 
>
>  

The focus was NEC and state funded corridors

Posted from iPhone



Date: 12/01/22 13:42
Re: This person’s take on the Amtrak Board Q&A session
Author: ironmtn

I guess, member "pdt", that you attended the Zoom session and meeting in an alternate reality somewhere. I knew that Zoom was a pretty capable app, but I've never known it to land someone in a meeting in a parallel reality somewhere else in the galaxy.

pdt Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> "We will do what congress tells us to do"    
> OMG truer words were never spoken.  Welcome to
> Amtk Mgmt.    

Not what I heard at all. I heard considerable acknowledgement that there is enablement by congressional action through the funding in the IIJA (aka Infrastructure Law). And yes, they have to act within the constraints of the law. So what else is new? Just in case you've never noticed, that's the way the procurement projects using public monies work. Ever been part of a project where you're spending public funds?

> Nothing that happens is our
> responsibility, we are just following orders.

I heard a fair amount of responsibility taking. Some acknowledgement, some of it pretty forthrightly if guarded (there are always lawyers watching, so some care must be exercised) that on-time and service performance has not been good. That there is real short staffing. That services have been curtailed, and ought to be restored.

Yes, the pandemic influenced a lot of that. But the "setup" was also acknowledged - yes, we cut back services pre-pandemic because funding was tight. And then combined with the pandemic's impact the climb out of the hole is even steeper. An explanation I for one accept. Because it fits with everything I've read independently elsewhere, and because a heck of a lot of other businesses (the freight railroads included, although of their own volition listening to the PSR siren song - not because of federal funding cutbacks) have had similar things happen to them. As Chairman Coscia acknowledged pretty forthrightly.

I also heard a lot of "we're going forward" on one thing or another. New routes being studied. Long distance car procurement process has been started, and the general calendar is known.

Hardly waiting for Congress to tell them what to do. But yes, they DO have to listen to -- and follow -- congressional mandates when such occur. But I heard no whining that "our hands are tied -- we can only sit and do nothing until Congress green-lights it". Very much to the contrary.

> It will take someone, somewhere in this country to
> actually see rail  as a viable and desirable form
> of transportation on the federal level, for Amtk
> to progress at all.   

Now I know for sure that you either didn't listen, or are in some alternate reality. Over and over again, start of the meeting to finish, there was a view that with the IIJA funding, strong traffic growth including among first-time passengers, a strong case for passenger rail growing among the public, that there are a lot of opportunities out there for Amtrak - and the company intends to take advantage of them to the extent that they can. I heard that theme many times.

> Right now, its just "we
> here at top management are doing this cause
> someone else told us to"  No more, no less. 
> Classic govt pencil pushers.

I didn't see a single pencil being pushed. Nobody said anything remotely like "we're just doing this because someone else told us to." I heard a lot of forward-looking statements, and a positive vision. Yes, execution will be needed, and it will be a stretch. But I heard no sitting on hands waiting for an order to come from Congress. Zero.

> Even this administration, which was supposed to be
> amtk friendly, isnt doing much of anything with
> amtrak. 

Nope. Nothing at all. Just a $22 billion funding stream. No, that's nothing at all.

> At least its better than the
> administrations that were always trying to shut
> amtrak down.   

Yes it is.

I was not expecting much from this meeting. I was expecting a lot of defensiveness, painting-over of past performance, and very little vision of the future, so much has my vision of Amtrak been affected by discussion here on TO and elsewhere.  But I heard little defensiveness, no cover-ups, and a good deal of looking ahead. It was a much better session than I anticipated.

It's all in execution now. A lot of wheels are in motion, and everything that's happening or being looked at will stretch an historically under-resourced organization to the limits of its capabilities.

We need to be sure that execution is good. The time has likely come to really start looking forward. Take a Reaganesque "trust but verify" stance if you wish - I will be. Accept that things are moving, there are good plans (yes, they may need adjustment and revision - "no plan ever survives the first day of battle"). And make sure that the execution is brisk, timely as can be, proper, and of good quality.

But move ahead. Stop looking backward, and stop endlessly dissing the people who are trying to move Amtrak forward.  Oh, and fix your Zoom -- it's placing you in an alternate reality somewhere. Not good for getting a realistic view of things.

MC



Date: 12/01/22 14:03
Re: This person’s take on the Amtrak Board Q&A session
Author: Lackawanna484

Amtrak can, and often does, execute effectively. Trains arrive on time, may be moderately clean, and crews are friendly.

But, it lacks the interest in making these attributes consistent. How many times does a traveler have a superb trip with a good crew and connect to an awful crew on the next?

Posted from Android



Date: 12/01/22 15:28
Re: This person’s take on the Amtrak Board Q&A session
Author: PHall

SanDiegan Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> njmidland Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > pdt Wrote:
> >
> --------------------------------------------------
>
> > -----
> > > Even this administration, which was supposed
> to
> > be
> > > amtk friendly, isnt doing much of anything
> with
> > > amtrak.  At least its better than the
> > > administrations that were always trying to
> shut
> > > amtrak down.
> >
> > I am going to be counterintuitive here.  It
> seems
> > like Amtrak has operated its best in the times
> > when there was an administration hostile to
> it. 
> > Perhaps it was the motivation to prove the
> critics
> > wrong.  The greatest cutbacks were when
> > "friendly" Carter and Clinton administrations
> were
> > in place.  And certainly now no one in the
> > current administration is basking in glory for
> any
> > Amtrak improvements. 
>
> Just a thought. The Democrat base is the Northeast
> and West Coast. The other side might be more
> interested in LD trains serving their base in
> flyover country. Could be a factor in
> congressional committees etc.
>
> Posted from iPhone

Well the Republicans will be making the committee assignments in the house so I guess we'll get a chance to see if your theory is right or not.



Date: 12/01/22 15:52
Re: This person’s take on the Amtrak Board Q&A session
Author: joemvcnj

The Democratic House T&I Chair from NJ was an ignorant fool. But the likely House T&I Chair wil be no friend of Amtrak and stuck on profitability motive. It will not be easy for Amtrak to bamboozle him and they will always be back on their heels and on the defensive.  



Date: 12/01/22 16:53
Re: This person’s take on the Amtrak Board Q&A session
Author: jcaestecker

Let's face it folks, the public and Congress just don't think that Amtrak and passenger trains are all that important.  We all think the opposite, but........  It might be time to face reality.

-John



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