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Weekly Newsletter: Congress and Amtrak food service

February 12, 2015

On February 5, 2015 the House T&I Committee introduced a bill to fund and reform existing Amtrak operations. With similar low rates of funding as previous years, it’s yet another status quo bill that we’ve come to expect from Congress. Beyond funding, the bill addressed some other issues important to train passengers, which we break down in a series of emails and blog posts over the next week.

Food service is a near essential part of the train travel. It’s needed to make long trips viable and allow passengers to make the most of their time.

However, because everything has to happen on a moving vehicle and Amtrak runs so few trains, it’s very hard to break even. Today Amtrak sees food service as an important part of it value proposition – and runs it at a loss.

In recent months some lawmakers have called for Amtrak to scrap food service unless it can cover its costs. Amtrak users have decried these measures as another assault on the passenger experience.

This week, the house T&I Committee proposed a solution – sort of.

The T&I bill calls for Amtrak to cease food service unless it can cover its costs in the next five years. At the same time, the bill stipulates that no personnel can be laid off to reduce costs, even though labor costs make up the largest part of the dining service budget.

At first it appears Congress has almost certainly ended food service. That is until you see their ‘out’. The bill also allows Amtrak todesignate a part of ticket revenue to cover any deficits associate with food service. In effect, Amtrak will continue to fund on-board dining the way it always has.

The smoke and mirrors around food service is designed to create a distraction from the real issue: the continued starvation diet for Amtrak and passenger rail as a whole.

Julius Parod
Manager of Communications

Last Week at MHSRA:

Executive Director Rick Harnish attended Illinois Governor Rauner's State of the State address. After meetings in Springfield, it's clear there is a growing appetitie for a boost in transportation spending and an opportnity to get passenger rail in the mix.

We just released a new flyer promoting Amtrak in Illinois - and hand delivered it to every member of the General Assembly. Check it out here.

On the Blog:

Administration’s budget proposal calls for significant passenger rail funding.

Articles We Enjoyed:

Bipartisan Passenger Rail Reform Introduced
Congress proposes few changes, little funding for Amtrak.

Obama budget would boost rail funding
The President calls for $5 billion a year.

Buying this guy a car was nice. Buying a mass transit system would be way nicer.
“Only in America would we assume that Robertson’s 46-mile [walking] commute is the natural order of things and the problem is that some people don’t have cars.”

Amtrak contract extended for Hoosier State
Lawmakers still searching for a long-term fix.

PRESS RELEASE: Mayor Emanuel Unveils Next Phase of ‘Building a New Chicago’
If reelected, the mayor promises $500 million for Chicago Union Station.

Intermodal transit hub in Cleveland on radar of RTA, city, Amtrak, Greyhound
Important step to improving transportation on one of Amtrak’s most under served cities.

Upcoming Events:

March 21st - Annual Spring Meeting in Chicago, IL. See presentations by public officials and transportation experts from across the Midwest.

April 29th - Illinois Railroad Summit in Springfield, IL. Save the date; more details to follow.

A donation of $15 or more today will go directly towards advocating for the passenger rail experience you care about - including continuedAmtrak food service. Can you help us move forward in 2015?

Julius Parod
Midwest High Speed Rail Association
4765 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625
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