Management & Operations

The case for a new, improved Amtrak

Posted on June 1, 2005 by Peter A. Picknelly

Much has been written in recent months about the nation’s primary passenger rail service, Amtrak, and the need to preserve it for the traveling public. Preserving national service in its present form means that Amtrak will continue to lose astonishingly large sums of money — $1.8 billion this year alone. According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, it costs Amtrak $186.35 per thousand passenger miles to operate, far more than any other mode of transportation in the nation. This comes at a time when more of our national resources are needed for homeland security and military defense abroad. Put simply, the American public may soon demand that Amtrak, as well as any federally subsidized service, begin the move towards self-sustainability. I’d like to argue that self-sustainability is not only possible, but also likely, if Amtrak’s leadership would only be willing to take a few pages from the nation’s inter-city bus industry. As America’s oldest form of mass transportation, rail service could also benefit from a new form of connectivity with the bus industry. Privatization is not lethal
First, let me offer some perspective. When it comes to mass transportation, most Americans probably don’t realize that the bus industry is, by far, the largest form of mass transportation in the United States. Buses transport 774 million people annually in North America — that is 224 million more than the number that travels on all of the airlines combined. Buses also carry more passengers in the United States in a two-week period than Amtrak moves in a year. So, there may be something Amtrak can learn from the bus industry, which is not directly subsidized with one dollar of federal funding (though development of the national highway system certainly has allowed buses to transport millions of Americans throughout our country.) It is not likely that American’s love affair with train travel will wane, and I’m not suggesting rail service be supplanted by bus service. Nor does train travel have to be in conflict or in competition with bus travel. A few years ago I contacted the chairman of the Amtrak Reform Council, the body that was established and directed by Congress to explore ways to make Amtrak profitable. In a letter to the Council, I indicated that Peter Pan Bus Lines would be interested in serving as an operator of Amtrak rail routes should the panel recommend, and Congress adopt, some form of privatization of the rail system’s routes. The idea to privatize certain routes was immediately rejected by those most closely affiliated with Amtrak. However, the experience we have gained over the past 70 years in safely, efficiently and profitability transporting millions of travelers could be valuable in developing a new and improved Amtrak. I’m sure other bus operators would have something valuable to offer as well. Linking intercity bus and rail
Finally, there is no reason Peter Pan and other carriers shouldn’t be meeting with Amtrak right now to explore ways for bus and train travel to work in harmony. In Boston’s South Station, for instance, Peter Pan and Amtrak ticket counters are a few feet away from each other. Perhaps, one day, both ticket agents will sell a “shared” ticket with the bearer traveling part of the trip on Amtrak and another part on a Peter Pan or Greyhound bus. In Springfield, where Peter Pan’s corporate headquarters are located, a new Union Station could open in a few years. It is my hope that intercity bus and Amtrak rail service will be seen as a continuum of travel, operating side by side in a new Union Station, and not as competing entities. Picknelly is president of Peter Pan Bus Lines in Springfield, Mass.

View comments or post a comment on this story. (0 Comments)

More News

JTA's Ford wins prestigious COMTO award

The Thomas G. Neusom Founders Award is the highest honor bestowed by COMTO. Ford accepted the award at the 46th National Meeting and Training Conference in Detroit.

NJ Transit weighing disciplinary actions for no-show train engineers

It's unclear how many of the cancellations stemmed from engineers exercising a contract provision that allows them to take two days to report for work when schedule changes are made.

National Express Transit acquires Cook DuPage Transportation

Established in 1975 and based in Chicago, CDT operates 275 paratransit vehicles providing more than 80,000 trips per month to PACE users in the Chicago Metropolitan area.

MTA chief weighs food ban on subway after track fire snarls service

A garbage fire crippled subway service along four lines for more than two hours during the peak of Monday’s morning rush hour.

BYD commits to hiring from communities facing significant barriers to employment

In addition to targeting veterans and returning citizens, will also target populations that have historically been excluded from the manufacturing industry, such as women and African-Americans.

See More News

Post a Comment

Post Comment

Comments (0)

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment

TruckingInfo.com

THE COMMERCIAL TRUCK INDUSTRY’S MOST IN-DEPTH INFORMATION SOURCE

Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

LCT Magazine

Global Resource For Limousine and Bus Transportation

Please sign in or register to .    Close