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The Empire State Passenger Association Newsletter, May-June 2002
Empire State
Passengers Association State


Highlights from


July-August 2002 Edition


The following is a summary of our association's bi-monthly newsletter. All ESPA members receive the unabridged version of this newsletter by mail. To join, print, complete, and mail the membersip form. Join today!!

Property Tax Reform Passes!

In a major victory for ESPA and freight railroads, the state legislature passed a revised property tax bill in the last days of the 2002 session. Senator Ron Stafford (R., Plattsburgh), Chairman of the Finance Committee, led the effort in the Senate.  Its passage represents a major contribution to the State's transportation system as he ends a distinguished career in the Senate. Stafford was a strong supporter of rail passenger service and helped get funding to upgrade 10MPH track used by the Adirondack in the Rouses Point area.

The Assembly bill was pushed by Majority Leader Paul Tokasz, (D., Buffalo), also a strong rail supporter. Passage in the Assembly was less certain because of Democratic sentiment against cutting taxes to large corporations. Governor Pataki's 2002 budget proposal initially excluded this item, but it was added at the request of ESPA Albany representative Joe Landry and CSX. 

Passage of the tax reform legislation clears the biggest hurdle blocking construction of the second track between Albany and Schenectady--a goal ESPA has been pushing since 1986. CSX had refused to allow the track to be built without tax reform because it would be used mainly by passenger trains yet would raise CSX taxes substantially. The new bill will exempt tracks and other facilities used primarily for passenger trains from property taxes for ten years. It will also gradually reduce existing taxes on rail property, which are higher in New York than almost anywhere else in the nation. Localities will initially get state reimbursement for the reduction in their tax revenue.  However neither the reductions nor the reimbursement will take effect during the first year, which made the bill more palatable given this year's difficult fiscal situation.    

Even though there will be no change in taxes during the current fiscal year, CSX will allow construction to go forward, and ground may be broken this fall.  Completion will hopefully occur next year. CSX will allow high-speed improvements in other parts of the state and will likely drop its lawsuit on the property tax issue.

ESPA has worked closely with CSX to accomplish this, a fact that has generated appreciation on both sides--a welcome situation after often-difficult relations with Conrail.

Frank Barry  

US voters support Amtrak subsidy

CNN/USA Today has released a Gallup poll, which found that 70% of US voters support continuing the federal subsidy for Amtrak. Only 30% favor its elimination. ( website)

Special State Fair Service

During the New York State Fair (Thursday, August 22 through Monday, September 2), Amtrak will stop 3 trains a day in each direction at the Fairgrounds with less than a minute walk from the entrance gate to the Fair.  From Buffalo, Train's 284 (Mon-Sat) and 286 (Daily) provide morning arrival at the Fairgrounds and Trains 281 and 283 provide for an afternoon Fairgrounds departure back to Buffalo.  From New York City, the Hudson Valley, and Albany, Train 63 on weekdays (Train 65 on weekends) provides for a Fairgrounds arrival at about Noon and there is a 4pm train (Train 64) daily for the return and on Sundays, Train 288 provides for a Fairgrounds departure at about 6pm.  Also, there are hotels in the area if overnight accommodations are desired, call 800-653-0831 for Amtrak overnight packages.

A special Fair discount (code X530) will provide 20% off for adults, 50% off for children 10-15 and free for children under 10. Passengers will show their Amtrak receipt at the ticket booth and receive 50% off the fair admission ticket. The trains will stop at gate #11.

Binghamton-Syracuse train next year?

The New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad plans to inaugurate a daily passenger train from Binghamton to Syracuse next year, utilizing money appropriated for Southern Tier rail service. Service will be provided by rehabilitated 50-year-old Budd Rail Diesel Cars (RDC's).

Passenger service will require a $9 million upgrade to the Susquehanna tracks where speeds are now limited to 10MPH in some sections. This will benefit freight as well as passenger service. However even after the upgrade, maximum speeds will be limited to about 45MPH, and will require at least two hours for the  80 mile run, some 30 minutes longer than the bus.

The train will stop in Cortland and several locations in Syracuse including Syracuse University (near the Carrier Dome and Upstate Medical Center), Armory Square, the Carousel Mall and eventually the Amtrak station. However Binghamton would have only one station, to be built on Bevier Street next to an old railroad yard, a mile north of the old downtown Erie-Lackawanna station on track now controlled by Norfolk-Southern.

Some of the funding to be used was originally intended for rail service to New York City. However, since the recently completed Department of Transportation study found that no viable service is possible in the short term, a decision was made to serve Syracuse instead. Senator Tom Libous, who promoted the study of service to New York, requested a proposal from the Susquehanna Railroad for this purpose.

The Susquehanna Railway plans to run excursion trains for events in the Carrier Dome and elsewhere in addition to the daily scheduled service; the excursions could start later this year if trackwork is completed in time. A spokesman for Senator Libous said the Susquehanna believes the service will cover its costs. According to the Binghamton Sun Bulletin (6/27), no estimate of ridership was made--the market will be tested simply by offering the service on a trial basis after the tracks are fixed.

This action, though potentially beneficial, raises several questions.  First, will travelers ride a train that is significantly slower and less frequent than a bus or a car, especially when fares are expected to be twice the bus fare? ($25 one-way by train, vs. $27 round trip by bus, according to the article). 

How will the service be marketed? It is hard to imagine an isolated train succeeding without extensive promotion. Will it connect with Amtrak trains?  Will its schedules appear in Amtrak timetables?  Will Amtrak be able to sell its tickets?

ESPA will work to ensure connectivity. In the meantime we are gratified at Senator Libous' persistence in bringing passenger trains to Binghamton.

Plans are also being developed with Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito for excursion service between Binghamton and Utica. Destito is also a strong promoter of rail service.

Frank Barry

Update from Washington

Editors Note: ESPA has retained Tim Gillespie to help solve the Amtrak crisis in Washington. Tim was Vice President of Government Affairs under two Amtrak Presidents--Graham Claytor and Tom Downs, and previously served as an aide to Senator Heinz (R., Pa.).

If this were not an election year, Amtrak would be toast.  One key thing Amtrak has in its favor is that 435 Members of the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate will be up for re-election just a few months from now.  Having spent some time working in Congressional offices in both the House and Senate, I can tell you that the last thing any member of Congress wants when running for reelection is a change in the status quo right before the election. In addition, the Administration is trying to keep the House of Representatives in Republican hands and regain the Senate--which means the White House doesn't want any major disruptions either.  So, all the attention Amtrak is getting in the media is having an impact.

That being said, when you are as close to the edge of a cliff as Amtrak is, the chances of an accidental death get higher.  In a hearing before the Senate Transportation Appropriations Committee recently, Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) told an Administration witness that if an Amtrak shutdown occurs "the administration can explain why it would allow intercity rail passenger service to die when many of us in Congress are ready and willing to fund it."  With a Supplemental Appropriations bill sitting in a conference committee, Congress could very well provide Amtrak with the funding it needs. What we were witnessing at this hearing was a game of political chicken.  If this were not an election year, policy makers in Washington would be more open to making tough choices about Amtrak. But it now appears they want to hold Amtrak together and postpone the big battle until after the election.  While that may mean Amtrak will get the resources it needs for this year, a major battle is looming on the horizon for next year.

Because of its July 4th recess, time ran out for Congress to complete consideration of the Supplemental Appropriations bill, which everyone thought would be the vehicle used to add the funding Amtrak needs immediately.  The supplemental already has $55 million for Amtrak in the Senate passed version, but nothing in the House counterpart. Because of the media attention Amtrak has been getting there appeared to be a consensus among some House and Senate conferees to consider adding enough to get Amtrak to the $205 million it needs.  Now we will have to wait until later in July for Congress to complete the Supplemental and determine what Amtrak needs at that point.

The problem is that Amtrak has very little support inside the Bush Administration, especially at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).  Some Administration officials have indicated that the Bush Administration will never support adding funding for Amtrak in the Supplemental when Congress returns in July. There appears to be a lot of Administration infighting over Amtrak and some believe Secretary Mineta is way out on a limb on the issue, a limb OMB may saw off. Clearly the Bush Administration does not want to give Amtrak a grant to solve their problem, as it may be perceived as a bailout.  But Congressional leaders have suggested using the Supplemental to provide a grant rather than a loan, something Amtrak would no doubt prefer. On June 26th Secretary Mineta announced that the Administration and Amtrak had reached an agreement in principle that will allow the federal government to provide a loan guarantee to Amtrak for $100 million.  However, the details of this agreement were sketchy. Appearing the next day before a joint Senate hearing by the Commerce and Transportation Appropriations Committees (which was supposed to be about the trucking industry), Secretary Mineta was asked a number of questions about the Amtrak loan.  But the Secretary was either unwilling or unable to describe the details.  On top of that, key Congressional staff indicated that no one from the Administration had bothered to tell them how the arrangement was supposed to work.

The loan guarantee program under consideration is the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Act (RRIF).  RRIF was designed for railroad capital projects but specifically prohibits loans for "operating expenses," which has led some to wonder how the Administration will get around that aspect of the law to provide a loan to Amtrak.  However, on June 28th Amtrak and the Bush Administration announced that they had finalized their agreement.  In exchange for the $100 million loan, which Amtrak must repay on November 22, Amtrak agreed to several conditions the Administration insisted on as part of the deal.  Amtrak and the Administration also agreed that both would ask Congress for up to $170 million in additional short term assistance in the form of a grant, loan or loan guarantee when Congress returns from its July 4th recess.  But since there was still no guarantee that Congress would be able to address this funding in the Supplemental when it returns, the shut down crisis may return before July is over.

One major condition Amtrak had to accept bars it from spending any money on planning or expanding any new routes, including high-speed rail, through September 30th, 2003.  Most of the other conditions have to do with financial accounting and reporting, steps Gunn planned to take anyway.  Amtrak also agreed to come up with a list of ways to reduce operating expenses by $100 million in fiscal year 2003, (which begins October 1st), and to "seek the cooperation of all its employees in achieving the substantial cost reductions needed to meet Amtrak's financial crisis."  The Administration pushed for a tougher provision that would have prevented Amtrak from entering into labor agreements that would keep rail union jobs from being contracted out. But Gunn objected and the Administration backed off.

With uncertainties still lingering over the next $100 million Amtrak needs, others in Congress have proposed giving the Surface Transportation Board authority to continue commuter and freight rail service in the Northeast Corridor.  Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has jurisdiction over railroads, introduced HR 5020, the "Emergency Directed Services Act" on June 26th.   If enacted, this legislation would take away the trump card Amtrak holds in any future funding shortfall scenario--the interruption of commuter services on the corridor.  According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), commuters depending on contract operations by Amtrak or use of the Northeast Corridor infrastructure average 1.19 million weekday trips.  With that many daily commuters worried about how to get to work in an Amtrak shut down, you can be sure public policy makers would act quickly to prevent an interruption of service.  The enactment of legislation to allow the Surface Transportation Board to direct service for these operations would significantly reduce Amtrak's leverage in any crisis that may develop this year or next.

So stay tuned.  This crisis is far from over and those who want to preserve a national rail passenger system will need to pay close attention to the details as the debate continues to unfold.

Tim Gillespie


In the Capital Region, the long anticipated opening of the new Rensselaer Amtrak station is now slated to occur within the next month. Finishing touches on the overhead walkway, including the escalators and elevators to the platforms are nearing completion. In the station, final work is progressing to outfit the newsstand and café, in addition to the Amtrak ticket and customer service areas. Work is also ongoing in front of the existing station, where new facilities are being constructed to facilitate traffic flow and parking.

New Turboliners…still in the future!
The introduction of revenue service with the first of the rebuilt Turboliners is still at least a couple of months away. According to NYSDOT sources, the majority of the concerns identified with the first rebuilt set have now been resolved and testing of the individual components and systems is underway.

Manchester, Vt. service postponed  
Although Vermont has invested $11 million to upgrade tracks between Hoosick, NY and Manchester, Vt., no new passenger trains are likely this year. The Vermont budget for next year, finalized late in May, includes no additional funding for any new rail passenger service, according to the Schenectady Gazette (6/1/02).

Summer Saratoga Service

Amtrak will operate special trains on both Saturdays and Sundays, starting from the last weekend in July and continuing through Saturday, August 31.  The northbound, Train 61, will actually be combined with Train 65 (Toronto Maple Leaf) from New York to Albany and will then be uncoupled and operate to Saratoga Springs.  It will depart New York Penn Station at 7:45am and arrive Saratoga Springs at 11:40am.  The return, which is Train 62 (Saturdays), will depart Saratoga at 7:05pm and arrive New York at 10:45pm.  For the return on Sundays, the existing Train 296 departs Saratoga at 7:07pm with a New York arrival at 10:45pm and it will have extra coaches added on Sundays.  Business class will be available on all these trains, at an additional charge.   All of these trains also stop at Croton-Harmon and Poughkeepsie stations.  Connecting buses will expedite passengers from the historical Saratoga Springs train station to and from the racetrack.

The package (fare code X856) needs to be booked through 1-800-USA-RAIL or at a station.

Gary Prophet

The View From The Cab…

The last week of June showed us several important lessons…

First, Patience and perseverance does pay off! ESPA's efforts in support of the passage of State Rail Property Tax Reform have been effective. While we have waited several years for it to work, our collective voice, along with that of several other divergent groups, has finally been heard by our elected state representatives. My thanks to all ESPA members who worked to make this happen.

Second, our nationwide rail system has NEVER been more in jeopardy. While the immediately crisis seems to have passed, there is no resolution to Amtrak's long-term future. There is NO doubt that the next several months will prove to be the most important to our cause since the days when Amtrak was formed over 30 years ago. ESPA is in the forefront of the fight to retain the national system and I can assure you that our interests are being well served in Washington by Tim Gillespie and John Boffa. Your kind financial generosity has made this possible and I thank those members who have contributed. And with the toughest battles yet to come, your continued financial support of our efforts will be most appreciated.

We will keep you informed over the next months when there are specific and immediate for needs for action by ESPA members. The easiest and fastest way for us to do this is via e-mail. If you have an e-mail address that we are not already aware of, please let me know at You will be added to our e-mail list and then be alerted when help is needed.

As always, I welcome your comments, critiques and suggestions, on how ESPA can better attain our goals of improved passenger rail service. Don't hesitate to contact me at anytime.

Bruce B. Becker,
ESPA President

ESPA Member running for Assembly

ESPA member Steve Strauss has announced his intention to run for the New York State Assembly's 69th District seat in Manhattan's upper Westside. Strauss worked for the New York City Office of Management and Budget in 1980, and then in 1982 began working for MTA on the transition of commuter service from Conrail to the MTA. He subsequently worked in MTA's budget office where he became Executive Assistant to Chief Financial Officer Mortimer Downey. He later worked in the MTA policy and planning group, and in 1993 began working for the Transit Authority, where he became Assistant Director of Government and Community Relations. In this capacity he has worked on station rehabilitation and construction projects as well as service changes.  He has attended several ESPA/NARP annual meetings in Albany.  

Strauss is running in the Democratic primary to fill the seat vacated by Edward Sullivan. Since this district is solidly Democratic, victory in the primary will virtually guarantee him the seat. He hopes to bring enough experience and expertise to the Assembly to replace Jerrold Nadler as an advocate for rail transit and intercity rail, passenger and freight. (Nadler now serves in Congress, where he continues to support rail and transit improvements).  

"I strongly support the construction of a second track west of Albany to eliminate the frustrating bottleneck there," Strauss says.  "I support State assistance to maintain reasonable fares in the Empire corridor as well as frequent, time-competitive train service.  Similarly, I support investment in the Corridor's infrastructure such as high level platforms, station renewal, improved track and better rolling stock.  Marketing is also a key requirement for maintaining and adding to Corridor ridership."  

Corridor or Long Distance?
Which Loses Money?

The news media, a certain Reform Council, many politicians, and many other people (including some ESPA members) state that long distance trains lose money and should be cut, while the Northeast Corridor trains make money and that states should invest in only corridors.   David Gunn has stated correctly, "The Northeast Corridor needs a lot of capital dollars and long distance trains need operating dollars, so both need money."  Does anyone know how many capital dollars have been spent on the Northeast Corridor over the past 10 years?  The number is many, many billions of dollars.  Just think, if Amtrak had taken the money that was spent on capital on the Northeast Corridor over the past decade and placed the money into 30-year government treasury bonds, the money would earn Amtrak about $200 million per year, just enough to pay for all operating subsidies for all long distance trains every year, without ever touching the principal!!! Therefore, who says that long distance trains lose money, as Amtrak has just chosen to spend its capital dollars over the past decade mostly in the Northeast Corridor, because that is what it owns.

What does it cost to operate a train?  Well, that depends what you include.  Amtrak's debt is $4 billion and interest must be paid on that. Whether a single train operates or not, interest at a rate of $200 million per year must be paid, solely because Amtrak has been underfunded in the past.  Is this really a cost of today's train operation?  Of course not. Additionally, Amtrak is required to pay an excess amount into the Railroad Retirement Plan of about $150 million per year.  If Amtrak does not exist, someone will still have to pay that $150 million dollars, so that amount has no effect on how much it costs a train to operate, since that money will have to be paid by freight railroads or from an appropriation from Congress. Therefore, I just identified $350 million that has nothing to do with Amtrak's current operation and in fact the entire amount will have to be paid whether Amtrak exists or not.  Remember, Amtrak's proposed budget for 2003 (and for 2002) was $521 million.  Subtracting these two items, that leaves just $171 million for Amtrak to actually use to run a train.

Much of Amtrak's expenses are the fixed costs of maintenance facilities (Rennselaer, Bear DE, etc).  If Amtrak would immediately reduce service by 50% evenly throughout the country, little of Amtrak's fixed expenses would decrease, but their revenues would plunge by more than 50%. Unless Amtrak shuts down entire maintenance bases in the major cities, little cost would be saved.  If all trains from New York to Chicago are eliminated, the fixed cost of having a maintenance base in those cities would remain to serve corridor trains and the cost of the corridor service would increase because the corridor would be charged with the entire cost to operate the maintenance facility.  Little actual money would be saved.  The other question that needs to be asked, "What if Amtrak doubled the number of long distance trains and increased all corridor services by 50%?"  This would result in a much more efficient use of crews and equipment and existing maintenance facilities.  Would Amtrak "make money".  No, but would its operations be more efficient and cheaper?   Yes.  In January of this year, Amtrak eliminated a roundtrip between Albany and New York, to save money.  Did it really save money?  No, because one of the largest costs of operating a train on the Empire Corridor is that train's share of the fixed cost of the Rensselaer maintenance facility. That fixed cost was just shifted to the remaining trains, which are then "charged" with a larger share of the fixed cost. In fact, Amtrak's accounting and cost/revenue systems do not even have the incremental cost of operating specific trains.   

If Amtrak eliminated the Sunset Limited, will it save money? No, since the fixed costs of the Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Sanford (FL) maintenance facilities would remain and in fact passengers that currently connect to other trains would no longer connect and revenue to other trains would decrease.  In order to save money, Amtrak would have to eliminate entire maintenance bases.  Could Amtrak save money by eliminating the Auto-Train, Sunset Limited, and all trains New York to Miami.  Yes, but the real question needs to be if Amtrak operated the Sunset Limited every day, doubled the length of New York to Florida trains, and added a New York to Orlando limited stop train, would its revenue rise faster than the additional costs to operate?  If not, would the revenue almost cover the incremental costs?  Only when such questions are answered will everyone receive the true answer as to the cost effectiveness of rail passenger service.  Charging two people over $1000 roundtrip for a sleeper overnight and limiting trains to only 2 sleepers is not serving the public.  But that is all Amtrak can do because they are short equipment.  Did reducing the California Zephyr from 3 sleepers to 2 serve the public better?  Of course not, Amtrak just raised the prices further as they attempt to maximize revenue by limiting capacity.  If Amtrak reduced the price of a sleeper to the price of a Holiday Inn hotel room price and placed 6-8 sleepers on a train, then we could all see how Amtrak's revenue would increase; and, more importantly, how intercity rail passenger service benefits more and more people.  Of course, to do that requires an investment that the federal government has in the past been unwilling to make in passenger rail transportation in this country.  Amtrak is currently not providing much service to the traveling public by operating long distance trains with 3 coaches and 2 sleepers and charging higher fares New York to Syracuse than airlines charge New York to Orlando.

Gary Prophet

ESPA expands Washington Team

Although John Boffa had not been representing ESPA in Washington in recent months, the response to ESPA's appeal last December ($7,900) enabled us to reinstate John along with former Amtrak representative Tim Gillespie.  Both have been working in Washington during June to avert an Amtrak shutdown and secure adequate funding for next year. State Passenger Associations from Washington, Georgia and Iowa are helping to fund Tim's efforts. The National Association of Railroad Passengers has committed to continue funding in the Fall when ESPA and other state funds will be exhausted.  This gives Tim a national base, which will provide more credibility in Washington than representing ESPA alone.

ESPA members can take pride in their association's lead role in expanding the pro-rail passenger team in Washington during the most severe funding crisis since Amtrak's creation.

Frank Barry

If you belong to AARP …. your help is needed!

AARP is the largest lobby in the country - - well over 33,000,000 members - - and these members vote, so legislators respect their views. If AARP supports Amtrak, no doubt our national passenger rail system will survive, be strengthened and some day expanded. To achieve that goal, "AARP needs lots of letters"-- from AARP members.

To understand why these letters are so important, you should know that the AARP staff goes through a set process each year culminating in its annual Policy Manual. Once approved and published, the issues in that manual are the only ones their lobbyists are permitted to work on. That process is right now underway for the 2003 Policy Manual, so we need to be sure Amtrak is included. (Be sure to include your member number).

Please write to: Judith Kenyon, AARP National Legislative Council, 601 E Street NW, Washington, DC 20049. Ask AARP to work for better rail passenger service.

Robert Lenz     

David Gunn

David Gunn certainly has been making headlines during his first 6 weeks of being the Top Gun of Amtrak.  His experience of working at the top of the New York Transit Authority, along with the Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, and Toronto transit agencies, provides a wealth of experience for running Amtrak.   He tells it like it is and does not sugar coat anything and is known as a straight shooter.   Although he makes no guarantee that some trains won't be dropped, he believes in a national system and in long distance, overnight trains.  He has been very successful in resurrecting transit agencies and ESPA wishes him the best in his position with Amtrak.   He has already restored the Viewliner sleeper to the Twilight Shoreliner, which is the overnight train traveling from Newport News to Washington DC to Boston.  He believes that trains must carry many passengers to be successful and plans to get equipment fixed that Amtrak has had sitting around waiting for repairs.

Gary Prophet


NYSDOT has noted to ESPA that the state's investment in Amtrak's Adirondack service for fiscal year 2002 – 2003 is $2.0 million, not the $1.1 million figure referenced in the last 'The View from the Cab' editorial. ESPA applauds the state for making this significantly larger contribution, up from the actual $1.5 million state contribution in the previous year.

NARP issues Amtrak Position Paper   

The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) has released a position paper outlining its recommendations for Amtrak's future. Entitled "Modern Passenger Trains: a National Necessity," the paper aims to reframe the perennial Amtrak debate to focus on the benefits of developing rail service vs. the high societal costs of relying on air and highway modes. It points out that highways and transit are evaluated on the service they provide rather than their profitability. It argues that Amtrak's chief problem is its limited scope and its inability to carry large numbers of people.   

NARP recommendations include 1) an immediate emergency grant to restore rolling stock to a state of good repair; 2) replacing the self sufficiency requirement with performance standards based on volume and passenger miles and realistic farebox recovery levels; 3) establishing a trust fund for capital improvements and maintenance that does not depend on annual appropriations, as Congress has done for all other modes; 4) transferring ownership of the Northeast Corridor to the U.S. Department of Transportation, while leaving Amtrak in charge of dispatching. Since the Northeast Corridor carries freight and commuter trains as well as Amtrak, NARP believes its maintenance should not rest solely with Amtrak, and the Secretary of Transportation is best able to secure the funding required. 5) Providing incentives to freight railroads and federal funding to expand capacity for both freight and passenger service; 6) establishing regional authorities to manage local corridors like those of the Downeaster in Maine and the Capital Corridor in California.  NARP does not recommend privatization.

The paper blames Amtrak for not creating a vision for a national rail passenger service that would respond to transportation needs in the U.S. in the manner that the interstate highway system was presented to Congress. It recommends establishing a federal agency to develop rail passenger service as the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Aviation Administration have developed those modes.  It answers critics who point out that Amtrak carries only .5% of travelers in the U.S. by asking what percentage the airlines would carry if they were limited to 16 long distance routes as Amtrak is. 

Finally, the report includes a wealth of statistics on almost every aspect of travel including detailed figures for each Amtrak route. From these figures, several surprises emerge. Despite the criticism of long distance trains from conservative think tanks and some in Washington, long distance trains produce over half Amtrak's total passenger miles from just 18% of Amtrak passenger trips. In the 2000 fiscal year, long distance trains covered about half their costs, a figure comparable to that for commuter trains.  They produced 181 passenger miles per train mile, compared to 176 on the Northeast Corridor, 122 on the Empire Corridor and 102 on the San Diego-Los Angeles-Santa Barbara corridor. The Lake Shore Limited was Amtrak's third most productive route, carrying 210 people per train mile. This was exceeded only by Autotrain (323) and the Coast Starlight (262). In FY2000 New York's Empire Service covered 57% of its costs. Only the Metroliners and Acela high-speed trains generated more than their operating costs (141%).   

The 76 page document is available on NARP's website at, or by contacting NARP at 202-408-8362 or at 906 2nd St., N.E., #308, Washington, DC 20002

Frank Barry

revised 14 July 2002


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