Save the Southwest Chief OP-ED
Thursday, October 10, 2019 9:21 AM
Replying to: “Amtrak’s Southwest Chief is in Jeopardy”
Here’s the problem with the Southwest Chief~
Amtrak has asked Congress to untie its hands and allow it to cut unprofitable routes. TheSouthwest Chief, according to Amtrak’s flawed accounting system, like nearly all other longdistance routes are unprofitable. But this is simply incorrect. Amtrak spreads the cost of the Northeast Corridor among all long distance routes. Without this accounting flaw, trains like theSouthwest Chief would be cash cows.
But Amtrak wants to mix things up to appease Congress, while Congress has changed itsposition. Appearing eager to implement any real or imagined cost-cutting measure, Amtrakproposed a Dodge City-to-Albuquerque bus substitution last year for the Southwest Chief which six Senators (none from Missouri) defeated by banding together to put an end to it in Congress. But that was only for the current fiscal year, which ended September 30. Starting October 1, the door opened again for this proposal and others like it. So far, Amtrak has not made such a proposal for next year – yet! We’re hoping that by getting enough people to write their Senators, the long distance network will not be chopped up into corridors, as Amtrak proposes. Rural residents would be the losers in such a scenario. For the moment, there is silence about possible bus substitution on the Chief. However, Amtrak only promised a stay onbus substitution through 2019. 2020 could bring even more challenges.
Another blow to Amtrak passengers is the elimination of dining car staff on western trains as has been done on eastern trains. When passengers were outraged over cold boxed meals instead of dining car meals, Amtrak opted for hot meals prepared before the trip and heated in a convection oven on board the train. People can reserve their meal from three choices at boarding time, eat in the dining car or eat at their seats. This is supposedly because Millennials don’t like to eat with strangers. This “contemporary dining option” is the latest attempt by Amtrak to cut costs.
Equipment delivery delays have also confounded Amtrak’s ability to improve the bottom line. Five years ago, Amtrak acquired new long distance equipment. Missouri finally got their Charger locomotives last year. Rail cars, however are another matter.
There is indeed an urgent threat to America’s national network of trains. Watch these videos to learn more:
October 10, 2019
Deborah Fischer Stout, Northern Flyer Alliance | Tony Trifiletti, Western Trains Coalition.