Amtrak Scales Back Service Again Latest Cuts Don’t Impact Local Service, Which Was Reduced In December
The train they call the City of New Orleans will be cut from seven to five days a week, the Broadway Limited to Chicago will end at Pittsburgh and Houston residents who want to ride the Texas Eagle north will have to start with a bus trip to Dallas.
Amtrak dropped the other shoe Thursday, announcing a series of service cuts scheduled to take place in June and September as the passenger railroad tries to eliminate red ink.
Amtrak announced the first round of cuts in December. Two days after Spokane’s $9 million transportation center opened, Amtrak announced that it would cut daily service on Empire Builder trains to four times per week. The route runs from the Midwest to Seattle and stops in Spokane.
Without the cutbacks, which will total 24 percent of the railroad’s routes when complete, Amtrak might have been facing bankruptcy by midsummer, said Thomas M. Downs, president of the railroad.
If the savings from reducing service and staff go as planned, Amtrak will have a balanced budget this year and next, he said.
Amtrak was facing a $240 million cash shortfall and had been warned to expect no increase in federal subsidies. Amtrak receives nearly $1 billion a year from the Federal Railroad Administration.
“This is our last anticipated downsizing, we hope,” Downs said. “We’re down to what we think is the defensible foundation of rail passenger service in America.”
Downs blamed Amtrak’s money problems on years of reduced capital spending on railroads while subsidies were provided to other types of transportation, combined with intense competition from new low-cost airlines.
Downs noted that the cuts will allow Amtrak to get rid of most of the elderly equipment it inherited 25 years ago when it was created. Some cars are a half-century old and spare parts have to be hand made, he said.
The railroad is eager to meet with state officials who are willing to provide money to keep some services operating, Downs said. Wisconsin, Michigan and Vermont, among others, have already agreed to subsidize operations to maintain rail service.
Service cuts scheduled for June 11 include:
Illini between Chicago and Carbondale: eliminate service on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday; keep remaining four days.
City of New Orleans between New Orleans and Chicago: eliminate service on Tuesday and Wednesday; retain other five days.
Hoosier State between Indianapolis and Chicago: eliminate service on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday; retain other three days.
Discontinue Loop and State House service connecting St. Louis, Springfield and Chicago.
California Zephyr between Salt Lake City and Oakland, Calif.: eliminate service on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; retain other four days.
Illinois Zephyr between Chicago and Quincy: eliminate service on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; retain other three days.
Downs said Amtrak was not targeting Chicago as a focus of the cutbacks, noting that the city happens to be a connecting point for many trains and thus tends to be involved in almost any major changes.
Cuts scheduled for Sept 10 are:
Broadway Limited operating from New York to Pittsburgh and Chicago reduced to a New York-Harrisburg-Pittsburg service. Passengers continuing to Chicago could switch to the Capitol Limited in Pittsburgh.
Cardinal between New York, Washington, Cincinnati and Chicago reduced to Washington-Cincinnati service on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Texas Eagle service between Dallas and Houston replaced by bus service. Train would continue to operate between Dallas and Chicago.
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