Amtrak Reports Less Dependence on Federal Budget Assistance
By Claudette Covey
September 20, 2012 10:22 PM
Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman will appear before a Congressional committee on Sept. 21 to testify that, with record ridership of 30.2 million passengers, Amtrak now covers 85 percent of its operating budget with ticket sales and other revenues, reducing the federal operating need to 15 percent. In addition, he will inform the committee that the fiscal year 2012 federal operating grant of $466 million is significantly down from a peak of $755 million in fiscal year 2004, or a reduction of nearly 50 percent in inflation adjusted dollars.
“Amtrak uses federal operating support to achieve the mission given to us by Congress to deliver the mobility, connectivity and economic benefits of a national passenger rail network, particularly long-distance train routes,” Boardman said.
Through dispatching services, operating contracts and access to Amtrak-owned and maintained infrastructure, Amtrak also supports the safe movement of more than 230 million commuter rail passengers and more than 300,000 carloads of freight rail service each year. Boardman also will reiterate that, for fiscal year 2013, Amtrak is requesting $450 million in federal operating support, an amount lower than what Congress appropriated for the current year. This is possible as a result of improved management and financial performance.
“The federal government has long been in the business of subsidizing all modes of transportation, yet no one can agree on what numbers to use to quantify the benefits of these investments,” Boardman said. “Record ridership and revenue, best farebox recovery in the U.S. passenger rail industry, debt cut in half, increased efficiency, better cost controls, improved on-time performance and being the nation’s only high-speed rail operator are strong indicators that Amtrak is putting our portion of the federal investment to good and effective use.”
Also, Boardman will explain that, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the numbers of Americans in smaller cities and rural communities who no longer have access to intercity bus or air service, and are served only by Amtrak, tripled in just five years. Ridership on Amtrak long-distance trains is up 18.4 percent from FY 2007 to FY 2011.
Finally, Boardman will remind the committee that throughout Amtrak's 41-year existence, passenger rail has been only a small portion of the annual federal transportation budget. In contrast, in just the past four years, the Congress appropriated $53.3 billion from general revenues to bail out the Highway Trust Fund as federal gas tax receipts prove insufficient -- almost 30 percent more than the $39.3 billion in total federal expenditure Amtrak has received since it was created in 1971.