February 2017 Amtrak Report


I have read the February Report and these are the items that caught my attention:

  1. The report was dated April 7, 2017 and posted on the 19th. This is late for the writing and much later for the posting. Amtrak has changed the amount of information in Capital Spending report again. Now it is a real mess, with forecast spending from the budget and forecast spending from the 28th of February. Not even sure that they understand their figures.
  2. Ridership was down in  February 2017 compared to February 2016. However February this year had one less day in it than last year which was a leap year.
  3. For the first five months of the fiscal year Amtrak is running $35.0 million behind budget, but is $27.3 million ahead of last year. The budgetary loss comes from expenses particularly that definitive category known as  “other expenses” which is running $22.2 million behind budget. Salaries, Wages and Benefits are also running well behind the budget. Amtrak had for the first five months a cash operating loss of $92.8 million. This is $5.5 million better than budget and $27.3 million better than the previous fiscal year for the same period. Subtracting the $201.4 million cash operating surplus for the NEC means that the National System (everything except the NEC) had a cash operating loss of $294.2 million for the first five months of the year. 
  4. 16 product lines are still showing a contribution after all attributed costs:
  1. Acela $118.3 million
  2. Northeast Regionals $83.6 million
  3. Washington-Newport News $2.3 million
  4. Washington-Lynchburg $1.8 million
  5. Chicago-St. Louis $1.5 million
  6. Washington-Richmond $1.1 million
  7. Carolinian $1.0 million
  8. Washington-Norfolk $0.9 million
  9. Non-NEC Specials $0.5 million
  10. Vermonter $0.3 million
  11. Cascades $0.3 million
  12. Ethan Allan $0.2 million
  13. Hoosier State $0.1 million
  14. Hiawathas $0.1 million
  15. Keystone >$0.0 million
  16. Piedmont >$0.0 million

Virginia’s four product lines produced a total of $6.1 million in operating surplus.

  1. Cost Recovery is still 96.0%. Food and Beverages also continue to dip to 57.4%. One can assume that the “penny pinching” ways of squeezing costs out of the food service has reached its maximum effectiveness, and more and more people are avoiding the food service cars as a result.
  2. The Engineer’s report is still AWOL. It has been 17 months since this report was included. Also missing for 29 Months are the Profit and Loss, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow pages.

Amtrak’s legislative request for 2018 would contain some of this information, but that has been delayed awaiting the President to submit first his budget. Since the Trump Administration only filed a partial budget and expects to file a complete budget in May, we may have to wait a while for Amtrak’s legislative request.

  1. The Chief Mechanical Officer’s report shows that in February, Amtrak overhauled: 11 Amfleets, 6 Superliners, 1 Horizon, 1 Viewliner, and 1 Surfliner.  
  2. For the first five months, Amtrak was running 217,353 more passengers than in the previous year. For the fiscal year to date, the total is 12,483,186. Product lines that are up over 10% from the previous period of time are Non-NEC Special Trains (+96.3%), NEC Special Trains (+16.1%),  Texas Eagle  (+22.9%), Chicago-St. Louis (+13.5%), Palmetto (+12.4%), Hoosier State (11.5%), Vermonter (+11.4%), and the Cascades (+10.4%).
  3. Authorized spending for the entire year was increased by $108.2 million and is now at $2,073.7 million. Because of the shifting of categories, it is hard to pin down the differences. 

In actual spending to date Amtrak has spent $436.2 million. Hudson Yards Tunnel Box is now a separate category and shows expenditures of $0.6 million. CAF shows expenditures of $2.9 million (up by $0.2 million from the previous month) and ADA Expenditures was $16.3 million.

  1. Employment improved slightly with an increase of 34 employees in February. At the end of that month there were 19,970 employees.
  2. Derek Kan was nominated to fill the under secretary of DOT for policy . He is currently on the Amtrak Board of Directors. 

In the meantime, the clock is ticking on the April 28, 2017 termination date of the latest Continuing Resolution. The House has passed a Defense Bill and sent it to the Senate. That bill would dispose of about half of the discretionary money in the 2017 budget. It had bipartisan support in the house. But the Senate has not done anything with it yet. It looks line the Senate will use the bill as a vehicle for an Omnibus Spending Bill to cover the eleven missing budget bills. An agreement between the GOP and DEMs is mostly worked out. However, this still leaves President Trump who wants things and has the power to reject the bill sent to him for signature as means of getting them. If nothing is done; after April 28, there would be no money for any of the departments except Veteran’s Affairs and a portion of Defense.

Still no new diners from CAF. The one that was accepted is back again in service. 

Steve Musen

Rhode Island representative to NARP’s Council of Representatives