May 2016 Amtrak Report

I have read the May report and these are the items I find interesting:

1.       The report is dated June 24, 1016 and posted either that day or the next. The report and posting is very early.

2.       Amtrak ridership figures were very strong in May compared to the previous year. Of course in 2015 the crash of train 188 caused the NECto partially shut down for much of the month. Also the Downeaster was truncated as ties were being replaced. The lack of these disasters caused a surge in reportable rides, however, yields on the tickets were limited by severe discounting to lure riders back.

3.       For the first eight months of the current fiscal year, Amtrak has a cash operating loss of $176.8 million reflecting a cash loss of $30.3 million in May. For the entire year, Amtrak is now predicting a total cash loss of $272.1 million which is an $8.2 million improvement from the prior forecast at the end of April. This compares favorably with the $288.5 million operating appropriation that Congress for FY2016. Gasoline prices have stabilized slightly higher than in May, so the likelihood that some of this operating appropriation will be left over on October 1, 2016.

4.       The same twelve product lines that showed an operating surplus in the last report continue to do so:

Acela $205.3 million

Northeast Regionals $129.1 million

Washington-Newport News $4.4 million

Washington-Lynchburg $2.1 million

Carolinian $2.0 million

Maple Leaf $1.4 million

Auto Train $1.0 million

Vermonter $0.7 million

Washington-Richmond $0.7 million

Washington-Norfolk $0.6 million

Ethan Allen $0.4 million

Hoosier State $0.2 million

All of these either improved from April or stayed the same with the exception of the Auto Train, which is now entering its off season. Also collectively the four product lines serving Virginia totaled $7.8 million.

5.       Cost Recovery slipped a bit, 97% for the first 8 months, probably as a result of the lower ticket yield mentioned earlier. Food and Beverage improved marginally to 56.1%.

8.       The Chief Mechanical Officer’s report shows that during May: 17 Amfleet, 9 Superliners, 2 Horizons, 1 Viewliner, and 2 Surfliners were overhauled.  The Superliners are now at 84.7% of the entire year’s goals with four more months to go.

9.       Ridership surged in May so much that a deficit in the year to year comparison is now a surplus of 87,977. Total Ridership for the first eight months of FY2016 is 20,259,752. Leading the growth is the Palmetto with a year to year comparison of plus 83.4%. As Cliff Dunn pointed out to me, this is due to fact that the Palmetto was combined with a Northeast Regional from Washington to New York. Other product lines reporting Increases of more than 10% were the Non-NEC Specials at 16%, the California Zephyr at 11.7%, and the Downeaster at 10.8%.

10.   Authorized Capital Spending increased by $13.676 million to $1,925.532 million most of which was in Engineering. Actual forecast spending for all of FY2016 decreased by $10.441 million.

In actual capital spending, the year so far is 876.689 million. Gateway projects have expended $44.894 million and Acquisitions have increased by $0.293 million to 18.334 million. ADA Expenditures spiral into new territory as they $14.5 million in the year so far.

11.   Employment increased by 24 to 20,704 individuals in May.

12.   The House has not been able to consider the THUD Appropriation Bill approved by the full Appropriations Committee. They are scheduled to adjourn to by July 14, 2016 for the Conventions and not meet again until September for a brief session before returning to the Campaign Trail. Complicating matters is the disruption of the House floor by a dissident group of representatives staging a sit-in until their bill gets floor time. This resulted in the house adjourning two days early leaving only two more weeks (less time off for campaigning) when they return on July 5. There is really only time for one more appropriation bill to get floor time before the July recess.

I had previously thought that the house had approved a Transportation Appropriation (The bill was still labelled THUD and other purposes) but in fact it contained only the Military Construction/Veterans Affairs (MILCON) and ZIKA Money. The good news is a conference has worked out the differences between the House and Senate and been passed by the House. Unfortunately, politics have the Democrats now filibustering the very same bill that they unanimously voted for previously. Because the need for the Zika funds are needed now, it is still possible for this bill to pass.

13.   The last ACS64 Sprinter has been delivered to Amtrak. A few more are being built for SEPTA in Pennsylvania. In Chicago a new FIRST CLASS LOUNGE has been opened at Union Station. This allows passengers boarding and debarking from sleepers in Chicago to use while waiting for connections and as a place to store their luggage so they can move around.

14.   No further word on the long distance equipment (Diners, Baggage-Dorms and Sleepers) being built by CAF, nor any further information been made available from Nippon Shayro about the double decker corridor cars being “built” by them.

Steve Musen 

Rhode Island representative to NARP’s Council of Representatives