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National Railroad Passenger Corporation
Amtrak logo.svg
Amtrak System Map.svg
Geographic map of the Amtrak system
Reporting mark AMTK, AMTZ
Locale Contiguous United States (except Wyoming and South Dakota)
Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec in Canada
Dates of operation
Most privately operated passenger rail systems prior to 1971
Track gauge
4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
25Hz AC
Northeast Corridor (Washington, D.C. New Haven)
Philadelphia to Harrisburg Main Line (Keystone Corridor)
60Hz AC
Northeast Corridor
(New Haven Boston)
Length 44 routes: 21,300 miles (34,000 km)
track owned: 730 miles (1,170 km)
Union Station
Washington, D.C.
The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, doing business as Amtrak, is a publ
icly funded railroad service operated and managed as a for-profit corporation[1]
which began operations on May 1, 1971, to provide intercity passenger train ser
vice in the United States.
Amtrak operates more than 300 trains each day on 21,300 miles (34,000 km) of tra
ck with select segments having civil operating speeds of 150 mph (240 km/h) and
connecting more than 500 destinations in 46 states[2] in addition to three Canad
ian provinces. In fiscal year 2014, Amtrak served 30.9 million passengers and ha
d $2.189 billion in revenue[3][4] while employing more than 20,000 people.[5] Ne
arly two-thirds of passengers come from the ten largest metropolitan areas and 8
3% of passengers travel on routes of 400 miles or less.[6] Its headquarters is a
t Union Station in Washington, D.C.[7]
The name "Amtrak" is a portmanteau of the words "America" and "trak", the latter
itself a sensational spelling of "track".[8][9]
1 History
1.1 Pre-Amtrak
1.2 Formation
1.3 Rainbow Era (the first decade)
1.4 1980s and 1990s
1.5 21st century
2 Amtrak operations and services
2.1 Rail passenger efficiency versus other modes of transportation
2.2 Wifi and electronic services
2.3 Intermodal connections
2.4 Service areas and non-service areas
2.5 Train reliability, frequency, and ridership

2.6 Guest Rewards

2.7 Freight
2.8 Commuter services
2.9 Classes of service
2.10 Trains and tracks
2.11 List of routes
3 Management structure
3.1 Presidents
3.2 Board of directors
3.3 Labor issues
4 Public funding
4.1 History of funding
4.2 Controversy
5 Carbon emissions
6 Transportation of firearms
7 Amtrak Residency for Writers
8 See also
9 References
10 Bibliography
11 Further reading
12 External links
See also: History of rail transport in the United States
Privately operated passenger rail service
The Illinois Central Railroad's Panama Limited long-distance diesel streamliner
The Boston and Maine Railroad's Speed Merchant Talgo train
The Gulf, Mobile and Northern Railroad Rebel streamliner train
From the mid-19th century until approximately 1920, nearly all intercity travele
rs in the United States moved by rail.[10] The rails and the trains were owned a
nd operated by private, for-profit organizations. Approximately 65,000 railroad
passenger cars operated in 1929.[11]
From 1920 into the later 20th century, passenger rail's popularity diminished an
d there was a series of pullbacks and tentative recoveries. Rail passenger reven
ues declined dramatically between 1920 and 1934 because of the rise of the autom
obile.[10] In the same period, many travelers were lost to interstate bus compan
ies such as Greyhound Lines. However, in the mid-1930s, railroads reignited popu
lar imagination with service improvements and new, diesel-powered streamliners,
such as the gleaming silver Pioneer Zephyr and Flying Yankee.[10] Even with the
improvements, on a relative basis, traffic continued to decline, and by 1940 rai
lroads held 67 percent of passenger-miles in the United States.[10]
World War II broke the malaise. During the war, troop movements and restrictions
on automobile fuel generated a sixfold increase in passenger traffic from the l
ow point of the Great Depression.[10] After the war, railroads rejuvenated overw
orked and neglected fleets with fast and often luxurious streamliners epitomized
by the Super Chief and California Zephyr which inspired the last major resurgen
ce in passenger rail travel.
The postwar resurgence was short-lived. In 1946, there remained 45 percent fewer
passenger trains than in 1929,[10] and the decline quickened despite railroad o
ptimism. Passengers disappeared and so did trains. Few trains generated profits;
most produced losses. Broad-based passenger rail deficits appeared as early as
1948[10] and by the mid-1950s railroads claimed aggregate annual losses on passe
nger services of more than $700 million (almost $5 billion in 2005 dollars when
adjusted for inflation).[11][12][13]

By 1965, only 10,000 rail passenger cars were in operation, 85 percent fewer tha
n in 1929.[11] Passenger service was provided on only 75,000 miles (120,000 km)
of track, a stark decline.[11] The 1960s also saw the end of railway post office
revenues, which had helped some of the remaining trains break even.[14]
Causes of the decline of privately operated passenger rail service
The causes of the decline of passenger rail in the United States were complex. U
ntil 1920, rail was the only practical form of intercity transport, but the indu
stry was subject to government regulation and labor inflexibility.[15][16] By 19
30, the railroad companies had constructed, with private funding, a vast and rel
atively efficient transportation network.
When the federal government began to construct the National Highway System, the
railroads found themselves faced with unprecedented competition for passengers a
nd freight with automobiles, buses, trucks, and aircraft, all of which were heav
ily subsidized by the government road and airport building programs. In 1916, th
e amount of track in the United States peaked at 254,251 miles (409,177 km), com
pared to 140,695 miles (226,427 km) in 2007 (although it remained the largest ra
il network of any country in the world).[17][18]
Some routes had been built primarily to facilitate the sale of stock in the rail
road companies; they were redundant from the beginning[citation needed]. These w
ere the first to be abandoned as the railroads' financial positions deteriorated
, and the rails were routinely removed to save money on taxes. Many rights-of-wa
y were destroyed by being broken up and built over, but others remained the prop
erty of the railroad or were taken over by local or state authorities and turned
into rail trails.
Government regulation
From approximately 1910 to 1921, the federal government introduced a populist ra
te-setting scheme. During World War I the railroads proved incapable of function
ing as a cohesive network. This forced the United States Government to nationali
ze the rail industry temporarily. In the 1920s railroad profits stagnated, many
redundant and unprofitable lines were abandoned, and many passenger facilities w
ere allowed to fall into a cycle of deferred maintenance, all of which in small
ways drove passengers away, either by higher fares or less appealing service.[16
] At the same time, the rise in popularity of the automobile and US Highways suc
h as the Lincoln Highway began to eat away at local rail passenger traffic. Incr
eases in labor costs also further hindered the railroads' ability to make profit
s on smaller and more sparsely populated lines.[16]
The primary regulatory authority affecting railroads, beginning in the late 19th
century, was the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). The ICC played a leading
role in rate-setting which at times hindered railroads' ability to be profitabl
e in the passenger market. In the 1930s, train speeds were ever increasing, but
no advance were being made in signalling and safety systems to prevent collision
s. This led to the horrific Naperville train disaster of 1946 and other crashes
in New York in 1950. In 1947[19][20] the ICC issued an order requiring US railro
ads, by the end of 1951, to install automatic train stop, automatic train contro
l or cab signalling wherever any trains would travel at 80 mph (130 km/h) or fas
Such technology was not widely implemented outside the Northeast,[22] effectivel
y placing a speed limit in other areas which is still in effect today, and why t
he 79 mph (127 km/h) maximum passenger train speed is common in the United State
s. In 1958, the ICC was granted authority to allow or reject modifications and e
liminations of passenger routes (train-offs).[23] Many routes required beneficia
l pruning, but the ICC delayed action by an average of eight months and when it
did authorize modifications, the ICC insisted that unsuccessful routes be merged

with profitable ones. Thus, fast, popular rail service was transformed into slo
w, unpopular service.[15]
The ICC was even more critical of corporate mergers. Many combinations which rai
lroads sought to complete were delayed for years and even decades, such as the m
erger of the New York Central Railroad and Pennsylvania Railroad, into what even
tually became Penn Central, and the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad an
d Erie Railroad into the Erie Lackawanna Railway. By the time the ICC approved t
he mergers in the 1960s, slower trains, years of deteriorating equipment and sta
tion facilities, and the flight of passengers to air and automobile transportati
on had taken their toll and the mergers were unsuccessful at preserving these ra
ilroad's passenger train service. It is important to note the Erie Lackawanna wa
s never a major hauler of passengers, nor its predecessor roads, and was mostly
a freight railroad. The Penn Central merger was a failure because it merged two
large struggling railroads on paper only, two separate management structures rem
ained with little or no integration of assets or management of the former Pennsy
lvania Railroad and New York Central system. The massive overhead costs of this
operating scheme played a far greater role in the Penn Central failure than any
actions take by the ICC or any other US Government agency.[citation needed]
At the same time, railroads carried a substantial tax burden. A World War IIera e
xcise tax of 15% on passenger rail travel survived until 1962.[24] Local governm
ents, far from providing needed support to passenger rail, viewed rail infrastru
cture as a ready source for property tax revenues. In one extreme example, in 19
59, the Great Northern Railway, which owned about a third of one percent (0.34%)
of the land in Lincoln County, Montana, was assessed more than 91% of all schoo
l taxes in the county.[15] To this day, railroads are generally taxed at a highe
r rate than other industries, and the rates vary greatly from state to state.[25
Labor-related issues
Railroads also faced antiquated work rules and inflexible relationships with tra
de unions. Work rules did not adapt to technological change.[15] Average train s
peeds had doubled from 1919 to 1959, but unions resisted efforts to modify their
existing 100- to 150-mile work days. As a result, railroad workers' average wor
k days were roughly cut in half, from 57 hours in 1919 to 23 hours in 1959. Labor rul
es also perpetuated positions that had been obviated by technology; for example,
when steam locomotives were replaced with diesel locomotives the rules required
a fireman or stoker aboard the engine at all times, even in switching yards.[ci
tation needed] Between 1947 and 1957, passenger railroad financial efficiency dr
opped by 42% per mile.
Subsidized competition
While passenger rail faced internal and governmental pressures, new challenges a
ppeared that undermined the dominance of passenger rail: highways and commercial
aviation. The passenger rail industry declined as governments put money into th
e construction of highways and government-owned airports and the air traffic con
trol system.
As automobiles became more attainable to most Americans, the freedom, increased
convenience and individualization of automobile travel became the norm for most
Americans. Government actively began to respond with funds from its treasury and
later with fuel-tax funds to build a non-profit network of roads not subject to
property taxation. Highways then surpassed the for-profit rail network that the
railroads had built in previous generations with corporate capital and governme
nt land grants. All told between 1921 and 1955 governmental entities, using taxp
ayer money and in response to taxpayer demand, financed more than $93 billion wo
rth of pavement, construction, and maintenance.[15]

In the 1950s affordable commercial aviation expanded as the Jet Age arrived. Gov
ernmental entities built urban and suburban airports, funded construction of hig
hways to provide access to the airports, and provided air traffic control servic
Loss of U.S. Mail contracts
Until 1966, most U.S. Postal Service mail was transported on passenger trains. T
he mail contracts kept many passenger trains economically viable. In 1966, the U
.S. Postal Service switched to trucks and airplanes, subsidizing planes instead
of trains, which no longer had mail as a source of revenue.
Amtrak's former logo (1971-2001), nicknamed the "inverted arrow" or the "pointle
ss arrow". It is still in use on some signs, stations and rolling stock.
Union Station, the headquarters of Amtrak in Washington, D.C.
Rail Passenger Service Act
In the late 1960s, the end of passenger rail in the United States seemed near. F
irst had come the requests for termination of services; then came the bankruptcy
filings. The Pullman Company became insolvent in 1969,[26]:147 followed, in 197
0, by the dominant railroad in the Northeastern United States, the Penn Central.
[27]:234 It now seemed that passenger rail's financial problems might bring down
the railroad industry as a whole, yet few in government wanted to be held respo
nsible for the extinction of the passenger train.
In 1970, Congress passed, and President Richard Nixon signed into law, the Rail
Passenger Service Act. Proponents of the bill, led by the National Association o
f Railroad Passengers (NARP), sought government funding to assure the continuati
on of passenger trains. They conceived the National Railroad Passenger Corporati
on (NRPC), a hybrid public-private entity that would receive taxpayer funding an
d assume operation of intercity passenger trains. The original working brand nam
e for NRPC was Railpax, but shortly before the company started operating it was
changed to Amtrak. There were several key provisions:
Any railroad operating intercity passenger service could contract with the N
RPC, thereby joining the national system.
Participating railroads bought into the NRPC using a formula based on their
recent intercity passenger losses. The purchase price could be satisfied either
by cash or rolling stock; in exchange, the railroads received NRPC common stock.
Any participating railroad was freed of the obligation to operate intercity
passenger service after May 1, 1971, except for those services chosen by the Dep
artment of Transportation (DOT) as part of a "basic system" of service and paid
for by NRPC using its federal funds.
Railroads that chose not to join the NRPC system were required to continue o
perating their existing passenger service until 1975 and thenceforth had to purs
ue the customary ICC approval process for any discontinuance or alteration to th
e service.
Nearly everyone involved expected the experiment to be short-lived. The Nixon ad
ministration and many Washington insiders viewed the NRPC as a politically exped
ient way for the President and Congress to give passenger trains a "last hurrah"
as demanded by the public. They expected Amtrak to quietly disappear as public
interest waned.[28] Proponents also hoped that government intervention would be
brief, but their view was that Amtrak would soon support itself. Neither view ha
s proved correct. Popular support has allowed Amtrak to continue in operation lo
nger than critics imagined, while financial results have made a return to privat
e operation infeasible.
Non-participating railroads
Rio Grande Zephyr operated by the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (DRGW)
at Denver's Union Station in April 1983
Main article: List of railroads eligible to participate in the formation of Amtr

Of the railroads that were still offering long-distance passenger service in 197
1 only six declined to join Amtrak.[29]
Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad passenger trains, which operated
in the roughly 100-mile (160 km) industrial corridor between Chicago, Illinois
and South Bend, Indiana continue to operate as the Northern Indiana Commuter Tra
nsportation District's South Shore Line.
The Georgia Railroad was required by its state charter to maintain roughly 2
00 miles (320 km) of minimal passenger service, which it did with mixed freight/
passenger trains. This limited passenger service continued until the company was
sold to the Seaboard System in 1983.
The Reading Company maintained passenger services on three short (less than
100 mile) lines from Philadelphia to Newark Penn Station, NJ, Bethlehem, PA, and
Pottsville, PA. The Reading Company merged into Conrail in 1976. Passenger serv
ice to Bethlehem and Pottsville was discontinued in 1981, while passenger servic
e to New Jersey was cut back by roughly 50 miles (80 km) to terminate in West Tr
enton, NJ. The passenger services which remained with Conrail were quickly trans
ferred to SEPTA to form half of their Regional Rail network.
The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad (the Rock Island) determined t
hat the fee to join Amtrak was greater than the cost of the statutory five years
of operations for its remaining intercity passenger service. The Rock Island co
ntinued operating two truncated passenger trains (the Peoria Rocket and the Quad
Cities Rocket) on short routes out of Chicago until 1978.
Southern Railway relinquished some operations, but continued four routes, in
cluding its Southern Crescent. Continued losses convinced Southern Railway to re
linquish remaining passenger operations to Amtrak in 1979. Amtrak continues a va
riation of the Southern Crescent service as the Crescent.
The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (DRGW) continued operating its po
rtion of the original California Zephyr service, renamed the Rio Grande Zephyr,
between Denver, Colorado and Ogden, Utah. In operation until 1983, the Rio Grand
e Zephyr was the last privately operated long-distance passenger service in the
United States. Amtrak subsequently rerouted its modern version of the California
Zephyr to follow DRGW's route between Denver and Salt Lake City.
The Nixon administration secretly agreed with some railroads that Amtrak would b
e shut down after two years. After Fortune magazine exposed the manufactured mis
management in 1974, Louis W. Menk, chairman of the Burlington Northern Railroad,
remarked that the story was undermining the scheme to dismantle Amtrak.[30]
Rainbow Era (the first decade)
The Coast Starlight, looking very much like a Southern Pacific train, heads nort
h out of San Jose, California on May 1, 1971, Amtrak's first day of operation
Day one
Amtrak began operations on May 1, 1971.[27] The corporation was molded from the
passenger rail operations of 20 out of 26 major railroads in operation at the ti
me. The railroads contributed rolling stock, equipment, capital, and crews. In r
eturn, they received approval to discontinue their passenger services, and their
choice of tax breaks or common stock in Amtrak. Amtrak received no rail tracks
or right-of-way at its inception. Railroads that shed passenger operations were
expected to host Amtrak trains on their tracks, for a fee.
There was a period of adjustment during which Amtrak worked on numerous renovati
ons and improvements. All Amtrak's routes were continuations of prior service, a
lthough Amtrak pruned about half the passenger rail network. Of the 364 trains o
perated previously, Amtrak only continued 182. On trains that continued, to the

extent possible, schedules were retained with only minor changes from the Offici
al Guide of the Railways. Former names largely were continued.
Pennsylvania Railroad Metroliner car, built by Budd, c. 1968
Several major corridors became freight-only, including New York Central Railroad
's Water Level Route across New York and Ohio and Grand Trunk Western Railroad's
Chicago to Detroit service, although passenger service soon returned to the Wat
er Level Route with the introduction of the Lake Shore Limited. Reduced passenge
r train schedules created headaches. A 19-hour layover became necessary for east
bound travel on the James Whitcomb Riley between Chicago and Newport News.
Amtrak inherited problems with train stations, most notably deferred maintenance
, and redundant facilities resulting from competing companies that served the sa
me areas. On the day it started, Amtrak was given the responsibility of reroutin
g passenger trains from the seven train terminals in Chicago (LaSalle, Dearborn,
Grand Central, Randolph, Chicago Northwestern Terminal, Central, and Union) int
o just one, Union Station. In New York City, Amtrak had to pay to maintain Penn
Station and Grand Central Terminal because of the lack of track connections to b
ring trains from upstate New York into Penn Station, a problem not rectified unt
il the building of the Empire Connection in 1991.
Detroit's Amtrak Station. During consolidation Amtrak had to abandon large Union
Stations and routed trains into smaller, cheaper to maintain facilities jokingl
y referred to as "Amshacks" due to their basic design.
In many cases, Amtrak had to abandon service into large Union Stations and Centr
al Terminals, routing trains into smaller Amtrak-built facilities down the line,
jokingly referred as "Amshacks" due to their basic design. In later years Amtra
k has pushed to start reusing some older stations that can be salvaged. Stations
such as Cincinnati Union Terminal, Kansas City Union Station and St Paul Union
Depot have since had Amtrak passenger service restored. Stations like Buffalo Ce
ntral Terminal and Michigan Central Station continue to wait and stations such a
s St Louis and Houston have found other uses or have been demolished.
On the other hand, merged operations presented efficiencies such as the combinat
ion of three West Coast trains into the Coast Starlight, running from Los Angele
s to Seattle. The Northeast Corridor received an Inland Route via Springfield, M
assachusetts, thanks to support from New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Th
e North Coast Hiawatha was implemented as a second Pacific Northwest route. The
Milwaukee to St. Louis Abraham Lincoln and Prairie State routes also commenced.
The first all-new Amtrak route, not counting the Coast Starlight, was the Montre
aler/Washingtonian. That route was inaugurated September 29, 1972, along Boston
and Maine Railroad and Canadian National Railway track that had last seen passen
ger service in 1966. Amtrak was also instrumental in restoring service in the Em
pire Corridor of upstate New York, between Albany and Niagara Falls, with its Em
pire Service, a service that was discontinued in the sixties by the New York Cen
tral and Penn Central.
Northeast Corridor ownership
Amtrak soon had the opportunity to acquire rights-of-way. Following the bankrupt
cy of several northeastern railroads in the early 1970s, including Penn Central,
which owned and operated the Northeast Corridor (NEC), Congress passed the Rail
road Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976.[31] A large part of the l
egislation was directed to the creation of Conrail, but the law also enabled the
transfer of the portions of the NEC not already owned by state authorities to A
mtrak. Amtrak acquired the majority of the NEC on April 1, 1976.[32] (The portio
n in Massachusetts is owned by the Commonwealth and managed by Amtrak. The route
from New Haven to New Rochelle is owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Auth
ority and the Connecticut Department of Transportation as the New Haven Line.)

This main line became Amtrak's "jewel" asset, and helped the railroad generate s
ignificant revenues. While the NEC ridership and revenues were higher than any o
ther segment of the system, the cost of operating and maintaining the corridor p
roved to be overwhelming. As a result, Amtrak's federal subsidy was increased dr
amatically. In subsequent years, other short route segments not needed for freig
ht operations were transferred to Amtrak. Nevertheless, in general, Amtrak remai
ned dependent on freight railroads for access to most of its routes outside the
A Burlington Northern EMD F3 leads the North Coast Hiawatha into Yakima, Washing
ton in July 1971, an example of early Amtrak "rainbow" consists, made up of equi
pment still painted in the colors of freight railroads
In its first decade, Amtrak fell far short of financial independence, which cont
inues today, but it did find modest success rebuilding trade. Outside factors di
scouraged competing transport, such as fuel shortages which increased costs of a
utomobile and airline travel, and strikes which disrupted airline operations. In
vestments in Amtrak's track, equipment and information also made Amtrak more rel
evant to America's transportation needs.[33][34] Amtrak's ridership increased fr
om 16.6 million in 1972 to 21 million in 1981.[35]
Early years: Rainbow Era
Amtrak's early years are often called the Rainbow Era, which refers to the ad ho
c arrangement of the rolling stock and locomotives from a pool of equipment, acq
uired by Amtrak, at its formation, that consisted of a large mix of paint scheme
s from their former owners. This rolling stock, which for the most part still bo
re the pre-Amtrak colors and logos, formed the multi-colored consists of early A
mtrak trains. By mid-1971, Amtrak began purchasing some of the equipment it had
leased, including 286 second-hand locomotives, of the EMD E and F types, 30 GG1
electric locomotives, and 1290 passenger cars, and continued leasing even more m
otive power. By 1975 the official Amtrak color scheme was painted on most Amtrak
equipment and newly purchased locomotives and rolling stock began appearing.[36
1979 reorganization
In 1979 the Pres. Carter administration and Congress' Reorganization Act of 1979
pressured Amtrak to drop several lines. The main lines to be dropped were the L
one Star from Chicago to Houston (thereby cutting off north-south travel through
Oklahoma), the Floridian from Chicago to Miami (thereby eliminating north-south
travel through Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia) and the North Coast Hiawatha fr
om Chicago to Seattle, via southern North Dakota and southern Montana.[37] Carte
r wanted to eliminate the Southwest Chief from Los Angeles to Chicago, but that
route was saved.[38] The Hilltopper and the National Limited (thereby eliminatin
g service to Columbus) were also eliminated in October of that year.
1980s and 1990s
[icon] This section requires expansion. (May 2015)
A Michigan-bound Amtrak led by a F40PH in still older Phase III paint livery pas
ses through Porter, Indiana, after departing from Chicago in 1993
The high-speed Acela Express at New Haven Union Station
Ridership stagnated at roughly 20 million passengers per year amid uncertain gov
ernment aid from 1981 to about 2000.[35][39]
In the 1990s, Amtrak's stated goal remained operational self-sufficiency. By thi
s time, however, Amtrak had a large overhang of debt from years of underfunding,
and in the mid-1990s, Amtrak suffered through a serious cash crunch. To resolve
the crisis, Congress issued funding but instituted a glide-path to financial se
lf-sufficiency, excluding railroad retirement tax act payments.[40]
Passengers became "guests" and there were expansions into express freight work,

but the financial plans failed. Amtrak's inroads in express freight delivery cre
ated additional friction with competing freight operators, including the truckin
g industry. Delivery was delayed of much anticipated high-speed trainsets for th
e improved Acela Express service, which promised to be a strong source of income
and favorable publicity along the NEC between Boston and Washington, D.C.
21st century
In the 21st century Amtrak replaced its F40PH units with the GE Genesis. Picture
d are Amtrak engines #1 and #56, both GE Genesis P42DC diesels, pulling the east
bound California Zephyr at Grand Junction, Colorado, April 2012.
Ridership increased during the first decade of the 21st century after implementa
tion of capital improvements in the NEC and rises in automobile fuel costs. Howe
ver, through the late 1990s and very early 21st century, Amtrak could not add su
fficient express freight revenue or cut sufficient other expenditures to break e
ven. By 2002, it was clear that Amtrak could not achieve self-sufficiency, but C
ongress continued to authorize funding and released Amtrak from the requirement.
[41] Amtrak's leader at the time, David L. Gunn, was polite but direct in respon
se to congressional criticism. Before a congressional hearing, leading Amtrak cr
itic Arizona Senator John McCain demanded the elimination of all operating subsi
dies; Gunn responded by asking the Senator if he would also demand the same of t
he commuter airlines, upon which the citizens of Arizona are dependent. McCain,
usually not at a loss for words when debating Amtrak funding, did not reply.[42]
In a departure from his predecessors' promises to make Amtrak self-sufficient i
n the short term, Gunn argued that no form of passenger transportation in the Un
ited States is self-sufficient as the economy is currently structured.[43] Highw
ays, airports, and air traffic control all require large government expenditures
to build and operate, coming from the Highway Trust Fund and Aviation Trust Fun
d paid for by user fees, highway fuel and road taxes, and, in the case of the Ge
neral Fund, from general taxation.[44]
Under Gunn from 2002 to 2005, almost all the controversial express freight busin
ess was eliminated. The practice of tolerating deferred maintenance was reversed
to eliminate a safety issue.[45] By late 2005, Amtrak's board of directors had
gone through "months of disagreement over a Bush administration plan to privatiz
e parts of the national passenger rail system and spin off other parts to partia
l state ownership."[46] Gunn was fired late in the year, and replaced by Amtrak
chief engineer David Hughes.[46]
Alexander Kummant, Amtrak's chief from 2006 to 2008, was committed to operating
a national rail network, and he opposed the notion of putting the NEC under sepa
rate ownership,[47] similar to previous president David L. Gunn.[46] He said tha
t shedding the system's long distance routes would amount to selling national as
sets that are on par with national parks, and that Amtrak's abandonment of these
routes would be irreversible. In late 2006 Amtrak unsuccessfully sought annual
congressional funding of $1 billion for ten years. Kummant also stated that the
investment was moderate in light of federal investment in other modes of transpo
In early 2007 Amtrak employed 20,000 people in 46 states and served 25 million p
assengers a year, its highest amount since its founding in 1970. Politico noted
problems, however, stating that "the rail system chronically operates in the red
. A pattern has emerged: Congress overrides cutbacks demanded by the White House
and appropriates enough funds to keep Amtrak from plunging into insolvency. But
, Amtrak advocates say, that is not enough to fix the system's woes." [48] By No
vember 2008, the recently enacted HR 2095 legislation had expanded the Amtrak bo
ard to nine people, with only five of those roles filled at the time, including
Nancy Naples, and the Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters.[49] Positions shi
fted again on January 29, 2009.[50]

In 2011, Amtrak announced its intention to build a small segment of a high-speed
rail corridor from Penn Station in NYC, under the Hudson River in new tunnels,
and doubletracking the line to Newark, NJ called the Gateway Project, estimated
to cost $13.5 billion.[51][52][53]
Locomotive No. 66 at Los Angeles Union Station
Amtrak locomotives No. 156 and No. 66 in 40th Anniversary paint schemes at Gales
From May 2011 to May 2012, Amtrak celebrated its 40th anniversary with festiviti
es across the country that started on National Train Day (May 7, 2011). A commem
orative book entitled Amtrak: An American Story was published, and a documentary
was created. Four commemorative locomotives and a 40th Anniversary Exhibit Trai
n toured the country. The Exhibit Train visited 45 communities and welcomed more
than 85,000 visitors.[54] It was an entirely rebuilt train powered by GE Genesi
s locomotives and included three refurbished ex-Santa Fe baggage cars and a food
service car. Four Genesis locomotives were painted into retired Amtrak paint sc
hemes: No. 156 was in Phase 1 colors, No. 66 was in Phase 2 colors, No. 145 and
No. 822 were in Phase 3 colors (822 pulled the Exhibit train),[55] and No. 184 w
as in Phase 4 colors.[56][57]
On-board food and beverage service and warehouse inventories are now managed in
real time by electronic systems. The anticipated savings led CEO Boardman to pre
dict that food service could break even within a few years.[citation needed] E-T
icketing was officially rolled out to the national network on July 30, 2012,[58]
and as of 2014, the overwhelming majority of Amtrak passengers enjoy access to
free Wi-Fi.[59]
According to Amtrak, in fiscal year 2011, an average of more than 82,000 passeng
ers rode on up to 300 Amtrak trains per day.[60] Two Amtrak routes were extended
in 2012. The Downeaster was extended from Portland to Brunswick, Maine in Novem
ber, and a daily Northeast Regional trip was extended from Richmond to Norfolk,
Virginia in December.[citation needed] In fiscal year 2013, Amtrak set its 10th
ridership record in 11 years (the recession year of 2009 broke the string.). Tot
al passengers increased from about 20.9 million passengers in 2000 to 30.6 milli
on passengers for the 12 months ending September 30, 2013. Passenger revenue als
o set a record at $2.1 billion, up 4.2% over fiscal 2012. Combined, the long-dis
tance trains had their best ridership in 20 years, with 4.8 million passengers.
Ridership on the NEC was essentially flat at 11.4 million, the second best year
after 2012, though revenues were up 5.3%. State-supported corridor trains were u
p 2.2% to 15.4 million.[61]
Amtrak operations and services
Main articles: List of Amtrak routes, List of busiest Amtrak stations and List o
f Amtrak rolling stock
Coast Starlight
Amtrak is no longer required by law, but is encouraged, to operate a national ro
ute system.[62] Amtrak has some presence in 46 of the 48 contiguous states, all
except Wyoming and South Dakota.
Service on the Northeast Corridor, between Boston, and Washington, D.C., as well
as between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, is powered by overhead electric wires;
for the rest of the system, diesel locomotives are used. Routes vary widely in f
requency of service, from three-days-a-week trains on the Sunset Limited route (
Los Angeles, to New Orleans), to weekday service several times per hour on the N
EC, (Boston to Washington, D.C.)[63] Amtrak also operates a captive bus service,
Thruway Motorcoach, which provides connections to train routes. In addition, th
e company owns Passenger Railway Insurance.

The most popular and heavily used services are those running on the NEC, which i
nclude the Acela Express and Northeast Regional. The NEC serves Boston; Providen
ce; New Haven; New York City; Newark; Philadelphia; Wilmington; Baltimore; Washi
ngton, D.C.; and some smaller cities between. The NEC services accounted for 11.
4 million of Amtrak's 31.6 million passengers in fiscal year 2013.[60]
Regional services in California, subsidized by the California Department of Tran
sportation are the most popular services outside the NEC. They are the Pacific S
urfliner (San Diego-L.A.-Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo) with 11 trains each way
on the core San Diego-Los Angeles section, the Capitol Corridor (Sacramento-Oakl
and-San Jose) connect Sacramento with Oakland with 15 trains a day each way, and
about half of those extend to San Jose, and the San Joaquin (Sacramento/Oakland
-Stockton-Fresno-Bakersfield) services with four round-trips daily from Oakland
and from Sacramento with two roundtrips, through California's Central Valley, st
opping at Stockton, Merced, Fresno, and several smaller cities to Bakersfield. (
Passengers going to Los Angeles must take an Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach bus servi
ce that takes roughly nine hours). Together the California corridor trains accou
nted for a combined 5,627,000 passengers in fiscal year 2013.[60] the fifth busi
est in the Amtrak system.
Other popular corridors include New York State's Empire Service, NYC-Albany-Syra
cuse-Rochester-Buffalo-Niagara Falls-Toronto, with 1,488,000 passengers last yea
r, and Pennsylvania's Keystone Service NYC-Philadelphia-Lancaster-Harrisburg wit
h 1,467,000 passengers.
The Cascades Service has four trains a day each way in the main section, Seattle
-Portland, two trains a day extending to Vancouver, British Columbia, and anothe
r two daily to Eugene. The Cascades service uses Talgo tilting trains, which has
allowed faster runs on a very curvy route. Cascades trains, supported by the St
ates of Washington and Oregon, carried 812,000 riders. Stimulus funded work unde
rway will bypass a single-track tunnel section, among other upgrades, to shave m
ore time off the trip. The work will increase the track capacity to handle two m
ore trains each way on the core Seattle-Portland segment by 2017, providing six
Amtrak Cascades daily plus the daily Coast Starlight.
State-supported services have been growing in Virginia with the addition of a Re
gional train extended from Washington, D.C. to Lynchburg, and a further extensio
n of a Regional that had been serving Richmond to continue to Norfolk. These tra
ins, plus the existing service to Newport News, had 892,000 passengers last year
, in addition to passengers on Regional trains to Richmond (not broken out in Am
trak reports). These state-supported services, called Amtrak Virginia, are very
cost effective because they use equipment that would otherwise be parked in the
yard in Washington overnight; instead the trains are used early morning and even
ings to provide extra service and gain added revenue.
A growing network of state-supported trains radiates from Chicago and overlap so
me of Amtrak's long-distances routes. The corridors include Chicago-Kalamazoo-An
n Arbor-Dearborn-Detroit-Pontiac (with three daily Wolverines), Chicago-Kalamazo
o-Lansing-Port Huron (with one daily Blue Water), Chicago-Grand Rapids (with one
daily Pere Marquette), Chicago-Milwaukee (with seven daily Hiawathas plus the d
aily Empire Builder), Chicago-St Louis (with four daily Lincoln Service plus the
daily Texas Eagle), Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale (with two daily corridor train
s, the Illini and Saluki plus the daily City of New Orleans), Chicago-Galesburg
(with two daily corridor trains, the Illinois Zephyr and the Carl Sandburg, plus
the daily California Zephyr and Southwest Chief) with the corridor trains conti
nuing to Quincy. In addition, The River Runner offers twice daily service St. Lo
uis-Kansas City.
After the State of Illinois stepped up to subsidize two more trains each way St
Louis-Chicago, ridership more than doubled. The more convenient choices in the s

chedules attracted many more riders, while new

xisting trains, so the robust ridership growth
al cost. Illinois also added a second train to
le. Altogether it pays a modest yearly subsidy
ership continues to grow.

trains shared overhead with the e

meant more revenue at less margin
Galesburg and another to Carbonda
of less than $50 million, and rid

Using Stimulus funds, both the Chicago-St Louis route and the tracks Kalamazoo-D
earborn are being upgraded for 110-mph trains. New bi-level coaches (with 30% mo
re capacity) and Next Gen quick-accelerating locomotives will be arriving for th
ese and some other routes by 2017. The changes could cut an hour from the curren
t schedules.
Stimulus funds will also be used to create a new service Chicago-Quad Cities. Th
e line was planned to go to Iowa City as part of this project, and eventually to
extend to Des Moines and Omaha. But the State of Iowa refused to put any money
into the project, so it will be truncated on the Illinois side of the border. Il
linois has announced plans to restore service to Rockford and Dubuque, but work
has not begun here.
Four of the six stations busiest by boardings are on Amtrak's NEC: New York (Pen
n Station) (first), Washington (Union Station) (second), Philadelphia (30th Stre
et Station) (third), and Boston (South Station) (sixth). The other two of the to
p six are Chicago (Union Station) (fourth) and Los Angeles (Union Station) (fift
Introduced on February 7, 2014, new locomotives are set to replace some of the o
lder ones on the NEC, reducing maintenance costs, thus increasing flexibility wi
thin the line's scheduling. They are known as the "Cities Sprinter" and will beg
in to replace the older fleet of locomotives at a rate of three per month until
November 2016. Siemens built the new locos in their solar-powered facility in Sa
cramento, California. The new engines are state of the art and can reach speeds
of 125 mph, shortening route time slightly. These engines will be implemented in
to the Keystone route as well within the forthcoming months.
Most Amtrak trains have both names and numbers. Train routes are named to reflec
t the rich and complex history of the routes and the areas traversed by them. Ea
ch scheduled run of the route is assigned a number. Generally, even-numbered rou
tes run northward and eastward, while odd-numbered routes run southward and west
ward. Some routes, such as the Pacific Surfliner, use the opposite numbering sys
tem, inherited from the previous operators of similar routes, such as the Atchis
on, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway. Most NEC trains only have numbers.
The 15 busiest routes in the Amtrak system, ordered by region followed by riders
West Coast
Pacific Surfliner: San Luis Obispo Santa Barbara Los Angeles San Diego
Capitol Corridor: Sacramento Oakland San Jose
San Joaquin: OaklandStocktonBakersfield & SacramentoStocktonBakersfield
Amtrak Cascades: VancouverSeattlePortlandEugene
Coast Starlight: SeattleLos Angeles

Hiawatha: MilwaukeeChicago
Empire Builder: Chicago St. Paul Seattle/Portland
Lincoln: Chicago St. Louis

Wolverine: ChicagoDetroitPontiac
Silver Star: New York City Raleigh Tampa Miami

Northeast Regional: Boston/Springfield New York Philadelphia Baltimore Washi
ngton, DC Virginia (either Richmond, Lynchburg, Newport News or Norfolk)
Acela: Boston Washington, D.C.
Keystone: Harrisburg Philadelphia New York
Empire: Niagara Falls Buffalo Albany New York
Downeaster: BrunswickBoston
Rail passenger efficiency versus other modes of transportation
Per passenger mile, Amtrak is 3040 percent more energy-efficient than commercial
airlines and automobiles overall,[65] though the exact figures for particular ro
utes depend on load factor along with other variables. The electrified trains in
the NEC are considerably more efficient than Amtrak's diesels and can feed ener
gy captured from regenerative braking back to the electrical grid. Passenger rai
l is also very competitive with other modes in terms of safety per mile.
Revenue per passenger mile[66] Energy consumption per passenger mile[65
Deaths per 100 million passenger miles[67]
Domestic airlines
13.0 2,931 BTUs
0.00 deaths
Transit buses 12.9[69]
2,656 BTUs
0.06 deaths
Amtrak 30.7 1,745 BTUs
0.03 deaths
Autos N/A
3,501 BTUs
0.48 deaths
It should be noted that on-time performance is calculated differently for airlin
es than for Amtrak. A plane is considered on-time if it arrives within 15 minute
s of the schedule. Amtrak uses a sliding scale, with trips under 250 miles (400
km) considered late if they're more than 10 minutes behind schedule, up to 30 mi
nutes for trips over 551 miles (887 km) in length.[68]
Wifi and electronic services
Recent technology
E-Ticketing was officially rolled out to the national network on July 30, 2012.
According to an Amtrak news release detailing the rollout, eTicketing provides A
mtrak with "more accurate knowledge in realtime of who is on the train which gre
atly improves the safety and security of passengers; en route reporting of onboa
rd equipment problems to mechanical crews which may result in faster resolution
of the issue; and more efficient financial reporting."[58] Amtrak had launched i
ts new e-ticketing system on the Downeaster in November 2011.[70]
On-board food and beverage service and warehouse inventories are now managed in
real time by electronic systems. The anticipated savings led CEO Boardman to pre
dict that food service could break even within a few years.[citation needed]
As of 2014, the overwhelming majority of Amtrak passengers enjoy access to free
Wi-Fi. The first Amtrak train to offer free Wi-Fi service to passengers was the
Downeaster in 2008, followed by the Acela Express in 2010 and the "Regionals" on
the NEC soon after, and then the Amtrak Cascades in 2011. Starting in February
2014, Amtrak is rolling out Wi-Fi on corridor trains out of Chicago. When all th
e Midwest cars offer the AmtrakConnect service, about 85% of all Amtrak passenge
rs nationwide will enjoy Wi-Fi access.[59][71]

Intermodal connections
Intermodal connections between Amtrak trains and other transportation are availa
ble at many stations. Most Amtrak rail stations in downtown areas have connectio
ns to local public transport. Amtrak also code shares with United Airlines, prov
iding service between Newark Liberty International Airport (via its Amtrak stati
on and AirTrain Newark) and Philadelphia 30th St, Wilmington, Stamford, and New
Haven. Special codes are used to designate these intermodal routes, such as "ZVE
" to designate the combination of New Haven's Union Station and Newark Internati
onal Airport and the Amtrak connection between them. Amtrak also serves airport
stations at Milwaukee, Oakland, Burbank, and Baltimore.
Amtrak coordinates Thruway Motorcoach service to extend many of its routes, espe
cially in California.
Service areas and non-service areas
Main article: List of major cities in U.S. lacking Amtrak service
Map of Amtrak routes showing frequencies
Amtrak receives about a third of its passengers and almost half of its revenue t
hrough service over the Northeast Corridor, Boston-NYC-Washington, D.C. The rout
e produces an operating surplus, most of it from the high-speed Acelas. The NEC
does require considerable capital investment, and it is still many billions shor
t of a "state of good repair". For example, most of the catenary south of New Yo
rk dates from the Depression, when federal funds largely paid for the electrific
ation, the tunnels under Baltimore are close to 150 years old, and several bridg
es are more than 100 years old and in need of replacement.
But nationally, outside the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak is not a major player in
passenger transportation. Ticket prices at for travel on long distanc
e routes has dramatically increased, while automobile transportation has decreas
ed.[72] Still, passenger rail travel in the U.S. rapidly declined since the mid20th century. In fiscal year 2004 Amtrak routes served over 25 million passenger
s, while, in calendar year 2004, commercial airlines served 712 million passenge
Amtrak does serve the majority of major cities; however, service is often relati
vely slow, even by historical standards, and infrequent. For example, many route
s only carry one to two trains in each direction per day.[74]
Initial Amtrak service cuts
When it began operations on May 1, 1971, Amtrak implemented a drastically trunca
ted system of trains compared to what had previously existed. Out of the 364 pas
senger trains that operated on April 30, only 182 were continued.
Initially, Amtrak served 44 out of the 50 states. The states not served were:
Alaska was (and is) served by the Alaska Railroad, because it is disconnecte
d from the rest of the US.
Hawaii was excluded because it is outside the contiguous United States and l
ast had passenger service in 1947.
South Dakota's passenger trains, last run by the Milwaukee Road, were discon
tinued in 1968, prior to the start of Amtrak in 1971.
Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont were excluded because their last passenger
trains were discontinued by the Boston and Maine in 1967, prior to the start of
Amtrak in 1971.
Subsequent Amtrak service changes
As of 2013 Amtrak provides service to 46 out of the 50 states:

Vermont and New Hampshire gained service when the Montrealer was resumed in
1972. They lost service when the train was suspended in 1987, but regained servi
ce on its 1989 reintroduction.[75] Then in 1995, service to Montreal was ended,
but with a small subsidy from the State of Vermont, the train began to operate a
s the Vermonter.
Maine and New Hampshire regained service in 2001 through the new Downeaster
service, subsidized by the State of Maine, and exceeding all expectations for ri
dership and revenue.
Wyoming lost rail service in the 1997 cut of the Pioneer.
However, even within some of the states in which Amtrak operates, service is nom
inal at best. Many trains operate along borders and/or away from major populatio
n areas, such as in Idaho and Kentucky. Many major cities in the Midwest, West,
and South have two or fewer trains per day, such as Atlanta, Denver, Cincinnati,
Houston, Indianapolis, and MinneapolisSaint Paul, or trains that only stop in th
e dead of night, like Cleveland, San Antonio, and Little Rock.
Meanwhile, outside the Continental US:
Alaska is (still) served by the Alaska Railroad, rather than Amtrak. Its lin
e is isolated from the rest of the North American system and connects only by ra
il barge.
Hawaii does not have rail service apart from small tourist railroads on some
islands, however an elevated railroad line is under construction on the island
of Oahu.[76] Large inter-city rail lines are not possible due to the state's geo
Service changes due to freight railroads
Since its inception, Amtrak has been reliant on freight railroads, and outside t
he NEC, portions of Southern California's Pacific Surfliner corridor, and a stre
tch of track in Michigan, it operates over their rights-of-way. Amtrak services
are affected if a freight railroad decides to abandon a right-of-way that it use
s. This has sometimes led to a rerouting of a train over a different route, addi
ng to a train's travel time, or to the complete discontinuance of a train. Sever
al trains affected by freight railroads over the years have been:
Amtrak train in downtown Orlando, Florida
In 1983, the Silver Meteor and Silver Star, between New York and St. Petersb
urg, Florida, were truncated to Tampa because Amtrak was unable to take on the c
osts of maintaining the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad drawbridge, which had allow
ed the train to cross Tampa Bay.
The Sunset Limited was
of Phoenix, Arizona, after
ckage that served Phoenix.
e, and connects Phoenix to

rerouted in 1997 to stop at Maricopa, 37 miles south

the Union Pacific Railroad decided to abandon the tra
Amtrak did not have the funds to maintain the trackag
Maricopa by an Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach bus.

Standard Pacific Surfliner trainset

The San Joaquin service runs from Oakland with four round trips daily and fr
om Sacramento with two round trips, through California's Central Valley, stoppin
g at Stockton, Merced, Fresno, and other cities to Bakersfield. But it cannot ru
n into Los Angeles south of Bakersfield because the Tehachapi Pass rail line, ow
ned and operated by Union Pacific, is the busiest single-track freight route in
the country and thus UP prohibits passenger train use (except in emergency). Pas
sengers must take an Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach bus service between Bakersfield a
nd Los Angeles. The 120-mile bus route takes around three hours. Nonetheless, th
e state-supported San Joaquin has become a very successful route, now the fifth
busiest in the Amtrak system. The upcoming California High-Speed Rail corridor w

ill run though the Tehachapi Pass on newly built trackage, thus re-introducing a
direct rail link between Los Angeles and the Central Valley.
Travel from Metro Detroit into Canada en route to Toronto was severely hinde
red when the owners of the freight tracks that go under the Detroit River wanted
too much money for Amtrak to operate on them. Therefore in the early 2000s, tra
vel on Amtrak from Detroit to Toronto required travel west to Battle Creek, then
up through Lansing, Flint, then Port Huron, across the St. Clair River into Sar
nia, then on to Toronto. Eventually, due to the obvious inconvenience and length
of travel, service to Toronto directly from Michigan ceased altogether. Today w
ould-be train travelers to Toronto are forced to use Via Rail out of Windsor or
Sarnia, and to reach Via's stations they must cross the border on their own.
Service reductions due to funding issues
The Desert Wind at Las Vegas, Nevada. Service stopped in 1997
Amtrak connects with Metra commuter trains, water taxis along the Chicago River,
and nearby Chicago 'L' trains from Union Station in Chicago.
Several significant Amtrak routes have been eliminated because of lack of fundin
g since 1971, creating other gaps such as:
The National Limited, a New York and Washington, D.C. train that provided di
rect service to Pittsburgh, Columbus, Ohio, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Kansas
City. After its discontinuance in 1979, Chicago was left as the only passenger r
ail connection between the Midwest and East.
The North Coast Hiawatha, between Chicago and Seattle, had supplemented the
Empire Builder service to the Pacific Northwest until 1979. The Hiawatha, runnin
g on a more southern route to Seattle than the Empire Builder, provided communit
ies along that corridor with Amtrak service, in addition to providing another da
ily service between Chicago and MinneapolisSt. Paul.
In October 1979, The Floridian, which was the last link with the vaunted Chi
cagoFlorida services of such trains as the City of Miami, the Dixie Flagler, and
the South Wind, was discontinued along with the Louisville, Kentucky to Sanford,
Florida Auto Train that the Floridian connected to in Louisville. This left the
Midwest without any direct connections to Florida. Today passengers must travel
east to Washington, D.C. to connect with the southbound Silver Star and Silver
In 1985, the local Minneapolis-St Paul to Duluth, Minnesota service, the Nor
th Star, was eliminated and replaced with through motorcoach service.
In 1995, the Atlantic City Express service from New York and Washington D.C.
to Atlantic City via Philadelphia, was replaced by New Jersey Transit passenger
trains, which operated 14 daily trains in each direction between Philadelphia a
nd Atlantic City.
In 1997, the Desert Wind, which ran from Chicago by way of Denver through Sa
lt Lake City to Las Vegas and Los Angeles was discontinued, as was the Pioneer,
which ran from Chicago by way of Denver, Salt Lake City, and Boise to Portland a
nd Seattle,. These cutbacks eliminated Amtrak service from Las Vegas, Boise, and
all of Wyoming.
In 2003, Amtrak discontinued the Kentucky Cardinal, ending all service from
Louisville, Kentucky, to Indianapolis and Chicago.
In 2004 all Inland Route Northeast Regional trains between New York and Bost
on via Hartford and Springfield were moved to the Northeast Corridor. The New Ha
ven Hartford Springfield segment still sees eight trains a day each way shuttle
service. It is being upgraded with Stimulus funds to carry 17 trains a day, and
the upgrades will allow a future restoration of an Inland Route train.
In 2005, Three Rivers (a reborn Broadway Limited) was canceled, however New
York to Chicago trains using the northerly (formerly New York Central) Lake Shor
e Ltd. route continued.
In 2005, the Sunset Limited, which offers three-days-a-week service between
Orlando FL and Los Angeles CA, was affected by track damage along the Gulf Coast

caused by Hurricane Katrina. This resulted in the train being "temporarily" tru
ncated to the segment between New Orleans LA and Los Angeles CA. Although the tr
ack's owner, CSX, completed repairs by early 2006, Amtrak service has not resume
d service between New Orleans and Orlando. This is the only example so far of a
route affected by both service cuts and freight railroad issues.
Recent issues with freight railroads
According to August 2010 issue of Trains Magazine, the Southwest Chief curre
ntly faces challenges regarding moves made by BNSF to cease all freight operatio
ns between La Junta, CO, and Lamy, NM. It has been reported that BNSF told Amtra
k that as of January 1, 2010, all maintenance costs were to be covered by Amtrak
if they wished to continue routing the train over the same right-of-way. Furthe
rmore, BNSF has also declared that it will maintain the tracks between Hutchinso
n, KS, and La Junta, CO, at a Class 2 (30 mph (48 km/h) passenger train maximum)
speed instead of a Class 4 (79 mph (127 km/h) passenger train maximum), again h
anding the bill over to Amtrak if they wanted to see service continue at a Class
4 level. These moves have led BNSF to offer to host the Southwest Chief over BN
SF's currently used freight routes via Wichita, Wellington, KS, Amarillo, and Cl
ovis, NM.[77] However, Amtrak is seeking help from the states to pay the bill in
order to keep the service as it currently is.
Three intermediate stops along the route of the Empire Builder in North Dako
ta are on the chopping block due to complications arising from Devils Lake, also
according to the August 2010 issue of Trains Magazine. Because Canada will not
allow the waters of the lake to drain within its borders, the lake is slowly ris
ing and threatens to submerge the BNSF right-of-way located near it. As a result
, BNSF has ended freight service between Devils Lake and Churchs Ferry, handing
the cost of maintenance over to Amtrak. North Dakota's Congressional delegation
has declared that there will be no reroute, as suggested by BNSF, to go directly
between Fargo, ND, and Minot, ND, and possibly serve New Rockford, ND; instead,
they have declared that they will "find the necessary funding needed" in order
to help Amtrak cover the maintenance costs.[77]
Train reliability, frequency, and ridership
On-time performance
Annual Ridership by fiscal year 19712012
Outside the Northeast Corridor and stretches of track in Southern California and
Michigan, most Amtrak trains run on tracks owned and operated by privately owne
d freight railroads.
Freight rail operators are required under federal law to give dispatching prefer
ence to Amtrak trains. Some freight railroads have been accused of violating or
skirting these regulations, allegedly resulting in passenger trains waiting in s
idings for an hour or longer while waiting for freight traffic to clear the trac
k. The railroads' dispatching practices were investigated in 2008,[78] resulting
in stricter laws about train priority which had a dramatic result. Amtrak's ove
rall on-time performance went up from 74.7% in fiscal 2008 to 84.7% in 2009, wit
h long-distance trains and others outside the NEC seeing the greatest benefit. T
he Missouri River Runner jumped from a very poor 11% to 95%, becoming one of Amt
rak's best performers. The Texas Eagle went from 22.4% to 96.7%, and the Califor
nia Zephyr, with an abysmal 5% on-time record in 2008, went up to 78.3%.[79] How
ever, this improved performance also coincided with a general economic downturn,
resulting in the lowest freight rail traffic volumes since at least 1988, meani
ng less freight traffic to impede passenger traffic.[80]
Train frequency
For the frequency of trains on various Amtrak routes: see List of Amtrak routes

Passengers carried on Amtrak trains for each fiscal year (19712014 data:[81]).

6,450,304 (MayOct only)

17,269,000 (estimated OctDec)

Guest Rewards
EMD F59PHI locomotive used for Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin service. Note: t
he locomotive is owned by the California Department of Transportation rather tha
n Amtrak itself.
Amtrak's loyalty program, Guest Rewards,[85] is similar to the frequent-flyer pr
ograms of many airlines. Guest Rewards members accumulate points by riding Amtra
k and through other activities, and can redeem these points for free or discount
ed Amtrak tickets and other rewards.
Amtrak Express (reporting marks AMTK, AMTZ) provides small-package and less-than

-truckload shipping among more than 100 cities. Amtrak Express also offers stati
on-to-station shipment of human remains to many express cities. At smaller stati
ons, funeral directors must load and unload the shipment onto and off the train.
Amtrak hauled mail for the United States Postal Service and time-sensitive frei
ght, but canceled these services in October 2004 due to minuscule profits.[86] O
n most parts of the few lines that Amtrak owns, trackage-rights agreements allow
freight railroads to use its trackage.
Commuter services
Main article: Commuter rail in North America
Through various commuter services, Amtrak serves an additional 61.1 million pass
engers per year in conjunction with state and regional authorities in California
(through Amtrak California and Metrolink), Connecticut (through Shore Line East
), and Maryland (through MARC).
Amtrak's Capitol Corridor, Pacific Surfliner (formerly San Diegan), and San Joaq
uin are funded mostly by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans),
rather than the US Federal Government.
Classes of service
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ay be challenged and removed. (October 2010)
Amtrak has a variety of coaches that suit a variety of needs. Class choices are
similar to those used by airlines.
Bi-level Superliner cars, used on long-distance routes, except in the Northeast
because of low vertical clearances and incompatibility with high-level platforms
First Class
First Class service is currently offered on the Acela Express only. Previously F
irst Class was offered on the Northeast Direct (predecessor to the Northeast Reg
ional) as well as the Metroliner up until that service's discontinuation in 2006
Seats are larger than those of Business Class and come in a variety of seating m
odes (single, single with table, double, double with table and wheelchair access
ible). First Class is located in separate cars from the other classes. First Cla
ss includes complimentary meal and beverage service along with free newspapers a
nd hot towel service. First Class seats are set in a 1x2 configuration. There ar
e two attendants per car.
First Class passengers have access to Amtrak ClubAcela lounges in Washington D.C
., Philadelphia, New York and Boston. ClubAcela lounges offer complimentary drin
ks, personal ticketing service, lounge seating, conference areas, computer/inter
net access and televisions tuned to CNN. At the Philadelphia and Washington, D.C
. lounges, passengers can board their train directly from the lounge. In Philade
lphia passengers use an elevator to access the train, while in Washington passen
gers leave through a side door leading to the train platform.
Sleeper Service
The interior of a Pacific Parlour Car
Sleeper Service rooms are considered First Class on long-distance trains. Rooms
are classified into roomettes, bedrooms, family bedrooms and accessible bedrooms
. Included in the price of a room are full meals and attendant service. At night
, attendants convert rooms into sleeping areas with fold-down beds and fresh lin
ens. Complimentary juice, coffee and bottled water are included as well. Sleeper
car passengers have access to all passenger facilities aboard the train.
Sleeper passengers also have access to the ClubAcela lounges in stations along t
he NEC, access to the Metropolitan Lounges in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Portland

(Oregon), and access to unattended first-class lounges in Miami, New Orleans, R

aleigh, St. Louis, and St. Paul/Minneapolis.
Sleeper car passengers on the Los Angeles Seattle Coast Starlight also have acce
ss to the Pacific Parlour Car. The Pacific Parlour Cars were converted from the
famous ex-Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Hi-Level cars of the 1950s.[87] The Paci
fic Parlour Car has a bar with a dedicated staff attendant, table seating that f
unctions as an alternate first-class dining venue during mealtimes, and swivel a
rmchairs. A movie theater is located downstairs.
Business Class
Business Class is the minimum class of service on the Acela Express and is offer
ed as an upgrade on Northeast Regional and similar trains. Business Class passen
gers also receive complimentary non-alcoholic beverages and newspapers (typicall
y The New York Times, even if boarding/originating outside New York City).
Two different Business Class seat configurations exist:
Some trains feature Business Class seats at one end of the Cafe Car. These l
eather seats recline substantially, are in a 1x2 layout, and feature cup holders
and leg rests.
Other trains feature dedicated Business Class cars. Compared to Regional Coa
ch cars, Business Class cars generally have more comfortable seats, more legroom
, and foot rests. The cloth seats are organized in a 2x2 layout and offer North
American standard (120 V, 60 Hz) electrical outlets along the windows, but lack
cup holders. One end of this car type normally has open floor space for luggage
that will not fit in the overhead racks.
Amfleet snack bar car, known as a "Cafe car", in an eastern Amtrak train
Amfleet coach seating
Coach Class
Reserved Coach in a Superliner
Amtrak has several variations that it considers Coach Class.[88]
Reserved Coach
Reserved Coach is the standard class of service on most Amtrak trains (except Ac
ela).[88] Coach seats are always set in a 2x2 configuration, but the seats thems
elves come in two varieties:
Regional Coach is found on shorter (day) routes such as the Northeast Region
al, Empire Service, the Keystone, and the Downeaster.[88] Seats in this type of
car are comparable to economy seating on airlines, but have more generous legroo
m and recline further.[88]
Long Distance Coach is mostly found on overnight sleeper routes, such as the
Empire Builder and the Lake Shore Limited.[88] These seats have a much deeper r
ecline, more legroom, legrests, footrests, and North American standard (120 V, 6
0 Hz) power outlets along the windows.[88] Long distance coaches also run on lon
ger daytime trains in the east, and can substitute for corridor coaches on other
short distance lines.[88]
All ticketed passengers are guaranteed a seat, although passengers are not assig
ned a specific seat on their tickets. The lack of advance seat assignment is unl
ike Canada's Via Rail and many long-distance train services in Europe. If the tr
ain is not sold out, passengers are usually permitted to purchase tickets on the
day of departure, or in some cases aboard the train.
Unreserved Coach
Unreserved Coach seating is offered on a first-come, first-served basis on some
of Amtrak's shorter distance and commuter-oriented routes.[88] Unreserved coach

is also used as a designator when Amtrak through-books an itinerary with a regio

nal transit operator's commuter service (such as New Jersey Transit's Atlantic C
ity Line).[88]
Trains and tracks
A southbound Downeaster passenger train at Ocean Park, Maine, as viewed from the
cab of a northbound train
This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help im
prove this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material m
ay be challenged and removed. (October 2010)
Most tracks on which Amtrak operates are owned by freight railroads, but Amtrak
owns the rail track in most of the NEC and a few other places.
Tracks not owned or leased by Amtrak
Amtrak operates over all Class I railroads in the United States, as well as seve
ral regional railroads and short lines. Other sections are owned by terminal rai
lroads jointly controlled by freight companies or by commuter rail agencies. Amt
rak is able to do this because it has trackage rights, but it does not maintain
those tracks or control train movements on those tracks.
The arrangement affects Amtrak operations in two significant ways:
The host railroad is responsible for maintenance. Occasionally, Amtrak has s
uffered service disruptions from untimely track rehabilitation. When host railro
ads have simply refused to maintain their tracks to Amtrak's needs, Amtrak occas
ionally has been compelled to pay the host to maintain the tracks.
Amtrak has priority over freight traffic only for a specified and small wind
ow of time. When a passenger train misses that window, for example due to an ear
lier delay, host railroads may (and frequently do) direct passenger trains to fo
llow slower freight traffic. This means that even minor delays quickly become ma
jor delays. In some cases, an unauthorized delay caused by a freight railroad mi
ght expose the host railroad to financial penalties by law.
Tracks owned or leased by Amtrak
Along the NEC and in several other areas, Amtrak owns 730 route-miles of track (
1175 km), including 17 tunnels consisting of 29.7 miles (47.8 km) of track, and
1,186 bridges (including the famous Hell Gate Bridge) consisting of 42.5 miles (
68.4 km) of track. In several places, primarily in New England, Amtrak leases tr
acks, providing track maintenance and controlling train movements. Most often, t
hese tracks are leased from state, regional, or local governments. Amtrak owns a
nd operates the following lines:[89]
Northeast Corridor
Main article: Northeast Corridor
An electric Amtrak train with two AEM-7 locomotives running through New Jersey o
n the Northeast Corridor
The Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C. and Boston via Baltimore, Philad
elphia, Newark, New York and Providence is largely owned by Amtrak, working coop
eratively with several state and regional commuter agencies.
Segments controlled by Amtrak:
From Boston to the Massachusetts/Rhode Island state line (operated and maint
ained by Amtrak, but owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts)
From the MassachusettsRhode Island state line to New Haven, Connecticut, 120
miles (190 km)
From New Rochelle, New York to Washington, D.C., 240 miles (390 km)
Between New Haven, Connecticut, and New Rochelle, New York, Northeast Corridor t

rains travel on the Metro-North Railroad's New Haven Line, which is owned and op
erated by the Connecticut Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Tran
sportation Authority, with ownership as follows:
Between New Haven, Connecticut and the New York/Connecticut border (Port Che
ster/Greenwich) the track is owned by the state of Connecticut.
Between Port Chester, NY and New Rochelle, NY the track is owned by the MTA.
Philadelphia to Harrisburg Main Line
Main article: Philadelphia to Harrisburg Main Line
This line runs from Philadelphia to Harrisburg,
investment partnership with the Commonwealth of
mprovements were completed in October 2006 that
a top speed of 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) to

Pennsylvania. As a result of an
Pennsylvania, signal and track i
allow all-electric service with
run along the corridor.

104 miles (167 km), Philadelphia to Harrisburg (Pennsylvanian and Keystone S

Empire Corridor
Main article: Empire Corridor
11 miles (18 km), New York Penn Station to Spuyten Duyvil, New York
94.5 miles (152 km), Poughkeepsie, New York to Schenectady, New York (operat
ed and maintained by Amtrak, leased by Amtrak from CSX using funding from New Yo
rk State)[90]
The tracks across the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge and short approach sections ne
ar it.[91]
New Haven-Springfield Line
Main article: New Haven-Springfield Line
60.5 miles (97.4 km), New Haven to Springfield (Northeast Regional, Vermonte
r, and especially the New HavenSpringfield Shuttle).
Other tracks and Amtrak properties
ChicagoDetroit Line: 98 miles (160 km), Porter, Indiana to Kalamazoo, Michiga
n (Blue Water and Wolverine)
Post Road Branch: 12.42 miles (19.99 km), Post Road Junction to Rensselaer,
New York (Lake Shore Limited)
Amtrak also owns station and yard tracks in Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, N
ew York City, Oakland (Kirkham Street Yard), Orlando, Portland, Oregon, Saint Pa
ul, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.
Amtrak leases station and yard tracks in Hialeah, near Miami, Florida, from the
State of Florida.
Amtrak owns the Chicago Union Station Company (Chicago Union Station) and New Yo
rk Penn Station. It has a 99.7% interest in the Washington Terminal Company[92]
(tracks around Washington Union Station) and 99% of 30th Street Limited (Philade
lphia 30th Street Station). Also owned by Amtrak is Passenger Railroad Insurance
List of routes
Main article: List of Amtrak routes
Northbound Silver Star heading to New York in Winter Park, Florida
In this 2008 photo, Amtrak P42DC Locomotive No. 29 waits in Comstock, Michigan,
for a westbound train to pass
An Amtrak EMD F59PHI locomotive parked in Solana Beach, CA on Pacific Surfliner

Amtrak offers different, often historical, views of America from earlier times.
Pictured is the Amtrak station in Hammond, Louisiana, refurbished with a modern
railway platform.
The Carolinian stopping in Raleigh, North Carolina in "Phase V" livery
Acela Express Boston Washington, D.C.
Montreal New York City
Amtrak Cascades
Vancouver, British Columbia Eugene, Oregon (via Portland
, Oregon and Seattle, Washington)
Auto Train
Lorton (Washington, D.C. area)- Sanford (Orlando, Florida area)
Blue Water
Chicago Port Huron
California Zephyr
Chicago Emeryville (San Francisco)
Capitol Corridor
Auburn Sacramento San Jose (via Oakland)
Capitol Limited
Chicago Washington, D.C. (via Cleveland, Ohio and Pittsb
urgh, Pennsylvania)
Chicago New York (via Indianapolis/Cincinnati/D.C.)
Carl Sandburg Chicago Quincy
New York Raleigh Greensboro Charlotte
City of New Orleans
Chicago New Orleans
Coast Starlight
Seattle Los Angeles (via Sacramento/Oakland)
New York New Orleans (via Atlanta)
Boston - Brunswick, Maine (via Portland)
Empire Builder Chicago Portland, Oregon/Seattle (via Spokane)
Empire Service New York Niagara Falls (via Albany)
Ethan Allen Express
New York Rutland (via Albany)
Heartland Flyer
Oklahoma City Fort Worth
Chicago Milwaukee
Hoosier State Chicago Indianapolis
Illini Chicago Carbondale
Illinois Zephyr
Chicago Quincy
Keystone Service
New York Harrisburg (via Philadelphia)
Lake Shore Limited
New York / Boston Chicago (via Albany)
Lincoln Service
Chicago St. Louis
Maple Leaf
New York Toronto
Missouri River Runner St. Louis Kansas City
New HavenSpringfield Shuttle New Haven Springfield
Northeast Regional
Boston or Springfield New York Washington DC Virginia (N
ewport News or Lynchburg)
Pacific Surfliner
San Luis Obispo Los Angeles San Diego
New York Savannah
Pennsylvanian New York Pittsburgh (via Newark, Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Al
Pere Marquette Grand Rapids Chicago
Charlotte Raleigh
Saluki Chicago Carbondale
San Joaquin
Bakersfield Oakland / Sacramento
Silver Meteor New York Miami
Silver Star
New York Miami
Southwest Chief
Chicago Los Angeles
Sunset Limited Los Angeles New Orleans
Texas Eagle
Chicago Los Angeles (through San Antonio and Dallas)
Washington St. Albans
Chicago Detroit Pontiac
Motive power and rolling stock
Main article: Amtrak rolling stock
Amtrak owns 2,142 railway cars and 425 locomotives for revenue runs and service.
Examples include the GE P42DC, the EMD AEM-7, the Amfleet car and the Superline
r car. Occasionally private cars, or loaned locomotives from other railroads can

be found on Amtrak trains.

Management structure
Roger Lewis (19711974)[94]
Paul Reistrup (19741978)[95]
Alan Stephenson Boyd (19781982)[96][97]
W. Graham Claytor, Jr. (19821993)[98]
Thomas Downs (19931998)[99]
George Warrington (19982002)[100]
David L. Gunn (20022005)[101][102]
David Hughes (interim) (20052006)[101]
Alexander Kummant (20062008)[103][104]
William Crosbie (interim) (2008)
Joseph H. Boardman (2008present)[50][105]
Board of directors
Anthony Coscia, Chairman[1]
Jeffrey Moreland, Vice-Chairman[2]
Joseph H. Boardman, CEO and President
Thomas C. Carper[3]
Albert DiClemente[4]
Anthony Foxx, United States Secretary of Transportation
Sarah Feinberg, Acting Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration
and alternate for the Secretary of Transportation[5]
Yvonne Brathwaite Burke
Christopher R. Beall[6]
Leaders and political influences
William Graham Claytor Jr
Unlike many large businesses, subsequent to its formation Amtrak has had only on
e active investor: the U.S. government. Like most investors, the federal governm
ent has demanded a degree of accountability. Determination of congressional fund
ing and selection of Amtrak's leadership have been infused with political consid
erations. As discussed below, funding levels and capital support have varied ove
r time.
Like many railroads, some members of Amtrak's board have had little or no experi
ence with railroads. Conversely, Amtrak also has benefited from the interest of
highly motivated and politically oriented public servants. For example, in 1982,
former Secretary of the Navy and retired Southern Railway head William Graham C
laytor Jr. brought his military and railroad experience to the job. Graham Clayt
or earned distinction as a lawyer (he was president of the Harvard Law Review an
d law clerk to U.S. Judge Billings Learned Hand and Supreme Court Justice Louis
Brandeis); as a transportation executive (he joined the Southern as vice preside
nt-law in 1963, became president in 1967, and retired in 1977, five years before
he took over the command at Amtrak); and as a public servant (he was President
Carter's Secretary of the Navy, Deputy Secretary of Defense, and, briefly, Actin
g Secretary of Transportation, all between his two railroad careers). Claytor ca
me out of retirement to lead Amtrak after the disastrous financial results durin
g the Carter administration (19771981).[106]
He was recruited by then Secretary of Transportation, Drew Lewis, and Federal Ra
ilroad Administrator Robert Blanchette, both Reagan appointees. Despite the fact
that Claytor frequently opposed the Reagan Administration over Amtrak funding i
ssues, he was strongly supported by John H. Riley, an attorney who was the highl
y skilled head of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) under the Reagan Adm
inistration from 1983 to 1989. Claytor, the longest serving Amtrak CEO, at 12 ye

ars, clearly enjoyed a good relationship with Congress and was perceived by many
in the rail industry and government to have done an outstanding job of running
Amtrak. Due to limited federal funding, Claytor was forced to use short-term deb
t to keep most of its operations running.[107] Also, during the Reagan Administr
ation, Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole tacitly supported Amtrak.
In the 1990s, Claytor was succeeded at Amtrak's helm by a succession of career p
ublic servants. First, Thomas Downs, who had overseen the Union Station project
in Washington, D.C., which experienced substantial delays and cost overruns, ass
umed the leadership. Amtrak faced a serious cash crisis during 1997. However, Ti
m Gillespie, Amtrak's highly regarded vice president for government affairs for
almost two decades, persuaded Congress to include a provision in the Taxpayer Re
lief Act of 1997 that resulted in Amtrak receiving a $2.3 billion tax refund tha
t resolved their cash crisis.[108]
In January 1998, after Amtrak weathered this serious cash shortfall, George Warr
ington succeeded Downs. Warrington previously led Amtrak's NEC Business Unit. Wa
rrington ran into trouble with Congress and the Administration through lavish sp
ending and extensive borrowing. When he mortgaged Penn Station in New York City
he ran into a fire storm of opposition in Congress. Warrington stepped down shor
tly thereafter. The 1988 Democratic Presidential nominee Michael Dukakis served
as Amtrak's vice chairman of the board and was nominated as a director by Presid
ent Bill Clinton in 1998.
David Gunn (right) with Senator Joe Biden and Senator Tom Carper touring Amfleet
dinette 28351's dining facilities in 2003
In April 2002, David L. Gunn was selected as president. Gunn had a strong reputa
tion as a straightforward and experienced manager. Years earlier (between 1991 a
nd 1994), Gunn's refusal to "do politics" put him at odds with the Washington Me
tropolitan Area Transit Authority board of directors, which included representat
ives from the District of Columbia and suburban jurisdictions in Maryland and Vi
rginia. Gunn was an accomplished public servant and railroad person and his succ
esses before Amtrak earned him a great deal of credibility, despite a sometimesrough relationship with politicians and labor unions.
Gunn was polite but direct in response to congressional criticism of Amtrak, and
his tenure was punctuated by successes in reducing layers of management overhea
d in Amtrak and streamlining operations. Amtrak's Board of Directors removed Gun
n on November 9, 2005. The board then appointed David Hughes, Amtrak's Chief Eng
ineer, as interim CEO.[101] Given Gunn's solid performance, many Amtrak supporte
rs feared that Gunn's departure was Amtrak's death knell, although those fears w
ere not realized.
On August 29, 2006 Alexander Kummant was named as Gunn's permanent replacement e
ffective September 12, 2006.[103] Kummant resigned on November 14, 2008. The boa
rd appointed Amtrak COO William Crosbie as interim CEO.[109]
On November 26, 2008, the board appointed Federal Railroad Administration chief
Joseph H. Boardman as interim Amtrak President and CEO for one year.[50] Prior t
o joining the FRA, Mr. Boardman had been appointed by Governor George Pataki, a
Republican, as the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportati
on (NYSDOT), serving from July 1997 until 2005, when President George W. Bush ap
pointed him as Administrator of the FRA. Boardman was one of the highest-ranking
Republicans and Bush appointees held over when the Obama Administration came in
. In January 2010, Amtrak announced that it had extended Boardman's appointment
indefinitely.[110] After years of almost revolving-door CEOs at Amtrak, in Decem
ber 2013, Boardman was named "Railroader of the Year" by Railway Age magazine, w
hich noted that with over five years in the job, he is the second-longest servin
g head of Amtrak since it was formed more than 40 years ago.[111]
Labor issues

In the modern era, Amtrak faces a number of important labor issues. In the area
of pension funding, because of limitations originally imposed by Congress, most
Amtrak workers were traditionally classified as "railroad employees" and contrib
utions to the Railroad Retirement system have been made for those employees. How
ever, because the size of the contributions is determined on an industry-wide ba
sis rather than with reference to the employer for whom the employees work, some
critics, such as the National Association of Railroad Passengers, maintain that
Amtrak is subsidizing freight railroad pensions by as much as US$150 million/ye
In recent times, efforts at reforming passenger rail have addressed labor issues
. In 1997 Congress released Amtrak from a prohibition on contracting for labor o
utside the corporation (and outside its unions), opening the door to privatizati
on.[113] Since that time, many of Amtrak's employees have been working without a
contract. The most recent contract, signed in 1999, was mainly retroactive.
Because of the fragmentation of railroad unions by job, Amtrak has 14 separate u
nions to negotiate with. Plus, it has 24 separate contracts with those unions.[1
14] This makes it difficult to make substantial changes, in contrast to a situat
ion where one union negotiates with one employer. Former Amtrak president Kumman
t followed a cooperative posture with Amtrak's trade unions, ruling out plans to
privatize large parts of Amtrak's unionized workforce.[115]
In late 2007 and early 2008, however, major labor issues arose, a result of a di
spute between Amtrak and 16 unions regarding which employees should receive heal
thcare benefits. The dispute was not resolved quickly, and the situation escalat
ed to the point of President Bush declaring a Presidential Emergency Board to re
solve the issues. It was not immediately successful, and a strike was threatened
to begin on January 30, 2008. In the middle of that month, however, it was anno
unced that Amtrak and the unions had come to terms and January 30 passed without
a strike. In late February it was announced that three more unions had worked o
ut their differences, and as of that time it seemed unlikely that any more issue
s would arise in the near future.
Public funding
Amtrak receives annual appropriations from federal and state governments to supp
lement operating and capital programs.
Total federal grant appropriations per year[116] FY 2009
FY 2010
FY 2011
FY 2012
FY 2013
$1,488,000,000 $1,565,000,000 $1,484,000,000 $1,418,000,000 $1,374,000,000
History of funding
1970s to 1990s
Amtrak commenced operations in 1971 with $40 million in direct federal aid, $100
million in federally insured loans, and a somewhat larger private contribution.
[117] Officials expected that Amtrak would break even by 1974, but those expecta
tions proved unrealistic and annual direct Federal aid reached a 17-year high in
1981 of $1.25 billion.[118] During the Reagan administration, appropriations we
re halved and by 1986, federal support fell to a decade low of $601 million, alm
ost none of which were capital appropriations.[119] In the late 1980s and early
1990s, Congress continued the reductionist trend even while Amtrak expenses held
steady or rose. Amtrak was forced to borrow to meet short-term operating needs,
and by 1995 Amtrak was on the brink of a cash crisis and was unable to continue
to service its debts.[120] In response, in 1997 Congress authorized $5.2 billio
n for Amtrak over the next five years largely to complete the Acela capital proj
ect on the condition that Amtrak submit to the ultimatum of self-sufficiency by
2003 or liquidation.[121] Amtrak made financial improvements during the period,
but ultimately did not achieve self-sufficiency.

In 2004, a stalemate in federal support of Amtrak forced cutbacks in services an

d routes as well as resumption of deferred maintenance. In fiscal 2004 and 2005,
Congress appropriated about $1.2 billion for Amtrak, $300 million more than Pre
sident George W. Bush had requested. However, the company's board requested $1.8
billion through fiscal 2006, the majority of which (about $1.3 billion) would b
e used to bring infrastructure, rolling stock, and motive power back to a state
of good repair. In Congressional testimony, the DOT Inspector General confirmed
that Amtrak would need at least $1.4 billion to $1.5 billion in fiscal 2006 and
$2 billion in fiscal 2007 just to maintain the status quo. In 2006, Amtrak recei
ved just under $1.4 billion, with the condition that Amtrak would reduce (but no
t eliminate) food and sleeper service losses. Thus, dining service was simplifie
d and now requires two fewer on-board service workers. Only Auto Train and Empir
e Builder services continue regular made-on-board meal service. In 2010 the Sena
te approved a bill to provide $1.96 billion to Amtrak, but cut the approval for
high-speed rail to a $1 billion appropriation.[122]
Amtrak Cascades service with tilting Talgo trainsets in Seattle, Washington
Amtrak's Piedmont near Charlotte, North Carolina with a state-owned locomotive.
This route is run under a partnership with the North Carolina Department of Tran
State governments have partially filled the breach left by reductions in federal
aid. Several states have entered into operating partnerships with Amtrak, notab
ly California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, Oregon, Missouri, Washington, N
orth Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Wisconsin, Vermont, Maine, and New York, as well
as the Canadian province of British Columbia, which provides some of the resour
ces for the operation of the Cascades route.
With the dramatic rise in gasoline prices during 20072008, Amtrak has seen record
ridership.[123] Capping a steady five-year increase in ridership overall, regio
nal lines saw 12% year-over-year growth in May 2008.[124] In October 2007, the S
enate passed S-294, Passenger Rail Improvement and Investment Act of 2007 (7022)
sponsored by Senators Frank Lautenberg and Trent Lott. Despite a veto threat by
President Bush, a similar bill passed the House on June 11, 2008, with a veto-pr
oof margin (311104).[125] The final bill, spurred on by the September 12 Metrolin
k collision in California and retitled Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, was
signed into law by President Bush on October 16, 2008. The bill appropriates $2.
6 billion a year in Amtrak funding through 2013.[126]
Amtrak points out that in 2010, its farebox recovery (percentage of operating co
sts covered by revenues generated by passenger fares) was 79%, the highest repor
ted for any U.S. passenger railroad.[60]
Amtrak has argued that it needs to increase capital program costs in 2013 in ord
er to replace old train equipment because the multi-year maintenance costs for t
hose trains exceeds what it would cost to simply buy new equipment that would no
t need to be repaired for several years. However, despite an initial request for
more than $2.1 billion in funding for the year, the company had to deal with a
year-over-year cut in 2013 federal appropriations, dropping to under $1.4 billio
n for the first time in several years.[116] Amtrak stated in 2010 that the backl
og of needed repairs of the track it owns on the Northeast Corridor included ove
r 200 bridges, most dating to the 19th century, tunnels under Baltimore dating t
o the American Civil War Era and functionally obsolete track switches which woul
d cost $5.2 billion to repair (more than triple Amtrak's total annual budget).[1
27] Amtrak's budget is only allocated on a yearly basis which makes multi-year d
evelopment programs and long-term fiscal planning difficult if not impossible.
In Fiscal Year 2011, the U.S. Congress granted Amtrak $563 million for operating
and $922 million for capital programs.[128]

Government aid to Amtrak was controversial from the beginning. The formation of
Amtrak in 1971 was criticized as a bailout serving corporate rail interests and
union railroaders, not the traveling public. Critics have asserted that Amtrak h
as proven incapable of operating as a business and that it does not provide valu
able transportation services meriting public support,[129] a "mobile money-burni
ng machine."[130] Many argued that subsidies should be ended, national rail serv
ice terminated, and the NEC turned over to private interests. "To fund a Nostalg
ia Limited is not in the public interest."[131] Critics also question Amtrak's e
nergy efficiency,[132] though the U.S. Department of Energy considers Amtrak amo
ng the most energy-efficient forms of transportation.[133]
Proponents have pointed out that the government heavily subsidizes the Interstat
e Highway System, the Federal Aviation Administration, many airports, among many
aspects of passenger aviation. Massive government aid to those forms of travel
was a primary factor in the decline of passenger service on privately owned rail
roads in the 1950s and 1960s. In addition, Amtrak pays property taxes (through f
ees to host railroads) that highway users do not pay. Advocates have asserted th
at Amtrak should only be expected to be as self-sufficient as those competing mo
des of transit.
Along these lines, in a June 2008 interview with Reuters,[44] Amtrak President A
lex Kummant made specific observations: $10 billion per year is transferred from
the general fund to the Highway Trust Fund; $2.7 billion is granted to the FAA;
$8 billion goes to "security and life safety for cruise ships." Kummant makes a
comparison of public subsidies: "it's like $40 a passenger for Amtrak and $500
to $700 per automobile." Moreover, Amtrak provides all of its own security, whil
e airport security is a separate federal subsidy. Kummant added: "Let's not even
get into airport construction which is a miasma of state, federal and local tax
breaks and tax refinancing and God knows what."
According to the DOT Bureau of Transportation Statistics, rail and mass transit
are considerably more subsidized on a per passenger-mile basis by the federal go
vernment (not including state and local subsidies, or hard-to-compute indirect s
ubsidies) than other forms of transportation; the subsidy varies year to year, b
ut exceeds $100 (in 2000 dollars) per thousand passenger-miles, compared to subs
idies around $10 per thousand passenger-miles for aviation (with general aviatio
n, i.e. private and corporate planes, subsidized considerably more per passenger
-mile than commercial airline service), subsidies around $4 per thousand passeng
er-miles for intercity buses, and automobiles being a small net contributor thro
ugh the gas tax and other user fees rather than being subsidized.[134] On a tota
l subsidy basis, aviation, with many more passenger-miles per year, is subsidize
d at a similar level to Amtrak. The analysis does not consider social costs and
benefits, or difficult-to-quantify effects of some regulation, such as safety re
Critics, such as the Cato Institute's Randal O'Toole,[135] argue that gasoline t
axes amount to user fees because people are taxed to the extent they use the roa
ds. Others dispute this, as gasoline taxes are proportional to gasoline usage, n
ot proportional to road usage. There is also still a significant amount of road
spending that is not covered by the federal gas tax. It covers almost none of th
e costs for local streets and roads, and in many states little of the cost for s
tate highways.[136][137] O'Toole claims on page 2 of his report that "in 2006, A
mericans paid $93.6 billion in tolls, gas taxes, and other highway user fees. Of
this amount, $19.3 billion was diverted to mass transit and other non-highway a
ctivities. At the same time, various governments mainly local spent $44.5 billio
n in property, sales, or other taxes on highways, roads, and streets. The net su
bsidy to highways was $25.1 billion, or about half a penny per passenger mile."
O'Toole's road budget and passenger-mile numbers are disputed. In the same year,

Amtrak receives direct subsidies of just over $1 billion, or 22 cents per passe
nger mile.
The Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970, which established Amtrak, specifically s
tates that "The Corporation will not be an agency or establishment of the United
States Government,"[138] common stock was issued in 1971 to railroads that cont
ributed capital and equipment; these shares convey almost no benefits[139] but t
heir current holders[140] declined a 2002 buy-out offer by Amtrak. There are cur
rently 109,396,994 shares of preferred stock at a par value of $100 per share, a
ll held by the US government. There are currently 9,385,694 shares of common sto
ck with a par value of $10 per share held by four other railroad companies: APU
(formerly Penn Central) 53%, BNSF (35%), Canadian Pacific (7%), and Canadian Nat
ional (5%).[141]
Supporters of Amtrak and transit systems also point out that as the first decade
of the 21st century came to a close, the user fees from the Highway Trust Fund
did not cover the cost of maintaining the national highway system. Transportatio
n advocacy groups such as the American Association of State Highway and Transpor
tation Officials note that since 2008, the U.S. Congress has authorized transfer
s of money from the General Fund to the Highway Trust Fund to keep it solvent. T
ransfers from the General Fund to the Highway Trust Fund include: $8 billion (FY
2008); $7 billion (FY 2009); and $19.5 billion (FY 2010).[142]
Carbon emissions
In 2005, Amtrak's carbon dioxide equivalent emissions per passenger kilometre we
re 0.116 kg.[143] For comparison, this is similar to a car with two people,[144]
about twice as high as the UK rail average (where much more of the system is el
ectrified),[145] about four times the average US motorcoach,[146] and about eigh
t times a Finnish electric intercity train or fully loaded fifty-seat coach.[147
] It is, however, about two thirds of the raw CO2-equivalent emissions of a long
-distance domestic flight.[148] Amtrak is constantly working to improve its carb
on emissions. New electric locomotives, the ACS-64s, coming into service on the
Northeast Corridor will be much more efficient, lighter weight, and include rege
nerative braking. Other new cars on order will also be much more energy efficien
Transportation of firearms
Main article: Wicker Amendment
The Wicker Amendment is United States federal legislation to allow rail traveler
s to put properly licensed, unloaded guns in checked Amtrak baggage. It reverses
a decade-long ban on such carriage and came into effect on December 15, 2010. T
he policy change was promoted by the National Rifle Association and United State
s Senator Roger Wicker.[149]
Amtrak Residency for Writers
In February 2014, Amtrak announced intentions to offer an Amtrak Residency for W
riters[150] and on March 8, opened a month-long call for applicants.[151][152] T
he application is accessible at "How to Apply for the Amtrak Residency for Write
The program, termed by Amtrak's Director of Social Media, Julia Quinn, "an idea
dreamed up by Amtrak fans and customers", has received, she states: "an overwhel
ming reception, I don't think we could ever have anticipated how quickly so many
people would respond to the idea of the program, and how liberally they're endo
rsing it".[154] At the Washington Post, Dan Zak observed: "Fine print aside, the
nation's writers seem energized by the residency, if Twitter is any indication.
"[155] CNN's Frances Cha describes the routes selected by the two writers who su
ggested the program in the first place, as well as some additional trip routes s
uggested by Amtrak and "fleshed out by wishful editors stuck in offices".[156]

Despite the program's popularity, some of the application's Official Terms[157]

(especially Section 6. Grant of Rights) have raised some concerns,[155][158] pro
mpting some writers to forego applying and urge others to follow suit.[159][160]
In response to those terms, BiblioCrunch has introduced its own residency progr
am,[161] whose introduction reads: "Feel uncomfortable about signing up for the
Amtrak Residency program and still want a free ride and be able write without wo
rrying about what you're giving away? We're giving away a trip on an Amtrak long
distance roundtrip train ride from NYC to Florida. You pick either Orlando or M
iami."[162] On March 11, 2014, The Atlantic Wire ' s Ben Cosman summarized writers' c
oncerns and Amtrak's response.[163]
Writer Gwen Thompson made up her own unofficial route from Portland, Maine, to P
ittsburgh and wrote about the rails as muse, in Portland Magazine.[164]
See also
Portal icon
United States portal
Portal icon
Trains portal
Portal icon
Railways portal
Portal icon
Companies portal
Topics dealing with Amtrak
Amtrak Arrow Reservation System
Amtrak California, partnership with
California Department of Transportation (Caltrans)
Amtrak Cascades, partnership with
Oregon Department of Transportation
Washington State Department of Transportation
Amtrak paint schemes
Amtrak Police
List of Amtrak station codes alphabetical by three-letter ticketing code
List of Amtrak stations alphabetical by city name
Beech Grove Shops
Positive train control
Railway Museum of Greater Cincinnati
Thruway Motorcoach
Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response team (VIPR) TSA's rail security o
Rail companies of interest
Amtrak Express Parcels (UK)
Auto-Train Corporation Pioneer of car-on-train service.
Amtrak's Auto Train.
Mid America Railcar Leasing
Rail disasters

Maryland train collision

Big Bayou Canot train wreck
Maryland train collision
Palo Verde, Arizona derailment
Bourbonnais, Illinois train accident
Philadelphia train derailment

Other national railroads

Via Rail (Canada)

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gures from 2005. Cf.
s, sheet 8, cell C33 (figures from 2002).
respectively, sheet
8, cell C36 (figures from 2002);
mparativeFuelCO2.pdf table 1.1, figures from 2007.
"figures from 20089." (PDF). Retrieved 2012 11 23.

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e/junat_henkiloe.htm, figures for 2007;
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ncy (and Amtrak Answers Them For Us)". The Atlantic Wire.
Gwen Thompson (May 2015). "Rolling Admissions". Portland Magazine.
Amtrak System Timetable, Fall 2004/Winter 2005
Solomon, Brian (2004). Amtrak. Saint Paul, MN:
Edmonson, Harold A. (2000). Journey to Amtrak:
senger train. Kalmbach Books. ISBN 978 0 89024 023
Zimmermann, Karl R. (1981). Amtrak at Milepost
Train Journal). ISBN 0 937658 06 5.

MBI. ISBN 0 760 31765 8. OCLC

The year history rode the pas
10. PTJ Publishing (Passenger

"GAO 06 145 Amtrak Management: Systemic Problems Require Actions to Improve

Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Accountability" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the or
iginal on November 25, 2005. Retrieved November 23, 2005.
Analysis of the Causes of AMTRAK Train Delays Department of Transportation
Mike Schafer, Amtrak's atlas, Trains June 1991
Kevin McKinney, At the dawn of Amtrak, Trains June 1991
Further reading
Soloman, Brian (2004). Amtrak (Mbi Railroad Color History). MBI. ISBN 978 0
7603 1765 5.
Hanus, Chris and Shaske, John (2009). USA West by Train: The Complete Amtrak

Travel Guide. Way of the Rail Publishing. ISBN 978 0 9730897 6 9.

Pitt, John (2008). USA by Rail. Bradt Travel Guides. ISBN 978 1 84162 255 2.
External links
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