House appropriates money for Amtrak, but the Senate needs to act

July 26, 2020

Appropriations bill would require Amtrak to maintain service to get funds. Amtrak and public transportation would receive at least $26 billion in emergency aid under the fiscal 2021 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development funding bill proposed by the House Appropriations Committee — but the money for Amtrak would be tied to a requirement that the passenger railroad cannot discontinue or reduce frequencies on any of its routes.

U.S. Senate Must Act Swiftly to Prevent Long-Distance Service Reduction. Monday, the U.S. Senate began considering appropriation levels within similar legislation. Without Senate action, Amtrak will still reduce daily operation to tri-weekly on October 1. This includes the Empire Builder. Congress did not act fast enough to prevent Amtrak from reducing frequencies on two eastern long-distance trains. Amtrak claims reductions are temporary due to pandemic related patronage declines. Yet history shows such reductions become permanent. Frequency reduction to less than daily ultimately ended operation of the Pioneer and Desert Wind routes in the 1990s. A 2005 Sunset Limited suspension between New Orleans and Florida has become permanent. It is difficult to restore frequencies once they are cut. Additionally, when frequency reductions were tried in the late 1990's on several routes, including the Empire Builder, costs went down approximately 15%, but revenues on average plunged by more than 50%.

What can you do? Your task is easy. Simply email your two Minnesota U.S. Senators, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith. Request that they set Amtrak appropriation levels to support preservation of daily operational levels for the national network. If in Wisconsin, please email your two US Senators; Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson.

Senator Amy Klobuchar contact form:

Senator Tina Smith contact form: