AAPRCO Mid-Month Highlights


Russell Sharp <russsharp21@...>
 

Friends and fellow members, FYI below ⬇️! Lots of interesting details of Amtrak fees to handle private varnish cars!
Russ 


Begin forwarded message:

From: AAPRCO <execdirector@...>
Date: August 17, 2021 at 5:24:01 PM CDT
To: russsharp21@...
Subject: AAPRCO Mid-Month Highlights
Reply-To: execdirector@...


August 2021
President's Message

by Tony Marchiando
Attention Car Owners
~ Amtrak Rate Increase ~

Fellow Car Owners,

As per standard practice, Amtrak adjusts its tariff typically around October 1, the start of their fiscal year.

This year, Amtrak indicated to us that they would like to make their rate adjustment (increase) based on some standard index, not just an arbitrary number. AAPRCO and RPCA have had a couple discussions with them about what is an appropriate index. We felt a fuel index would be too volatile, and of course we are looking for stability.
Naturally, no increase would be our preference, but in reality, the people we deal with have to “sell” this increase index to their bosses and financial department. So, it needs to be fair to both sides. 

The index selected was AAR Table C index for “Materials prices, wage rates, and supplements combined, excluding fuel”. The increase for 2022 will be less than 3 percent.  New rates will be effective October 15, and continue until Oct 1, 2022. Any move requests already submitted, even if travel is after October 15, 2021, will be charged the current rate.
A copy of the new tariff is below.

Best regards,

Tony Marchiando
President
Ride the
2021 American Autumn Explorer
Passengers on the American Autumn Explorer will enjoy an overnight stay in the quaint town of Bellows Falls. From the train station, passengers may take a short walk over the first canal built in the US and continue up Canal Street to the downtown. Explore the art galleries, opera house, restaurants and pubs where you will enjoy plenty of good New England small-town hospitality.

Contact execidrector@... for information on ridership availability.
43rd Annual Convention
September 29 & 30
Burlington, Vermont
Your $345 registration is all-inclusive:
Welcome Reception, Convention Sessions and Luncheon,
Car Party, Tour of Vermont Rail System Shops, and
Lake Champlain Bon Voyage Cruise!
Convention Hotel
Hilton Burlington Lake Champlain
60 Battery Street; Burlington, Vermont 05401
1-802-658-6500
AAPRCO Rate $179/night + tax

Call Central Reservations at 1-800-HILTONS (800-445-8667)
Mention 'AAPRCO Group' to obtain our special discounted rate
OR
Click into our personalized group web page
Enter Group Name 'AAPRCO' for our special discounted rate
Washington Update

by Ross Capon
Appropriations Report Language: It is still timely to contact Senators and urge them to work for inclusion of private cars/charter trains language in the Senate’s FY22 transportation/housing appropriations bill in the same spirit as what passed the House. On July 29, the House passed a “seven-bill appropriations package” that included transportation/housing. Click here for the news release that summarizes the bills and has (at the bottom) links with more detail.       
 
Authorization: The Senate on August 10 passed its $1 trillion infrastructure bill on a bipartisan, 69-30 vote with 19 Republicans including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) voting yes. The bill includes $550 billion in new federal spending. 
 
Sadly, however, the House was frozen out -- especially T&I Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR). What Politico anticipated July 27 seems to be coming true: “After a 34-year congressional career devoted to transportation and environment issues, the Oregon Democrat -- who has a staffer-level knowledge of the issues he covers -- could soon be forced to watch his life’s work shunted to the side if Senate negotiators secure a deal this week…largely without House input…In a fiery tirade to fellow Democrats during a closed-door meeting [July 27], DeFazio called the bill ‘crap.’…‘I could give a damn about the White House. We’re an independent branch of government,’ DeFazio said in a brief interview afterwards. ‘They cut this deal. I didn’t sign off on it.’”
 
With the Senate having passed the bill, and the White House wanting the House to rubberstamp the Senate’s work for fear that House changes could kill the bill, DeFazio decided not to push for a House-Senate conference committee. Thus, much of his work [as reflected in HR3684], will not be enacted. [However, per Politico, “Crypto-friendly House Democrats are plotting a long-shot bid to scale back digital currency tax rules tucked into” the infrastructure bill.]
 
Thank you for your work on behalf of the private cars/charter trains language. Often, legislation is enacted after having been put forth multiple times previously. However, since the Senate’s infrastructure bill covers five years, don’t hold your breath…
 
That is a painful pill to swallow. It kills the private cars/charter train language DeFazio championed along with other desirable provisions in his bill. Some items might get into the upcoming all-Democratic “human infrastructure” bill, but those items must have a budgetary impact to pass the Senate through the filibuster-avoiding “reconciliation” process. 
 
Pure “policy” issues likely fall victim to the Byrd rule, referring to the late Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) who decreed that a filibuster-bypassing reconciliation package can only include items with budgetary impact. Indeed, with reconciliation in mind, the $3.5 trillion budget package the Senate passed after the infrastructure bill has an additional $60 billion for the House T&I Committee and $83B for Senate Commerce – available only for projects and programs not in the bipartisan deal. High speed rail is a possibility since it was not explicitly included in the Senate bill.  
 
DeFazio’s bill has other good features not previously noted here. The Amtrak Board of Directors would have included:
·      One who is “an individual with a history of regular Amtrak ridership and an understanding of the concerns of intercity rail passengers.”
·      One with “demonstrated experience or demonstrated interest in the Northeast Corridor and the National Network; and industry experience or qualifications in transportation, freight and passenger rail transportation, travel, or passenger air transportation;” and
·      One “individual with general business and financial experience who has demonstrated experience or demonstrated interest in the Northeast Corridor and the National Network.’’
Interest- and knowledge-based qualifications would have helped guard against, for example, nominating a “long-distance director” from, say, New York or New Jersey, simply because those states are served by long-distance trains.
 
The Senate bill certainly has good features. 
1.     A shake-up of the Amtrak Board intended to benefit Amtrak’s long-distance routes (see my June 17 column).
2.     Unprecedented funding for passenger rail – in RPA’s words, “with a guaranteed $66 billion investment in passenger rail over the next five years, and an additional $35 billion in authorized rail funds, the bill is a welcome recalibration of our country’s investment in passenger rail.” Click here for RPA’s analysis of how the $66B would be spent. 
3.    Strong pro-long-distance train language and a DOT (not Amtrak) study to “evaluate the restoration of daily” service on tri-weekly and on discontinued Amtrak routes.
4.    Amtrak is “encouraged to make agreements with private sector entities and to undertake initiatives that are consistent with good business judgment and designed to generate additional revenues…” and to use “its best business judgment in acting to maximize the benefits of federal investments, including…increasing revenue from the transportation of mail and express…and providing economic benefits to the communities it serves.”
5.    Strong interstate rail compact provisions (see end of my August 2 column)
 
It is not clear when the House will vote on this bill. Speaker Pelosi faces warring House Democratic factions. Progressives have vowed to vote against the infrastructure deal if it’s brought up first, but a nine-member “Mod Squad” is demanding that the House vote on the infrastructure bill first. Per CNN, “The House returns the week of August 23 for Pelosi to try to sort this out.”  On August 15, The Wall Street Journal reported that Pelosi asked the Rules Committee to look at moving both bills simultaneously.
Passenger Rail News
Trains Matter to America

The Hill
BY TOM CARPER, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR 08/10/21 08:00 PM EDT

Macomb, Ill., and McComb, Miss., are both far from Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC), but both will benefit from overdue investments Amtrak has needed from Congress to make in the Northeast. I live in Macomb, Ill., served as mayor for 12 years and have served on the Amtrak Board since 2008. I know first-hand that passenger rail brings economic value to cities and regions large and small.

Amtrak was created 50 years ago to connect America by rail, and remains the only entity that offers a comprehensive national rail network. Passenger rail safely moves people across the country to the places they want to go. For Amtrak to continue to play an important role in the national transportation network, it is critical to support infrastructure investments that will benefit the entire Amtrak network, state and commuter partners.

Read the full article here.
Amtrak debuts upgraded menu options in Acela first class
Reimagined menu on will be served on traditional, sustainable serviceware.
Photo – amtrak.com
First-class passengers onboard Amtrak Acela trains traveling on the Northeast Corridor will have a refreshed food and beverage menu along with a top-quality dining experience, featuring a return to traditional and sustainable serviceware, according to an Amtrak news release.

First-class customers can now select from rotating menus consisting of items such as omelets, huevos rancheros, eggs benedict or fresh seasonal fruit for breakfast, and entrees such as chicken tandoori, lobster crab cakes, vegetable puff pastry, artisan cheese and fruit or freshly made salads for lunch and dinner. 

The new menu also includes a refresh of wine and beer offerings, featuring high-quality and renowned brands. Kosher and vegan meals will continue to be available by notifying Amtrak at least 24-hours in advance.

Acela First-class amenities also include faster trip times with fewer stops, personalized attendant service with complimentary food and beverages, the ability to select a wide, reclining seat in a two-by-one or table configuration, complimentary Wi-Fi and access to Metropolitan lounges in Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., and New York City, according to the news release.
STB denies Class Is' motion to dismiss Amtrak Gulf Coast case

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) has denied a motion from CSX and Norfolk Southern Railway to dismiss Amtrak’s request for the board to require the two Class Is to allow the national intercity passenger railroad to relaunch a Gulf Coast passenger-rail service.

In a ruling dated August 5, the STB denied the Class Is’ motion to dismiss, rejected as moot a request for an interim order regarding track access by Amtrak, established a procedural schedule, and appointed an administrative law judge to resolve disputes in the matter. 

In a separate motion, the STB agreed to institute a proceeding on Amtrak's application regarding a board order that would require CSX and NS to allow the national passenger railroad to operate trains over their lines along the Gulf Coast between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama.

Earlier this year, Amtrak announced plans to introduce passenger-rail service starting January1, 2022, between New Orleans and Mobile. The region has been without passenger service since Hurricane Katrina damaged rail infrastructure there in 2005.

Amtrak, CSX, and NS have been unable to reach an agreement that would enable Amtrak to use the Class Is' track and property to restore passenger-rail service. In March, Amtrak petitioned the STB to force the two Class Is to provide it the access it says it needs.

In response to the STB decision, Amtrak officials today issued the following statement on August 6th:

"Amtrak thanks the Surface Transportation Board for its decision to dismiss CSX and NS' attempt to block Gulf Coast passenger-rail service. This upholds Amtrak's right to petition the Board for rail access and sets a schedule for a transparent process that will produce an outcome by the end of this year. In the meantime, Amtrak is working with the Southern Rail Commission to take steps to begin to operate Gulf Coast service as soon as possible next year."

Meanwhile, a CSX spokesperson shared the following statement in an email sent August 6th: "CSX is evaluating the decision, but will plan to move forward with the schedule established by the STB."
Senate approves Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

On August 10th, the Senate passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act by a 69-30 vote. The landmark legislation would provide $1.2 trillion over eight years for transportation infrastructure improvements, including $550 billion in new funding and the Senate’s five-year surface transportation reauthorization measure.

The bill proposes nearly $845 million per year for grade crossing safety and improvement projects and an average of $5.5 billion per year for discretionary infrastructure grant programs, including $1 billion annually for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement grant program. In addition, the legislation would enhance the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program, and provide significant funding for intercity passenger-rail needs as well as research, development and demonstration projects addressing greenhouse-gas emissions and climate change.

Now, many rail industry constituents are calling for swift action in the House to hasten enactment of the bill. Following are portions of statements issued by various stakeholders after the favorable Senate vote.

“Throughout this year’s infrastructure conversations, the Senate has remained clear-eyed and committed to building consensus around a package that could help pave the way to future economic growth. Railroads applaud the Senate and the Biden administration on their leadership.” — Association of American Railroads President and Chief Executive Officer Ian Jefferies

“The Senate passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is the culmination of many months of measured consideration and bipartisan work to provide a certain path forward on improving infrastructure, ensuring economic recovery and U.S. supply chain competitiveness. The bill recognizes small business freight railroads as an integral and essential piece of the freight-rail network. We commend the Senate for advancing this bold, bipartisan bill — and for avoiding needless policy mandates that would hinder our ability to serve the industries that rely on us.” — American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association President Chuck Baker

“The bill allows for five years of funding stability for highway, transit and passenger-rail programs, with a large share of the Highway Trust Fund support provided directly to the state departments of transportation that keep our communities moving safely and efficiently. We look forward to working with Congress and President Biden to get this enacted before the FAST Act expires at the end of September.” — American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Executive Director Jim Tymon

“The legislation prioritizes our nation’s economic competitiveness in the global marketplace by increasing the level of investment in multimodal freight infrastructure and strengthening the policy and programming that guides those investments. The proposal establishes an Office of Multimodal Freight Infrastructure and Policy within the U.S. Department of Transportation to guide national multimodal freight planning and better inform system-wide programming. The Freight Office will oversee freight planning activities at the national and state level and manage the administration of multimodal grant programs.” — Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors Executive Director Elaine Nessle

“Let’s be clear—this legislation is the start, not the end, of our work to meet this moment for our nation. We need our upcoming budget to make bold, transformational investments that can kickstart our economy, strengthen our communities and support our families. I’ll be working to seize this opportunity to tackle the climate crisis, advance environmental justice and build a brighter future for all Americans.” — U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works