Happening Now

The 2018 Passengers' Guide to Advocacy

February 8, 2018

As Congress finishes last year's budget process and plans ahead for next year's spending, it's critical that train passengers play an active part in the process. That's why the Rail Passengers Association is launching our 2018 campaign to bring the voices of America's passengers to the halls of Congress. And we need your help!

The bipartisan agreement passed by the Senate this week, if passed into law, provides a real opportunity for transportation in the appropriations process. The deal would increase budget caps for non-defense spending by $63 billion for FY18, and by an additional $68 billion for FY19. This should provide transportation appropriators with enough spce to fully accommodate FAST Act funding levels, which will provide more funding for Amtrak and allow states to invest in better, more frequent train service.

But we have to prepared for any eventuality. While the picture looks good now, just last year we saw efforts in both Congress and the White House to kill Amtrak's National Network. With a concerted campaign of station rallies, calls, and meetings passenger advocates were able to turn back these efforts, and secure additional funding for passenger rail in both the House and Senate. Now we need to move these bills across the finish line.

That's why Rail Passengers Association is asking you to call your elected officials in Congress as part of our 2018 campaign to build a safer, more reliable rail network.

(Don't have time to call in? Don't worry! We have a quick and easy write-your-Congressperson page as an alternative.)

Unsure what all this means for your train? Join Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews on February 27 as he walks members through our ask and strategy. Just dial (872) 240-3212 (Access Code: 511-785-517) at 8:00pm Eastern and Jim will give you all the latest, and field questions from the members.

This year, Rail Passengers Association is advancing the following pro-train policies:

1.) Pass the popular, bipartisan FY2018 transportation budget cleared by both the Senate and the House, which includes additional funding for Amtrak and passenger rail grants.

These additional funds would allow Amtrak to advance improve its infrastructure and move ahead with equipment purchases, while allowing states to upgrade short-distance corridors. They are also vital for the effort to install life-saving Positive Train Control technology and address maintenance and investment backlogs.

Based on already-approved bills, Rail Passengers Association is asking for:

  • $1.1 billion for Amtrak’s National Network

  • $515 million for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor

  • $92.5 million for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure & Safety Grants

  • $500 million for Federal-State Partnership for Good Repair

  • $5 million for Restoration and Enhancement Grants

2.) Support full funding authorized by FAST Act rail grants in FY2019, and multi-year appropriations to provide predictability for Amtrak and states.

In the absence of dedicated funding, Rail Passengers Association is asking for Congress to make a multi-year appropriation for Amtrak and passenger rail programs. While this doesn’t replace the need for a dedicated source of funding for rail, it does provide some certainty for states and Amtrak, allowing them to better plan projects and lower maintenance and capital costs.

(Dollar amounts in millions)

FAST Act FY19 Authorized Levels

FAST Act FY20 Authorized Levels

Amtrak - National Network



Amtrak - NEC



Consolidated Rail Infrastructure & Safety Grants



Federal State Partnership For State Of Good Repair



Restoration & Enhancement Grants





3.) Advance a transformative infrastructure bill that closes the investment gap in passenger rail and transit, and oppose any attempts to eliminate Amtrak service.

Echoing last year’s attack, the White House’s infrastructure proposal targeted elimination of Amtrak’s National Network. Of course, cutting half a billion dollars won’t really “pay for” a $200 billion infrastructure stimulus. But it would definitely hurt the more than 220 communities that would lose service, and the 140 million Americans will be left at the station.

Rail Passengers Association’s members turned back this attempt last year, and we must be ready to do it again. We need passengers everywhere to demand that any infrastructure bill include a plan for a modern, frequent, and NATIONAL passenger rail network.