March 27, 1992
The Supreme Court announced its verdict in the Montrealer case on March 25. On a 6-3 vote, the high court found for Amtrak, thereby overturning a lower court's ruling that Amtrak and the ICC had acted improperly by condemning a piece of Guilford trackage in Vermont used by the Montrealer. Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court and was joined by Rehnquist, Stevens, O'Connor, Scalia, and Souter. Justice White wrote the dissenting opinion and was joined by Blackmun and Thomas. The dissenters only had one quarrel with the majority -- that the ICC did not sufficiently show that Amtrak needed the Guilford line. This important victory is expected to put Amtrak in a better bargaining position with the freight railroads when operating agreements expire in 1996. The eight Class I freight railroads had filed an amicus brief against Amtrak.
The current co-sponsors of H.R.4414, the Swift Ampenny bill, now total eleven, with the addition this week of Charles Rangel (N.Y.). At the rate of one a week, it would take over five years to get enough guaranteed votes for a veto-proof passage! And we still only have one Republican. There are no co-sponsors from the South or California, nor even the Chicago and Indianapolis area, which would benefit tremendously from the Ampenny. Have you written or called your Representative yet?
On the plus side, Travel Weekly magazine editorialized this week in favor of the Ampenny trust fund idea.
Train 722, the morning Capitol Corridor Amtrak train from San Jose to Sacramento, on Saturday, March 21 had an astounding 802 passengers on board at one point. Amtrak has had to borrow coaches from Caltrain on the weekend because of standing-room-only conditions. The new service is now projected to carry 44,000 passengers in March, making it busier than the Milwaukee, St. Louis, or Detroit corridors, and about as busy as the San Joaquin line.
The Amtrak board met March 25. On-time performance has been pretty good lately, with the whole system at 86% in February. The best railroads were Grand Trunk and Soo Line at 98%. The worst was Delaware & Hudson at 64%. The Capitol Limited had a 100% on-time record in February, but the Coast Starlight was the worst at 36%. System revenues year-to-date are down 1% and passenger miles down 1.4%. In January, Adirondack ridership was up 28% and Montrealer ridership up 13%, compared to last year. The biggest drop were the Clockers at 28%.
The board approved plans to build a new Western Reservations Sales Office in Riverside, Cal., in the Mission Grove business park. It will employ 900 people, 300 of those part-time, and open next year.
Amtrak appears to be ready to announce that the Montrealer will stay on its present route and schedule beyond next week's timetable change, but has yet to do so formally.
The Richmond, Va., City Council has unanimously approved a plan to ask the state for permission to use some street maintenance money as part of its local match for a $2-million ISTEA grant for an intermodal station downtown. The station, serving some Amtrak trains and as a transit-system transfer point, would be built in or near the old Main Street Station, as early as 1994.
The following were elected March 21 to the NARP board. From Region 5, Charles Dunn, Michael Forrester, Bill Herndon, Jack Martin, Keith Perry, Ned Williams, and Alan Yorker. From Region 9, Bill Eldridge, Hugh Hall, Jim Hurtle, and Jill Roach. Tomorrow Region 7 meets at Milwaukee. On April 4, Region 6 meets at Beech Grove and Region 10 at Ottumwa. NARP Executive Director Ross Capon will speak at Beech Grove.