Your weekly source of fresh takes on news affecting America's passengers. See also the RPA Blog.

Hotline #710

The Senate confirmed the nomination of Andrew Card as Secretary of Transportation on February 21. NARP testified on Amtrak reauthorization on February 26 before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Transportation. Senator Nickles (R.-Okla.) said he had assurances from Amtrak President Graham Claytor for a tri-weekly Lone Star by the end of 1993, though Amtrak says it would have to be a 403(b) train. The Amtrak gas-tax penny got an impressively sympathetic hearing from Senators Breaux (D.-La.) an

Hotline #709

The House Energy and Commerce transportation subcommittee held a hearing yesterday on H.R.4250, the two-year Amtrak reauthorization bill. Subcommittee Chairman Al Swift (D.-Wash.) is the author of the bill, authorizing $969 million for Amtrak and the Northeast Corridor in 1993 and $921 million in 1994. Besides the reauthorization bill, Swift plans to introduce next week a bill to create a passenger rail trust fund by earmarking a penny of the federal gasoline tax to Amtrak capital and other hig

Hotline #708

Some good ideas are catching on! Push them with your own legislators! House Ways and Means Democrats tentatively agreed in private session on a tax package that includes the one good item in Bush's transportation budget proposal -- raising the ceiling on tax-free employer-provided transit benefits from $21 to $60 a month. Bush did not say how he would pay for this, but Committee Democrats propose to tax that portion of the value of employer-provided parking spaces that exceed $160 a month -- in

Hotline #707

The nomination of Andrew Card as Secretary of Transportation was the topic of a confirmation hearing this morning in the Senate Commerce Committee. Six Senators discussed Amtrak, three of them mentioning Amtrak at the start of their remarks. Card of course defended the Bush budget, but then said, "The deficit forces very difficult decisions. I think Amtrak is a viable form of transportation in America. I want it to be accessible. I want it to be self-sufficient." Chairman Ernest Hollings (D.-S.

Hotline #706

The Bush Administration released its proposed 1993 budget on January 29. It was painted as a budget to "protect the environment and enhance the quality of life," but fails in that respect by giving big increases to highways and aviation, and big cuts to rail and transit. Amtrak would get only $343 million, compared to $651 million this year. That's even less than what the Administration proposed for 1992. Amtrak's operating budget would be $269 million, which would have to cover both operating

Hotline #705-A

The Administration's proposed fiscal year 1993 budget was released today, containing few surprises. The Administration tried to portray the budget as "protecting the environment and enhancing the quality of life," but fails that goal by giving big increases to highways and aviation and big cuts to rail and transit. Amtrak would get only $343 million, compared to $651 million this year. That's even less than what the Administration proposed for 1992. Amtrak's operating budget would be $269 milli

Hotline #705

President Bush named White House deputy chief-of-staff Andrew Card as Secretary of Transportation, on January 22. He has no transportation background at all, but is a very loyal member of the Bush political team. He is also a former Massachusetts state legislator. If confirmed by the Senate, one of Card's tasks this year will be implementation of the new surface transportation act. The Amtrak board met January 22. Among the projects approved were the retirement of the P30 locomotives and the sa

Hotline #704

Oral arguments were held in the Supreme Court case involving the Montrealer, NRPC v. Boston & Maine, on January 13. Since the case involves challenge of an ICC decision, the Amtrak/Central Vermont side was argued by the Solicitor General's office of the Department of Justice. In the question session, Justice Scalia seemed most upset about the 1988 transfer of the Connecticut River line from the B&M to Amtrak, then to the Central Vermont, though Scalia may simply have been playing devil

Hotline #703

There are indications that even as President Bush was signing the landmark surface transportation act on December 18, the Office of Budget and Management was making deep cuts to the transit program for fiscal 1993. We won't know for sure until the budget is released early next month, but deep cuts would be very ironic, because Bush had praised the act as a means to put people to work. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the Montrealer case between Amtrak and Guilford on Ja

Hotline #702

A final reminder to those who wish to run for the NARP board of directors. Your 75-words-or-less candidate statement must be postmarked no later than January 4 and sent to our office or faxed to us by January 6. America's eight Class I railroads have filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Guilford in the Montrealer Supreme Court case. They are afraid that if Amtrak wins this case, Amtrak could condemn other rail lines not maintained to acceptable standards. With ICC approval, Amtrak bough