Amtrak Board Nominees Asked to Commit to Long Distance Routes
This week, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation held a hearing to consider President Biden’s nominees for the Amtrak Board of Directors. The nominees were questioned about service restoration plans and their views on Amtrak’s Long Distance Routes (LDR).
The focus on long-distance trains partially stemmed from the lack of regional diversity among the nominees. Just one of the nominees—Chris Koos, the mayor of Normal, Illinois—lives outside of the Mid-Atlantic region, which is serviced by Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) trains. This runs counter to the goal of the recent reform that requires two designated representatives from each Amtrak business line—the NEC, State-Supported and Long Distance Routes (LDR). That change was part of a set of reforms designed to reinforce Amtrak’s commitment to long-distance routes and rural communities.
During the hearing, Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) expressed frustration that there were no nominees representing Western states and stressed the importance of LDR’s to rural communities. Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) followed up by pressing all of the nominees to voice their support for LDR’s, which they did.
The one nominee outside of the NEC —Mayor Chris Koos of Normal, Illinois—wrote about his commitment to long-distance service in his written testimony:
"As much as I admire Amtrak, I recognize its need for improvement. There are several things I will focus on as a member of the Board, if confirmed. One of them is long-distance service. I know how important Amtrak’s long-distance trains are to residents of Normal who lack sufficient airport access, as well as other travelers from rural communities I’ve met on the Texas Eagle, many of whom use the train for short distance trips because no other public transportation option is available. Often overlooked is the fact that long-distance trains also provide a significant portion of Amtrak’s service on many short distance corridors.”
We were encouraged by this testimony and by the Senators asking nominees to voice support for long-distance trains. These trains are vitally important to the communities they serve, and it’s critical that board members understand this.
At the Alliance we continually underscore and highlight the benefits of long-distance trains and how they can serve as the foundation for not only improving but expanding the entire national network. They are highly productive, as they effectively bundle together many routes and travel markets while uniting elected leaders on both sides of the aisle.
Amtrak, its Board of Directors, and Congress should be committed to improving long-distance trains by investing in better tracks and high-performance trains—and, equally important, by running more frequent service.