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Amtrak

The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, Amtrak, is a corporation striving to deliver a high quality, safe, on-time rail passenger service that exceeds customer expectations.


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Petitioning Amtrak, U.S. House of Representatives

Revoke Ban on Charter Trains and Private Car Movements

On March 28th, 2018, Amtrak released a Special Employee Advisory containing the following text:  “Generally, Amtrak will no longer operate charter services or special trains. These operations caused significant operational distraction, failed to capture fully allocated profitable margins and sometimes delayed our paying customers on our scheduled trains. There may be a few narrow exceptions to this policy in order to support specific strategic initiatives, for example trial service in support of growing new scheduled service. Otherwise, one-time trips and charters are immediately discontinued,” In implementing this policy, we believe that Amtrak may be in violation of 49 US Code 11101. From Cornell University's Legal Information Institution, section A of 49 US Code 11101 states the following:  "A rail carrier providing transportation or service subject to the jurisdiction of the Board under this part shall provide the transportation or service on reasonable request. A rail carrier shall not be found to have violated this section because it fulfills its reasonable commitments under contracts authorized under section 10709 of this title before responding to reasonable requests for service. Commitments which deprive a carrier of its ability to respond to reasonable requests for common carrier service are not reasonable" This one decision has had an instantaneous and far reaching impact on the Heritage Railroading and Historic Preservation Community in one fell swoop, potentially affecting several non-profit organizations. We believe this means the following:  No Steam excursions under the Amtrak Umbrella. - Any steam locomotives who currently run under Amtrak and those who were working towards doing so will no longer be hosted: Southern Pacific 4449, Norfolk & Western 611, Milwaukee Road 261, Santa Fe 3751, and several others. Some of these locomotives do not have the benefit of a regional or tourist railroad nearby willing to host them, let alone possessing infrastructure capable of handling such large engines.  - As an example: when operating under Norfolk Southern's 21st Century Steam Program, the trips run with Norfolk & Western 611 in the year 2015 generated an estimated $4.5-$7 million in local revenue throughout the communities the locomotive visited. This success was repeated during the 2016 and 2017 excursion seasons, drawing visitors from most every state in the union, as well as international visitors from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. No special charter trains using Amtrak equipment, with our without Privately Owned railcars.  - The New River Train in West Virginia, operated by the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, has been run continuously for over 50 years between Huntington and Hinton. With two weekends of trips a year, it generates an estimated $4 Million in County and State revenue in only 2 weekends of operation a year.  - Some organizations, such as the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, NC, have run similar excursions during the fall season.  Restricted movement of Private Railcars: -It is gathered that, unless there is a station dwell time of more than 30 minutes, Private Cars will not be attached or taken off trains mid-route. In the case of the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, this means they are no longer able to move their railcars. Freight railroads will often move private cars, but in many cases charge astronomically high rates and do not handle the cars properly, resulting in expensive damage.  In general these are all non-profit organizations whose mission is to preserve and raise awareness of the history of America's railroads, and the revenue from these excursions can often have a huge impact on their earnings.  These organizations pay Amtrak for charter trains and the movement of cars. These trips are run on a limited basis, often one or two weekends a year per organization, and generally at times that are less disruptive to normal operations.  To Amtrak these operations might generate "less than the fully allocated profit margins", but without Amtrak's cooperation, the valuable revenue earned from these trips will be lost, and Locomotives and Railcars that hundreds of everyday American (and International) citizens that have given almost countless volunteer hours and their hard earned money to keep operating. It is also particularly disappointing as these organizations and the people associated with them are often Amtrak's most ardent and vocal supporters.  Though the National Railroad Passenger Corporation is operated as a For-Profit organization, the State and Federal Subsidies that are vital to Amtrak’s continued existence come from the pocket of the American Taxpayers.  As American Taxpayers (and International Visitors who support the USA's tourist economy when visiting for these special excursions) we respectfully request that you carefully reconsider this decision and the devastating impacts to several organizations, communities, and thousands of American citizens in such a short amount of time.  We also hope that this will open the door for closer cooperation between these organizations and Amtrak to work out more efficient and valuable operational plans, and perhaps for Amtrak to more effectively capitalize on the invaluable Public Relations value of Steam Locomotives and Private Railcars.  On a personal note, I should add that I am passionate about this cause as I myself have worked both professionally and voluntarily since 2012 in the Heritage Railroading industry. I have also given many financial contributions via memberships and one off or recurring donations to several other organizations as well.   I have several dear friends who’s very livelihood depends on operations such as these.  My personal plea that I'm sure others will share is this: Please do not let our work go in vain.  - 49 U.S. Code 11101 "Common Carrier Transportation, Service, and Rates" sourced from:  https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/49/11101 - Special thanks to Joe Rosenthal of the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society for providing some of the information used in this petition.  - 611 Excursion economic impact numbers sourced from WSLS 10 News Roanoke. Visitor statistics from members of the Forward 611 Committee.   - Heading Photograph by Steven Kramer: Southern Pacific 4449 leads an excursion operated under Amtrak's Umbrella, sourced from the Friends of the SP 4449 website. The Friends of SP 4449 and Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation are non-profit organizations based in Portland, Oregon. 

Nicholas Parker
16,933 supporters
Closed
Petitioning Amtrak, Richard H. Anderson

Save the Coast Starlight Pacific Parlour Cars

Amtrak continues to cut passenger amenities on the Coast Starlight, leading RailPAC to believe that the new Amtrak management does not believe in the long distance western trains.  While Amtrak management has demonstrated that they plan to cut service and amenities in order to "save money", RailPAC continues to support the long distance trains and believes they can be successful. I also believe in long distance trains, and feel that the Pacific Parlour Cars are a key part of this premium train.  While "tough decisions” are sometimes necessary, removing these cars from service will ultimately affect ticket revenue and yield implications. For years, loyal riders have gladly paid a premium fare for sleeping car accommodations on the Coast Starlight. Higher sleeping car supplements are embedded in current sleeping car fares (which are generally higher than for other routes, often by a significant margin).  In addition, revenue is generated from the car's bar service and the potential for souvenir sales.  The additional dining option in the Pacific Parlour car frees up tables in the Dining Car, adding 50% capacity to each seating. I have no doubt that removing the Pacific Parlour Cars will result in loss of ridership and revenue for the Coast Starlight.  Any accounting of the cost of operating the Pacific Parlour Cars should be balanced against the total sleeping car revenue.   While it is understood that these cars are older than most of the fleet, we ask that the Pacific Parlour Cars remain in service during the 2018 summer season while Amtrak explores alternatives to maintaining premium service and the ticket revenues associated with it. Furthermore, I support RailPAC's campaign for new locomotives and rolling stock for the Coast Starlight, California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Empire Builder and Sunset Limited.  Expanded service on these routes means jobs are created to staff and support these trains.

RailPAC
5,497 supporters
Petitioning Amtrak, Mark Levine, Gale Brewer, WeAct

Amtrak Must Pay & Stop Weed Spraying in Urban Communities

In September of 2018, Jenny's Garden (formed in 1975 and one of the oldest community gardens in New York City) was contaminated with three herbicides by Amtrak as a part of their annual weed spraying program and killed about 30% of the garden, including the final harvest, numerous fruit trees, three compost bins and more.  (for complete order of events, see the final section of this petition) Riverside Park Conservancy (RPC), a private non-profit organization which partners with the New York City Parks Department to maintain the park which Jenny's Garden is located within, has demanded that Amtrak compensate the community for the harm in the amount of around $170,000, covering materials, labor, and continued maintenance (see breakdown below).  At the writing of this petition, we've learned that Amtrak has passed off these expenses to its subcontractor, and by doing so does not claim any responsibility or change in policies to prevent this from happening again. City Council Member, Mark D. Levine and Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer wrote to Amtrak's President & CEO on 9/28/18 requesting information regarding their weed spraying program and requests for changes in the future, including notification of local communities in Upper Manhattan prior to any future spraying.  As of today, there has been no response. (full list of requests is below). By this petition, we're requesting for Amtrak to compensate RPC immediately for the amount requested, and follow through with the following reparation requests by the community and local officials: Amtrak and its subcontractors cease all future Weed Spraying along the Empire Line rail right-of-way from West 135th Street to West 145th Street, which is adjacent to Jenny's Garden. Amtrak install signage along the Empire Line rail right-of-way that states "NO WEED SPRAYING," and ensure that the signage is up year round. Amtrak to send a schedule to local officials of the weed spraying program moving forward. Amtrak to send information on the protocols Amtrak has adopted, if any, for notifying residents and local governments before applying these chemicals in their communities. Amtrak to create a Memo of Understanding with Riverside Park Conservancy and NYC Parks Department for Amtrak to manually maintain the vegetation along the Empire Line, and suspend the herbicidal spraying in park adjacent areas. Amtrak to notify the relevant city elected officials and Community Boards at least 30 days in advance of any future application of herbicides in our communities. Amtrak to provide permission and contribute to the creation of a mural along the 'Amtrak Wall' that is perpendicular to the garden (and home to numerous amounts of graffiti). And lastly in final reparation for the damages, destruction and contamination, the community asks for Amtrak to repair and repave the northern park path from Riverside Drive to Jenny's Garden, in order to make accessible for all members of the community, especially those physically impaired. For more information you can email us at RVCGarden@gmail.com or follow us on Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/JennysGardenRiverside/   ORDER OF EVENTS (including news/press coverage): Thur 9/20 – Jenny noticed deterioration among the fig tree, marigolds, and peach tree that line the Amtrak adjacent fence to the garden. Fri 9/21 – Amtrak admitted that they had sprayed along the fence on Sat 9/15 as a part of their annual Weed Spraying Program; outside contractor NOTE: gardeners ate harvest from the contaminated areas on Sun 9/16 without knowing about the weed spraying. Fri 9/21 – we notified Parks, Green Thumb, Riverside Park Conservancy, DEP, Office of Emergency Management, and CM Mark Levine & MBP Gale Brewer SIDE NOTE:  The Amtrak Weed Spraying Program has been known to have devastating affects to both public and private lands around the country.  Most recently, a class action lawsuit was filed in August 2017 in Philadelphia.  Click HERE Sat 9/22 - the garden continued to show the devastation.  That’s when several gardeners cordoned off the affected areas, now known as the Kill Zone. Devastation was shown along 12th Avenue going south as far as West 135th Street, up north as far as West 145th Street. Press Coverage:  AMNY, Spectrum News NY1, Univision, ABCNY and more! Wed 9/26 – Amtrak officials showed up unannounced (even though it was clearly stated that Park officials needed to be present).  The Amtrak official continued to state that they didn't know what herbicides were used (as they hire a subcontractor for their weed spraying program).  However when Park officials were able to quickly arrive on site, Amtrak was able to produce the paperwork (a stack 6" high) on the three herbicides used. Three Herbicides Used:   Nufarm Polaris AC Complete, EPA Reg. 228-570; Aqua Neat Aquatic Herbicide, EPA Reg. 228-365; Viewpoint Herbicide, EPA 432-1580 Fri 10/5 - After Parks was able to review the herbicide data sheets provided by Amtrak, it was determined that:  "It is not known how much herbicide product was applied to the garden.    Herbicides are meant to kill plants, but direct human contact with the products can cause eye or skin irritation; they have not been shown to cause chronic health problems.  NYC Parks recommends that people do not eat produce affected by the spraying event. Anyone experiencing health effects, should consult a health care provider."   Horticultural Impact & Public Health:  "The herbicide may persist in affected soil for several months, and could last into the spring growing season. Any future plants (edible or non-edible) grown in such soil may be affected and may not grow properly or even die from the exposure. Edible plants should not be grown in such soil. To reduce this risk, NYC Parks plans to remove and replace the top three to six inches of soil from the affected planted areas and areas where future planting is planned, and in a perimeter zone of two to three feet around those areas. This soil removal will take place in areas in which the gardeners plan to grow plants, such as raised beds or plants grown directly in the ground. On other areas (paths, storage areas, etc.) the soil does not need to be replaced.  Tests for these herbicide products are not readily available, and it would be more prudent to simply dispose of the affected plants and soil. Dead plants should not be composted as herbicide would contaminate the compost.  NYC Parks will work with Riverside Park Conservancy to replace the affected soil. Gardeners should not work in the affected areas until the soil has been replaced." Fri 10/12 - Dozens of RPC gardeners and several volunteers began the work to remove the contaminated soil, debris, compost bins and wood. This work would continue for the next month. Sun 10/21 - Garden volunteers began rebuilding garden boxes and exterior beds.  This work would continue for the next month. Sat 12/8 - Garden volunteers were able to replace the last bags of soil into the rebuilt beds, nearly three months after Amtrak's Weed Spraying contaminated and destroyed more than 30% of the community garden.

Jenny's Garden
326 supporters