Pandemic Causes Major Service Cuts for Amtrak

Daily service to hundreds of stations will be terminated
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 17, 2020 12:01 AM CDT
Amtrak Making Major Service Cuts Amid Pandemic
Members of the 1207th Rhode Island National Guard wait for disembarking passengers at the Amtrak station in Westerly, R.I., Friday, March 27, 2020, to inform passengers from New York of the 14-day quarantine restrictions if disembarking in Rhode Island ordered by Gov. Gina Raimondo.   (Harold Hanka/The Sun via AP)

With ridership way down amid the coronavirus pandemic, Amtrak announced this week it will be cutting daily service to hundreds of stations starting Oct. 1. It's the stations outside the Northeast that will be affected, the Washington Post reports; Amtrak is reducing most of its long-distance trains to thrice-weekly trips rather than daily ones. But other routes, including in the Northeast Corridor, will also see reduced train frequencies as revenue plummets and Amtrak anticipates needing nearly $1.5 billion in supplemental federal funding to maintain a minimum level of service. It also plans to cut up to 20% of staff; it is offering workers a buyout, Fox Business reports.

"Congress is not going to support us indefinitely to run mostly empty trains," an Amtrak executive said in the memo to employees announcing the service cuts. "We need to demonstrate that we are using our resources efficiently and responsibly." Amtrak ridership had dipped to as low as 5% of what is typical, and is now at about 30%, CNN reports. But some are questioning the decision, noting that some communities that rely on rail transportation will be hard hit. As many as 461 stations could lose daily service, says the Rail Passengers Association's president, who says Amtrak's "services remain essential to the hundreds of small communities across the United States with fewer options than Philadelphia or Boston or New York City." Amtrak says the "goal is to restore daily service on these routes as demand warrants, potentially by the summer of 2021." (More Amtrak stories.)

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