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Amtrak Reform Council

November 16, 2000

The Amtrak Reform Council (the Council) held its business meeting at the New York Department of Public Service, One Penn Plaza, Eighth Floor Boardroom, New York, New York 10019 on November 16, 2000. The Meeting started at 1:15 p.m. and adjourned around 5:15 p.m.

Council Members present: Gil Carmichael, Chair; Paul Weyrich, Vice-chair; Bruce Chapman, Nancy Connery, James Coston, Wendell Cox; Christopher Gleason, Lee Kling, Charles Moneypenny, Mayor John Norquist, and Jack Wells, Deputy Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration representing the Secretary of Transportation, Rodney Slater.

Mr. Carmichael chaired the meeting and Deirdre O'Sullivan served as secretary.


Mr. Carmichael called the meeting to order and recognized Mr. Gleason. Mr. Gleason stated that he would like to thank Joe McHugh and the Amtrak staff for arranging the Acela trip that the Council took that morning. Mr. Moneypenny stated that he would to thank the Council for sending cards, flowers, and good wishes to him for his recovery.

Mr. Carmichael then asked Mr. Craig Lentzsh, President of Greyhound who was in the audience to say a few words. Mr. Lentzsh stated that he would like the country to work towards true intermodalism with seamless transition between intercity rail, intercity buses, and local commuter systems. He continued by stating the Greyhound has been working with Amtrak and now Amtrak and Greyhound share forty stations. He then stated that while progress was being made, intercity buses would not be allowed into the new Farley Building which is to become the new New York Penn Station. Mr. Carmichael asked for a motion to have the Council staff look into this matter. Mr. Gleason seconded the motion and asked to have the Council staff confer with both the U.S. Department of Transportation and Amtrak to clarify their positions on this issue. The motion was passed by the Council unanimously.

Mr. Carmichael then asked for the approval of the July 17th minutes. Mr. Cox stated that he would like an amendment to the minutes regarding his position on the high-speed bonds. The secretary agreed to meet with the Mr. Cox and change the minutes so that they accurately reflected his position. Mr. Carmichael asked for approval of the July 17th minutes which were approved unanimously with amendments. Then Mr. Carmichael asked for approval of September 7th minutes which were approved unanimously.


Mr. Tom Till, Executive Director, discussed the process for revising the Northeast Corridor Working Paper on the issue of "appropriate separation" of Amtrak-owned infrastructure on Northeast Corridor from Amtrak train operations. Mr. Till stated that the staff was still receiving comments on the paper from Amtrak and the states. In addition, the staff with the approval of the Chairman's Advisory Committee had contracted with an organization called BGL Consulting Group, to write a report on funding the capital for current and new rail infrastructure in the Northeast and throughout the country. Also, Mr. Till stated that the staff would like approval of the Council to take the issues from the Northeast Corridor Paper and incorporate them into the larger issues of options for restructuring and how to fund Amtrak that are going to into the Annual Report to be released in the beginning of next year.

Mr. Moneypenny asked if the BGL Consulting Group is being contracted under a competitive bidding process and asked how much are they being paid. Mr. Till replied that they are single source bidder and they are being paid less than $25,000 following the rules of the Federal Railroad Administration. Mr. Moneypenny stated that Labor is considered about the money being spent on consultants. Mr. Till replied that the ARC budget allows for small consulting contracts for specific work that the small professional staff of three due to work load should be done by experts with more experience in that area. Mr. Till also stated that he is in process of hiring a fourth professional staffer, a position that has been approved by the Council but has not been filled due to budget constraints.

Mr. Wells stated that he would like to discuss the Northeast Corridor Paper. He stated that basic premise is flawed because there is no secured funding for the Northeast Corridor infrastructure. Mr. Kling stated that the first step of dealing with the Northeast Corridor infrastructure is to isolate the costs of supporting the infrastructure so then it would be know how much funding is necessary and right now, the Council does not know how much the structure costs. Mr. Wells stated that he had no objections to Amtrak analyzing the costs of the infrastructure, and Mr. Carmichael stated that the Council had asked Amtrak for that analysis and has not received it yet. Mr. Wells then stated that he disagreed with many of the aspects of the paper and did not believe that paper was going in the right direction. Mr. Till asked that he could have Mr. Wells' comments in writing so that they can be addressed more fully. He also stated that he agreed that one of the biggest issues is the funding issue because if the money is not there then "we are just moving deck chairs on the Titanic."

Mr. Wendell Cox stated he was concerned about the emphasis that is being placed on the emerging high-speed rail corridors. He believes that the staff should not extend a lot of time on this issue because the issue of the high-speed rail corridors is not specifically mandated to the Council in the Amtrak Reform act. Mr. Gleason stated that he disagreed with Mr. Cox and that the Council should take the lead in the issue of the future of rail which includes the high-speed corridors.

Mr. Weyrich stated that after talking to the Hill that the impression people have of the ARC is not good, that the ARC is enemy of Amtrak and incompetent as well. In addition, he stated if the Council is to ultimately be successful, more explanation and time need to be spent by the Council members with the Hill, because if the Council wants the next report to be well received, then the perception of the Council needs to change. Mr. Weyrich asked for a commitment from the Council members to meet with the Hill and explain to the Hill what the position of the Council is, before and when the Report is released. Mr. Carmichael thanked Mr. Weyrich for all his help in getting the funding for the ARC and stated that oversight commissions are always framed to be the enemy of the organization that its has distriction over.

Mr. Carmichael asked for a motion to approve of the Executive Director's plan to incorporate the Northeast Corridor Working Paper into the Annual Report to be released early next year. Mr. Carmichael, Mr. Weyrich, Mr. Chapman, Ms. Connery, Mr. Coston, Mr. Cox; Mr. Gleason, Mr. Kling, Mr. Moneypenny, and Mayor Norquist all voted in the affirmative and Mr. Wells voted in the negative.

Mayor Norquist stated that he would like Amtrak to become more responsive to consumers. Mr. Chapman stated that he would like all the options that are available for restructuring to be discussed in the Annual Report not just the options that are politically more viable. Mr. Weyrich asked for a formal motion that the staff lies out a wide range of options that for restructuring. Mr. Chapman seconded the motion. The vote was unanimous.


Mr. Till stated that Mr. Chapman had requested that the Council be given a list of options from the Council staff, should the Council have to make decisions regarding Amtrak. Mr. Till gave a presentation on how other countries are rethinking how to deal with publicly-owned railroads. Some options that are being examined include: full privatization, restructuring the organizations, refocusing on reacting to the market place, and the role of government in policy development. Mr. Cox stated that he wants more accountability instead of the current Amtrak system. After further discussion, the Mr. Weyrich, who was then acting Chair (Mr. Carmichael left a little early), stated that Mr. Till and the staff should continue its analysis of options for restructuring and include them in the Annual Report to be released in the beginning of next year.


The Council adjourned at approximately 5:15 p.m.

The ARC is an independent federal commission established under the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-134).