I received word recently that Amtrak will reduce Southwest Chief frequency to less than daily, likely with the coming of the new Fiscal Year. Currently, Southwest Chief frequency is daily. This is of course in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, an associated reduction in travel demand, and an anticipated fiscal crisis at Amtrak.
This policy will apply to all but one of Amtrak’s 15 long-distance trains, Autotrain.
The institutional knowledge associated with the performance of less-than daily trains apparently has been lost on Amtrak’s new management. Amtrak operates two tri-weekly trains. The Sunset Limited (New Orleans-Los Angeles) and the Cardinal (Chicago-Washington DC). The performance and patronage and fiscal performance of these trains is abysmal as these state fact sheets attest: https://www.amtrak.com/state-fact-sheets
The cost savings projected by Amtrak will likely not be as expected. In fact, revenues will drop faster than avoided costs, sending any less-than-daily train into dire financial straits while not providing the quality of service needed for rural America.
This is due primarily to a convenience factor. Fewer patrons travel on days when the train is available because the second-leg of a round trip is unavailable. This extends the travel window sometimes by several days. Yet, fixed overhead costs remain.
I urge Sens Roberts and Moran and Rep. Marshall to become personally involved. We have greatly appreciated Senator Moran’s support of the Southwest Chief over the years. We highly appreciate his leadership and hope this catastrophic plan can be averted with a better solution.
Bradley E. Harzman, Emporia