Concerns that non-airline and non-truck forms of transportation would be shortchanged in federal COVID-19 relief apportionments were recently allayed by the news that Amtrak, North America’s quasi-public passenger rail system, will receive $1.02 billion via the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act.
A recent teleconference with incoming Amtrak CEO Wiliam J. Flynn, reported in Trains Magazine, yielded the fact that bookings are down 95 percent from a year ago. “with Northeast Corridor off 98%, state-supported service off 93%, and long-distance ridership falling 87%.” Amtrak has, so far, avoided any involuntary furloughs to its 18,000 workers.
Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor will get $492 million in aid, with $239 million allocated to Amtrak’s 28 state-supported routes. The funds will be used both to mitigate losses, fund Amtrak’s current operations and capital plan, and provide an adaptation strategy for Amtrak to function in a post-COVID world.
Before COVID, Amtrak’s network was humming, with a record 32.5 million ridership and $3.3 billion in revenue in 2019. As the nation begins to emerge from what some are calling “COVID transphobia,” Amtrak’s leadership is pledging to restore confidence in the sanitation and social distancing policies aboard its trains. The video below, featuring Amtrak Executive VP and Chief Administrative Officer DJ Stadler, outlines some of the new policies, which include misting, the use of hospital-grade viricides, improved application methods, and the addition of “flu kits” to identify instances of transmissable illnesses among its passengers.