Profit isn't everything, one federal agency told another yesterday. The human factor must also be considered in making decisions.
The Interstate Commerce Commission has asked the Department of Transportation to "consider social factors and human needs as well as profitability of the rail system," as DOT finalizes its plans for the future of Amtrak, the national rail passenger train company.
In a report to DOT Secretary Brock Adams released today, the ICC Rail Services Planning Office said that public response to proposed Amtrak service cutbacks has helped demonstrate that human needs, which transcend the simple criteria of profit and loss, may indicate a demand for continued intercity rail passenger service," even if that means more federal funding.
Although he stressed that Amtrak must still attempt to become as profitable as possible through sound management techniques, Rail Services Planning Office Director Alan Fitzwater said "valid social needs of individuals and communities were raised in support of virtually every route threatened with a loss of service."
During the past three months, the ICC has held hearings in 51 cities across the country to get public opinion on DOT's plans to cut back or eliminate service on 21 different routes, while adding new service on six. Testimony from some 4,200 persons or groups was used by the ICC to back up its comments.
The proposed changes would cut back Amtrak's present 27,000-mile network to 18,900 miles, including the elimination of such routes as Chicago-to-Jacksonville, Chicago-to-Oakland, and Washington, D-C.-to-Harrisburg, Pa.
The ICC analysis for DOT says the DOT restructuring effort should be placed on making Amtrak more effective and efficient, "instead of trimming what is already a bare-bones transportation network in order to achieve a relatively modest cost reduction."
The ICC rail-planning group found that DOT had judged some routes for elimination based on past performances under "poor operating conditions," rather than based on the potential of the routes if operated efficiently.