Recently, Stacey Mortensen, Executive Director, San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority (SJJPA), testified at a House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials hearing, “Amtrak: Now and Into the Future.” Mortensen shared her unique experience in overseeing two publicly-funded and unionized passenger rail services: an Amtrak State Supported Route, Amtrak San Joaquins, and a commuter railroad service, the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE), through her Executive Director role at the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (SJRRC).
“I take my role as a steward of California taxpayer dollars seriously,” said Mortensen. “Our team utilized aggregated data from the National Transit Database (NTD) to compare the costs of our commuter rail service to our San Joaquin Amtrak route. Our initial findings were shocking. For 2018, we found that Amtrak’s costs were triple the costs of our ACE service – on a per passenger mile basis, a true tale of two services. We must ensure that our contracted operators of passenger rail transportation are providing a transparent and cost-effective service AND support working families and high-paying railroad jobs.”
The SJJPA has been working with its Congressional delegation on potential legislative solutions to increase cost transparency at Amtrak and enhance cost-effective passenger rail service options in California’s Central Valley.
“It was a tremendous pleasure to testify before the Subcommittee and we appreciate Congress’s attention to our issues,” said Mortensen. “We believe Congress has a role to play in ensuring that intercity passenger rail service continues to thrive, but we must also ensure that California taxpayers and self-help Counties are allowed to control their own investments and destinies.”
Other witnesses at the hearing included: Richard Anderson, President and CEO, Amtrak; Nancy Nathanson, Representative, Oregon State Legislature; Greg Regan, Secretary-Treasurer, Transportation Trade Department, AFL-CIO; Jack Dinsdale, National Vice President, Transportation Communications Union; Jim Matthews, President and CEO, Rail Passengers Association; and Bob Guy, Illinois State Director, SMART-TD.
SJJPA is responsible for the management and administration of Amtrak San Joaquins. SJJPA is governed by Board Members representing each of the ten (10) Member Agencies along the 365-mile San Joaquins Corridor. For more information on SJJPA see www.sjjpa.com.
Amtrak San Joaquins is Amtrak’s sixth busiest route with 1.1 million annual riders and 18 stations providing a safe, comfortable and reliable way to travel throughout California. Amtrak San Joaquins runs seven daily round-trips. In addition to the train service, Amtrak San Joaquins Thruway buses provide connecting service to 135 destinations in California and Nevada including Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Napa Valley, Las Vegas and Reno. For more information, visit www.AmtrakSanJoaquins.com or call 1-800-USA-RAIL.