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Ross Capon, Washington Representative
American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners
before the Federal Railroad Administration’s Hearing On Competitive Passenger Rail Service Pilot Program Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Docket No. FRA-2016-0023, RIN 2130-AC
September 7, 2016
Thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners (AAPRCO) on this important proceeding. AAPRCO’s mission “is to
promote the operation, ownership and enjoyment of the private passenger railcar.”
AAPRCO has about 600 members, including approximately 75 owners of “Amtrak-qualified cars.” Some owners have more than one car; in all, there are about 200 such cars. They comply with stringent FRA and Amtrak safety requirements.
Most moves involve one or a few cars on scheduled Amtrak trains. However, there are one or two all-private-car special trains per year. Later this month, such a special will run from Denver to Spokane for AAPRCO’s 39th Annual Convention. Amtrak profits from the individual moves cars make to Denver, the Denver-Spokane train, and the individual moves from Spokane to the cars’ home locations. The cars in general, and special trains in particular, provide valuable economic boosts to the communities they visit.
These cars are separate from—and should not be confused with—business cars operated by all the major and some smaller private railroads.
AAPRCO as an organization and our car-owning members have worked well with Amtrak over many years. Amtrak earns considerable revenue for handling these cars, and the net impact of their operation is to improve Amtrak’s bottom line.
With consideration given to having alternate operators for some Amtrak routes, we obviously place great importance on maintaining the ability of our members to continue to run private cars on such routes. That is consistent with the spirit of FAST Act Section 11307. It requires the alternate operator to accept a federal grant “that does not exceed 90% of the level in effect for that specific route during the fiscal year preceding the fiscal year in which the petition was received, adjusted for inflation”, and permits only inflation adjustments in the remaining three years. Since private cars improve the bottom line for trains they use, it is appropriate for any privatization process to require non-Amtrak operators to deal with private car owners in a positive manner.
We strongly believe in the value of the long-distance trains. Any move towards changing operators should be handled very carefully, respecting the transcendent importance of maintaining, improving and not jeopardizing the service. Again, this is consistent with the law. If there is a cessation of service or failure of an operator to fulfill a contractual obligation, the Surface Transportation Board is required to “take any necessary action consistent with this title to enforce the contract and ensure the continued provision of service.”
Thank you for considering our views.