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Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen
Illinois State Legislative Board



March 9, 2015


Contact: David Jakubiak, (312) 795-3713 or [email protected]


SCOTUS: Amtrak Has Legal Authority to Set On-Time Performance Standards


WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today affirming Amtrak’s power to create on-time performance standards could get slumping Midwest arrival times back on track.


“This is a good Supreme Court decision that should help rail passengers across the country,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which filed an amicus curiae brief in the case. “For every passenger who has been delayed for hours in Northwest Indiana or outside of Cleveland while oil tanker cars slog by, today’s court decision can be an important step forward.”


The Association of American Railroads challenged a federal law that allows Amtrak to help set on-time performance standards for railroads, arguing that Amtrak is a private company rather than a government entity. The Supreme Court, agreeing with the Department of Justice and ELPC, held that Amtrak is more like a government entity.


The DC Court of Appeals had struck down a provision of the 2008 rail reauthorization bill that instructed the Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak—consulting with the Surface Transportation Board, freight railroads, states, rail labor, and rail passenger organizations—to develop metrics and minimum standards for measuring Amtrak passenger train performance and service quality.


“Today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling settles that legal question,” Learner said. “Amtrak is a government entity. Given this ruling, the existing on-time performance standards should be enforced and passenger rail should again be given priority.”


In an amicus curiae brief filed by ELPC, on behalf of itself and the National Association of Railroad Passengers, All Aboard Ohio and Virginians for High Speed Rail, ELPC found that on-time arrival rates had suffered since the appeals court ruling. In 2012, Amtrak achieved a nationwide on-time performance rate of 83 percent. Since the standards were invalidated by the Court of Appeals, on-time performance fell to an abysmal 42 percent.


While this is a major victory for Amtrak passengers across the nation, the Supreme Court’s ruling does raise the possibility of a lengthy court fight should the Association of American Railroads seek to continually litigate other issues around on-time performance.


“The highest court in the land has spoken and we hope is that freight railroads will move forward as a partner to improve passenger rail service across America,” added Learner.

1 Comment

  1. Analee

    Eddie,This is a very loose connection at best, but this scene looks alsomt exactly like what you can see by standing at the IHB crossing of Harlem Avenue at about 59th Street, looking east. I know that you’re a big fan of this old IHB line and that you know exactly what I’m talking about. The reason that I bring this up is that last week I noticed a lot of work on the tracks just beyond the pavement at that location. The purpose was to remove a spur that fed the old Daily Southtown building (formerly called the Southtown Economist to you fans of Eddie’s blog who have moved away from Chicago) on the right, looking alsomt exactly like the building in your photo. The Southtown moved to suburban Tinley Park in the late ’90s, and although it still continued to use the building for a while, it seems pretty deserted these days. I guess the removal of the spur that used to bring all the newsprint boxcars to this facility is a sure sign that the era is over.

    December 20, 2015 - 4:19 pm – Reply

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