Ticket To Lobby
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
It appears that there really is no end to the indignities that taxpayers suffer at Amtrak’s hands. On top of late trains and heavily subsidized empty long-distance routes, add word that Americans are being forced to pay taxes to be used to, that’s right, lobby our representatives in Congress for even more tax money for Amtrak. It doesn’t get more outrageous.
This latest indignity centers on the National Association of Railroad Passengers. Since the mid-1990s, Amtrak has paid NARP to administer the rail service’s Customer Advisory Committee, a group that is supposed to offer periodic quality-control feedback to Amtrak’s management.
Not only can Amtrak collect such feedback for free via the complaints section of its Web site, Amtrak may well be overpaying NARP. In 2005, NARP spent $21,840 directly administering the advisory committee, and received $34,464 from Amtrak. The $12,624 difference went to overhead costs like office space and communications, NARP’s treasurer, Robert Glover, claimed in an e-mail sent to Amtrak critics.That overhead cost covers more than 20% of NARP’s office-related expenses, according to figures Mr. Glover himself provides in the e-mail.
NARP’s executive director, Ross Capon, says the committee is Amtrak’s project and NARP just administers it, that the relationship has never come up in board meetings when members decided whether or not to criticize Amtrak, and that were the contract to be cancelled the effect on NARP would be “zero.” A spokeswoman for Amtrak, Karina Romero, tells us the payments are “simply part-time salary and minor overhead costs strictly for the support of the committee.”
Maybe. This all may seem like small beans compared to the tens of billions of dollars in subsidies Amtrak has eaten over the years, but pardon the taxpayers if they’re a tad suspicious and more than a tad fed up with this arrangement. Americans already pay too much to Amtrak as it is without having to pay for the privilege of being lobbied for more.