MIPRC testifies in support of FRA’s proposed metrics and standards for intercity passenger rail

May 1, 2020

MIPRC Chair Bob Guy offered brief testimony in support of the Federal Railroad Administration’s notice of proposed rulemaking on Metrics and Minimum Standards for Intercity Passenger Rail Service for Intercity Passenger Trains during the agency’s April 30 telephonic public hearing.

“MIPRC strongly agrees that having accurate and fair standards for measuring passenger rail service performance – and providing remedies when service is poor – is critical to the health and vitality of intercity passenger rail; ridership depends, in large part, on whether service is dependable,” Guy said.

In his statement, Guy noted that federal law gives intercity and commuter rail trains preference over freight trains in using a rail line, junction, or crossing, but that many host railroads have too often ignored the law by refusing to give passenger rail the priority to which it is statutorily entitled, resulting in poor and declining OTP by Amtrak on most host railroads. Guy said the proposed rule would promote better compliance with this law.

Guy noted four points for consideration:

1) Within this rule, we would particularly like to emphasize that using the Customer On-Time Performance (OTP) metric, wherein the arrival of every passenger on every train by route –  including and especially those who detrain along a route – seems to be an accurate and fair way to measure OTP (reference: Section III. Customer On-Time Performance, pg. 17837 of proposed rule). We also concur that providing metrics to measure the degree of customer lateness on an individual host railroad are very important.

2) Amtrak and state DOTs with intercity passenger rail service also need a clear, results-oriented way to address poor OTP that is caused by the host railroad. The ability for them to bring complaints before the Surface Transportation Board and requiring the STB to initiate an investigation and “make recommendations to improve the service, quality, and on-time performance of the train and to award damages and prescribe other relief” is an important component of assuring that complaints can be resolved and OTP improved. (reference: Section II, subsection A: PRIAA, pg. 17836 of the proposed rule).

3) We also agree that train schedules should be re-aligned to distribute what is now “recovery time” added at the end of a train schedule to instead distribute that time along the train schedule, and that recovery time redistribution should not be allowed to add time to the overall train schedule (reference: Section IV, subsection C, #2: Train Schedule Principle: Recovery Time Redistribution, pg. 17839 of proposed rule).

4) As required by section 207 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA), strengthening other metrics and standards for passenger rail performance and service quality – including cost recovery, on-board services, stations, facilities and equipment – are very important. We want to especially highlight that developing metrics for measuring the transportation needs of our rural communities, typically not well-served by other forms of intercity transportation, should be a clear component of this rule.

Other organizations/entities that gave oral testimony included Rail Passengers Association (formerly NARP), Association of American Railroads (AAR), Association of Independent Passenger Rail Operators (AIPRO) and several freight host railroads, including Canadian National (CN), Canadian Pacific Railway (CP), CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern (NS). FRA has indicated that the agency will post the transcript of the public hearing, including written comments submitted, to the docket of the proposed rule shortly after the hearing.

MIPRC will submit detailed comments on how the rule can be strengthened/clarified through a written statement submitted by the June 1 FRA deadline for comments on the proposed rule.

Comments must be identified by the docket number “FRA-2019-0069” or the Regulatory Identification Number (RIN 2130-AC85) and submitted by:

  • The Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the online instructions for submitting comments;
  • U.S. Mail: U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket Operations, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590; or
  • Hand Delivery: U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket Operations, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

Please note that all comments received will be posted without change to http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided.