Taxpayers Boost Salaries, Cover Losses at Amtrak

( – Congress passed the Rail Passenger Service Act in 1970, which laid the framework for the creation of Amtrak in 1971. It played a significant part in changing how people traveled. Millions of people use the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, which is headquartered in Washington, DC, each year, some for their daily commute. Over the past few decades, Amtrak has grown exponentially; it now offers tens of thousands of routes in 46 states and Canada. However, there are some concerns that it might be nothing more than a drain on taxpayers.

Taxpayers Footing the Bill

One might think that Amtrak would fund its operations through ticket sales, and it does — up to a point. However, the ticket sales aren’t enough to sustain the company, and therefore, it relies on government subsidies to keep its trains running. According to a Daily Caller exclusive, the company is paying its employees a hefty sum each year, which is only contributing to the deficit. It’s not clear how much they make because Amtrak has hidden employee salaries through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exemption.

However, through another FOIA request, Open the Books got ahold of the data, which showed executive salaries ranging from $504,000 to $780,000 annually. Then, by averaging out the financial statements, the Daily Caller revealed that the average employee salary for fiscal year 2022 (FY22) comes out to be $121,000.

Operating on a Loss

The financial statements obtained for FY22 show that Amtrak operated on more than a billion-dollar loss. Apparently, it has never turned a profit in its 50-plus years in business. The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure noted that most of the company’s losses are in its long-distance routes and National Network, yet according to the panel, this is where Amtrak is focusing its expansion efforts.

Before the pandemic, it looked as though Amtrak was poised to finally turn a profit, but lockdowns and decreased ridership threw a wrench in that growth. Now, even a few years removed, the company has struggled to regain the ridership, which is, once again, leaving taxpayers on the hook.

Government Subsidies

It’s important to note that the US government is the company’s largest stakeholder. It owns all of Amtrak’s preferred stock, so it has a vested interest in keeping the rail going. In 2022, the Federal Railroad Administration funded Amtrak with $6.6 billion. In 2023, it’ll have received $6.8 billion. Yet, there are still structural concerns and complaints about the train service’s reliability. This has led to several requests for answers from legislators — answers that aren’t easily forthcoming.

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