GOVERNANCE: Amtrak Has Begun to Address State Partners’ Concerns About Shared Costs But Has More Work to Do to Improve Relationships
Our objectives for this report were to identify and assess the challenges associated with cost sharing on state-supported routes and the extent to which the company is working independently, and with its state partners, to address them.
Although the company has addressed some of the concerns associated with cost sharing on its state-supported routes, we found that three challenges persist. First, there remain conflicting perspectives between Amtrak and its state partners about control over decision-making and the level of support Amtrak provides to those partners. Second, there remain unaddressed issues with the cost-sharing methodology despite the company’s efforts to improve its ability to directly assign costs to state partner’s trains. Third, the company’s state partners question whether the company has effective quality controls in its cost-calculation and bill-development process, and some state partners do not understand the company’s process. State partners’ perceptions about these issues affect their trust in the company, with about one-third having high trust around cost-sharing, one-third moderate trust, and one-third low trust.
The ongoing congressionally mandated discussions about the cost-sharing methodology offer a meaningful opportunity to begin resolving the challenges we identified. To capitalize on this opportunity, we recommended that Amtrak coordinate with state partners and the Federal Railroad Administration, likely through the State-Amtrak Intercity Passenger Rail Committee, to clarify which decisions affecting state partner costs the company must control and the level of support the company can provide. We also recommended the company clarify and document decisions about the relationship between costs and service and how to handle capital costs. In addition, we recommended taking steps to better assure state partners that their bills are accurate, such as documenting the cost-calculation and bill-development process and sharing this information with them.