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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

STB creates office to analyze Amtrak's OTP


The Surface Transportation Board has established the Office of Passenger Rail to investigate and analyze issues related to Amtrak’s on-time performance (OTP).

The office's creation is the next step in the board's strategy to investigate and enforce Amtrak's OTP, STB Chairman Martin Oberman said in a press release.

A section of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 authorizes — and on eligible complaint requires — the STB to investigate the causes of "substandard" OTP of passenger-rail service, to identify mitigating measures and, under certain conditions, prescribe relief, STB officials said.

In late 2020, the Federal Railroad Administration, in conjunction with Amtrak, called for a "customer OTP" metric to measure passenger-rail OTP, with a minimum standard of 80% of passenger arrivals at stations to occur within 15 minutes of the scheduled time for any two consecutive calendar quarters. 

Complaints may be brought by Amtrak, by an entity for which Amtrak operates intercity passenger-rail service, by an intercity passenger-rail operator or by a host freight railroad over which Amtrak operates, STB officials said.

To prepare for the OTP enforcement obligations, the STB created a passenger-rail working group of STB staff in April 2021. The group was changed with developing plans to enhance the agency’s capacity to fulfill its passenger-rail oversight and to ensure it meets its obligations to enforce the OTP requirement.

In August 2021, the board appointed a senior staff member from the Office of Public Assistance, Governmental Affairs and Compliance, Neil Moyer, and an attorney from the Board’s Office of Proceedings, Ryan Lee, to develop and implement a comprehensive plan for OTP investigation processing and resource allocation.

Moyer and Lee have worked with the U.S. Department of Transportation's Volpe National Transportation Systems Center to develop data tools to quickly analyze FRA’s OTP quarterly data.

The STB "stands ready" to handle any OTP cases that are filed, Oberman said.

"We are fully analyzing the quarterly data provided by the FRA, and we are developing a basis for determining whether any board-initiated investigations may be necessary," he added. "The other board members and I look forward to working closely with Amtrak and the freight railroads in the nation’s effort to improve its passenger-rail system." 

Amtrak officials said they welcome the STB’s action.

"We look forward to working closely with the STB’s new Office of Passenger Rail to enforce the FRA’s performance standards for intercity passenger rail," they said in a press release. "We will also participate on the STB’s new passenger-rail advisory committee. This will provide an opportunity for issues to be elevated and resolved before they require an investigation."