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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

AAR to STB: Don't use 'all-stations metric' to define OTP

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) submitted comments to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) in response to a rulemaking proceeding that would define "on-time performance" (OTP) under the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008.

The association submitted its response on behalf of its freight-rail members and not Amtrak, even though Amtrak is an AAR member.

In its comments, the AAR maintains its position that the STB lacks statutory authority to define OTP for purposes of a Section 213 investigation. The association also states that the STB should not adopt an "all-stations metric" to determine OTP.

"Instead, the board should use those on-time performance metrics Amtrak and the host railroads have adopted in their operating agreements, if applicable," the AAR filing states. "Switching to an all-stations metric would create false positives for investigation because of the back-loading of recovery time in many of Amtrak's schedules, in addition to conflicting with the operating agreements."

If such operating agreements do not exist, the STB "should use an endpoint metric rather than an all-stations metric because an endpoint metric will provide a more indicative trigger for investigations" in that it measures the collective impact of events that occur over the train's entire trip.

In taking its position, AAR opposes Amtrak's stance in favor of the STB adopting an "all-stations" OTP for purposes of triggering an investigation.

However, in announcing the filing of its comments with the STB, the AAR also issued the following statement:

"The AAR and its freight rail members recognize the importance of Amtrak, and we are committed to a reliable passenger-rail service. It is a delicate balance in this country where the majority of passenger rail operates on tracks owned by freight railroads, which means trying to find that right transportation mix of serving the needs of passenger rail while ensuring our industry is continuing to meet the shipping requirements of freight customers in moving the country's economy.

"Freight railroads take their contractual obligations seriously and comply with the law. On-time performance measurement is complicated involving many factors that are negotiated between Amtrak and the host freight railroad and we are asking the [STB] to respect the parties' chosen on-time performance measures and not adopt a conflicting investigation standard."

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