Randal O’Toole, policy analyst at the Cato Institute and blogger at The Antiplanner, published a policy brief today that details actions by Amtrak that, had they been taken by a private firm, would likely be considered securities fraud.
A press release from Amtrak claimed that 99.1% of its operating costs are covered by its revenues, but the release purposely neglected to include depreciation among its costs. In 2018, depreciation was nearly one-fifth of Amtrak’s operating costs, coming in at $807 million. The total for 2019 is expected to be some $50 million more.
Of course, Amtrak failing to account for the cost of infrastructure upkeep is nothing new, as the organization needs at least $33 billion (with a “B”) in backlogged maintenance. That number rises to as much as $92 billion when the costs of replacing passenger cars and maintaining tracks used, but not owned, by Amtrak are taken into account.
Amtrak’s press release also misrepresented their “passenger related revenue,” at least $235 million of which is pure state subsidies. Minus these subsidies and adding the cost of depreciation, real total losses in 2019 totaled more than $1 billion, or 35 times the annual loss-figure provided by Amtrak in its release. Notes O’Toole,
Similar premature information releases by Elon Musk led the Securities and Exchange Commission to charge him with fraud and force him to resign as Tesla’s CEO. Unfortunately, if any government agency has the power to charge Amtrak with fraud, none have bothered to do so.
Do look through the brief. It’s a relatively quick read and has plenty of source citations. Such thorough scholarship deserves to be appreciated.