The Pioneer - Amtrak's passenger train that links Chicago, Denver, Ogden, Boise and Seattle - may soon be making fewer runs through Utah.
Amtrak has announced its plan to reduce or eliminate four routes by November in the Midwest, Texas, the West and in Pennsylvania, based on current congressional appropriation proposals.The Senate appropriation is some $30 million less than Amtrak's projected 1994 operating costs of $381 million. The House version is even less, according to Pat Kelly, Amtrak spokeswoman.
Under the cutback plan, the Pioneer would be run daily between Chicago and Denver but only tri-weekly from Denver west through Utah, Idaho and Washington. The train has a major stop in Ogden after it crosses Wyoming. No changes are planned for the California Zephyr and Deseret Wind that travel through Salt Lake City to Oakland and Los Angeles respectively.
Amtrak officials say they aren't playing politics by threatening cutbacks but are simply being realistic about what Congress might finally do after negotiating appropriations in a yet unscheduled House-Senate conference committee.
"These changes are expected to save approximately $11 million, more service reductions may be necessary, depending on the amount of Amtrak's operating grant to be passed by Congress. Other cost-cutting measures may include closing lightly used stations in various parts of the country," an Amtrak press release said.
The effect on jobs in Utah is uncertain, although cuts are sure to mean job losses in the system. More senior employees will be given the option of being moved to another location if there are job cuts, Kelly said.
Kelly said the decision to trim the Pioneer route was based on rankings of cost-revenue ratios and predictions on how much revenue would be lost by cutting back service. The Pioneer is one of Amtrak's biggest revenue losers, ranking eighth from the bottom of 52 routes. However, company officials believe that they will retain 63 percent of current passengers and 86 percent of revenue if the Pioneer changed to a three-day-a-week schedule. Some 180,000 passengers rode on the route in 1992.
Once a determination is made to trim services, passengers who hold reservations on trains that would not operate on certain days would be offered reservations on other dates. Notices, posted two weeks before changes, will be placed in stations informing the public of changes.