Keeping better Track of Amtrak


Understanding Our Infrastructure Crisis And The Importance Of Amtrak

Three weeks after an Amtrak passenger train crashed near Philadelphia, the Center for American Progress is taking some time to think critically about some of the challenges facing the America’s infrastructure. Today, CAP Action hosted a discussion of the issues facing our rail infrastructure featuring Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

CAP also released a report in conjunction with today’s events that highlights the essential services Amtrak provides, and the increasingly difficult financial position the organization has been put in because of inadequate federal funding. Here are a few key facts from the report about Amtrak:

  • 500 destinations: Amtrak serves more than 500 destinations in 46 states and three Canadian provinces—covering 21,300 miles of routes.
  • 31.6 million: Amtrak’s total ridership is 31.6 million passengers. Everyday an average of 86,000 people ride more than 300 Amtrak trains.
  • 840,000: Everyday Amtrak carries 840,000 commuters to their jobs every weekday.
  • 93 percent: In the last year 93 percent of Amtrak’s operating costs were covered by ticket sales.
  • 58 percent: In the Northeast, commuter rail demand is anticipated to increase by 58 percent by 2030.
  • 75 percent: Amtrak makes up three-fourths of all combined airline and rail travel between Washington, D.C. and New York City as well as 54 percent of the market between New York and Boston.

Amtrak’s ridership has increased significantly in recent years and is expected to continue to increase in the coming decades, especially along the Northeast corridor. Along with the increase in ridership, Amtrak’s financial performance has also improved, yet Congress has used Amtrak’s financial improvements to justify cutting the organization’s funding.


CREDIT: Andrew Breiner

Since Amtrak began operations in 1971, it has received $70 billion in total federal funding and in the last seven years alone, Congress has authorized $65 billion in funding for the Highway Trust Fund. That means that Congress has provided almost as much general funding support for highways in the last seven years as Amtrak has received in 45 years of operation. With inadequate funding, it is nearly impossible for Amtrak to comply with many of the safety regulations also mandated by Congress.

BOTTOM LINE: Amtrak is an essential piece of infrastructure that efficiently and safely transports millions of Americans each year and its funding from Congress should reflect that. Proactive investment in infrastructure that takes into account population growth and changes in transportation preferences is an essential step America must take to prepare for the future.

SHOCK: Secret ingredient in chocolate


The only guilt from eating chocolate should be the calories, right?
Unfortunately, with each tasty bite, you could unknowingly be supporting slave labour in the Ivory Coast, where children as young as 7 are forced to work long hours in cocoa fields and beaten if they work too slow. Some are sold for as little as a couple of dollars, deceived by promises of decent work and trapped in a life of slavery.
Many chocolate brands have made public commitments to find the best solution. But we’ve learned that Warner Bros. is refusing to tell consumers where the cocoa for their Harry Potter chocolates comes from.
Warner Bros. is heading into one of the busiest times of the year for their theme parks. Children excited to experience the world of Harry Potter will be asking their parents to buy these chocolates. Taking a stand right now will make a big impact – will you help?
Ask Warner Bros. what steps they’re taking to ensure Harry Potter chocolates are free of slavery.

Warner Bros. is ‘satisfied’ they’re using fair labour in Harry Potter chocolates.
But are you?

wf-hp-email-hero.png Ask Warner Bros. where the cocoa for their Harry Potter chocolates comes from.

While many chocolate brands have made public commitments to find the best solution, we’re singling out Warner Bros. because:

  • An independent investigation into their supplier Behr’s Chocolates led to a failing score of 1 out of 48 possible measures to ensure their operations are slavery-free;
  • Warner Bros. dismissed the findings of the investigation, simply stating that they were ‘satisfied’ that fair labour practices were being used in the production of their chocolates;
  • Given the conflicting information, outraged consumers asked Warner Bros. what steps were taken to ensure there was no slavery in Harry Potter Chocolates. Warner Bros. refused to respond. 

We’re concerned that Harry Potter chocolates may contain cocoa harvested in conditions of modern slavery. Ask Warner Bros. where the cocoa for their Harry Potter chocolates comes from.
As consumers, we deserve to know that the products we buy are free from the taint of modern slavery. 
Thank you in advance for taking action. Please share this with your friends to bring us one step closer to ending modern slavery in the cocoa industry.
Kate, Amy, Debra, Mich, Jess, Nick and all the Walk Free Muggles

The EPA ignored its own science?

Union of Concerned Scientists

The EPA ignored its own scientists on water contamination.

UCS members need to make sure federal agencies put science and safety ahead of politics.

Be one of 750 new donors needed this month to keep our campaigns strong.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exists to protect our environment and keep our land, water, air, and health safe.

But when the EPA’s own scientists found evidence that fracking was contaminating water, the EPA stopped or slowed down its scientists’ work in three states.1

Why would the EPA back away from its own science?

Simple. Fierce pressure from industry and politicians interfering at every step—from a former Democratic governor reportedly hired by drilling industries to pressure the agency, to a U.S. Senator delaying scientists by demanding constant financial reports, even asking how many dollars were spent on individual lab tests.2

As the fracking boom continues, the EPA can expect even more interference. We can’t sit by and watch. We’re looking for 750 new UCS members to stand up this month to help counter misinformation, demand accountability, protect whistleblowers, and defend our health.

Become a UCS member now.

The future of fracking isn’t our only concern. UCS members are standing up for science on multiple fronts:

Stopping the attacks on clean vehicles. The Obama administration has proposed aggressive reductions in vehicle pollutants, but the oil and gas industry is trying to stall them, spreading misinformation about the costs of cleaner fuels.3 UCS’s efforts have already generated more than 50,000 letters this year to the EPA and Congress from members and supporters on the issue.

Fighting back against Big Coal. Coal companies and Fox News are up in arms about the Obama administration’s proposed carbon standards, which would finally retire most of the oldest coal-fired plants. As climate deniers spread misinformation about a “War on Coal,” UCS members and experts are spreading the facts about clean energy’s environmental and economic benefits—while pushing the Obama Administration to stand strong.4

We’re also making waves with our groundbreaking Ripe for Retirement report, which makes the economic case for closing 353 coal-fired power plants. Since November, when we released our first report, 45 plants already have been slated for closure—we’re on the right track!

Whether it’s fracking, vehicle pollution, or coal, the Obama Administration and the EPA are often ready to do the right thing—but they need vocal support from scientists and the public at large. They need people like you to refute lies from the fossil fuel industry and fact-denying politicians. They need you to counteract the millions of dollars being spent to convince the public that a future with clean energy isn’t possible.

Carmen, we need 750 people to stand up for transparency, accountability, and the sound use of science before September 30. Become a member now.

Help make sure all of our leaders—friend and foe—put science first in the national conversation about our energy and our health.

Thank you for being such a strong advocate for science—and for recommitting yourself with a gift to UCS today.

Kathleen Rest Sincerely,
Kathleen Rest
Kathleen Rest, PhD, MPA
Executive Director

2. Ibid.