Congresswoman Jean Schmidt introduced legislation today (Nov. 3) to halt runaway deficit spending on food and beverage service aboard Amtrak trains.
"It's outrageous that Amtrak loses more than $60 million a year on its food and beverage service despite a law that bars the passenger railroad system from doing so," said Congresswoman Schmidt, a Miami Township Republican. "Taxpayers are fed up."
Amtrak has been required since Oct. 1, 1982, to break even or make money on its food and beverage service. In the nearly 30 years since then, Amtrak has not once complied with the federal law.
The bill introduced in the House by Congresswoman Schmidt, called the Amtrak Food and Beverage Service Savings Act, would require the Federal Railroad Administration to seek competitive bids. Amtrak would be allowed to compete with outside companies in bidding to provide food and beverages.
Revenue from food and beverages sold aboard Amtrak trains in fiscal year 2010 totaled $131 million, but the cost of providing the service was $192 million. That loss of $61 million means taxpayers provided a subsidy of nearly 32 percent.
"Amtrak passengers pay $4.50 for a hot dog," Congresswoman Schmidt said. "They would pay an astounding $6.60 for the same hot dog if you took away the subsidy."
In addition -- without factoring in the taxpayer subsidy -- cheeseburgers cost $6, chips and pretzels $2, trail mix $3.75, cheese and crackers $4, and soft drinks $2.
Even though taxpayers pick up part of the tab, "these are the kind of prices you might expect to pay at the ballpark, not while commuting to work, traveling to visit family, or trying to see our great country while vacationing," Congresswoman Schmidt said. "Passengers deserve better, and so do taxpayers. It's time for Amtrak to start following the law."