STB forms passenger rail working group

April 21, 2021
The working group will develop plans that will allow STB to fulfill its oversight roll regarding on time performance of intercity rail service.

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) has formed a passenger rail working group, which will be chaired by STB Office of Economics Deputy Director Frank O’Connor and made up of STB staff.

STB will have additional oversight duties of intercity passenger rail metrics and on-time performance following publication last fall of a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) final rule setting measures and minimum standards regarding the quality of service and performance of Amtrak operations. The rule went into effect in December 2020, but the metrics will begin to apply July 1, 2021.

The final rule requires Amtrak and its host railroads to certify Amtrak schedules and sets an on-time performance minimum standard of 80 percent for any two consecutive calendar quarters. A train arriving within 15 minutes of its published arrival time is considered on time. Other metrics that FRA defines in the final rule include ridership, train delays, station performance and host running time.

The metric will be reported by FRA quarterly and under the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA), the STB is tasked with investigating and adjudicating issues related to the on-time performance of Amtrak’s intercity passenger rail service under these new metrics and standards.

Prior to the applicability of these new requirements, the working group will assist the board in evaluating current and future agency resources required to fulfill its oversight and investigatory responsibilities for on-time performance and will make recommendations for further action needed to promote effective oversight. Among other functions, the group will explore the feasibility of creating an office at the STB focused on passenger rail issues and the creation of a passenger rail advisory committee under the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

“To most effectively prepare the board for its upcoming responsibilities in monitoring and enforcing Amtrak on-time performance, we need to quickly take stock of existing resources and determine which processes will most expeditiously bring disputes to a fair resolution,” said STB Chairman Martin Oberman. “The formation of an internal agency passenger rail working group will ensure the board is ready for these duties and will give us a firm foundation upon which to proceed. In the long run, we look forward to working closely with Amtrak and the freight railroads in the nation’s effort to improve its intercity passenger rail system.”

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.