Amtrak may be feeling the squeeze, but Sen. Chuck Schumer doesn’t think its passengers should be too.
On the heels of news that the rail system is considering tighter economy-style seating to pack in more passengers, Schumer slammed the idea on Sunday, saying that the move would take a page straight from the airline playbook.
“Amtrak should not throw out one of the best things about Amtrak and train travel — that is, you at least get a seat you can sit in and be comfortable,” Schumer said.
Amtrak co-chief executive Wick Moorman announced last week that the company was studying the idea as a way to save money for the railroad, which yearly receives billions of dollars from the government to make up for major financial losses.
Schumer acknowledged that Amtrak is in need of creative ways to generate revenue, but encouraged officials to go back to the drawing board.
“[Amtrak] has been shortchanged by the federal government for a very long time,” Schumer said. “I understand that they need to make money, but not with things that are counterproductive like this.”
A spokesman for Amtrak said no plans have been set in stone.
“Amtrak is not currently looking to change its seat spacing for the services we now offer,” he said. “Like any company, we do continuously look at ways to attract new customers, provide more travel options and enhance the customer experience, in order to supplement the great products and services we already offer.
The passenger rail service is in desperate need of financial help. Aging infrastructure combined with booming ridership has created increasing strain on the trains — especially along the Northeast corridor, which carries 750,000 riders a day.
Amtrak is in the middle of major renovations at Penn Station, which will cost tens of millions of dollars, and plans to construct an additional two-track tunnel running under the Hudson River will run to nearly $13 billion.
The economy seating plan is only being considered at this point, among other financial decisions that Moorman conceded might make things less comfortable for riders.