According to documents obtained by Open the Books through a Freedom of Information Act request, Amtrak paid its 19,000 workers an average salary of $121,000 for fiscal year 2022.
The exact salaries of the employees remain hidden as Amtrak denied a request to release the information, citing concerns about invading employees' privacy. However, the company did disclose the salaries of its top ten executives, which ranged from $504,000 to $780,000 annually, as reported by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Adam Andrzejewski, CEO of Open the Books, expressed frustration with Amtrak's lack of transparency, stating, "At Amtrak, we discovered that you just can't follow the money. They denied our request for the rank and file workers at Amtrak, saying that it's an invasion of their personal privacy to disclose just how much they make to all of us and taxpayers." He emphasized that Amtrak is a federally chartered corporation heavily subsidized by taxpayers.
Andrzejewski further highlighted the significant cash compensation received by Amtrak employees, stating, "Those 19,000 rank and file employees, they pulled cash compensation of $2.3 billion last year. The average employee is highly compensated at Amtrak, making an average of $121,000 a year, putting Amtrak at the top of the Top Paid list of federal agencies."
Despite its reliance on taxpayer funds, Amtrak has never made a profit since its inception. The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure confirmed this, stating that Amtrak's funding does not come from ticket revenue but rather from the government. The committee also noted that the company estimates annual losses of approximately $1 billion, which are largely covered by taxpayers.
"In the private sector, accountability would come in the form of an 'Out of Business' sign," Andrzejewski remarked, highlighting the lack of accountability in the pseudo-governmental realm. He argued that taxpayers should have the right to scrutinize the pay and performance of the 19,000 employees who keep Amtrak operational, but a technicality in the law shields the company from proper accountability.
Open the Books conducted an analysis that revealed significant losses for Amtrak on various routes. The rail route from New Orleans to Los Angeles resulted in a loss of $566 per passenger, while the route from Los Angeles to Chicago incurred a loss of $288 per passenger. Additionally, Amtrak's Washington, D.C., to Boston route, which previously earned the company $95 per mile, now costs it $2 per mile.
Over the years, Amtrak has received billions of dollars in grant funding from the federal government. In 2020, the company received $1 billion in COVID relief funds, and in 2021, it received an additional $1.69 billion to recover from COVID-related revenue losses.
The Biden administration has also pledged to make a significant federal investment in passenger rail, describing it as the largest since the creation of Amtrak. The $66 billion investment aims to eliminate the Amtrak maintenance backlog, modernize the Northeast Corridor, and improve rail service in areas outside the northeast and mid-Atlantic.