By Keith Laing
Mica has frequently referred to Amtrak as a "Soviet-style operation." Amtrak, which was founded by Congress in 1971 to replace a network of private railways, receives an approximately $1 billion subsidy from the federal government every year.
Mica said Tuesday that the agency has tried to "stifle" competition from private rail companies. The GOP report accuses Amtrak of filing a "frivolous" lawsuit against a company that won a contract it had sought.
“Amtrak needs to get out of the commuter rail business, the private sector should be given more opportunities to save taxpayers money in operating rail service, and federal funds should never be used by Amtrak to sue private entities for competition-related lawsuits,” Mica said.
The House Transportation Committee hearing Tuesday follows a campaign by Mica — which coincided with his campaign for reelection — about the cost of concession services onboard Amtrak trains. Mica memorably visited a McDonald's near Capitol Hill to protest the amount of money Amtrak was spending on serving food and beverages on its trains.
Amtrak has touted ridership records it has set in recent months. The agency said this week that it has seen new ridership highs in 11 consecutive months, and it expected to do so again for the month of September.
“All across America the demand to travel by Amtrak is strong, growing and undeniable,” Amtrak President Joe Boardman said in a statement. “Amtrak continues to deliver on its mission to fulfill a vital national transportation need and does so with improved management and financial health.”
Boardman testified before the House committee Tuesday. He told lawmakers, from "Amtrak's point of view, the contract commuter business has costs and benefits.
"Amtrak operated services generate fewer than 6 percent of the nation's annual commuter passenger-miles," he said in testimony submitted to the committee in response to the "monopoly mentality" charge.
The full GOP report on Amtrak can be read here.