....For Amtrak travelers, such schedule-shredding snafus are becoming more common as delays push long-distance train punctuality to its lowest point in years, driving off customers and raising costs.
Along the 15 routes in the railroad's national network, on-time performance was 41 percent in August, compared to 66 percent a year earlier, even with a fudge factor that allows trains to reach their end destination as much as a half-hour late and still be counted as on time. Worst off were passengers on the Capitol Limited, which runs daily between Chicago and Washington, D.C. For August, travelers between the two cities had about a 3 percent chance of arriving on time, the most recent available statistics show.
By many indicators, "the situation is worsening, not improving," D.J. Stadtler, Amtrak's vice president of operations, said at a Surface Transportation Board hearing last month.....
....The case is now before the Supreme Court, with oral arguments scheduled for Dec. 8.
The legal crux is the fuzzy question of whether Amtrak, a creation of Congress that is supposed to be run as a for-profit business, should be considered a private enterprise or government agency.
In court papers, parties on both sides paint the practical stakes in stark terms. The appellate court ruling "thwarts the intent of Congress and threatens the future of passenger rail service in the United States," the Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Chicago-based advocacy group that supports "clean transportation," said in a friend-of-the-court filing..... read more here