(NewsNation) — Amtrak ridership has seen a steep drop since 2019 when the train service pulled in 32.5 million riders, to 2021, when Amtrak saw 12.5 million riders. Despite the drop in riders and huge financial losses for the operation, Amtrak executives still received huge bonuses.
Amtrak CEO William Flynn received $284,205 in bonuses in 2021. Company President Stephen Gardner got $261,359 in bonuses, Deputy General Counsel William Herrmann received $300,981 in bonuses. Overall, there were nine Amtrak executives who received more than $200,000 in bonuses.
Gary Peterson, the chief of staff for the Transport Workers Union, said non-executive Amtrak employees can’t make any sense of the executive bonuses given Amtrak’s recent performance.
“Not anything that we can pinpoint in the current environment that would allow for awarding of such rich bonuses for executives while the workers are out there trying to make ends meet with everything going on, specifically the period of COVID, for sure,” Peterson said.
Financial losses have plagued Amtrak virtually its entire existence, despite Congress pumping trillions of dollars into it over the years.
Congress pledged to give $66 billion to the rail sector as part of its $1 trillion infrastructure bill, with Amtrak being one of the primary recipients.
“There is no justification,” Peterson said. “Clearly, Congress did not agree to provide any type of executive bonus compensation and here we are looking at these numbers that nobody can make sense of.”
In a Wednesday interview with Peterson on NewsNation’s “On Balance with Leland Vittert,” Vittert called into question the practicality of keeping Amtrak funded, given its drop in ridership and severe financial woes.
Peterson said he had no disagreement with the criticisms of Amtrak, but said studies need to be done to make passenger rail more practical as it will a critical part of transportation infrastructure in the next century.
“Everything needs to be looked at on viability and why we’re doing it, there’s no disagreement there,” Peterson said. “But even public sector transit as well, as we venture into the next century, how that looks and the studies that are being done to make it viable for the folks that need it certainly needs to be put into perspective.”