Happening Now

NARP Releases Comment in Support of 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to Back STB Regarding On-Time Performance

February 10, 2017

Release #17-02

For Immediate Release (#17-02)

Contact: Robert Brady – (202) 680-495

Washington, D.C. — While the National Association of Railroad Passengers is disappointed the U.S. Department of Justice has decided not to stand up for American rail passengers, we remain confident that the Surface Transportation Board will prevail in its own case, argued this week in Kansas City, to preserve on-time standards that protect rail travelers.

A 2016 appellate court decision junking performance standards written by FRA and Amtrak undermined vital passenger rail service protections; unfortunately, the Justice Dept.’s latest move declining to petition the Supreme Court to challenge that decision leaves the STB’s rule as the last one protecting passengers’ rights to expect their trains to arrive at their destinations on time.

The STB case is full of complex regulatory minutiae, but the core argument is basic: the Association of American Railroads (AAR) argues that the Surface Transportation Board can’t regulate on-time performance, even though the Justice Dept., and Congress expressly expect the STB to do just that.

In the case, argued before a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday, AAR contended that decision undermining Sec. 207 metrics and standards, enshrined into law by the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA), also had the knock-on effect of invalidating Sec. 213. PRRIA Sec. 213 allows the STB to define what constitutes on-time performance and to enforce meeting the standards associated with it.

But that argument is a red herring. Both the STB and the DOJ told the court last November that STB has the authority from Congress to conduct a rulemaking under Sec. 213, and it did so reasonably in selecting an on-time performance standard that takes into account timeliness at all stations and not just the end points. Because it was exercising its authority and it did so reasonably, the 8th Circuit should uphold the OTP rule.

NARP submitted a brief, in partnership with the Environmental Law & Policy Center and other passenger groups, in support of the STB, citing decades of legal precedent, supporting statements from the congressional members who drafted the section of the 2008 rail law now under attack, and regulations dating back to 1973.

“We believe that the court should back STB for three central reasons: Congress gave the STB the authority, in law, to make the rule and said so in supporting statements; STB considered public input while making the rule, and; this establishes the STB's move as reasonable, not ‘arbitrary or capricious,’” said NARP President Jim Mathews. “All Stations OTP (ASOTP) is both reasonable and essential for the passengers, states and cities served by Amtrak’s national network. Congress originally intended the OTP standard to be All Points from the very beginning, for reasons that remain important and valid to this day.”

About the National Association of Railroad Passengers

NARP is the only national organization speaking for the nearly 40 million users of passenger trains and rail transit. We have worked since 1967 to expand the quality and quantity of passenger rail in the U.S. Our mission is to work towards a modern, customer-focused national passenger train network that provides a travel choice Americans want. Our work is supported by more than 28,000 individual members nationwide.