Responding to increasingly serious delays across the national train network, the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), represented by the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), will file an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief with the United States Supreme Court in the lawsuit between the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Association of American Railroads.
The brief will argue that a lower court was mistaken in ruling that it is unconstitutional for Amtrak to participate with the Federal Railroad Administration in setting performance standards. These metrics helped ensure that Amtrak’s trains – which operate on tracks owned by the private freight railroads – met minimum standards of service quality, and they were developed in conjunction with the Surface Transportation Board, freight railroads, states, rail labor, and rail passenger organizations. NARP believes that the recent decline in on-time performance by Amtrak trains is at least in part due to lower court’s ruling (U.S. Court of Appeals – D.C. Circuit; Association of American Railroads v. U.S. Department of Transportation, et al., No. 12-5204).
ELPC is undertaking the legal research and will file the brief on NARP’s behalf on a pro bono basis. The case is expected to be argued in late 2014 or early 2015, with a decision expected sometime after that.
“This is one of the most important issues NARP has ever tackled,” said NARP Chairman Robert Stewart. “The standards adopted by the government provided real protection for the train-traveling public. As a consumer organization representing railroad passengers, our primary responsibility is to ensure that the services provided meet the reasonable expectations people have for getting to their destinations on time and safely. NARP is deeply grateful to ELPC for their professional assistance in presenting our views to the Supreme Court.”