Amtrak has been struggling financially and talks to shrink seats as a way to generate more money were being thrown around.
Keep it Amtrak — not Jamtrack.
Sen. Chuck Schumer urged Amtrak on Sunday to put the kibosh on any discussion of trying to make economy seats smaller to squish in more passengers.
An official with the cash-strapped rail system has said it was considering the move as a way to generate more money. Airlines have taken similar steps to create additional seats.
"When it comes to money-making ideas, railroads shouldn’t let the airline industry play conductor, and travelers would agree," Schumer said.
"In fact, travelers choose Amtrak because it offers a more comfortable traveling experience.
"But if Amtrak starts on the slippery slope of shrunk seating, my view is that it could become the norm to pack people in like sardines."
On Wednesday, a top-ranking Amtrak official revealed the idea is being studied.
"We are looking at doing some creative things in terms of creating an economy class," outgoing Amtrak co-chief executive Wick Moorman said at a National Press Club talk in Washington.
The move would limit leg space.
"When it comes to money-making ideas, railroads shouldn’t let the airline industry play conductor, and travelers would agree," Sen. Schumer said.
"There will be some other things that just don’t make it quite as comfortable," Moorman said.
Schumer said that will turn off customers.
"Amtrak should not throw out one of the best things about Amtrak and train travel," he said. "And that is you can at least get a seat you can sit and be comfortable in."
Amtrak last year carried 31.3 million passengers, with many riding along the Northeast Corridor, records show.
That helped the rail line generate $3.2 billion in total revenue.
But it still tallied an operating loss of $227 million, the smallest since 1973, records show.
Schumer believes skimping on space will only cause more losses.
"I am sympathetic to Amtrak," he said. "I understand they need to save money but not with things that are counterproductive like this."
Many Amtrak travelers choose the high speed railway because of the comfort the trains provide.
The Senate minority leader urged Amtrak to look at other ways to increase profits.
"Look for other ways to make money," he said. "The Northeast Corridor is very profitable. It makes over half a billion dollars a year."
It’s not all about belt-tightening at Amtrak.
On Monday, the rail system ducked a major proposed budget cut by the Trump administration.
The U.S. House Appropriations Committee panel blocked a suggested $630 million reduction in federal subsidies used to run long-distance train service.
Instead, the House panel approved a $1.4 billion financial plan for the rail system, similar to last year’s budget.
The panel also set aside an added $900 million for a plan to build a new train tunnel under the Hudson River close to New York City. That Gateway rail project is expected to cost a total of $24 billion.