Sustainability Pillars

Our sustainability program encompasses environmental, financial, and social sustainability considerations. Here is more information about how we define each pillar for our business as well as some examples. We recognize that initiatives and projects often touch on more than one pillar, which is evident in some of the examples below.

I. Environmental Sustainability

For Amtrak, environmental sustainability refers to operating in a manner that is in compliance with applicable environmental laws and regulations and with best practices beyond compliance that increase efficiency, reduce environmental impacts, and promote the sustainable use of resources. Below are some examples of how we strive for environmental sustainability.

Environmental Compliance

As a railroad, we are governed by environmental laws and regulations including the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act regarding waste disposal, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and many more local and state laws to protect our land, waterways and atmosphere. In order to ensure compliance, we operate under an Environment and Sustainability Management System (ESMS) that sets out procedures and training for Amtrak employees to follow. We have a rigorous internal environmental auditing program that audits a selection of Amtrak facilities annually on their compliance with federal, state, and local environmental regulations. Facilities are also evaluated on sustainability initiatives such as waste reduction and energy and water conservation.


While riding our trains, we hope you have noticed our recycling program. Amtrak is committed to making recycling an integral part of train travel. We strive to protect the environment and conserve resources by reusing and recycling materials when we can. Onboard, in our offices, and at our maintenance facilities, we generate a variety of municipal and industrial waste streams, which we recycle through our continually expanding program, helping us to conserve resources and save money.

Aside from municipal recycling, we also generate unique industrial materials from train repair, track repair and routine maintenance. Commonly discarded components that we recycle include train wheels, axles, brake shoes, radiators, polycarbonate windows and mattress foam. Other commonly recycled materials are used oil and scrap metals such as steel, brass and aluminum.

Our goal is to continue to identify recycling opportunities for waste streams that are not as easy to recycle, like carpet and curtains from our refurbished trains. For example, in 2015, our Environment and Sustainability group worked with the Procurement group to recycle foam seat cushions that could no longer be reused. This initiative resulted in keeping 14,000 cushions out of a landfill, and reduced our disposal costs by more than $4,000.

Onboard our trains you will find all café and lounge cars have been equipped with a built-in recycling container designated for collection of plastic and glass bottles, and aluminum cans. Opportunities to recycle newspapers and magazines can be found on all of Amtrak Acela Express trains in the Café Car and First Class cars. Additionally, you will find recycling receptacles on the platforms and in concourses of many of our Amtrak-owned stations.

Fuel & Energy

Fuel and electricity are some of our largest operational expenses and contribute over 80% of Amtrak's GHG emissions. As a result, many of our sustainability initiatives are focused on these two areas. Our fuel conservation efforts focus on behavioral change, encouraging efficient train handling and reducing locomotive idling wherever possible. We actively pursue grants and incentives for energy efficiency projects, and have completed lighting retrofit projects at the majority of our large facilities. Other projects we have recently completed include installing programmable thermostats and motion sensors at the majority of our locations, using building automation systems when opportunities exist, and upgrading our heating and cooling systems at Philadelphia's 30th Street Station and New York Penn Station.

We also understand the importance of renewable sources, and in 2014 Amtrak implemented a new green power purchasing policy. The policy provides guidelines for the purchase of power from environmentally preferable sources and technologies, including but not limited to, power from solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, biomass and low-impact hydroelectric sources for use within Amtrak operations. This initiative supports the company’s commitment to reduce its environmental impacts and make train services even more sustainable.

II. Financial Sustainability

For Amtrak, financial sustainability refers to refers to operating in a manner that promotes a financially stable and successful operation, improves efficiency, and reduces waste. Examples of Amtrak programs and initiatives that support Financial Sustainability include projects to reduce utility costs with upgrades like more energy efficient lighting; climate change adaptation to reduce future weather related outages; and customer focused changes such as eTicketing.

One of our core corporate strategic goals is to achieve financial excellence: to be profitable on an operating basis and be good stewards of capital to secure our long-term sustainability as a company. Our efforts to maximize revenues and reduce expenses each year span every department in our company — from running more efficient trains to reducing energy costs to using innovative technology to improving outdated processes. For example, we continue to upgrade our rolling stock equipment and right-size our trainsets for demand, allowing us to save operational costs.

A key part of our culture and a shared commitment from our employees is doing more with less: continuing to maximize revenue and minimize expenses wherever possible. By providing a safe, efficient method of intercity transport with strong customer service, we saw ridership and ticket revenue rise nearly every year between FY98 and FY14.

By increasing ridership, we are able to cover more of our operating costs through increased revenues, thereby reducing operating funding needed from Congress.

III. Social Sustainability

For Amtrak, social sustainability refers to operating in a manner that provides a quality service, engages and fosters accessibility, connectivity, and mobility in the communities we serve, and cultivates a healthy and productive workforce. We strive for social sustainability in many ways, including these:

Pets on Trains

In response to customer interest in traveling with pets, in 2015 Amtrak began piloting a pet program that allows customers to bring their small pets on select Eastern and Midwestern corridor trains. Due to the program's overwhelming success, Amtrak plans to expand this program in 2016 to include service for most long-distance trips up to seven hours in length. To date, nearly 3,000 pets have traveled along the NEC since the launch of the program.

Operation Lifesaver

Amtrak is proud of its strong collaboration with Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI), a national nonprofit organization with a mission to end collisions, deaths and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and on railroad property. Amtrak serves on the OLI board of directors, and is responsible for planning, directing and overseeing the safety activities to protect Amtrak passengers and employees. Nearly 100 Amtrak employees are also trained as Operation Lifesaver Authorized Volunteers to help spread the word about trespassing dangers and grade crossing safety to civic organizations, first responder classes and schools nationwide.


In order to provide sustainable transportation options for all passengers, Amtrak is working to improve the national intercity passenger rail system so that it is accessible to and more convenient for all travelers. Our goal is to bring all Amtrak-served stations into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) through our ADA Stations Program. Our priorities include upgrading stations for better train access, passenger information display systems, and access to buildings and key building amenities. We also made progress on our accessible boarding technologies program through the pilot of a retractable platform in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and through trials of new bridge plates and ramps. We will continue engaging with station owners, stakeholders from the disability community and state and federal agencies to enhance station components to increase passenger accessibility.