Sustainability Report FY 2020

At the outset of Amtrak’s fiscal year 2020, we were operating at record ridership. As the pandemic spread across the nation, we saw our ridership plummet by 97% from FY19 ridership levels. For customers who relied on our train service, Amtrak was there providing an essential service. If it weren’t for Amtrak employees who kept our trains clean and safe and legislators who provided critical funding, America’s passenger railroad would have had a much different trajectory than the optimistic path that now lies ahead.

On the following pages are examples of Amtrak’s resilience and response to the most difficult year of the company’s 50-year history. Although travel slowed, we used 2020 to continue planning the future of U.S. passenger rail. We advanced climate resilience research and expanded our network to learn from other agencies like the Army Corps of Engineers, private industry, and flood-threatened local governments. We developed Amtrak’s first solar power purchase agreement contract in Washington, DC, and we initiated internal climate roundtables across various departments to outline next steps toward an enterprise-wide resilience strategic plan.
Read more in the Executive Summary

Executive Summary

As a result of the greatly reduced train service, fuel (-14% from FY 2019) and electricity (-3% from FY 2019) consumption declined, directly contributing to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Fewer trains and remote work for office-based employees resulted in greater progress toward the company’s GHG reduction target of 40% by 2030. Amtrak’s GHG emissions declined from 934,038 metric tons CO2e in FY 2019 to 803,008 metric tons of CO2e, a 14% drop. As Amtrak restores service to normal schedules, we must use this year to embed best practices and continue conserving fuel and energy while exploring additional approaches to drive down emissions.

In FY 2020, we reflected not only on Amtrak’s progress over the last five decades, but where Amtrak is today and where we need to go—socially, environmentally, and financially. As the United States continues to grapple with racism and social inequality, Amtrak remains steadfast in the continuous training of employees to address bias and the ongoing focus of Amtrak’s Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DI&B) program. Throughout the report are details of our commitments, measured progress against annual sustainability goals, and highlights of our accomplishments.

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Although the pandemic affected our lives and business operations, we continued to work toward our safety, infrastructure, and sustainability goals. The following metrics include key sustainability targets and a range of other important focus areas. We believe it’s important for you to see the numbers behind each commitment.

Q&A with Qiana Spain,

Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer

I envision that whatever we do, it will be sustainable—beyond any individual or leader. Our primary goal is that Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging (DI&B) will become part of Amtrak’s DNA, which means it must continuously evolve. I want us all to strive to be bigger than where we are at any given moment. The way we do that is by being honest about who we are, where we are, and how we treat each other.

We initiated the first annual DI&B report which demonstrates we are diverse in certain populations, but also clearly indicated gaps in other populations such as management and senior leadership positions. To become a better company, we need more diverse representation where important decisions are made. These decision makers should reflect our consumers and have varying perspectives to drive stronger connections to our passengers and our communities, including on the topic of sustainability.

We will publish this report annually and make it available on Within the report are metrics related to gender, age, and ethnicity. As we launch training, new hiring guidelines, and career advancement targets, we will monitor change within these metrics.

Our customers will benefit from a stronger DI&B culture because they will receive more innovative ideas and offerings. Our riders primarily interface with our frontline employees, and it takes the greater work of all Amtrak employees to create a stronger DI&B culture and enhance connectivity to our customers. If our employees at all levels in the organization reflect the 500 communities we serve, we will be more connected to their values and needs. This should result in increased ridership, higher customer satisfaction, and increased investment from our key stakeholders.

We must listen to our frontline employees because they are in the stations, on the trains, in the yards, and know firsthand what our customers are asking for and experiencing. Our back-office employees have a deep knowledge of our financial systems, IT systems, HR processes, and can provide input on how to enhance these areas so we can better service our customers.

We are having important conversations by engaging employees whose experiences have historically been ignored or undervalued and asking them to provide input on what will make Amtrak more inclusive. This is an important step to building a culture where employees feel a strong sense of belonging. We will continue these conversations and take it further with accountability, transparency, and with the full support of the Executive Leadership Team and the Board of Directors. We know we have work to do across all departments to be better.

In my opinion there are two primary external influences that could help Amtrak achieve our goals more wholly and quickly. The first is how we respond to the impact of COVID-19 on our business. Every organization is in the process of figuring out how to survive the pandemic. We are identifying processes and policies to help manage the impacts to our workforce, many of whom are challenged with unexpected caregiving responsibilities, illness, quarantine, or even death. Like other companies, it’s been critical to value the external public health and social stressors our colleagues and communities faced and the effect this had on and off the clock. People will remember how we treated them during this time. Did we communicate, were we transparent in our decisions, did we show empathy towards each other?

In addition to a global pandemic, we were faced with tremendous social turmoil in our country. This social unrest starkly highlighted gender and racial inequalities. The Executive Leadership Team chose to proactively address how these events impacted our communities and our company. We looked in our own house and questioned Amtrak’s outdated hiring practices, policies, and unbalanced demographics. We are proactively addressing these disparities as our core work and journey continues.

As one of our first steps, we’re re-establishing partnerships with outside organizations for support, inspiration, and a pipeline of diverse perspectives. Organizations like WTS and the National Society of Black Engineers can be a bridge for us to bring in talent and they help us achieve our commitment to change. New talent with varying perspectives enriches our workplace and breaks down silos.

We must truly embrace our Values: Do the Right Thing, Put Customers First, and Excel Together. I know that sounds basic, but it really is that simple. To achieve the vision I shared earlier, people must become comfortable having uncomfortable conversations. We need to stand up for others, even when those issues do not impact us directly. Our leaders must be accountable for their behavior because change starts at the top. When ideas aren’t being heard or valued, they must be the ones to speak up. By doing this, they will set the expectation of appropriate behavior.

Although change starts at the top, change sustains when it is embraced throughout the organization. We need to address our unconscious bias and build self-awareness. To support this work, we’re developing training on allyship, unconscious bias, and best hiring practices. These levers move a company from awareness to culture change.

Surviving 2020 brought Amtrak together. We recognized our flaws, but we also bridged existing divides - proving we can propel the company through something this difficult with shared values and goals. We move forward more effectively when we leverage these behaviors we’ve shown during these crisis’ and implement them in action in our daily activities.

At the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak), we work with our partners to help move people, the economy and the nation forward. Our mission, as defined by the U.S. Congress through the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, is to “provide efficient and effective intercity passenger rail mobility consisting of high-quality service that is trip-time competitive with other intercity travel options.” Amtrak operates a network of intercity passenger rail services spanning 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian provinces.

Amtrak is a federally chartered corporation, operating as a for-profit company, with the federal government as majority stockholder. Members of the Amtrak Board of Directors are appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The company was created by an act of Congress in 1970 to take control of the majority of the nation’s intercity passenger rail services. We’ve been helping people go places since daily operations began in May 1971. Taking into account Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, State Supported and Long Distance service lines, shared intermodal stations, and infrastructure access and services provided to 13 state and regional authorities for commuter services from coast to coast, our services are used by more than 348 million travelers a year (pre-COVID-19).

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Highlight Stories

Long Distance

State Supported

Northeast Corridor

Suspended Service

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