Digest: Port Authority of NY-NJ considers budget with layoffs, service cuts

News Wire Digest fourth section for Nov. 20: CTA Holiday Train will operate with changes for pandemic; Amtrak announces support for legislation on rail unemployment benefits
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Friday midday rail news:

Port Authority of NY-NJ budget proposal includes layoffs, service cuts

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is considering layoffs, service cuts, and cutbacks to future capital projects as it prepares its 2021 budget reflecting COVID-19-related financial woes. NorthJersey.com reports that Executive Director Rick Cotton told the board the proposed $7.3 billion plan, a 15% reduction from 2020, is “an austerity operating budget.” The proposed budget includes elimination of 626 jobs, or 7% of the workforce, mostly through voluntary severance and retirements; a hiring freeze and 15% reduction in overtime; a 5% reduction in operating expenses,and a 33% reduction in capital spending. The final budget will be adopted at the board’s Dec. 17 meeting. The Port Authority's operations include PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) rail service.

CTA Holiday Train will operate, but won't take passengers
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chicago Transit Authority will still operate its annual Holiday Train, but the format of the annual special event has been changed. The train (and its bus counterpart) will operate “out of service,” meaning they will not be available for passenger boarding. The six-car train, decorated with holiday lights and images, will include a flatcar carrying Santa, his sleigh, reindeer, and decorated trees, allowing Santa to wave to riders at stations. The train will debut Nov. 27, with its final operation on Dec. 21. More details and the full schedule is available here.

Amtrak announces support for bill addressing rail workers' unemployment benefits
Amtrak is praising the reintroduction of legislation to address a law reducing Railroad Retirement Board unemployment insurance benefits. The passenger railroad says S. 4860, the Railroad Employee Equality and Fairness Act, would end a sequestration law which reduces benefits each yeareven though budget sequestration does not apply to regular federal unemployment insurance, meaning railroad workers experience reduced benefits while the general public does not. “Railroad workers have played an important role in supporting this nation and deserve fair treatment,” Amtrak President and CEO Bill Flynn said in a press release. “We thank the Senate for its work and look forward to the quick passage of this legislation.” The bill was introduced in late October by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). More details are available in a press release from Portman’s office.

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