Amtrak food costs cause hundreds of millions in losses

The burger meal on an Amtrak train costs $9.50 for a rider but more than $16 for the company. Photo: Amtrak

If you've ever bought a burger on an Amtrak train, you know that you've probably spent upwards of $9.50. That's one issue that affects your wallet.

When that burger cost Amtrak $16, though, it dramatically affects the wallet of the company, along with taxpayers. That's making lawmakers furious.

In the last ten years, officials say that the rail agency lost nearly $834 million on food alone. In 2011, the company lost $84.5 million on food.

When labor is factored into those patties, the hamburger they sell for just under $10 each costs them $16.15. The same even goes for sodas; each $2 serving costs Amtrak $3.40.

In a statement to Congress, Amtrak officials say that they're still looking for ways to improve cost recovery and aim to recover 70 percent of their food and beverage costs by 2015. They also say, though, that the availability of that food is what attracts travelers to the rails.

However, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), who chairs a committee with oversight of the railroad, thinks that isn't good enough.

"Every hamburger sold is subsidized $6.65 by the taxpayer," Mica said. "2015 is too far off. It's always tomorrow, and it's too late for the taxpayers."

Amtrak says that food costs actually only make up less than 8 percent of their total expenses every year and the they've been reducing the size of the federal subsidy they receive.

However, the company's own inspector general told Congress that there is more they could be doing to get their costs down.