- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 27, 2002

David Gunn, who ran transit systems in New York City and Washington, was named yesterday as president of Amtrak, the troubled national rail passenger service.
Mr. Gunn, 64, is to take over May 15. He succeeds George Warrington, who resigned unexpectedly in March to become executive director of New Jersey's bus and rail agency.
"While we face substantial financial and physical challenges," Mr. Gunn said, "I'm convinced that by securing adequate operational and capital funding, we will be able to rebuild our plant in an effective and efficient manner and continue to provide a high-quality service to the traveling public."
Mr. Gunn, who has been in the railroad business for 38 years, takes over as Congress prepares to vote on the future of Amtrak.
Alternatives include increasing federal aid or breaking up Amtrak and eliminating money-losing routes. The congressionally created Amtrak Reform Council has recommended breaking up the rail company and allowing private companies to bid to take over individual routes.
Before resigning, Mr. Warrington threatened to cut 18 long-distance train routes if Amtrak did not get $1.2 billion in federal aid, more than double the $521 million proposed by President Bush.
At the same time, Amtrak is under a congressional mandate to wean itself from federal operating subsidies by later this year. The reform council has said Amtrak won't meet the deadline.
Rep. Jack Quinn, New York Republican, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure railroads subcommittee, praised Mr. Gunn's hiring as "a perfect fit for steering the nation's rail passenger service into the future."
After working for transit systems in Boston and Philadelphia, Mr. Gunn took over the New York City subway system, the nation's largest, in 1984. The New York Times has called the system "a symbol of urban decay."
During his six-year tenure, he halved bus and train breakdowns, eliminated most graffiti and overhauled buses, subway cars and stations. Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign, a New York City transit riders advocacy group that often clashed with Mr. Gunn, said he definitely improved the subway system.
"He certainly knows how to run a railroad. His record in New York is hard to argue with," Mr. Russianoff said. "He's a very strong-willed person. I wouldn't hire him to be my community outreach person, but the proof is in what he achieved."
Mr. Gunn ran the Metro subway system in the Washington area from 1991 to 1994. He resigned because of conflicts with the authority's board. At Metro, he sped up construction of the 103-mile system and began a program to rebuild subway cars and buy new buses.
Mr. Gunn ran the Toronto Transit Commission, Canada's largest mass transit system, from 1995 to 1999. After that, he served as a transportation and government consultant.

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