In Its Customary Position

May 21, 2019

An Amtrak Viewliner baggage car brings up the rear of the westbound Lake Shore Limited as it cruises through Olmsted Fall, Ohio, en route to Chicago.

The next stop for Train 49 will be Elyria, Ohio.

The typical operation of Nos. 48 and 49 has the Boston section at the front of the train. Only the New York section still has a baggage car and it is always on the rear.

And that’s for good reason, too. You would not want passengers walking through a baggage going to and from the Boston and New York sections.

Ahead of the baggage cars are a pair of Viewliner sleepers and Viewliner dining car Dover.

Agencies Still Seeking Additional Hiawatha Service

May 21, 2019

Officials of the departments of transportation of Illinois and Wisconsin are still pursuing an expansion of Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service.

Both made that point in the wake of the decision by the Illinois Department of Transportation not to support construction of new tracks in the north Chicago suburbs that an earlier study said was an key component to making the expansion feasible.

A 3-mile siding has been proposed to be built in Lake Forest and a 2-mile holding track would be built in Glenview and Lake Forest.

The tracks would enable Canadian Pacific freight trains to get out of the way of Amtrak and Metra trains as the CP trains awaited permission to enter a Union Pacific line used by CP to reach its yard in Bensonville.

The siding had been opposed by residents of the two suburban communities.

Arun Rao, passenger rail program manager of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, said his agency met with their Illinois counterparts who reiterated their commitment to expanding service in the Chicago-Milwaukee corridor.

“We need a few more conversations with the railroads to see what direction we’re going and have a better idea of an [implementation] timetable,” he said.

IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell said his agency will continue to work with WisDOT in its efforts to seek federal infrastructure grants for the expansion and added that IDOT “is a strong supporter of service on this line.”

Hiawatha ridership rose 11 percent in April and is poised to carry 900,000 passengers in fiscal year 2019. The route saw a record  858,000 passengers in FY 2018.

The expansion proposal would increase Hiawatha service from seven to 10 daily roundtrips.

Rao said the equipment needed for the expansion will include a six car trainset for Hiawatha service that will come from an 88-car order for new cars placed with Siemens by the Midwest states that fund Amtrak corridor service.

WisDOT is seeking a federal grant to be used to pay for two other consists.

Rao said there weren’t any details yet on what an alternative plan for the expansion might involved.

He said there is no timeline for the project and there is no danger of losing out on federal money or losing federal approvals.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers included $45 million in bonding authority for the Hiawatha expansion project as part of its 2019-2021 budget plan,

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the growing ridership of the Hiawathas means the current service level cannot sufficiently meet current demand.

Virginia City to Buy Land for Amtrak Station

May 21, 2019

The town council of Christiansburg, Virginia, has agreed to buy nearly 7 acres of land for a proposed Amtrak station.

The land is located between Mill Lane and the Norfolk Southern tracks and is being purchased from Community Housing Partners.

The city is seeking to become a stop for a Northeast Regional train that now terminates and originates in Roanoke, Virginia.

It has sponsored a study that found establishing an Amtrak station in Christiansburg would attract 40,000 new passengers a year.

“We’re hopeful of economic development impacts and tourism impacts in Christiansburg and the whole New River Valley region,” said Town Manager Randy Wingfield. “I think we are very hopeful, otherwise we wouldn’t be buying the property.”

PTC Covers all Union Pacific Passenger Routes

May 21, 2019

Union Pacific is now operating with positive train control on 80 percent of its route miles.

The carriers said it recently implemented PTC on 582 route miles, bringing required PCT-operated route miles to 13,597.

In a news release, UP said PTC has been in operation over all of its routes hosting passenger trains since last year

UP said it continues to work to ensure PTC interoperability with other freight and passenger railroads operating on UP track by 2020.

In the news release, UP said it completed PTC installation on required route miles and employee training in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Bound for Miami

May 19, 2019

Amtrak’s Silver Meteor rushes past the Newark Liberty Airport station without even slowing down.

No. 97 is bound for Miami and assuming it doesn’t lose any significant time en route will be halting at its destination in more than 24 hours.

Track Work to Affect Empire Service Train

May 19, 2019

Track work will result in a temporary schedule change for Empire Service Train No. 288 on May 19 and June 2.

On those dates No. 288 will operate from Niagara Falls to Croton-Harmon, New York, with passengers reaching New York City on a special Metro North train.

That train will terminate at Grand Central Terminal whereas No. 288 terminates at New York Penn Station.

Amtrak said in a service advisory that Metro-North will honor Amtrak tickets on the special train. No Amtrak staff will be aboard that train or at Grand Central.

Passengers will be responsible for making their own arrangements to transfer from Grand Central to Penn Station if they so desire.

Downeaster Train-Bus Passes Launched in Maine

May 19, 2019

A plan has been announced to enable Amtrak Downeaster Service passengers to transfer to public transportation in Maine at no additional fare on a route served by trains and buses.

The agreement involves the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority and the Greater Portland Metro.

NNEPA oversees the Downeaster Service whereas Portland Metro operates the METRO BREEZ bus network.

The two agencies have coordinated scheduling and fares so that passengers will be able to buy one-way, 10-ride and monthly passes that enable them to transfer between train and bus or vice versa for no extra cost.

Amtrak operates five daily roundtrips between Portland and Brunswick, Maine. METRO BREEZ operates 13 express weekday bus roundtrips between Portland and Yarmouth, Freeport and Brunswick, and seven Saturday roundtrips.

A one-way pass will cost $3, a 10-ride pass $27 and a monthly pass $90.

“This schedule and fare structure make it easy for passengers to travel on the mode or schedule that best meets their needs. Take the train one-way and the bus the other.” said Natalie Bogart, marketing director at NNEPRA, in a news release.

The five Downeaster roundtrips between Portland and Brunswick originate or continue to Boston North Station.

Additional information is available at gpmetro.org or by calling 207-774-0351.

Road Work Affects Cascades Thruway Bus Schedules

May 19, 2019

Construction on Interstate 5 in Oregon will affect Thruway bus service provided by Oregon POINT bus service to Cascades Service trains between Eugene and Portland.

Amtrak has announced schedule changes that take effect May 20 and extend through Sept. 30.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the changed will allow time for connections to the Cascades trains.

Bus 5502 will depart Eugene Willamette Station 15 minutes earlier at 5:15 a.m., on Saturday and Sunday. The Eugene station will not be open for the departure of Bus 5502 and no checked baggage will be available for Bus 5502 at any stop.

Bus 5504 will depart Eugene 1 hour earlier, at 7:25 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Bus 5506 will depart Eugene 30 minutes earlier at 2 p.m. Bus 5518 will depart Eugene 1 hour earlier at 10:55 a.m.

Bus 5528 will depart Eugene 1 hour earlier at 12:15 p.m. Bus 5544 will depart Eugene 15 minute earlier at 7:15 a.m.

Bus 5541 will depart Portland Union Station 1 hour earlier at 6 a.m. Passengers boarding at Woodburn, Salem or Albany should check for updated schedule changes to their times at those points prior to travel.

Summer Discount Fares Announced

May 19, 2019

Amtrak has announced two summer fare programs, including a buy one get one free sale seeking to boost off-peak ridership on Saturdays in the Northeast Corridor.

The special fares will be available on both Acela Express (in business class) and Northeast Regional (in coach class) trains between May 18 and Sept. 7.

Reservations must be made by June 5th and require a three day advance purchase.

In partnership with New York State, Amtrak will offer 15 percent discounts on regular coach fares for travel across New York State on Empire Service trains on the Maple Leaf, Ethan Allen Express and Adirondack.

Travel on the Maple Leaf and Ethan Allen Express must be within New York State, but the fares on the Adirondack apply to travel to and from Montreal

A five-day advance purchase is required and black-out dates will apply.

FECI Sells Part of Miami Central Station

May 19, 2019

Ridership that has fallen short of expectations has led Florida East Coast Industries to sell a portion of its MiamiCentral station complex.

FECI is the parent company of the former Brightline intercity rail system, which earlier this year was rebranded as Virgin Trains USA

News reports say FECI has sold for $160 million two office towers and more than 150,000 square feet of commercial space, ground-floor retail and parking to the Shorenstein Company of San Francisco.

Shorenstein is a real estate investment firm that is one of the largest landlords in San Francisco.

FECI will continue to operate the train station and rail service at MiamiCentral.

One report indicated that FECI sought the deal as a way to recoup losses from missing ridership goals.