Archive for September, 2015

Business Class Set to Launch on Hoosier State

September 28, 2015

Business class service will begin on the Hoosier State on Oct. 2. Iowa Pacific, which oversees the service on the Chicago-Indianapolis train, will also add a third coach to the run.

Business class passengers will receive breakfast to Chicago and dinner to Indianapolis.

The service will be provided in the upper level of the great dome car. Coach passengers will continue to be able to purchase food and beverages in the lower level of the dome car.

The Hoosier State operates quad-weekly on the days that Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate.

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Rail Users Network to Meet in Cleveland

September 25, 2015

A rail passenger advocacy group will meet on Saturday in Cleveland at the headquarters of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.

Members of the Rail Users Network will take a tour of the RTA shops and hear from various speakers, including RTA CEO Joe Calabrese; Steve Albro, vice chairman of RTA’s Citizen Advisory Board; Ken Prendergast, executive director of All Aboard Ohio; and Jeanne Cantu, Amtrak’s business comptroller for long-distance services.

The public is invited to come hear the presentations, which will begin at 1:30 p.m., but only members of the Rail Users Network will be permitted to join the RTA shops tour.

Group members will also board an RTA Red Line train to visit the new station in the Little Italy neighborhood of Cleveland.

Richard Rudolph, chairman of the Rail Users Network, said the group favors expansion of America’s passenger rail lines and making train travel more customer-friendly.

“Unfortunately, we have people in Congress who don’t think rail is a priority,” said Rudolph, a retired professor of sustainability and climate change at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

The Rail Users Network also considers itself to be a voice for city transit passengers.

Prendersgast said that now could be a pivotal moment for expanding passenger rail in Ohio.

He cited pending studies by the Federal Railroad Administration to study expansion of rail passenger service in the Midwest and the Southeast.

The FTA last year issued a similar plan for Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

Prendergast also pointed to a provision in a bill approved in the U.S. Senate that would permit use of federal money to expand long-distance rail passenger service without the need for a host state to sponsor it.

The House has yet to act on its version of the Surface Transportation Program.

“With these ingredients coming together, the time is right for All Aboard Ohio to consider how best to use these opportunities for rail expansion in Ohio,” Prendergast said, noting that the group has proposed extending Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian to Chicago via Youngstown, Cleveland, Toledo and Dearborn, Michigan. The train currently operates between New York and Pittsburgh with funding provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Survey Finds Support for High-Speed Rail

September 25, 2015

The American Public Transportation Association released a survey this week show that 63 percent of Americans say they would use high-speed trains if they were available in the United States.

APTA said that when respondents were informed of the potential costs and time-saving benefits of using high-speed rail, that number increased to 67 percent

The survey was conducted by market research firm TechnoMetrica, which conducted interviews with based on 1,005 random digit-dial phone interviews.

“People want high-speed rail in America and we are seeing support among various ages and in different regions of the country regardless of political party,” said APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Melaniphy. “In addition, the millennial generation and younger adults will lead the way with their preferences to have a multimodal transportation system that supports their lifestyle.”

Amtrak to Start Late Night Hiawatha Service

September 22, 2015

Amtrak has announced that it will offer late night Saturday service between Chicago and Milwaukee between Oct. 3 and Jan. 2.

No. 344 will depart Milwaukee at 10:40 p.m. with No. 343 leaving Chicago at 11:10 p.m.

Trains 329 and 330, the early morning departures, will not operate on Saturdays during this schedule. Ridership results will be evaluated after the holidays.

Amtrak said the late night service will serve those who have plans for a late dinner, attending a show, going shopping or engaging in some other activity on a Saturday night.

The trains make intermediate stops in Glenview, Illinois, and in Wisconsin at Sturtevant and the Milwaukee Airport.

In a news release, Amtrak said the Hiawatha Service trains carried nearly 800,000 passengers in 2014, ranking the route among the top 10 Amtrak routes nationally.

The service is jointly funded by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Because Amtrak ticket windows are closed in late evening, passengers will be permitted to buy tickets on board the train without penalty.

Toledo Station to Observe 65th Anniversary

September 22, 2015

Toledo Central Union Terminal will mark its 65th anniversary today with a ceremony and exhibits.

Speakers at the ceremony will include Toledo-Lucas County Port President Paul Toth and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur.

The event will run from 5 to 8 p.m., with refreshments being served. Among the planned exhibits and guests are:

  • Byron “Barney” Stickles, a former terminal agent and telegrapher with the Wabash Railroad, one of the four carriers using the station when it opened.
  • The Toledo History Museum and Steve Rathke, a current railroad engineer, both showing items from Central Union Terminal memorabilia collections.
  • The Northwest Ohio Passenger Rail Association, with information about efforts to promote passenger rail in the region.
  • The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, with an exhibit about rail labor past and present.
  • Railroad artist Gary Cornell.
  • An exhibit of photographs from the archives of The Blade — the daily newspaper in Toledo — of  the dedication ceremony held on Sept. 22, 1950.
  • Model trains depicting the four railroads that served the station when it opened, including the Wabash, Baltimore & Ohio, Chesapeake & Ohio and New York Central.

“It’s important to discuss the history of passenger trains, as well as the future of passenger trains and the importance of rail in our community,” said Holly Kemler, the port authority’s communications manager.

Toledo Central Union Terminal was built by the New York Central and turned out to be the last major urban railroad station built by a private railroad in the United States.

At the time that it opened, the terminal served more than four dozen trains. Today four Amtrak trains use the facility.

Also using the terminal are local transit system buses and intercity buses that connect with Amtrak trains. In spring 2016, Greyhound bus lines will begin using the facility, which since 2001 has been named Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaza.

After Amtrak took over most of the nation’s intercity passenger trains on May 1, 1971, the station was idle.

A short-lived Chicago-New York train began shortly after Amtrak began, but was discontinued in early January 1972 after the states along the route failed to come up with money to underwrite the route’s losses.

Amtrak returned in Toledo in October 1975 when the Lake Shore Limited began operating between Chicago and New York/Boston. Amtrak’s Chicago-Washington, D.C., Capitol Limited also serves the station.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, Amtrak had a Chicago-Toledo train via Detroit named the Lake Cities.

During the Amtrak era, Central Union Terminal continued to serve as a division headquarters for Penn Central and then Conrail.

After moving its offices out of the building in 1995, Conrail sold the terminal to the port authority for $23,000.

The port authority spent $5.5 million to renovate the terminal, which had a grand reopening on Sept. 22, 1996.

At one point, the port authority had to talk Amtrak out of abandoning the facility for a smaller station in Toledo.

Although the renovation of the terminal included bus bays on the west side of the building for Greyhound, that company refused to use them.

Greyhound said it didn’t want to break its lease for its current station at 811 Jefferson Ave. and company practice prohibits backing out of a bus bay and onto a busy street, as it would need to do.

When Greyhound begins using the terminal, its buses will stop along Emerald Avenue in front of the station.

Greyhound currently has 25 daily bus departures for Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus and Indianapolis.

The addition of Greyhound will mean activity in a facility that is closed between mid-morning and late afternoon.

Great Dome Car Returns to Adirondack

September 21, 2015

Amtrak’s only remaining dome car will begin six-week seasonal service on the New York-Montreal Adirondack.

The “Great Dome” will operate between Sept. 24 and Nov. 3.

The car has upper level windows on all sides. Among the sights to see are Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains.

The dome car will operate northbound from Albany to Montreal on Thursdays, Saturdays and Mondays and returns south from Montreal on Fridays, Sundays, and Tuesdays. The dome car will not operate on Wednesdays.

Passengers are welcome to ride in the car at no extra cost. Seats are unreserved and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

When available, Trails and Rails volunteers will be aboard select dome car trips offering historical commentary between Saratoga Springs and Westport, New York.

Passengers can also take advantage of the I Love NY 15 percent discount off the regular (full) adult rail fare, valid for sale through May 2016. Reservations are required. Up to two children ages 2-12 may accompany each adult at half the discounted rail fare.

Track Work Affects Chicago-St. Louis Route

September 21, 2015

Upcoming track work by Union Pacific will result in some cancellation and services changes for Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle trains between Chicago and St. Louis on Sept. 21 and 22.

  • Train 300 will be canceled, and alternate service will not be provided. Passengers can make reservations aboard other Lincoln Service trains or the alternate bus services shown below.
  • Trains 301, 302 and 303 will be canceled, and bus service will be provided at all stations on the route.
  • Southbound Train 21/421 will detour between Chicago and St. Louis on Sept. 21 and 22, and will not stop at any intermediate stations. Alternate transportation will not be provided. At St. Louis, the train will resume its normal schedule to Los Angeles.
  • Northbound Train 22/422 will operate as scheduled to St. Louis. On Sept. 21 and 22, the train will detour between St. Louis and Chicago, and will not stop at any intermediate stations. Passengers on Train 22/422 destined for Chicago will remain on the train. Passengers on Train 22/422 traveling to stations between St. Louis and Chicago will get off the train in St. Louis and board a bus to their destination. The bus will only stop to discharge passengers.
  • Trains 321 and 322 will be canceled on Sept. 21 and 22. Passengers may make reservations on Lincoln Service bus/train services referenced above.

Amtrak said that trains traveling through the work area may encounter delays of up to 45 minutes.

 

Amtrak Kicks Off New Branding Campaign

September 14, 2015

Amtrak has launched a new nationwide brand campaign titled “500 Destinations: Infinite Stories.”

The passenger carrier said the campaign was inspired by passengers’ travel experiences and is seeking to create top-of-mind awareness while showcasing the comfort, freedom, service and value of train travel.

“The storytelling at the heart of the campaign focuses on the unique experiences and adventures only rail travel can provide,” Amtrak said in a news release. “Whether it’s a trip to college, a business trip with colleagues, a girls’ weekend, or a dream vacation across the country, Amtrak takes you there.”

Amtrak said it is playing up rail travel as a smarter way to travel because it offers passengers the opportunity to relax and stretch out, move about freely and work or play.

“Amtrak’s new campaign speaks to the uniquely enjoyable experience of rail travel,” said Darlene Abubakar, Amtrak acting vice president brand management and marketing. “We are reinvigorating the Amtrak brand by celebrating thousands of travel experiences while simultaneously reinforcing what longtime Amtrak loyalists love about America’s Railroad: comfort, convenience and a commitment to excellent customer service.”

The campaign will provide messages across a variety of media platforms, including TV, print, digital and social media.

Amtrak created the campaign in coordination with its advertising agency, FCB Garfinkel of New York.

Capitol Limited Bike Program Launched

September 14, 2015

The long-awaited bicycles aboard the Capitol Limited program began on Monday.

Passengers at any station served by Nos. 29 and 30 between Chicago and Washington, D.C., will be able to roll their bikes along the platform and onto the train. They will need to secure their bikes on a rack in the baggage car.

Passengers with bikes must arrive at a station 30 minutes prior to the train’s departure to allow time to transport the bike to the baggage car. Only standard bikes will be permitted.

Large seats and/or saddle bags must be removed from the bike and checked or carried on the train. There is a $20 bike service fee.

Reservations are required and passengers must have a travel document (ticket) for their bikes, which can obtained by selecting “add bike” when booking travel on Amtrak.com.

Reservations can also be obtain by calling 800-USA-RAIL or visiting a staffed ticket office.

Amtrak stations with ticketing and baggage service that currently provide boxed bike service will continue to offer this service. Standard bike policy and charges apply on trains where applicable.

Amtrak worked with Adventure Cycling Association and other bicycle and passenger rail groups to form an advisory bicycle task force to oversee this project to establish walk-on bike service on the Capitol Limited.

“We’ve worked with the cycling community to identify solutions and bring new ideas to expand services for passengers who travel with their bikes,” said Deborah Stone-Wulf, Amtrak vice president of sales and customer Service in a news release. “We look forward to measuring the success of this service with an eye to expansion to additional routes across our national network.”

Nos. 29 and 30 run parallel with The Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal towpath between Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.

CONO Flag Stop Coming to Marks, MS, in 2016

September 11, 2015

Amtrak’s City of New Orleans will be making a flag stop in Marks, Mississippi, beginning in late 2016.

The Chicago-New Orleans train currently serves Greenwood and Yazoo City in the Mississippi Delta country.

Marks is a gateway to the Blue Trail sites and other attractions.

“We have been working on this for more than 20 years,” said Marks Mayor Joe Shegog. “Many years ago, maybe 50 or 60 years ago, we had a passenger train stop here. I think what it will do is attract more tourists to the Delta. We will have the only Amtrak train stop between Memphis and Greenwood. We have some big plans to do what we can with what we have.”

Marks has a population of 1,551 and is the county seat of Quitman County. It is about 70 miles from Memphis, and 60 miles from Greenwood.

The city of Marks and Quitman County are funding construction of a trackside shelter for passengers.

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), who serves on the Senate Committee on Commerce Science and Transportation, helped to arrange for the stop in Marks.

Wicker said in a news release that the decision to create the flag stop was reached after talks with Amtrak, Canadian National and local and state officials.