Archive for November, 2016

IP Offers BOGO for Hoosier State Travel

November 23, 2016

Iowa Pacific is offering buy one get one free fares for coach travel aboard the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State.

iowa-pacificIt is also offering a deal of 50 percent off a business class ticket with the purchase of another business class ticket at full fare.

This offer is valid for travel through March 17, 2017, and blackout dates apply during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday periods.

Advance reservations are required a minimum of three days prior to travel. Seating is limited and seats may not be available on all days. Fares are subject to availability.

The companion and full fare passenger must travel together on the same itinerary and have tickets issued together.

For more information, visit http://www.hoosierstatetrain.com/promotions

Amtrak Holding ‘Track Friday’ Sale

November 23, 2016

Amtrak is joining the Black Friday madness with a Track Friday fare sale.

Amtrak 3Between Friday, Nov. 25 and Mon day Nov. 28 (Cyber Monday), the passenger carrier is offering 30 percent off for travel between Dec. 10, 2016, and April 9, 2017, throughout Amtrak’s national network.

The fares are only available at Amtrak.com.

Moorman Likens Amtrak to an Old House That Needs Attention, But Not Reconstruction

November 22, 2016

Although he has been in office less than three months, Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman doesn’t expect to be around for a long time.

Wick Moorman

Wick Moorman

“My wife has told me that,” Moorman said at the Rail Trends 2016 Conference last week.

In his speech, Moorman said he is attempting to make Amtrak highly efficient, develop a stronger safety culture, and find the right person to lead the passenger carrier over the long term.

He also is seeking to build relationships with Amtrak’s host railroads.

He cited as an example his desire for Norfolk Southern chief dispatchers to get to know Amtrak operating officials so that they can solve problems together.

Moorman said that developing better relationships with its contract railroads is critical to being able to expand regional services.

He sees growth opportunities for regional trains and state-supported services in shorter corridors because they are attractive transportation alternative when compared to the hassle of flying and dealing with airport security.

“Amtrak’s bag fees are very low,” Moorman said. “And, you’ll hear this in our marketing, ‘there’s no middle seat.’ ”

Moorman described the long-distance trains as the “political glue” that holds Amtrak together and which play an essential role in providing transportation to underserved regions of the United States.

The Amtrak president said that although replacing Amtrak’s tired fleet of P42DC locomotives could be done relatively quickly, there is no fast solution to replacing Amfleet I and II equipment

That will require a source of funding as well as a new design. “We want to nail down what the cars should look like first,” Moorman said.

In the meantime, Amtrak has announced the replacement equipment that will be built to replace the Acela Express train sets with Moorman calling that a game-changer for high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor.

“It’s going to be a better product in every way,” Moorman said about the equipment that will be delivered starting in 2021.

Moorman sees Amtrak as having similar characteristic as an old house. It needs some attention, but not radical reconstruction.

“Amtrak’s not broken. There are things to be fixed,” Moorman said. “Think of me as the plumber.”

Moorman retired as head of Norfolk Southern in 2015 and initially spurned Amtrak’s overtures to replace Joseph Boardman as president.

He changed his mind after the Amtrak board of directors persisted in seeking him.

“I am not doing this for the money,” Moorman said. “I am doing this because the future of Amtrak is important to this country.”

He has brought on board some fellow retired NS executives, including Chief Operating Officer Mark Manion

Moorman said it will be easier to get legislators and others to support Amtrak if they can see that is is efficient and well-managed.

He said increasing efficiency means reducing operating losses while providing better service.

Although he sees Amtrak as safe and getting safer, Moorman said there is still work to be done to create a stronger safety culture.

City of Lawrence Expects to Close Purchase of Amtrak Station From BNSF by Next Spring

November 21, 2016

Lawrence, Kansas, officials expect to close on purchasing the city’s Amtrak station sometime next spring.

Amtrak Southwest Chief 2The station, which was built by the Santa Fe in the 1950s, will restored with the help of a $1.2 million grant that the city received more than three years ago.

“We are excited that this project will soon be moving forward as it has been long awaited by many,” said Assistant City Manager Diane Stoddard.

Stoddard said the station has suffered from benign neglect but the city has been unable to do anything about it because it doesn’t own it.

The city had hoped to buy the depot in 2014, but the transaction with owner BNSF has taken longer than expected.

“The transaction is fairly complex because we have three different parties that are involved, and the whole transaction is subject to getting Amtrak’s OK on everything,” Stoddard said.

BNSF said it is now ready to review the sale proposal while Amtrak is reviewing the proposed lease agreement.

The expected renovations will include a new roof, exterior maintenance and energy-efficient updates, including a solar and a geothermal system. The station will also be made ADA compliant.

Lawrence is served by the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

Amtrak to Fund Macomb Station Upgrade

November 21, 2016

Amtrak has said it will provide some funding for plans to upgrade the station in Macomb, Illinois, to make it ADA compliant.

IllinoisThe renovations will include adding a ramp on the south side of the building, rehabilitation of the indoor restrooms, and a reconfiguration of the indoor seating to make the space more easily navigable.

Macomb is served by the Chicago-Quincy, Illinois, Carl Sandburg and Illinois Zephyr.

Local officials said that Santa Claus will riding into town on Amtrak on Dec. 2 and 3.

Hiawatha Expansion Comment Period Extended

November 21, 2016

The comment period on a plan to expand Amtrak service between Chicago and Milwaukee has been extended to Jan. 15.

Hiawatha 2The decision to expand the comment period was made by the departments of transportation of Illinois and Wisconsin, which help pay for the service and want to expand it from six to 10 daily roundtrips.

The expansion was recently the subject of an environmental assessment conducted by the two departments in conjunction with the Federal Railroad Administration.

That study has drawn criticism from several Chicago suburbs on the route of the Hiawatha Service trains because it proposes building a siding for freight trains to wait while Amtrak and Metra commuter trains pass by.

Suburban officials and residents fear the siding will be used by freight trains for long waits and may aggravate traffic congestion.

Scott Speegle, the passenger rail communications manager for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said the three agencies involved in creating the environmental assessment decided to extend the comment period because of the initial public response that it received.

“The volume of responses and comments we got from individuals showed a lot of people were interested and it was a good idea to extend the period,” Speegle told DailyNorthShore.com.

The assessment can be viewed on the WisDOT website

Santa Claus Coming to Town on Amtrak

November 21, 2016

Santa Claus has ditched his sleigh and reindeer and will take Amtrak to visit Washington, Missouri, on Dec. 2.

Amtrak Missouri River RunnerSanta will be aboard Missouri River Runner No. 313, which is scheduled to arrive in Washington at 5:06 p.m.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will visit with children and their families inside the Washington station for about one hour. From there he will move on to the Elks Club hall in Washington.

Arcadia Valley Station Now Open

November 21, 2016

Amtrak began serving the new station at Arcadia Valley, Missouri, this past weekend and local business leaders are expecting Amtrak service to give the region’s tourism efforts a boost.

Amtrak 4They are hoping that having an Amtrak stop will result in more businesses and jobs locating in the region anchored by Arcadia and Ironton.

Don Barzowski said the opening of the station prompted him to start a restaurant in town.

“We started talking about this restaurant maybe a year ago, that was right after Amtrak announced and we heard about other things that might be coming to the valley so we said hey, we got to get on board,” said Barzowski, part-owner of the Iron Mule in Ironton

“It gives us a lot of opportunities,” said Jesse Wren, an Ironton resident, said. “We have more people coming into our town, so we have more of a diversity coming to Ironton, instead of the same old people because we have the accessibility of the Amtrak.”

Arcadia Valley is served daily by the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle,  and is one of three stops for the train in Missouri. The other stops are St. Louis and Poplar Bluff.

Coming and Going at Chicago Union Station

November 19, 2016

ic-013-february-6-1977

Ever since Amtrak trains using the former Illinois Central mainline between Chicago and New Orleans began using Chicago Union Station in March 1972, they have almost always backed in and out of the depot.

It is possible to pull straight out or straight into CUS, but that would mean having to go around a wye somewhere else.

In this scene it is Feb. 6, 1977, and I am looking over the shoulder of a trainman guiding the inbound Panama Limited into CUS.

A Burlington Northern commuter train is departing as we arrive. No. 58 arrived late, but that was par for the course during the brutal winter of 1977 when about a third of the fleet serving the Midwest was out of service due to the weather-related conditions.

The Panama Limited began operating with Amfleet equipment and for several months it had no sleeping car service.

Amtrak Institutes New Chicago Boarding Procedure

November 18, 2016

Amtrak institute new boarding procedures for coach passengers at Chicago Union Station last month.

Amtrak logoPassengers boarding trains that require reservations are now required to check in on the day of travel and obtain a boarding pass.

Once passengers have checked in and received a boarding pass, they will be directed to the appropriate boarding area to wait for their train.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said “the earlier you check in, the earlier you’ll be in the boarding process. If you don’t check in, you’ll be among the last to board.”

The check-in procedure will not apply to Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service trains because they are unreserved.

Boarding will begin about a half-hour before departure and passengers will board with their assigned group much in the same way that Southwest Airlines handles boarding of its planes.

According to the service advisory, general boarding for passengers traveling in coach class will take place in the Great Hall where there will be signs directing passengers to the location of their assigned group.

Passengers may purchase a $20 priority boarding pass for the Legacy Club, making them the first coach class group to board. Uniformed military personnel can enjoy the Legacy Club free of charge.

Seniors age 62 and over, customers with disabilities, families with children 12 and under, and non-uniformed active duty military personnel can board with assistance from the south boarding lounge, ahead of general boarding.

Passengers in sleeping car or business Class, or are a Select Plus or a Select Executive Amtrak Guest Rewards member will not need a boarding pass. They will board from the Metropolitan Lounge and continue to receive advance boarding.

Amtrak advised that passengers should be at Chicago Union Station no later than 45 minutes before departure and 60 minutes if assistance is needed with ticketing, baggage, pets, bikes or other services. Boarding gates will close five minutes before train departure time.