Archive for September, 2017

Track Work to Disrupt LSL Boston Section

September 30, 2017

Track work being performed by CSX will affect operations of the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited between Oct. 1 and 27.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the work will affect Trains 448 and 449, on the dates indicated below:

Train 448 will not operate on Sundays through Thursdays while Train 449 will be affected on Monday through Friday.

Passengers on Train 448 who are traveling to Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, Framingham, and Boston (South Station) will get off the train at Albany on the Sunday through Thursday where they will board a bus to complete their journey to their destination.

On the weekdays indicated above, Train 449 will not operate between Boston (South Station) and Albany. Passengers boarding at Boston (South Station), Framingham, Worcester, Springfield, Pittsfield will travel by bus to Albany, where they will transfer to westbound Train 49, making all remaining stops on the route.

During this period, Trains 448 and 449 will not stop at Boston Back Bay, and bus service will not be provided.

Passengers can take MBTA commuter rail for travel to or from Boston South Station. Train 448 customers can also take the MBTA subway Orange Line to Downtown Crossing and transfer to the Red line to Boston South Station. Train 449 customers can use reverse directions.

Passengers at Boston South Station should go to the Amtrak Information Desk for instructions on boarding the buses.

Passengers at Framingham will board all buses at the drop-off/pick-up area at the Track 2 platform (at Waverly Street).

The Worcester station is not staffed so passengers should check with station security personnel for the location to board the bus, which is being provided by Premier Bus Lines.

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NB Coast Starlight Schedule Change to Affect Connections with EB Empire Builder in Portland

September 30, 2017

A later schedule for the northbound Los Angeles to Seattle Coast Starlight will affect that train’s connections to the eastbound Empire Builder.

Track work being performed by Union Pacific will have Train No. 14 operating an hour later between Oct. 1 and 8.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that No. 14 will depart Los Angeles and operate as scheduled through its arrival at Klamath Falls, Oregon, at 8:07 a.m. the following day.

No. 14 will sit in Klamath Falls for up to two hours, departing at 10:17 a.m., operating two hours later at all remaining stations on the route.

The schedule change affects Train 14 that originates in Los Angeles on Sept. 30 through Oct. 7 and arrives in Klamath Falls between Oct. 1 and Oct. 8.

To accommodate the later schedule, service adjustments have been made for passengers connecting to Empire Builder No. Train 28 at Portland, Oregon:

  • October 1 through October 6: Passengers on Train 14 who are connecting to Train 28 at Portland will detrain at Klamath Falls where bus service will be provided to Pasco, Washington. At Pasco, passengers will board eastbound Train 28.
  • October 7 and 8: Connections at Portland from Train 14 to Train 28 will not be available on Saturday and Sunday, October 7 and 8.
  • October Customers boarding at Eugene, Albany or Salem who are connecting to Train 28 from Train 14 will, instead, take Amtrak Cascades Thruway Bus 5528 to Portland and transfer to Train 28.

Berkshire Passenger Study Set

September 30, 2017

A working group seeking to bring intercity rail passenger service to the Berkshire Mountains recently held its first meeting.

The group is studying establishment of seasonal train service between the Berkshires in Massachusetts and New York City.

The NYC/Berkshire Passenger Rail Working Group is overseen by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and was included the state’s fiscal 2018 budget bill.

The group will conduct a study to identify and evaluate the economic and cultural benefits, while also identifying any legal, logistical, or political challenges that may knock the project off track.

Members of the group include federal and state transportation officials, local representatives, industry leaders, and transportation advocates. Their report is due by March 1.

Last Brightline Train Set En Route

September 30, 2017

The last train set built by Seimens USA for All Aboard Florida Brightline service has left the factory in Sacramento, California, and will be heading to West Palm Beach, Florida.

Named BrightRed, it will join BrightBlue, BrightGreen, BrightPink and BrightOrange, and begin serving the Brightline route between Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach later this year.

Brightline has five train sets but only three will be on the line at any given time. The two sets will be held on standby.

Each train set has two diesel-electric locomotives and four stainless-steel coaches. Although Brightline has said it will begin operations this year, no launch date or ticket prices have been announced.

DOT Proposes Regulation

September 29, 2017

Regulatory changes being proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation are being touted as designed to streamline the environmental review process for multimodal projects.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said the proposed changes will bring the Federal Railroad Administration’s  environmental review process into harmony with procedures used by the Federal Transit Administration and Federal Highway Administration.

A DOT news release said that the proposal, which has been sent to the Federal Register for publication, is being made so that multimodal projects are required to follow only one process rather than multiple agency processes.

Under the proposed rules, most concrete and steel bridges built after 1945 would be exempt from historic sites review.

In her AASHTO speech, Chao said that DOT is seeking to identify ways to eliminate unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy that will save states time and money, and reduce burdensome compliance costs.

“Important new regulatory and policy changes are underway at the Department to help deliver infrastructure projects faster, and in a more cost effective manner,” she said.

Chao said DOT has issued an updated guidance policy for the application of categorical exclusions for multimodal projects. The new rules allow one USDOT agency to use the categorical exclusions of another USDOT agency for certain multimodal projects.

Sanders Presents at Michigan Conference

September 28, 2017

Craig Sanders, author of Amtrak in the Heartland, gave a presentation at the 14th Michigan Railroad History Conference titled Michigan’s Boostrap Campaign: Passenger Rail Development in the Amtrak Era.

The conference was held on Sept. 23 at the Maas Conference Center of Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

Sanders described how the now-named Michigan Department of Transportation sought to improve rail passenger in the state following the inauguration of Amtrak on May 1, 1971.

Michigan’s intercity rail service in the early Amtrak years was limited to two daily roundtrips between Chicago and Detroit.

Since then service in the state has expanded to three routes linking Chicago with Detroit, Grand Rapids and Port Huron. The Detroit corridor also reaches north to suburban Pontiac.

The state also has purchased much of the Chicago-Detroit corridor within the state, buying the 135 miles between Kalamazoo and Dearborn and landing $511 million in federal funding to upgrade the line for higher speed service.

The state and communities served by Amtrak have also invested in station rehabilitation over the years and many cities not served by Amtrak are linked to it by connecting bus service.

Despite these successes, the state has also had some misses. It ended funding of an Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter operation after ridership fell substantially, and a Detroit-New York train funded in part with the state of New York ended in 1979, in part due to lower ridership between Detroit and Buffalo, New York.

Several proposals to establish service between Detroit and Grand Rapids have failed to come to fruition.

The Michigan Railroad History conference began 30 years ago at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn as an educational outreach program of the Bluewater Michigan chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.

The conference features a full day of presentations on Michigan’s railroad history and is rotated among various cities in the state.

NS to Study Extending Amtrak in Virginia

September 28, 2017

A study will be conducted by Norfolk Southern of the feasibility of extending Amtrak service west of Roanoke, Virginia, to Christiansburg in the New River Valley.

The area is located near Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg. The study is being funded by $350,000 from the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board.

“With the concentration of students both at Virginia Tech and Radford this makes a lot sense for the region,” said Ray Smoot, chair of NRV 2020 and a former Virginia Tech administrator. “I think a lot of the ridership [out of Roanoke] will come from here.”

NRV 2020 favors locating a station in Christiansburg near the Aquatic Center.

Amtrak is slated to begin serving Roanoke on Oct. 31 by extending a Northeast Regional train that now terminated in Lynchburg, Virginia.

NRV 2020 conducted a 2015 study that estimated that service to the New River Valley would draw 40,000 passenger trips a year to cities such as like Lynchburg and Washington.

Amtrak to End 2 Surf Line Stops

September 28, 2017

Amtrak will end service in California on Oct. 9 at Carlsbad Poinsettia and Encinita on the Los Angeles-San Diego Surf Line.

However, it will increase service to Old Towne. All three stations are located near San Diego.

Amtrak said the decision is based in part on low ridership over the past four years at the soon to be discontinued stops.

Poinsettia had daily averages of 23 Amtrak riders in 2014, 28 riders in 2015, and 29 in 2016. LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency said it also considered the “proximity to adjacent stations and availability of other transit options.”

Pacific Surfliner began stopping at Carlsbad Village and Sorrento Valley stations as part of an agreement with North County Transit District four years ago, when the Carlsbad and Encinitas service also began. The Village and Sorrento Valley service will continue.

The former Santa Fe station in downtown San Diego is the southern terminus for Coaster and the Amtrak trains.

NARP to Celebrate 50th Anniversary

September 28, 2017

The National Association of Railroad Passengers will mark its 50th anniversary in early November with a convention in Chicago.

Amtrak co-CEO Richard Anderson will headline the list of speakers at the event to be held Nov. 2-5 at the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel.

Anderson is scheduled to speak on Nov. 2. In a mailing to its members, NARP provided a long list of other confirmed and invited speakers, but did not indicate who was reserved and who was not.

The RailNation Chicago event requires payment of a registration fee of $225 for NARP members and $295 for non members.

There will be a Thursday evening reception at an additional cost of $32 per person. A ticket to the Saturday evening celebration dinner will cost $149 per person.

Aside from panel and speak sessions devoted to various topics concerning passenger rail, the event will feature off-site trips to the Museum of Scenic Industry, the Pullman Historic Site and Chicago Union Station.

Further information is available at the NARP website http://www.narprail.org

NARP was founded in Chicago in 1967 by passenger advocate Anthony Haswell, who at one time served as an attorney for the Illinois Central Railroad.

Williams Junction Shuttle to End

September 28, 2017

Grand Canyon Railway will discontinue its shuttle service to the Amtrak station at Williams Junction, Arizona, on Jan. 1, 2018.

The tourist railroad provides the only shuttle service between the stop for the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief and the town of Williams.

Bruce Brossman, director of sales and marketing for Grand Canyon Railway, said the shuttle service is not conducive to the operation of the railway.

The Amtrak station is located in an isolated area three miles out of town.

The eastbound Chief is scheduled to arrive at Williams Junction at 3:50 a.m. and the shuttle takes detraining passengers to the lobby of the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel.

The train to the Grand Canyon leaves at 9:30 a.m. “The conflicts have become too much,” he said. “We have people sleeping in our lobby, disrupting our guests and making our employees nervous.”

Brossman said another factor in ending the shuttle service is that train arrivals and departures have become unpredictable and van drivers must be on call at night.

“There was a lot of labor involved,” Brossman said. “We had to hire CDL drivers and deal with wear and tear on the vehicles.”

He recommended that passengers traveling to Williams to ride the Grand Canyon Railway disembark at the Amtrak station in Flagstaff station where they can take a shuttle to Williams.

“Their depot is open 24-hours a day and there are restaurants in town open later than we are,” he said. “It’s only 25 minutes or so to Williams where they can pick up the train to the Grand Canyon. They can then return to Williams and take a shuttle back.”

Grand Canyon Railway still plans to work with Amtrak Vacations and Yankee Holidays where customers can purchase travel packages.