Archive for the ‘Amtrak stations’ Category

Senators Plead to Keep Ticket Offices

May 22, 2018

Two U.S. senators are seeking to get Amtrak to delay plans to close ticket offices in their states.

Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) wrote to the passenger carrier to express “serious concerns” about the criteria Amtrak used to determine which ticket offices to close.

In a letter to Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson, Manchin said removing the ticket agent from Charleston on June 6 “will not only deprive the state of West Virginia of its last Amtrak ticket agent, but will also compromise safety and upkeep of the facility, and make access more difficult for potential customers.”

Manchin said that Charleston handled 9,749 passengers in federal fiscal year 2017, which works out to more than 62 passengers per day for each day that the tri-weekly Cardinal operates there.

He said Amtrak’s decision to calculate ridership on a weekly basis ignores the fact that the Cardinal does not operate daily. “The policy penalizes Charleston’s station for part-time service without allowing it to be a full-time station.”

Manchin also said 30 percent of West Virginia lacks Internet access and that mobile broadband access is limited in many parts of the state.

Senator Steve Daines (R-Montana) sought to keep the ticket offices in Havre and Shelby open during a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies.

He also called on Amtrak to create a station stop in Culbertson.

“The Empire Builder is critically important to keeping our rural communities connected, transporting out-of-state visitors to some of Montana’s pristine landscapes and supporting local economies,” Daines said. “Amtrak must take action to ensure the needs of Montanans and rural travelers are met.”

Stephen Gardner, Amtrak’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer of Amtrak, said during the hearing the carrier is supportive of adding a stop at Culbertson once station infrastructure is in place.


Topeka Wants to Save Amtrak Agent

May 16, 2018

The city council of Topeka, Kansas, voted 9-0 this week to ask the state’s congressional delegation for help in keeping the Amtrak ticket office open in that city.

Topeka is one of 15 ticket offices slated to close or which have closed this month nationwide amid a recent cost-cutting move.

Three of those offices (Topeka; Garden City, Kansas; and Fort Madison, Iowa) are on the route of the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

The resolution was sponsored by Councilwoman Sylvia Ortiz and directs city manager Brent Trout to provide Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins and Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran a letter asking them “to intercede on the City’s behalf by requesting of Amtrak that it provide full passenger service at its Topeka facility.”

The resolution also directs Trout to write to Amtrak to request that it “retain the current service level including the retention of a customer service representative.”

Amtrak has a single agent assigned to Topeka and that position will be abolished on May 18.

The ticket office in Garden City was closed on Tuesday (May 15).

Topeka attorney Robert E. “Tuck” Duncan was one of five people who spoke Tuesday in favor of the resolution. No one spoke against it.

“Please support the resolution unanimously, and act damn fast,” he said.

Red Wing Station Gets New Roof

May 14, 2018

The Amtrak station in Red Wing, Minnesota, is getting a repaired roof after it was damaged by hail.

Workers are replacing the red tin shingles that were damaged. Eventually, the entire roof will receive new shingles.

The depot is also home to the Red Wing Arts Association and the Visitor & Convention Bureau.

Red Wing is served by the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.


Ticket Offices Closing Being Posted

May 14, 2018

Amtrak is starting to roll out the notices of ticket office closing. At none of the five ticket offices set to close will checked baggage continue to be available.

The office in Texarkana, Arkansas-Texas, will close on May 16. Offices in Fort Madison, Iowa, and Garden City, Kansas, will close on May 17. The office in Ottumwa, Iowa, will close on May 18 while the office in Topeka, Kansas, will be shuttered on May 19.

In all cities the station waiting room will continue to be open at train time, typically 30 minutes before a train’s arrival. The waiting room will remain open for two hours.

However, in Garden City, the waiting room will be open from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that personnel on the train will assist customers boarding and detraining.

Fort Madison, Topeka and Garden City are on the route of the Southwest Chief, Ottumwa is on the route of the California Zephyr and Texarkana is served by the Texas Eagle.

Lincoln Depot Restoration Honored

May 12, 2018

Renovation of the Amtrak station in Lincoln, Illinois, has been named Project of the Year by the Illinois chapter of the American Public Works Association.

The $4 million project involves complete renovation of the depot building, a new boarding platform and upgraded passenger amenities.

The windows, doors and a ticket counter have been restored to their original 1911 appearance. structure.

The station had closed in 1972, but its platforms continued to be used by Amtrak’s Chicago-St. Louis route trains.

Fighting to Keep Ticket Offices Open

May 12, 2018

Officials in Topeka, Kansas, and Texarkana, Arkansas-Texas, are fighting to keep open the Amtrak ticket offices located in their cities.

The national passenger carrier is closing 15 ticket offices nationwide, targeting stations that serve 40 or fewer passengers a day.

In Kansas, Topeka Councilwoman Sylvia Ortiz called for the city to fight the plan.  “We cannot let this die,” she said.

“We are the capital city and we need to make sure that this man stays,” she said in reference to the Amtrak agent who works at the station.

The Topeka ticket office is slated to close on May 18. Topeka is served by the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

Ortiz encouraged the public to contact U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) to seek his help.

She believes ridership of Amtrak trains will diminish after the Topeka agent is removed.

Although Ortiz called on her fellow council members to pass a resolution supporting keeping the ticket office open, the council did not take any action.

In Texarkana, the Texas Eagle Marketing and Performance Organization is trying to rally support in keeping that city’s ticket office open.

The group has also protested plans to close a ticket office in Marshall, Texas. Both stations are served by the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

TEMPO is seeking the support of Main Street Texarkana, which is seeking to promote development of the area around the station.

“This year, Amtrak received a record amount of federal funding, the largest ever received by America’s passenger railroad. Amtrak received this historic level of funding because of the bipartisan support of Congress for a nationwide passenger train system. Given that support, it is not appropriate for Amtrak to implement cuts affecting only national network stations without first making an effort to improve ridership at those stations,” TEMPO said in a statement.

TEMPO said it wants Amtrak to delay closing the ticket offices until adequate efforts have been made to increase ridership, in partnership with affected cities.

Cincinnati Fighting to Keep Ticket Agents

May 7, 2018

Cincinnati officials are eyeing providing assistance in an effort to keep open the Amtrak ticket office at Union Terminal.

The action came after Amtrak said it would remove its two ticket agents from Cincinnati on June 5.

“The city administration is glad to assist in these efforts should that be the desire of the mayor and City Council,” acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney wrote in a memo to the Cincinnati City Council, which must approve any expenditures.

Duhaney responded after being contacted by passenger rail advocacy groups Friends of the Cardinal and All Aboard Ohio, which asked elected officials and city administrators to help keep the ticket office open.

Cincinnati is served by the tri-weekly Chicago-Washington Cardinal. No. 50 arrives in the Queen City on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday while No. 51 stops on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Both trains arrive in the middle of the night.

“While there are other stations on the Cardinal route that are unstaffed, Cincinnati is a popular, multi-level station which makes assistance by Amtrak staff for handicapped and elderly passengers very important,” Duhaney said in his memo.

He said that any loss of station services will degrade ridership and jeopardize continued service.

Aside from selling tickets, Amtrak’s two agents in Cincinnati assist with boarding and checked baggage.

Amtrak plans to hire a caretaker to open and close the waiting room before and after trains arrive.

The situation in Cincinnati is complicated by the fact that renovations at Union Terminal have forced Amtrak to temporarily locate to an adjacent, station facility on Kenner Street behind the Terminal.

The renovations at CUT are slated to be finished this fall.

Amtrak has cited an overwhelming preference by passengers to buy tickets online rather than at ticket offices as well as a desire to cut costs as motivating the closings of 15 ticket offices between mid May and late June.

“This is in no way a reflection on them,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said in reference to the performance of the agents in Cincinnati.

He said that the agents might be able to transfer to a different position within Amtrak.

After the Cincinnati ticket office closes the nearest Amtrak station with a ticket window will be Indianapolis. Amtrak also has ticket offices in Ohio in Cleveland and Toledo.

Magliari said the caretaker the passenger carrier plans to hire in Cincinnati will do more than open and close the waiting room.

He said that person will also assist passengers and receive training in how to operate the station.

The 15 stations set to close reportedly handle 40 or fewer passengers per day, yet rail passenger advocates content that Cincinnati should not be measured by that criteria due to the limited service and ongoing renovations of Union Terminal.

“Cincinnati is an outlier,” said Derek Bauman, the southwest Ohio vice chair for All Aboard Ohio.

“If you look at the other places where this has happened, [these are] basically smaller burgs,” he said. “I think that if it had not been for Union Terminal being under construction for the past year, that we would probably not have been in a position to lose our two people.”

Bauman expressed optimism that once the construction if completed at Union Terminal that Amtrak ridership in Cincinnati will increase.

“If anything, especially during this time of Union Terminal being rehabbed and the location and security and difficulty for (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance, we need the assistance of the full-time Amtrak employees,” he said.

CONO Starts Service to Marks

May 7, 2018

Amtrak’s City of New Orleans began serving Marks, Mississippi, last weekend after the opening of a new station.

Officials conducted a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday morning ahead of the arrival of Train No. 59.

The Northwest Mississippi Regional Station is located on Cherry Street in Marks, which has a population of 1,500 and has been trying for 20 years to entice Amtrak into stopping there.

The station was funded in part by a $500,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration with Quitman County and the state also providing funds.

FRA Wants More Info on Ann Arbor Station Proposal

May 3, 2018

The Federal Railroad Administration continues to press Ann Arbor, Michigan, officials for further information about its proposed new Amtrak station.

The FRA has asked the city to provide justification and support for the project, including the size of the station and parking garage to be built in Fuller Park, and the costs, which are now estimated at $86.2 million.

The FRA needs to approve the station design before the city can move ahead on building it.

City Administrator Howard Lazarus told the Ann Arbor City Council he has earmarked $69,200 from his contingency budget for continued work on the project, saying the funding is needed to support additional archeological survey work required by the FRA.

“The requirement stems from changes in staff at FRA, which city staff could not have foreseen,” Lazarus said. “Although no council action is required at this time, I am providing notification so that complete transparency on this project is maintained.”

Amtrak currently serves Ann Arbor from a station it built years ago on Depot Street. That facility is too small.

Based on long-term ridership projections, a new station would need to be 8,494 square feet to meet Amtrak guidelines. The existing station is 3,206 square feet.

In a draft environmental assessment report released last September the city identified a site in Fuller Park in front of the University of Michigan Hospital as its site for a new station.

A revised environmental assessment was sent to the FRA in late March, which prompted the request by the agency for more information.

The agency also asked why the proposed parking garage, storage lockers and a cafe are necessary because they will increase the station size.

The FRA also wanted to know what the city planned to do with the existing Amtrak station.

“This section is light on analysis; physical views are described, but both FRA staff and the public felt the discussion lacked analytic details to support the arguments presented. This is a theme in public comments,” the FRA said in requesting additional information.

Ann Arbor officials are hoping that the new depot will be funded largely by federal government and other sources.

Raleigh Gets Glimpse of New Union Station

May 3, 2018

The public got an early look at the new Union Station in Raleigh, North Carolina, this week when hundreds turned out for a dedication ceremony.

The station was built in the shell of the former Dillon Supply Company steel warehouse and took more than eight years to come to fruition.

The $111.4 million it cost to create the station was largely paid for with more than $70 million from the federal government. The rest of the funding came from state and city government funds.

Amtrak will begin serving the station in early June and it will replace a much smaller facility that the passenger carrier now uses across the tracks from the new facility.

Raleigh Union Station is located on the western edge of downtown and features a 9,200-square-foot waiting room that with its high-backed wooden benches appears much like a traditional railroad depot.

“One of the great visions for this facility was to create an entryway into downtown,” Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane said during the ceremonies.

“And in a sense, that is what we have created — a front door to the city in the heart of the city.”

Union Station will also accommodate bus service, but that section of the facility is not expected to be finished for another four years.

The building housing the station kept many features of the old steel warehouse, including the massive steel pillars and ceiling beams in the main hall.

Developers left in place two overhead gantries once used to move steel around the building. Also left was the large sliding steel door on the back wall.

Steel plates from the warehouse were used to line the walkway leading to the raised platform, which is 920 feet in length.

That is long enough to accommodate the Silver Star, which along with the Carolinian and Piedmont Service will use the new station.

A short platform at the existing station meant that the Silver Star had to stop twice.

The raised platform is at train floor length level so passengers will not have to ascend or descend steps from their trains.

It is the first train-level platform in North Carolina and one of the few in the South.

Designers left room for another platform and a set of tracks for commuter or high-speed trains that may someday serve Raleigh.

The front of Union Station features a circular driveway and a short-term parking lot with a capacity of two dozen vehicles.

Parking spaces for the station have been set aside in the public parking garage for the Dillon office tower across West Street. That parking will cost $2 an hour or $18 for the day.

Inside the station there are escalators to carry passengers from a tunnel that leads to the boarding platforms.

A five-foot-tall clock hangs on the wall just above the ticket counter. Train information is available on electronic boards.

There is room for shops and restaurants, but no leases for either have yet been signed.

York Properties is seeking tenants for 3,847 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, 6,262 square feet of offices on the second floor and a 2,702-square-foot retail or restaurant spot with a rooftop patio on the third floor.

Amtrak served 151,000 people in Raleigh in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2017, making it the second busiest train station in North Carolina behind Charlotte. The station will serve 10 trains a day after it opens.