Archive for the ‘Amtrak stations’ Category

Volunteers Taking Over Station Tasks

November 16, 2018

Volunteers have been coming forward to take up some of the tasks once performed by paid Amtrak ticket agents.

The national passenger carrier has been removing agents from numerous stations this year in a cost-cutting binge.

The volunteers don’t sell tickets or act officially on Amtrak’s behalf, but they do guide passengers, greet inbound trains, and provide information about train schedules and their local communities.

The Rail Passengers Association has a Station Volunteer Program that seeks to recruit volunteers, train them and oversee their work.

“When Amtrak management decided to remove staff from 15 stations nationwide, there was serious concern from local city officials, rail advocacy groups and passengers about the future of the national network and people’s’ ability to easily travel between stations,” said RPA President Jim Mathews.

He cited the example of Niles, Michigan, where volunteers are working with the RPA program.

RPA staff was on hand in early November at the station to accept applications and conduct interviews with would-be station volunteers.

“Once volunteers have been accepted to the program, there will also be an important training process — and it’s not optional,” Mathews said. “We want these volunteers to be knowledgeable about their roles and the Amtrak trains that will be rolling through the station in order to provide appropriate levels of assistance to passengers.”

Similar volunteer programs are being implemented in Alabama, Florida, Illinois  and Texas. Programs are being planned for stations in Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota and North Carolina.

Some programs will be new while others will build upon the work of existing programs.

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Cincinnati Union Terminal Reopens

November 15, 2018

A restoration of Cincinnati Union Terminal will wrap up this week when the 85-year-old art deco station reopens.

The $228 million restoration project took 30 months to complete after getting underway in July 2016.

The project was funded by a sales tax approved by Cincinnati and Hamilton County voters in 2014.

Amtrak’s Cardinal stops at the station and it is home to several museums.

The restoration effort involved rebuilding the structure down to its substructure and restoring the class murals in the rotunda to look the way that they did when the depot opened in 1933.

The neon-lined clock on the front of the building also was rehabilitated.

“This is a monumental achievement for our staff and volunteers and for the entire community” said Cody Hefner, a representative of the Cincinnati Museum Center.

“Everyone who works here, and really everyone in the community, has a story about Union Terminal, either as a train station or as a museum. So to be able to restore a place with such a personal connection, and to do so in such a grand, visible, breathtaking way, is really incredible.”

Amtrak moved its waiting room to an adjacent building during the restoration. It returned to CUT during the first week of November.

During the public reopening on Nov. 17, Hefner said projectors will be used to light the terminal’s exterior with different exhibits each evening.

A large Christmas train display, a tradition at CUT since 1946, will open to the public on Nov. 16.

Office Tower Planned at CUS

October 30, 2018

A new office tower is being planned for Chicago Union Station along with using some unused areas near the station’s Great Hall.

The office tower will be constructed on Amtrak-owned land south of the depot.

Amtrak officials said money earned from development of the office building will be used for additional station improvements.

This will include reopening upper floors of the station’s headhouse, building a new entrance from Clinton Street, making Americans with Disabilities Act improvements, and opening areas of the station that have been closed to the public for decades.

Riverside Development will build the new office tower, which will have 1.5 million square feet and stand 50 stories high.

A 1.5-acre public park will be developed on the site of a parking garage that the developer plans to buy from Amtrak.

East Lansing Agent Service Ends Monday

October 28, 2018

The Amtrak agent in East Lansing, Michigan, will be removed effective Oct. 29.

Amtrak said passengers boarding or people meeting detraining passengers from the Chicago-Port Huron, Michigan Blue Water will continue to have access to the station’s waiting area and restrooms each day.

The access for westbound Train 365 will begin at 7 a.m. while access for eastbound Train 364 will state at 8 p.m.

 

East Lansing Ticket Office Closing Oct. 29

October 19, 2018

Amtrak will remove its ticket agent from the East Lansing, Michigan, station on Oct. 29.

A caretaker will continue to open the waiting room at the station.

Passengers will be able to buy tickets from a self-serve kiosk at the station or make reservations at Amtrak.com, on the Amtrak mobile app, or by phone at 800-872-7245.

East Lansing is served by the Chicago-Port Huron, Michigan, Blue Water. It also as connecting bus service to Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains that operate between Chicago and Detroit.

 

New Schenectady Station Opens 2 Weeks Early

October 19, 2018

The new Amtrak station in Schenectady, New York, has opened two weeks ahead of schedule.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held on Oct. 17 for the $23 million station that is served by Amtrak’s Empire Corridor trains as well as the Lake Shore Limited, Maple Leaf, Adirondack and Ethan Allen Express.

Funding for the station included $19 million from the state of New York, $3.6 million from the Federal Railroad Administration, $220,000 from Amtrak and $48,000 from the Schnectady Metroplex Development Authority.

It is the third new station in the Empire Corridor to open in the past three years following station openings in Niagara Falls (2016) and Rochester (2017).

Vermont Station Being Rebuilt

October 19, 2018

Work is underway to rebuild the Amtrak station in Castleton, Vermont, to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Castleton station is receiving a new boarding platform, parking stalls, signage, outdoor deck improvements, updates to the public restrooms, hand rails and a disabled-access ramp with access to the station and bake shop.

Castleton is served by Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Express service between New York and Rutland, Vermont.

The rehabilitation is part of a national program to more than 500 Amtrak stations compliant with ADA standards.

Lamy Volunteers Pick Up Slack After Amtrak Agent Left

October 11, 2018

Volunteers have taken over many of the duties once performance by the Amtrak ticket agent in Lamy, New Mexico.

A report published on the Trains magazine website said that the volunteers greet arriving and departing passengers with luggage carts, help with the shuttle to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and offer a clean waiting room stocked with reading material, snacks, and a station cat.

The latter is Harvey, who is named after Santa Fe Railway restaurateur and hotelier Fred Harvey.

Lamy is served by Amtrak’s Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

The station Amtrak uses is owned by the Santa Fe Southern Railway and its CEO Karl Ziebarth told Trains that it views Amtrak service as important for the community’s tourist economy.

The volunteers have been known to go above and beyond the call of duty by going out for pizza for a passenger stranded with children or driving people to Santa Fe who could not be accommodated by the shuttle service.

CUS Redevelopment Plans Revised

September 13, 2018

Revised plans for renovating Chicago Union Station still call for an addition atop the neoclassic headhouse, but it will not be visible from the street.

Developers this week said during a public meeting that they have scrapped plans for a modern seven-story vertical addition that would have provided 404 apartments.

That design triggered widespread criticism and ridicule from those who said it would harm the historical integrity of the station, which opened in 1925.

The latest plans call for a single-story penthouse level for two hotels with 400 rooms that would be built within the existing fifth and sixth floors of the building.

The Chicago-based Riverside Investment & Development and Convexity Properties plans show a a sight-line diagram demonstrating how the penthouse would be set back and screened from view.

The penthouse will encircle but not block the station’s 219-foot barrel-vaulted skylight over the Great Hall.

A pool and fitness center would also be built on the station’s lower level. The Great Hall will continue to be used by rail passengers.

Entrances to hotels will be constructed on the north side off Adams Street and the south side off Jackson Boulevard. Windows are to be installed on the station’s west side, facing Clinton Street.

A 715-foot, 1.5 million-square-foot office building with an attached parking structure and a 1.5-acre park are projected to be developed in the block south of the depot.

The development plans must still be approved by planning and zoning officials, and the Chicago City Council.

Amtrak owns Union Station and is developing it and its surrounding properties as part of a $1 billion project.

That includes $14 million to restore the headhouse interior to its original appearance.

Amtrak to Close East Lansing Ticket Office

September 7, 2018

Amtrak plans to close its ticket office in East Lansing, Michigan, as soon as it can work out arrangements with station owner Capital Area Transportation Authority.

The fourth-busiest Amtrak station in Michigan will join a list that includes Niles, Jackson and Flint where Amtrak has removed ticket agents.

The Amtrak ticket office in East Lansing is currently closed on Tuesday and Wednesday with only a caretaker paid for by the Michigan Department of Transportation overseeing the station.

MDOT Communications Manager Michael Frezell said the agency is working to hire a full-time caretaker for East Lansing.

The caretaker would open the stations before trains arrive. “With a vast majority of tickets being purchased online, having tickets purchased at the station has significantly reduced over the past year,” Frezell said.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari declined to comment on the closing of the ticket office in East Lansing, saying that the carrier posts notices of that intent on its website but it has yet to do so in the case of East Lansing.

Magliari also wouldn’t comment on what threshold of patronage that Amtrak uses when deciding to close a ticket office.

This year Amtrak has closed several ticket offices at stations that it said averaged fewer than 40 passenger boardings per day.

Trains magazine quoted an unnamed Amtrak source as saying the minimum threshold of 40,000 boardings per fiscal year is being used to review which ticket offices to keep open and which to close.

More than 68,000 passengers boarded trains at East Lansing in fiscal year 2017, almost was 10,000 more than the number who boarded at Detroit, which is retaining its ticket office.

Amtrak also continues to maintain ticket offices in Michigan in Dearborn, Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo, all of which had higher patronage than East Lansing in 2017, and at Battle Creek and Port Huron, both of which handled fewer passengers in 2017 than East Lansing.

East Lansing is served by Amtrak’s Chicago-Port Huron Blue Water.