Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Virginia’

Roanoke Ridership Continues to Grow

February 22, 2019

Amtrak ridership in Roanoke, Virginia, grew by 9.5 percent between 2018 and 2018.

That stood in contrast to ridership at other cities, which declined during that same period.

Figures released by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation showed that ridership fell in Norfolk decreased by 1.5 percent by 2.2 percent in Newport News, by 8.4 percent in Richmond and by an overall 0.7 percent level for all state-funded trains.

The state’s statistics also showed that patronage of state-funded trains is 60 percent female with most passengers of either gender traveling primarily for pleasure.

Recent figures also show that ridership in Roanoke continue to grow, with more than 15,000 passengers in January. That is an 8 percent increase over ridership in January 2019.

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Norfolk Service to Expand on March 4

February 14, 2019

Amtrak has announced that its planned expansion of Northeast Regional service to Norfolk, Virginia, will begin on March 4.

The new schedule will have the Northeast Regional trains leaving Norfolk at 6:15 a.m. and 9 a.m. on weekdays.

Arrivals in Norfolk will be at 7:04 p.m. and 10:31 p.m. Amtrak will operate a Thruway bus connection for service from Norfolk to the Amtrak station in Newport News, Virginia.

The service is funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Amtrak returned to Norfolk in 2012.

Bedford to Seek Grant for Amtrak Station

January 29, 2019

The Bedford, Virginia, town council is backing a bid by the Bedford/Franklin Regional Rail Initiative Committee to seek a $9.8 million grant from the state’s Department of Rail and Transportation to create an Amtrak station in Bedford.

The grant application also has received the support of the Bedford County Board of Supervisors.

Bedford interests are seeking a stop of an Amtrak Northeast Regional train that now terminates and originates in Roanoke, Virginia, to the west.

Bedford is located between Roanoke and Lynchburg, Virginia, both of which are served by Amtrak with Lynchburg also being served by the New York-New Orleans Crescent.

Amtrak began operating to Roanoke in October 2017.

“We have to apply for this grant in order to move forward on a feasibility study on a rail station,” Town Manager Bart Warner said. “This is not going to obligate us to anything, but is just part of the process.”

Officials estimate the station, expected to be located on Plunkett Street near Court Street, would be about $9 million, most of which would be paid for by the grant.

Bedford would have to pay for some site improvements with its own funds.

The BFRRI efforts began after the extension to Roanoke was announced but Bedford was not named as an intermediate stop.

Wende Gaylor, executive director for the Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce, said a meeting with Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine last November to discuss the station project went well.

Bedford previously was an Amtrak stop for the Hilltopper, which was discontinued in 1979.

Amtrak to Add Second Train to Norfolk

January 28, 2019

Amtrak is planning to add a second Northeast Regional train to Norfolk, Virginia, starting March 4.

An Amtrak spokeswoman said the schedule for the train has yet to be completed, but a news release from the City of Norfolk indicated it will be a mid-morning departure.

Amtrak returned to Norfolk in December 2012. Previously, the city had been served by the Chicago-Norfolk Mountaineer between 1975 and 1977.

The current Northeast Regional train departs Norfolk at 6:10 a.m. on weekdays and five minutes later on weekends.

The train returns to Norfolk at 8:38 p.m. on weekdays and two minutes earlier on Sundays. The Saturday train arrives at 11:36 p.m.

The service is funded in part by the state of Virginia.

Virginia Amtrak Extension Stalls

December 10, 2018

A proposal to extend Amtrak service west of Roanoke, Virginia, has stalled due to the noncooperation of Norfolk Southern.

NS has withdrawn from the study, citing a need to untangle service issues in its network, particularly in Virginia.

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation is conducting the $350,000 study of the feasibility to extend one Northeast Regional train to Christiansburg, which is located 28 miles southwest of Roanoke.

“They have told us that they are reluctant to talk to us now about extending passenger rail,” said Michael McLaughlin, the department’s chief of rail transportation.

Virginia May Seek Amtrak Fare Cuts

December 7, 2018

In an effort to boost ridership, Virginia officials are mulling a fare cut for Amtrak travel within the state.

A study found that a 15 percent fare reduction would draw an estimated 51,000 additional riders onto trains, a 7 percent increase.

It also would cost the state $683,000 annually, which is about 1.3 percent of what the state collects in ticket revenues.

Fares would only be reduced for trips within Virginia and Washington on the four trains funded by the state for travel to Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond and Roanoke.

The proposed fare cut was one recommendation of a larger marketing study commissioned by the state’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation to study sagging ridership.

Ridership on Amtrak trains funded by Virginia fell 1.4 percent to 839,446 during Amtrak’s fiscal year 2018, which ended Sept. 30.

The lost revenue would be considered modest, a consultant said, when seen in the context of the desire of transit officials to maximize ridership over ticket revenue in an effort to get more cars off the road.

Although state officials still need to discuss the fare cuts with Amtrak, they hope to lower fares within the first three months of 2019.

They blamed the falling ridership on train cancellations caused by construction and extreme weather.

The ridership loss also occurred during a time when Amtrak was removing a number of fare discount programs.

“They used to have AAA and student discounts and all kinds of other things, and they got rid of that, and we thought, well, there are fewer people riding the train, how price sensitive are Virginia customers?” said Chris Smith, the Department of Rail and Public Transportation’s policy director.

The marketing study conducted for Virginia included a passenger survey and focus groups.

It suggested a 25-percent-off “saver” fare for tickets purchased two-weeks or more in advance as well as creating other fare bargains for Virginia-sponsored trains.

The reduced fares, if implemented, would drop the price of a trip from Roanoke to from $49 to $41.

Amtrak saver fares would still be less expensive for travelers who can plan trips in advance.

The fare cut idea was presented this week to the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s rail subcommittee where it received a largely favorable reaction.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t even think about using this as a transportation mode,” said Hampton Roads District board member John Malbon. “During a time when you have the capacity, why don’t you just fill the trains up and it’s a new customer?”

Roanoke District board member Ray Smoot concurred.

“The train’s running anyway,” he said.

Virginia officials are also seeking to prod Amtrak into making improvements, such as more reliable on-board WiFi and better food offerings.

They also want to see Amtrak do better in cleaning its trains.

Roanoke Ridership Meeting Expectations

June 28, 2018

Amtrak said recently that ridership of its Northeast Regional service to Roanoke, Virginia, has met expectations.

Since service began last late last October, 14,178 passengers have boarded the once daily train in Roanoke through April 30. The service has seen 13,591 passengers travel to Roanoke, which lost Amtrak service on Oct. 1, 1979, when the Hilltopper was discontinued.

Until the service was restored, many in the Roanoke region had traveled to Lexington, Virginia, to board Amtrak.

Ridership from Lexington has fallen since Amtrak began operating to Roanoke.

Statistics kept by the state of Virginia, which helps fund the service, shows that the record ridership from Roanoke was 3,288 in December with 2,941 traveling to the city.

This past April, ridership was 2,343 arriving and 2,327 departing.

Driver of Trash Truck Struck by Amtrak Special in Virginia Indicted for Being Under the Influence

June 8, 2018

The driver of a trash truck that was struck, by an Amtrak special in Virginia in January has been indicted for being under the influence at the time of the collision.

The Amtrak special was carrying dozens of Republican congressmen to a retreat in West Virginia. One employee of the trash-hauling company died in the collision near Crozet, Virginia.

The Albemarle County Police Department said in a statement that 31-year-old Dana W. Naylor Jr. was indicted on one count of involuntary manslaughter and one count of maiming another while driving under the influence. It’s not clear what the alleged intoxicant was.

A second passenger of the trash truck was seriously injured. No one aboard the train suffered serious injuries.

Virginia Wants More Service to Richmond

May 22, 2018

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation wants to see additional Amtrak service between Washington and Richmond, Virginia.

To provide that service, the agency said that two new tracks need to be constructed between Washington and Arlington, Virginia, after separate plans for an expanded Long Bridge are completed.

The Federal Railroad Administration and the District of Columbia Department of Transportation are expected to recommended a design and layout for the project later this year.

The recommendation for increased service to Richmond, which would also include an increase in service provided by Virginia Railway Express, was presented to  a Commonwealth Transportation Board subcommittee.

Signal Work Affects Richmond Trains

March 16, 2018

Signal work being performed by CSX will result in delays of 45 to 120 minutes for all trains arriving and departing Staples Mills station in Richmond, Virginia.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that on March 26 the Carolinian will operate between only Rocky Mount and Charlotte, North  Carolina. No service will be provided at stations between New York and Rocky Mount.

The Palmetto will operate between New York and Washington only. Service will not be available at any station served by the Palmetto south of Washington.

On March 27, the Carolinian will again operate only between  Rocky Mount and Charlotte with service canceled between New York and Rocky Mount  and no alternate transportation provided.

Other trains will be affected by the signal work on March 26 as follows:

  • Train 67 will terminate at Washington with no alternate transportation provided between Washington and Newport News.
  • Train 94 will originate at Richmond Staples Mills station with no alternate transportation between Newport News and Richmond.
  • Train 85 will terminate at Washington with no alternate transportation between Washington and Richmond.
  • Train 84 will depart Norfolk at 6 am and operate 10 minutes earlier through its arrival in Richmond. Normal schedules will resume from Richmond to New York.
  • Train 66 will originate in Washington with no alternate transportation between Newport News and Washington.
  • Train 125 will terminate at Washington with no alternate transportation provided between Washington and Norfolk.
  • All other trains will operate normally

Trains will operate on 27 as follows:

  • Train 66 will originate at Richmond with no alternate transportation provided between Newport News and Richmond.
  • Train 67 will terminate at Richmond with no alternate transportation provided between Richmond and Newport News.
  • Train 84 will originate at Washington with no alternate transportation between Norfolk and Washington.
  • Train 174 will originate at Washington with no alternate transportation between Richmond and Washington.
  • All other trains will operate normally.