Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak western corridor trains’

Restoration of State-Funded Corridor Services Presents a Mixed Picture

March 27, 2021

Passengers board Amtrak’s Chicago-bound Saluki at Effingham, Illinois, on March 21. The Chicago-Carbondale corridor lost one roundtrip since the COVID-19 pandemic began a year ago

Although Amtrak plans to restore daily service to most long-distance routes starting in late May, the restoration of corridor service cut during the COVID-19 pandemic presents a more mixed picture.

Some states might restore service by summer but that is not guaranteed.

Michigan Department of Transportation Rail Director Peter Anastor said he didn’t known when two suspended Wolverine Service roundtrips between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac) would return.

He indicated it will hinge in part on ridership and revenue trends.

“The CARES Act and the second stimulus bill helped fill the gap caused by fixed costs that stay the same whether you have 10 or 100 riders,” he said.

Michigan also funds the Chicago-Port Huron Blue Water and the Chicago-Grand Rapids Pere Marquette.

Although the Blue Water continued to operate throughout the pandemic, the Pere Marquette was suspended between March and last summer.

Anastor indicated new Venture coaches are expected to be assigned to Wolverine Service this spring, making it the first Midwest corridor train to have the new cars.

On other Midwest corridor routes, Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee is expected to increase to seven round trips on May 21.

Wisconsin Department of Transportation Rail Division head Arun Rao said the service expansion will be promoted with an extensive advertising push and increased social media activity.

Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Speegle said his agency will decide in April when some other corridor services will be restored.

IDOT has suspended one round trip on the Chicago-Carbondale route, one roundtrip on the Chicago-Quincy route and two roundtrips between Chicago and St. Louis.

“We anticipate resuming full service no earlier that mid-July; the final decision on that time frame will be made in April, approximately 12 weeks prior to resumption of service,” he said.

Speegle said IDOT will review ridership and revenue numbers for the current service, anticipated costs, and the level of federal support.

Whether a second St. Louis-Kansas City Missouri River Runner will resume operating will depend on how much funding the Missouri legislature approves.

The Missouri Department of Transportation has requested funding for two daily roundtrips but the chair of a House budget committee has proposed funding just one roundtrip.

In the East, New York State has not announced its intentions in regards to restoring any suspended Empire Corridor trains.

Two routes funded by New York, the Maple Leaf to Toronto and Adirondack to Montreal have been suspended due to the U.S.-Canadian border being closed during the pandemic.

Elsewhere in the East, North Carolina will begin a fourth roundtrip starting April 5 in the Charlotte-Raleigh corridor.

Amtrak and the North Carolina Department of Transportation are reinstating a third Piedmont Service roundtrip, making this the first multi-frequency state corridor to be fully restored.

North Carolina reinstated a second and third round trip last August and December, respectively.

Another Downeaster trip to Maine is expected to resume in May after schedules are worked out with Amtrak and host railroad Pan Am Railways.

Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority Executive Director Patricia Quinn said the new schedule will be a little different.

“Instead of just plugging two midday trains back into their old slots, we’re adding a 10:30 a.m. departure from Brunswick, which will turn as a 3 p.m. departure from Boston,” she said.

“Given the change in commute patterns, we decided to try something different, assuming we won’t need two trains leaving Boston for the evening rush hour, but the additional round-trip means we will again have a flex schedule for the late-night train from Boston to accommodate sports fans and concert goers.”

Quinn said weekday and weekend schedules will now be identical.

In the West, one Capitol Corridor roundtrip will on March 29 be extended from Oakland to San Jose.

Capitol Corridor managing director Rob Pagette said there will be a change in departure times based on the way customers now use the trains.

“We’re about at 15 percent of where we were in February 2020 but we are looking to have a more robust service by September,” he said.

“We’ve seen more demand spread throughout the day, and this has allowed us to improve the efficiency of how we use our equipment by (temporarily) going from seven to six consists.”

Pagette said officials will be watching to determine where people are riding after the schedule change to determine where we add back the seventh consist.” An eighth trainset will be added later.

The extended round trip to San Jose will originate in Auburn because there appear to be increasing numbers of “super commuters” who ride 80 miles or more to their jobs.

Ridership trends during the pandemic have shown that if passengers are less likely to travel every day, more will opt for less-costly housing further away from the Silicon Valley.

In the San Joaquin corridor, a fifth roundtrip is expected to be added in in the fall. However, the two round trips to Sacramento aren’t likely to return until early 2021 at the earliest.

Those plans, though, are contingent on ridership stabilizing.

In Southern California, the LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency expects to restore one Pacific Surfliner roundtrip between San Diego and Goleta in July or August.

The date of that service restoration is dependant on available funding.

In the Pacific Northwest, the Washington Department of Transportation is eyeing returning two Seattle-Portland roundtrips in mid May.

Currently, the Cascades Service is operating with one Seattle-Eugene, Oregon, round trip.

Officials are considering increasing Portland-Eugene service to two roundtrips.

Del Mar Bluffs Repair Cost Put at $10.5M

March 25, 2021

Emergency repairs to the Del Mar Bluffs in Southern California are expected to cost about $10.5 million said the San Diego Association of Governments.

The work will involve construction of a 288-foot seawall and 18 vertical concrete and steel support columns tied into horizontal supports.

The project will seek to stabilize a section of the bluffs that collapsed in February within 35 feet of the tracks used by Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner trains between San Diego and Los Angeles.

Since then Amtrak and Coaster commuter trains have slowed to 15 miles per house past the site. BNSF freight trains are restricted to 10 mph.

Thin Hope to Save Talgos From Scrapping

March 5, 2021

The California company that purchased two Talgo trainsets from the Washington Department of Transportation has placed them up for sale, but that offer may not stand for long.

 “It’s a sensitive matter for everyone involved, and it wasn’t supposed to turn into a spectacle,” said Noah McCann of NSM Transportation Company in an interview with Trains magazine.

 “If anyone is interested, they are still available, but they are going to be gone in a matter of two or three days.”

WSDOT sold the trains sets to NSM for $21,000, but the buyer was responsible for the expense of moving them.

“We paid a lot more than that,” McCann said of the purchase price. “After the purchase, we aggressively tried to market them, but Amtrak doesn’t want them.”

The trainsets are the Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier, which moved from Seattle to Southern California as a special Amtrak move.

The special ran on the schedule of the Coast Starlight on a day the Seattle-Los Angeles train was not scheduled to leave Seattle southbound.

McCann told Trains that if no one buys the Talgos soon after they reach Los Angeles that his company will dismantle them.

“We’re reusing the interior fittings on other projects, but it’s a private job to dismantle them for the State of Washington. In reality, nobody is going to come in to pay to move these things, and they’re getting scrapped,” McCann said.

WSDOT had put the Talgos up for sale last year and rejected bids and requests for a donation of one trainset to a museum.

Trains reported that the Southern Rail Commission had inspected the Talgos to determine if they could be used in a proposed corridor service between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama.

However, SRC’s Knox Ross said his agency’s delegation was unable to meet with a WSDOT representative for the purpose of getting answers to questions about the equipment.

Ross said a third-party representative sent to meet with the SRC delegation “wouldn’t answer any questions, so we didn’t bid.”

The Mt. Hood and Mt. Olympus have been out of service since July 2020. A third Talgo, the Mt. Adams, was destroyed in a Dec. 18, 2017, derailment of the Amtrak Cascades train.

The Mt. Adams had originally been owned by Amtrak, which later sold it to WSDOT.

Two Talgo trainsets are owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation and continue to operate in Cascades service between Seattle and Eugene, Oregon.

Amtrak owns two Talgo trainsets that have been sitting idle at its Beech Grove shops in Indianapolis.

Three other Talgo trainsets that originally were built for use in Wisconsin corridor service but never operated there remain idle.

Track Work to Disrupt Pacific Surfliners

February 1, 2021

Track work being performed in San Diego County, California, will affect operations of Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner service between Feb. 19 and March 21.

On Feb. 19 and March 12 and 19, Train 796 will terminate at Los Angeles with bus service provided to San Diego serving all missed stops.

On Feb. 20-21, and March 13-14, 20-21, Train 796 will terminate at Los Angeles and bus service will be provided for all missed stops.

Also during that time period, Trains 580, 768, 774, 1564 and 1584 will operate normally to Irvine with bus service provided to San Diego.

Express buses will run from Irvine to Oceanside, Solana Beach, Old Town San Diego and Downtown San Diego.

Trains 579, 593, 763, 777, 785 and 1767 will originate in Irvine with bus service provided from San Diego.

Buses will depart downtown San Diego, Solana Beach and Oceanside earlier than the train schedule to allow time to connect with trains in Irvine.

Buses will not pick up at Old Town San Diego. Passengers are being directed to take the trolley to downtown San Diego to board buses to Irvine.

Test Trains Run on Point Defiance Route

January 25, 2021

Amtrak earlier this month operated test trains over the Point Defiance Bypass in Washington State.

It was the first Amtrak operation on the route since a December 2017 derailment of a Cascade Service train on the first day of service of the route left three dead and more than 70 injured.

The Point Defiance route between Tacoma and Nisqually Junction is designed to be a passenger-only line and divert Amtrak and commuter trains from a BNSF route closer to the Pacific coast.

The test trains on the 14-mile Point Defiance route were intended for familiarization and certification of train crews.

Amtrak has not set a date for when revenue service would resume on the route.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the Cascades derailment concluded that the train was speeding on a curve.

Funding Identified for Del Mar Bluffs Project

January 16, 2021

Funding has been identified for a project to stabilize the Del Mar Bluffs in California on the route of Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliners.

The Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo San Diego Regional Rail Corridor Working Group said this week it has found possible sources of the $98.7 million needed to pay for the project along a 1.7-mile section of track alongside the Pacific Ocean.

The funding would include $36.2 million from the California Transportation Commission’s Trade Corridor Enhancement Program; $11.5 million from the Federal Railroad Administration; $9.5 million would come from the North County Transit District; $4.9 million from the California State Transportation Agency’s Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program; and $3.1 million from the California Natural Resource Agency. 

The San Diego Association of Governments would contribute $10 million and another $13.5 million would come from grants and project savings

A California State Transportation Agency report said LOSSAN has been seeking to stabilize the bluffs for the next 30 years by making them more resilient to rising sea levels.

The bluffs are eroding at an average of 6 inches a year. The center of the track in this section of railway is within 15 feet of the cliffside at the nearest point.

Also using the route are Metrolink and Coaster commuter trains as well as freight trains serving the Port of San Diego. 

Fence Plan Draws Opposition in California

January 14, 2021

A plan to install a fence along a route used by Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner trains drew sharp opposition this week during a public meeting.

Opponents spoke out during a Del Mar, California, city council meeting.

The North County Transit District wants to erect a 1.4-mile long, 6-foot-high fence to prevent trespassing along the Del Mar bluffs.

The agency said 12 people have been hit by trains in the past five years. Much of the trespassing has been done by people seeking a direct route to Pacific Ocean beaches.

Although the council took no action regarding the fence during the meeting, it did approve a $283,000 study of how to create additional pedestrian crossings of the tracks to the beaches..

The transit district has asked the U.S. Surface Transportation Board for a ruling that would allow it to perform work along the bluffs.

However, action by the STB is in limbo as the city, transit district and California Coastal Commission discuss ways to revolve the trespassing problems.

Pacific Surfliners Shift to All Reserved This Week

December 21, 2020

All Amtrak Pacific Surfliner trains will require reservations for travel between Dec. 23 and 28.

In a service advisory Amtrak said a ticket will only be valid on the train on which a passenger holds a reservation.

During this period, multi-ride passengers with a monthly pass or 10-trip ticket must also confirm each trip in advance through the Amtrak RideReserve program.

Travel can be confirmed at Amtrak.com or on the Amtrak app by retrieving a ticket, choosing the date and direction of travel, and selecting “Confirm” on the train you would like to reserve a seat on.

Reservations can also be made by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL or at a staffed Amtrak station.

The Rail2Rail programs (COASTER and Metrolink) will observe a blackout period on the same dates, Dec. 23 through Dec. 28.

Trains will operate on a holiday schedule on Dec. 25 in observance of Christmas Day.

More information is available at PacificSurfliner.com/holiday

Bridge Work to Disrupt Pacific Surfliners

November 7, 2020

Maintenance work on the bridge over the San Deiguito River near the Del Mar Fairgrounds has resulted in cancellation of some Pacific Surfliner service this weekend (Nov. 7 and 8).

Trains 580, 768, 774 and 1564 will terminate at Oceanside with express bus service provided from Oceanside to Solana Beach and San Diego.

Trains 796 and 1584 will operate normally to San Diego.

Trains 579, 593, 777 and 785 will originate at Oceanside with express bus service provided from San Diego and Solana Beach to Oceanside.

Trains 763 and 1767will originate at Solana Beach with express bus service provided from San Diego to Oceanside where passengers can connect to these trains.

No alternate service will be provided at San Diego Old Town but passengers have the option of taking the trolley to/from San Diego to connect with buses.

There is no direct bus service connecting Solana Beach and San Diego.

Buses may depart stations earlier than normal train schedules to allow for on time departures from Oceanside.

Reservations Needed for Capitol Corridor Thanksgiving Travel

October 30, 2020

Reservations wlll be required to ride all Amtrak Capitol Corridor trains during the Thanksgiving travel period of Nov. 23-30.

A service advisory announcing the rule said it was being implemented in order to manage capacity and maintain social distancing.

Passengers traveling on monthly, six-ride, or 10-ride tickets will need to use the RideReserve feature at the Amtrak website or smartphone app, or make a confirmation via an Amtrak agent prior to the trip.