Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

Calif. Congressmen Seek to Save Call Center

December 15, 2018

Thirty-seven California members of Congress have signed a letter asking Amtrak to reconsider closing its reservation call center in Riverside, California.

The center, which employs 500, is scheduled to close in January. Workers have been offered the opportunity to transfer to Amtrak’s only other call center, which is located in Philadelphia.

Rep. Ken Calvert released a separate letter asking Amtrak to delay the closure for at least six months.

His letter said that would provide Congress more time to address the situation as well as give the affected employees time to weigh the relocation offer.

The union representing workers in the Riverside call center has been negotiating with Amtrak over how much in relocation expenses the carrier will pay those agreeing to transfer to Philadelphia.

Amtrak has contended that the volume of calls to its reservation centers has dropped, but some who work in the Riverside office have said Amtrak is diverting some callers to a third-party contractor based in Florida.

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Amtrak Launches Holiday Photo Contest

December 13, 2018

Amtrak is sponsoring a contest for holiday-theme Amtrak photos posted on social media.

The carrier said it will award prizes to the 12 top images.

The contest period for #AmtrakHolidayContest begins Dec. 13 and runs through Dec. 25.

In a news release, Amtrak said its social media team will choose the top photo for each day and contact the winner directly as to what prize the photographer won and how it will be sent.

The prizes include six Dunkin’ gift cards valued at $100 each and six Amtrak “swag bags.”

Contestants can post as many images as they wish, but only win once. The images must be posted on the contestant’s personal Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts.

Judges will evaluate submissions based on the inclusion of Amtrak elements (train, station, logo, etc.) and reference to the holiday and/or winter season.

Amtrak said that although creativity is encouraged in the photos, the picture quality does not need to be at a professional level to win.

Applications will only be accepted via social media that use the required hashtag #AmtrakHolidayContest

Photo entries must be posted one time and posting a photo on multiple platforms will not be considered as more than one Entry or increase chances of winning.

Each entry must not have won previous awards and may not have been published previously.

All Entry posts or newsfeed need to be set to “public,” as applicable, so it can be seen by the Amtrak judges.

Group entries will not be accepted. Contestants must be a legal resident of the 48 contiguous United States and the District of Columbia, and least 18 years old. Other terms and conditions apply.

“With our #AmtrakHolidayContest, we know we can bring that holiday magic to train travel with inspirational pictures from our customers,” said Amtrak Chief Marketing Officer Tim Griffin in a statement. “The holiday season is Amtrak’s busiest time, and whether you are traveling for business or leisure, your journey can best be summarized by a picture, and that’s what we are hoping to see through this contest.”

Philly Solari Board Might Stay in Some Form

December 13, 2018

The Solari train information board at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia might be staying after all, a Pennsylvanian congressman said.

U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pennsylvania) said he spoke with Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson in a plea to save the 1970s era relic that Amtrak has said it plans to replace with a computerized state-of-the-art system.

Boyle said Anderson was receptive to the idea of keeping the Solari board at the station in some form.

Earlier news reports indicated the board would be given to a museum.

According to Boyle, Anderson suggested that the passenger carrier could either refurbish the board or replace it with a new model integrated into Amtrak’s computer network.

Some in Philadelphia have protested the pending removal of the Solari board, having grown accustomed to its whirling and clacking as it updates train information.

In late November Amtrak had issued a news release saying it planned to replace the Solari board, which is the last of its kind still in use in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

However, Boyle said Amtrak hasn’t yet solicited bids from suppliers for the Solari’s replacement.

Boyle suggested that a newer model Solari-like information board might be acquired by Amtrak for use at 30th Street Station.

In announcing that the Solari board would be replaced, Amtrak said the Italian manufacturer of the board no longer makes replacement parts for it.

IDOT Survey to Ask About Amtrak Service

December 13, 2018

The Illinois Department of Transportation is conducting an online survey that will seek public views on various topics, including Amtrak service in the state.

IDOT funds Amtrak corridor trains linking Chicago with Milwaukee, St. Louis and the Illinois cities of Quincy and Carbondale.

Responses to the Illinois Traveler Opinion Survey are being accepted through Dec. 31 at http://www.idot.illinois.gov.

The survey is being conducted in a partnership with the University of Illinois Springfield and covered such other areas as road conditions, ice-and-snow removal, commuting habits and driving behaviors.

The survey has been conducted annually since 2001. A copy of the 2017 survey and results, along with data collected from past years, can be viewed at bit.ly/2Uu4DnF.

Canceled Trains to be Restored

December 10, 2018

Amtrak said today it will begin restoring on Dec. 11 service that was cancelled or modified last weekend due to winter weather in the Southeast.

In a service advisory, the carrier said passengers should check their train status on Amtrak.com or the Amtrak smartphone apps prior to departing, allow extra time to get to the station and be extremely careful in stations and on platforms.

Passengers with reservations on trains that are being modified usually are accommodated on trains with similar departure times or operating on another day.

Amtrak said it will waive additional charges for customers looking to change their reservation during the modified schedule by calling 800-USA-RAIL.

Among the trains canceled over the entirely of their routes were the Crescent, Auto Train, Silver Meteor, Piedmonts and Carolinian.

On Monday the Silver Star operated only between Miami and Jacksonville, Florida. That shortened schedule is expected to continue on Tuesday.

Northeast Regional No. 176, which originates in Roanoke, Virginia, was to operate on Monday only between Washington and New York.

Also on Monday the Cardinal operated only from Indianapolis to Chicago. The train was canceled east of Indianapolis on Sunday.

Amtrak Offering 2 for 1 Roomette Fares

December 7, 2018

Inside a Viewliner roomette aboard the Lake Shore Limited.

Amtrak is offering a buy one get one free sale on sleeping car roomettes.

The deal is only available at Amtrak.com and runs through Dec. 11 for travel between Jan. 7 and May 23, 2019. There are no blackout dates.

In a news release, Amtrak said the sale allows one person in a group of two to travel for free.

Under normal circumstances, both occupants of a Viewliner or Superliner roomette must each pay for rail fare and share an accommodation charge.

The sale applies to travel aboard the California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, Cardinal, City of New Orleans, Coast Startlight, Crescent, Empire Builder, Lake Shore Limited, Silver Star, Silver Meteor, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited and Texas Eagle.

The sale does not apply to the Auto Train.

The companion traveling with the customer must stay in the same roomette, and other terms and conditions apply.

To take advantage of the sale, a traveler should begin by clicking on the “Buy One Roomette and Bring a Companion for Free” page of the Amtrak website.

The sale does not show up on the normal reservations page, which is unable to calculate the discount.

Passengers will know they have booked the sale fare if they see a “promo applied” notation below the roomette fare.

Trains magazine reported that it found that the best cost savings are available for multi-night travel because rail fares are yield managed.

Contracts Awarded for New Buffalo Station

December 7, 2018

Construction of a new Amtrak station in downtown Buffalo, New York, is expected to start next year now that a contract has been awarded to design and build the new depot.

The New York State Department of Transportation awarded contacts to Foit-Albert Associates for architecture work while Hohl Industrial Services and Scrufari Construction will be the builders.

The new depot will replace the 66-year old Exchange Street Station, which will be razed.

During construction, Amtrak’s Empire Service trains and the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf will continue to stop at the Exchange Street Station site.

Passengers will be served by a temporary facility during that time.

The new station, which will be twice the size of Exchange Street depot and is expected to be completed by fall 2020.

The cost of the new station is estimated at $27.7 million. About 38,000 passengers use the Exchange Street station annually.

NYDOT said the new station will be elevated and moved closer to the street to improve access and visibility.

It will be three stories tall and feature a brick exterior. The platform will be longer and better lighted than the existing facility.

Inside the station, the Terrazzo floor will feature an image of a Buffalo. A Taste NY kiosk will provide food and beverages.

The agency also said there will be better access to Buffalo’s light rail system and improved accommodations for vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists. It is also near popular destinations Canalside and KeyBank Center.

Buffalo is also served by an Amtrak-built facility in suburban Depew that hosts the same trains as Exchange Street as well as the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited.

Niles Station Host Program Set to Launch

December 7, 2018

Hosting open house events is the first step that volunteers in Niles, Michigan, are taking as part of their efforts to launch a train station host program.

Training will be conducted this month for the two dozen people who showed up at the open houses to volunteer for the program.

Eight Amtrak trains a day stop in Niles and the volunteer hosts will be able to work whatever hours they’re able.

Earlier this year, Amtrak removed its ticket agent from Niles and hired caretakers to open, close and clean the station.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the Niles station used to be open only through late afternoon, but with the caretakers and volunteers it is open from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m.

If the last train of the day is late, someone should be on hand to allow passengers and those meeting them to have access to the waiting room, restrooms and a pay phone.

Serving Niles are six Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac) and the Chicago-Port Huron Blue Water.

Magliari said the Niles community has been active in helping Amtrak look after the depot, which dates to the days when the trains were operated by the Michigan Central.

During that era a local gardener would present a flower to each woman passing through the Niles station .

For many years the Four Flags Garden Club has maintained the station’s flower beds and decorated the depot for the holidays.

When Amtrak was planning to remove its Niles ticket agent, it contacted the Niles DDA Main Street program to ask it to help organize the effort to start a volunteer host program.

Director Lisa Croteau said the host program will help carry on the station’s “long history of hospitality,”

Croteau said the hosts will greet travelers, share tidbits about the history of the depot and serve as “kind of a concierge for the downtown and the city of Niles,” to tell people where they can get a ride or a bite to eat or whatever they need.

Magliari said the Niles program could serve as a model elsewhere in Michigan or in Elkhart, Indiana.

“It’s something happening in more and more places around the country where communities are engaging with us to have a welcoming presence in the stations,” Magliari said.

One of the Niles volunteers is Pete Womer, who is retired after working 40 years in the utilities department at the University of Notre Dame.

He told the South Bend Tribune that he was looking for a volunteer project, has been a train traveler for more than 50 years, and he loves to meet people and chat.

“In the long run, it makes customers feel a little more comfortable,” Womer said. “It’s a good feeling knowing you’re helping people out.”

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.

Philly 30th Street Getting New Information Boards

December 7, 2018

The venerable Solari board at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia as it appeared in May 2016.

The old Solari Board at Amtrak’s William H. Gray III 30th Street Station in Philadelphia is headed for museum while a new display is set to debut.

In a news release, Amtrak said the Passenger Information Display System that is being installed in Philadelphia is part of a project underway to replace display panels at each gate, revamp the public address system and change platform to become ADA compliant.

Amtrak said the new PIDS board will display gate and track information and have ADA features.

After is become operational later this month, the passenger carrier will upgrade display boards in ClubAcela Lounge, the food court, on the platforms and in other areas of the station.

The Philadelphia station also is getting renovations to ClubAcela Lounge, a lactation suite to provide mothers with a clean, dignified and private space to pump and nurse, and the retrofitting of eight of the moveable wooden waiting benches on with power outlets for portable and mobile devices.

During fiscal year 2018, Amtrak handled 4.4 million passengers at Philadelphia, making it the third busiest station in the national Amtrak system.