Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

Amtrak Eyeing Major Revamp of Its Route Network

February 22, 2019

The big news concerning Amtrak this week was a report in the Wall Street Journal that Amtrak plans to revamp its route network to emphasize new corridors, primarily in the South and West.

The Journal quoted an unnamed Amtrak official as saying: “We are undertaking a major rethinking of the national network and how we offer service on the national network. That study and planning isn’t done yet, and we aren’t prepared to announce any plans or recommendations yet—those will come in our reauthorization proposal.”

The newspaper report said the route restructuring is being prompted in part by a need to replace or retire the aging Superliner fleet devoted to most long-distance trains.

Another factor is that Amtrak must be reauthorized by Congress later this year.

Amtrak officials have been hinting for at least a year at a change in the carrier’s business focus.

During a speech in California, Amtrak President Richard Anderson described the long-distance trains as experiential.

Anthony Coscia, the chairman of the Amtrak board of directors, told the Rail Passengers Association in a meeting last May that in the long term the overall shape of Amtrak’s national network is likely due to population shifts, demographic trends and economic growth.

Coscia expressed Amtrak’s desire to develop corridor routes with strong potential for growth in unserved or lightly served areas.

Writing on the Trains magazine website, columnist Fred Frailey said the implication of the report by the Wall Street Journal is that Amtrak wants to operate daylight service between large city pairs.

Frailey quoted at length the remarks of Amtrak’s Stephen Gardner, a senior executive vice president, at the Rail Trends meeting in New York City last November.

“We’re looking at a different America. They do not live half in the city and half in the country,” Gardner said. “Now the vast majority live in major metropolitan areas. And those metro areas are shifting. The Northeast will be a net loser.

“Where growth is happening is in the South, Mountain West and West. And guess who lives in those metro areas? It’s Millennials, by far.”

Gardner went on to say that this has resulted in a mismatch between population density, transportation demand and Amtrak’s current network.

Frailey speculated that what ultimately may occur is that some of Amtrak’s long-distance routes will be split into segments operating during the daytime.

He cited the example of the Chicago-New Orleans route, which might be broken into Chicago-Memphis and New Orleans-Memphis segments.

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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.

WisARP Seeks Support for Another Amtrak Train

February 22, 2019

The Wisconsin Association of Railroad Passengers recently held town hall meetings in an effort to drum up support for a second Amtrak daily train between Chicago and Twin Cities.

West of Milwaukee Amtrak’s only service is the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.

Wisconsin passenger rail supporters have said a second train is needed to provide more reliable service.

The westbound Empire Builder is usually on time when it reaches Milwaukee, but its eastbound counterpart is often late, sometimes by hours when it arrives in the dairy state.

WisARP Presdient Terry Brown said that makes it difficult for passengers traveling from the central and western parts of the state.

“Its schedule has become crazy,” Brown said. “It is unreliable, it is chronically late.  But it’s not late in a predictable pattern.”

The group favors a second train that would be scheduled to reach Milwaukee in mid-morning westbound and during the evening hours eastbound.

The departments of transportation of Wisconsin and Minnesota have studied supporting a second Chicago-Twin Cities train, but not commitments to fund it have been made.

The town hall meetings were held in Tomah and Portage.

NEC Service to be Disrupted

February 22, 2019

Track work being done on the Mystic River bridge in Connecticut will affect Amtrak’s Northeast Regional and Acela Express trains on Feb. 23.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said minor schedule changes will be made ranging from two to 25 minutes between Boston and New York to accommodate the track work.

Amtrak Expects Delivery of 1st CAF Viewliner Sleeper

February 16, 2019

Amtrak expects to take delivery of the first of its new CAF-built Viewliner sleepers during the week of Feb. 17.

The carrier has ordered 25 Viewliner sleepers whose manufacturing and building have been delayed for several years.

The sleepers are the last cars from a 125-car order and will supplement 50 existing Viewliner sleepers that are used on long-distance trains in the East and South.

Delivery of one CAF-built baggage-dorm has been completed along with 70 baggage cars and 24 of the 25 dining cars that Amtrak ordered.

Amtrak will test the new sleepers before pressing them into revenue service, perhaps by the end of this year.

One significant different between the new Viewliner sleepers and the existing fleet is the absence of a toilet in the roomettes.

Upon delivery, the new Viewliner sleepers will be sent to Amtrak’s Hialeah yard in Miami for installation of a few items, including Wi-Fi capability.

CSX Continues to Seek to Sell Some Routes

February 16, 2019

CSX continue to seek to sell 4,500 route miles to short-line and regional railroads, but it unclear if any of those segments are used by Amtrak.

The sales announced thus far and those known to be in process do not include any tracks used by Amtrak.

The 4,500 miles CSX is seeking to unload includes 1,325 miles that have been sold or on the sale block.

Trains magazine reported this week that the Class 1 carrier might lop off another 500 to 1,500 route miles that are under scrutiny for their economics.

The magazine said those lines could be retained if their financial number improve.

In 2017 CSX began reviewing the potential sale of 8,000 route throughout its network.

CSX operates 21,000 route miles and the lines it is eyeing selling it has described as low-density or redundant.

Eventually, the railroad has proposed slimming down to 16,500 route miles.
The carrier has said it wants buyers who can grow traffic on the affected lines.

Track Work to Disrupt Pacific Surfliners

February 15, 2019

Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliners will be disrupted by track work on weekends between March 1 and 10.

The track work is being conducted by the North County Transit District.

On March 1 and 8 Train 590 will be cancelled and passengers directed to make reservations aboard other Amtrak trains.

Bus service will be provided from Los Angeles to San Diego, making stops at Oceanside, Solana Beach, Old Town San Diego and San Diego Downtown.

No alternate transportation will be provided to Fullerton, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Irvine and San Juan Capistrano.

On March 2, 3, 9 and 10 Trains 562, 583, 1565, 1566, 1569, 1572, 1573 and 1590 will be cancelled and passengers directed to make reservations aboard other Amtrak trains.

Train 782 will terminate at Los Angeles and no alternate transportation will be provided between Los Angeles and San Diego.

Southbound Train 796 will terminate at Los Angeles and bus service will be provided for all missed stops.

Trains 580, 768, 774, 792, 1564 and 1584 will operate normally to Irvine, where bus service will be provided from Irvine to San Diego.

Express buses will run from Irvine to San Juan Capistrano, Oceanside, Solana Beach, Old Town San Diego and downtown San Diego only.

Trains 591, 595, 763, 777, 785, 1579, 1761 and 1767 will originate in Irvine with bus service provided from San Diego to Irvine to connect with the trains listed above, with the exception of Train 1761.

Buses will depart downtown San Diego, Solana Beach, Oceanside and San Juan Capistrano 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 can take the trolley to downtown San Diego to board buses to Irvine.

Bus also service will not be provided to connect with Train 1761.

Metrolink will honor Amtrak tickets between Irvine and Los Angeles.

There will be no checked baggage or express service south of Santa Ana on the dates shown above. Alternate bus service will not serve San Clemente Pier.

Amtrak FY2019 AppropriationTurns Out Flat

February 15, 2019

Amtrak’s federal funding for fiscal year 2019 will be flat under the budget bill adopted on Thursday by Congress.

The legislation allots $1.9 billion to the passenger carrier, the same amount that it received in fiscal year 2018.

The bill contains $670 million for rail infrastructure improvements and $2.9 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration budget.

The FRA appropriation is $218 million less than what the agency received in FY2018 but $1.9 billion above the Trump administration’s budget request.

Likewise, the Federal Transit Administration saw a cut of $67 million from its FY2018 appropriation but at $13.4 billion it received $2.3 billion more than what the Trump administration proposed.

The FY2019 budget bill allocated $700 million in transit infrastructure grants and $2.6 billion for capital investment grants.

BUILD funding grants received $900 million, a cut of $600 million from FY2018.

The Federal Highway Administration saw a $1.8 billion increase over its FY2018 appropriation.

Amtrak Sale Tied to Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2019

Amtrak is using Valentine’s Day as a backdrop for its latest fare sale, a buy one get one free offering that began Feb. 14 and runs through Feb. 18.

In a news release, the passenger carrier said passengers can buy one ticket and get the second one free for nationwide travel between March 25 and July 29 with no blackout dates.

The sale is available at Amtrak.com, and all prices will be automatically discounted from the standard fare price.

Fares are only available on coach seating on reserved service and is not valid for travel unreserved service, including the Pennsylvanian, Keystone Service, Capitol Corridor, Hiawatha Service, Pacific Surfliner and 7000-8999 Thruways.

Fares are one way (adult) and no additional discounts apply. Travelers must travel together and be booked in the same reservation.

Other restrictions include no upgrades allowed and the offer being not combinable with any other discount offer.

Sale prices may not be available at all times and on all routes. The offer is subject to any restrictions, blackouts and refund rules that apply to the type of fare purchased, a 25 percent cancellation fee may apply.

Passengers booking travel under this plan should refer to discount code C125.

Track Work to Affect Texas Eagle

February 14, 2019

Track work being conducted by Union Pacific will disrupt operations of Amtrak’s Texas Eagle between Feb. 24 and March 10.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that during that time Train No. 21 will detour between Texarkana, Arkansas, and Mineola, Texas, with passengers bound for intermediate stops between those cities riding a bus.

That includes stations in Marshall and Longview, Texas. It also affects passengers riding a thruway bus to Shreveport, Louisiana, that connects with the Eagle at Longview.

Affected passengers will detrain at Mineola and board Amtrak Thruway Bus 6121 to their destination. Bus 6121 will originate at Mineola instead of Longview.

Amtrak said that Train No. 21 may be delayed up to 15 to 20 minutes at Mineola to hold for connecting buses.