Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Cardinal’

More Opposition to Cincinnati Ticket Office Closing

June 8, 2018

The Hamilton County transportation improvement board has passed a resolution urging that Amtrak keep its ticket office at Cincinnati Union Terminal.

However, the office closed on June 5. Cincinnati is served by Amtrak’s tri-weekly Chicago-Washington Cardinal. It serves about 11,000 passengers a year.

Amtrak has hired a caretaker to open and close the waiting room and assist passengers with their luggage and boarding.

Because of construction at CUT, Amtrak is using a temporary facility adjacent to the iconic station.

The Cardinal stops in Cincinnati in both directions in the dead of night. The city will be one of the large Amtrak stops in the county to lack a station ticket office.

Amtrak now has ticket offices in Ohio at Cleveland and Toledo.

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Manchin Trying to Force Amtrak to Return Agents

June 8, 2018

A West Virginia senator wants federal law to require that every state served by Amtrak have at least one station agent.

Joe Manchin of West Virginia amended a pending fiscal year 2019 transportation appropriations bill to include the requirement after his state lost its last Amtrak ticket agent.

Amtrak closed the ticket office in Charleston, West Virginia, on June 8.

Manchin’s amendment also requires Amtrak to justify its decision to increase prices for special and charter trains, and to stop accepting private passenger cars in Huntington, West Virginia.

In a statement, Manchin said removing the agent at the Charleston station will make it harder for Amtrak to attract new customers and retain the ones it already has.

“Amtrak has told me that most of their sales are now online, but West Virginians buy far more tickets at the Charleston station than most places around the country. That’s not surprising, as nearly 30 percent of West Virginia is without internet access, and mobile broadband access is also difficult in my state’s rugged, mountainous terrain, making online ticket sales difficult,” he said.

Charleston is served by the Amtrak’s tri-weekly Chicago-Washington Cardinal.

Senators Protest Cincinnati Ticket Office Closing

June 2, 2018

Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman have written to Amtrak seeking to get it to reconsider its decision to close its ticket office in Cincinnati on June 5.

“We believe that destaffing Union Terminal now would be pennywise and pound-foolish, as the decision to cut services now would likely need to be reversed once the terminal is fully renovated and ridership increases,” the senators wrote in their joint letter.

The letter expressed concern that removing ticket agents would leave passengers, especially the elderly and those with disabilities, without appropriate levels of service for baggage check, ticket purchasing, and general passenger assistance.

Amtrak serves Cincinnati with its tri-weekly Chicago-Washington Cardinal.

Cincinnati Fighting to Keep Ticket Agents

May 7, 2018

Cincinnati officials are eyeing providing assistance in an effort to keep open the Amtrak ticket office at Union Terminal.

The action came after Amtrak said it would remove its two ticket agents from Cincinnati on June 5.

“The city administration is glad to assist in these efforts should that be the desire of the mayor and City Council,” acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney wrote in a memo to the Cincinnati City Council, which must approve any expenditures.

Duhaney responded after being contacted by passenger rail advocacy groups Friends of the Cardinal and All Aboard Ohio, which asked elected officials and city administrators to help keep the ticket office open.

Cincinnati is served by the tri-weekly Chicago-Washington Cardinal. No. 50 arrives in the Queen City on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday while No. 51 stops on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Both trains arrive in the middle of the night.

“While there are other stations on the Cardinal route that are unstaffed, Cincinnati is a popular, multi-level station which makes assistance by Amtrak staff for handicapped and elderly passengers very important,” Duhaney said in his memo.

He said that any loss of station services will degrade ridership and jeopardize continued service.

Aside from selling tickets, Amtrak’s two agents in Cincinnati assist with boarding and checked baggage.

Amtrak plans to hire a caretaker to open and close the waiting room before and after trains arrive.

The situation in Cincinnati is complicated by the fact that renovations at Union Terminal have forced Amtrak to temporarily locate to an adjacent, station facility on Kenner Street behind the Terminal.

The renovations at CUT are slated to be finished this fall.

Amtrak has cited an overwhelming preference by passengers to buy tickets online rather than at ticket offices as well as a desire to cut costs as motivating the closings of 15 ticket offices between mid May and late June.

“This is in no way a reflection on them,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said in reference to the performance of the agents in Cincinnati.

He said that the agents might be able to transfer to a different position within Amtrak.

After the Cincinnati ticket office closes the nearest Amtrak station with a ticket window will be Indianapolis. Amtrak also has ticket offices in Ohio in Cleveland and Toledo.

Magliari said the caretaker the passenger carrier plans to hire in Cincinnati will do more than open and close the waiting room.

He said that person will also assist passengers and receive training in how to operate the station.

The 15 stations set to close reportedly handle 40 or fewer passengers per day, yet rail passenger advocates content that Cincinnati should not be measured by that criteria due to the limited service and ongoing renovations of Union Terminal.

“Cincinnati is an outlier,” said Derek Bauman, the southwest Ohio vice chair for All Aboard Ohio.

“If you look at the other places where this has happened, [these are] basically smaller burgs,” he said. “I think that if it had not been for Union Terminal being under construction for the past year, that we would probably not have been in a position to lose our two people.”

Bauman expressed optimism that once the construction if completed at Union Terminal that Amtrak ridership in Cincinnati will increase.

“If anything, especially during this time of Union Terminal being rehabbed and the location and security and difficulty for (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance, we need the assistance of the full-time Amtrak employees,” he said.

More Ticket Office Closings Planned

May 1, 2018

Amtrak will close 15 ticket offices in the next several weeks serving seven long-distance route. The closings will begin on May 15 and extend through late June.

Spokesman Marc Magliari said the closing are a bid to reduce expenses that was “made jointly by the operating divisions and the Long Distance Service Line.”

Magliari said the carrier is still figuring out which, if any, of the affected stations will have trainside checked baggage.

He said 22 jobs are being eliminated although some of the affected agents are retiring, leaving Amtrak service or bumping another agent at another location by exercising their seniority rights.

“The different dates depend on the staffing in the area and also whether agents are moving from station to station as a result of attrition,” Magliari said.

Caretakers are being hired to open and close the waiting rooms of all affected stations before and after train arrival and departure times.

The affected stations and closing dates by route are:

Southwest Chief: Lamy, New Mexico, (July 31); La Junta, Colorado,(June 1); Topeka, Kansas, (May 20); Garden City, Kansas, (May 15); and Fort Madison, Iowa, (May 16)

Crescent: Meridian, Mississippi, (May 17) and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, (May 21)

Texas Eagle: Texarkana, Arkansas-Texas, (May 15) and Marshall, Texas,  (June 29)

Empire Builder
: Havre, Montana, (June 1); and Shelby, Montana, June 5)

Cardinal: Cincinnati (June 5) and Charleston, West Virginia, (June 6)

California Zephyr
: Ottumwa, Iowa, (May 19)

City of New Orleans
: Hammond, Louisiana, (May 15)

Amtrak management has for several years been guiding passengers to booking travel on its website and closing small town and lesser used ticket offices.

It has also offered some discounts that are only available online.

Magliari said just one in 10 reservations are booked by station agents.

“This seems to be part of Amtrak’s new cost-savings strategy under CEO Richard Anderson to cut station staffing and on-board service to the long-distance national network,” said Peter LeCody, Rail Passengers Chair and President of Texas Rail Advocates in a statement.

Amtrak Acknowledges Changes Coming for Empire Service, Cardinal, Due to Penn Station Construction

March 12, 2018

An Amtrak official has confirmed that the carrier plans to divert Empire Service trains this year to New York Grand Central Terminal during a construction project at New York Penn Station.

In a related development, Amtrak said it plans to temporarily cease operating the Cardinal between New York and Washington starting March 29.

The Empire Service diversion was discussed by Amtrak’s Empire District general superintendent, Kevin Chittenden, during a meeting of the Empire State Passengers Association.

Although he didn’t say when the diversion would take place, Chittenden said it would last for three months during the summer. During that time, the connecting track that Amtrak uses to move between Penn Station and Metro North tracks will be closed for maintenance.

Chittenden also indicated that Amtrak is considering used FL-9 locomotives as cab cars for trains going to and from Grand Central. However, Amtrak may also use cab cars in push-pull mode.

Amtrak diverted several Empire Service trains into Grand Central last summer, but continued to operate the Lake Shore Limited into Penn Station.

News reports have surfaced that Amtrak plans to temporarily drop the New York section of the Lake Shore while work is being done on the connection track to Penn Station .

As for the Cardinal, Amtrak said it is being terminated in Washington to relieve congestion at Penn Station.

The first eastbound train to terminate in Washington rather than run through to New York will leave Chicago on March 29. The first train to originate in Washington will depart on April 1.

Amtrak did not say how long Nos. 50 and 51 will continue to operate only between Chicago and Washington.

The Rail Passenger Association said the advocacy group Friends of the Cardinal is preparing to enter into talks with the West Virginia Tourism Commission on support for making the Cardinal a daily service.

It currently operates tri-weekly, originating in New York on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, and originating in Chicago on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Cardinal Passengers Were Stranded in Culpepper

February 5, 2018

Somewhat lost in the news about last week’s collision between a chartered Amtrak train carrying Republican congressmen and a garbage truck was what happened to two other Amtrak trains that use the same route.

The westbound Cardinal was halted at Culpepper, Virginia, stranding 90 passengers. Also halted was its eastbound counterpart. Both tri-weekly trains operate on Wednesdays through Virginia.

The collision between the Amtrak special and the truck occurred near Crozet, Virginia. One passenger in the truck was killed and two others injured.

Some of those aboard the Amtrak train suffered minor injuries. The GOP congressmen were en route to a political retreat at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

While many passengers took the delay in stride, several were frustrated that Amtrak wasn’t providing any information. They said they didn’t receive a text, a call or see any information on Amtrak’s website.

A website that tracks Amtrak movements reported that No. 51 departed Clifton Forge, Virginia, 4 hours and 27 minutes late and eventually arrived in Chicago more than eight hours late.

It showed that eastbound No. 50 departed White Sulphur Spring an hour and a half late but has no data for any stations west of there.

Brian Hambrick was headed for Clifton Forge, but said he wasn’t in a hurry.

“I’m just curious how long something like this takes,” said Hambrick, who was returning from New York City after seeing the Grammy Awards on Sunday. “I’m sure the whole Congress element adds a whole other level to it.”

Hambrick laughed and told a reporter, “You never know what the day holds, right?”

Bart Danielson who was returning home to West Virginia, said he rides Amtrak about twice a month.

“I’m eating junk food I normally wouldn’t eat,” he said before adding, “I don’t think the train’s going anywhere soon.”

Amelia Hannah and Chris Wright were headed to Charleston, West Virginia, The couple from Manchester, England, said the delay wasn’t too much of an inconvenience.

“Luckily, we are a bit of carefree,” Wright said. “If we are here for a few hours, we can still get to our hotel and get a good night’s sleep before seeing Charleston.”

Culpeper tourism director Paige Read said some passengers who arranged ride from Uber or a taxi company to finish their trip.

But others visited Culpeper’s shops and restaurants on Davis Street because they knew “they aren’t leaving any time soon.”

The Museum of Culpeper History hosted younger passengers. “A God send,” said Pam Mitchell, a parent of two children, heading home to West Virginia.

“The tourist center here has been very open and welcoming,” one passenger said. “They’ve just been wonderful.”

Amtrak Posts New National Sked Few Changes Made to Heartland Train Schedules

January 22, 2018

Amtrak has a new national timetable posted online and only a few changes have been made to the schedules of its trains that serve the nation’s heartland, many of them minor.

Most  of the changes affect the six Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac). The running times on the route are being shortened

Effective Jan. 22, No. 350 will depart Pontiac 5 minutes earlier and arrive in Chicago 15 minutes earlier than the current schedule. No. 353 will leave Pontiac 10 minutes earlier and arrive in Chicago eight minutes earlier. No. 355 will depart Pontiac 20 minutes earlier and arrive in Chicago 32 minutes earlier. Times at stations en route have been adjusted.

No. 350 will leave Chicago at its current scheduled time, but arrive in Pontiac 24 minutes earlier. No. 353 will depart Chicago 10 minutes earlier and arrive in Pontiac 27 minutes earlier. No. 354 will leave Chicago 10 minutes earlier and arrive in Pontiac 14 minutes earlier.

The eastbound Blue Water will depart Chicago at its current time, but will be scheduled to arrive in Port Huron, Michigan, seven minutes earlier. There are corresponding changes at intermediate stations.

There are no changes in the schedules of the westbound Blue Water or the Pere Marquette in both directions.

Effective Jan. 8, the Pennsylvanian began arriving in Pittsburgh from New York six minutes earlier.

There are no changes in the schedules of the Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited or eastbound Cardinal. The westbound Cardinal is now scheduled to arrive in Chicago five minutes earlier, but there are no changes in time at intermediate stations.

No changes were made in any schedules of trains operating in the Chicago-Carbondale-New Orleans corridor. Likewise, all Lincoln Service schedules between Chicago and St. Louis and Missouri River Runner trains between St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, remain the same.

Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee has not changed.

The Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg are scheduled to arrive one minute earlier in Quincy, Illinois, but the rest of the schedules on the route are unchanged.

The counterparts of the same trains will arrive in Chicago two minutes earlier without any changes in times at intermediate stations.

The westbound Southwest Chief is departing Los Angeles five minutes earlier but its Chicago arrival time is unchanged. Some times have changed at intermediate stations. This change became effective last November.

There are no changes in the schedules of the westbound Southwest Chief, or the California Zephyr, Empire Builder or Texas Eagle.

The Heartland Flyer arrives in Oklahoma City from Fort Worth, Texas, four minutes earlier, a change that took effect last October. The southbound Heartland Flyer schedule is unchanged.

Amtrak has not printed a national timetable since January 2016, but has posted one at its website since then.

The latest timetable features an image of the Maple Leaf traveling through snowstorm.

Missing from this timetable is a letter from Amtrak’s president, which had been a standard feature of previous timetables.

The typography is largely the same as in the previous timetables, but the schedule headings have been tweaked. The schedules were compiled before Amtrak said it was discontinuing the Pacific Parlour Car on the Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Starlight.

Cardinal Ridership Up 7.25% in FY2017

November 21, 2017

Amtrak’s Cardinal saw a 7.25 percent ridership boost in fiscal year 2017.

Figures released by the national passenger carrier show the tri-weekly Chicago-New York train carried 112,432 passengers, up 7,601 from FY 2016.

“It’s been inching up, but to have that kind of an increase is a good thing,” said Chuck Riecks, a vice president with the national Rail Passengers Association and co-chairman of West Virginia-based the Friends of the Cardinal group.

Riecks described the ridership figures as encouraging given the on-time issues Nos. 50 and 51 have had during this year’s operational problems on host railroad CSX.

He said Amtrak’s addition of business class service to the Cardinal in January 2016 helped to boost patronage.

The Cardinal serves eight stations in West Virginia and most of them saw an increase in ridership.

White Sulphur Springs handled 5,878 passengers, a 12.6 percent increase. The station serves passengers headed for the famous Greenbrier resort and was a beneficiary of the business class service, which features 18 leather seats, complimentary beverages and a lounge area reserved for business class and sleeper car passengers.

Thurmond — the smallest town in America with regularly scheduled passenger rail service — saw the largest proportional jump, an 18 percent increase to 345 passengers.

Other stations posting slight increases included Charleston (9,812 passengers), Prince (2,988) and Alderson (449).

The ridership figures for Huntington and Hinton fell in FY 2017, in part because Amtrak had attributed to those stations passengers riding Amtrak coaches on the New River Train.

That added about 2,800 passengers each year to each city’s ridership figures.

Hinton’s Cardinal ridership in FY 2017 dropped by 81 passengers from 7,344 to 4,463.

Huntington’s ridership fell by 14.5 percent from 10,723 to 6,925 passengers, or a decline of 998 passengers.

During the past year Amtrak removed its ticket agents from Huntington, thus ending ticket sales and checked baggage at that station.

“That clearly reflects the loss of the station agent,” Riecks said of the decline in Huntington passengers.

Montgomery also saw a decline in ridership, dropping from 669 to 500 passengers.

In the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited route, the two West Virginia stations posted ridership gains.

Martinsburg handled 11,267 passengers, up 146, while Harpers Ferry saw a 12 percent increase in passengers to 8,267.

Hoosier State OT Performance Improving

October 23, 2017

The on-time performance of two Amtrak trains in Indiana has shown some improvement of late.

From a 37.1 percent rating in August the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State improved to 56 percent in September.

The Chicago-New York Cardinal, which uses the same route, had an on-time performance of 58 percent during the month

Brittany White, stakeholder and marketing manager for the Indiana Department of Transportation, said the on-time performance for the Hoosier State for the month of October thus far has been close to 80 percent.

Amtrak has said most of the delays to the trains have occurred on CSX tracks between Indianapolis and Dyer, Indiana.

These run the gamut between malfunctioning signals to freight train interference.

CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle said the delays have resulted from issues stemming from implementation of a new operating model known as precision scheduled railroading.

He said changes in how freight cars are sorted at the railroad’s Avon Yard west of Indianapolis resulted in unanticipated congestion that contributed to service issues for Amtrak.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the passenger carrier has seen a slow but steady increase in on-time performance.

INDOT has hired a consultant to identify areas for improvement in Amtrak, CSX and INDOT operations. That report is expected to be completed in early 2018.