Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Cardinal’

Cardinal Resumes Operating to New York City

November 15, 2018

Withing giving notice, Amtrak has resumed operating the Cardinal to New York City.

The Chicago-New York tri-weekly train had been terminating and originating in Washington since March 29 westbound and April 1 eastbound due to track work and other construction at New York’s Penn Station.

Amtrak said the curtailment of the Cardinal to Chicago-Washington was a temporary move, even though it was the last train affected by the construction to resume serving Penn Station.

The Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited also took a hiatus from Penn Station between late May and early September.

Service stopped operating eastbound to New York on March 29, and westbound from New York on April 1.

Amtrak said Nos. 50 and 51 stopped operating to New York in order to help ease congestion during the Penn Station project.

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Cincinnati Union Terminal Reopens

November 15, 2018

A restoration of Cincinnati Union Terminal will wrap up this week when the 85-year-old art deco station reopens.

The $228 million restoration project took 30 months to complete after getting underway in July 2016.

The project was funded by a sales tax approved by Cincinnati and Hamilton County voters in 2014.

Amtrak’s Cardinal stops at the station and it is home to several museums.

The restoration effort involved rebuilding the structure down to its substructure and restoring the class murals in the rotunda to look the way that they did when the depot opened in 1933.

The neon-lined clock on the front of the building also was rehabilitated.

“This is a monumental achievement for our staff and volunteers and for the entire community” said Cody Hefner, a representative of the Cincinnati Museum Center.

“Everyone who works here, and really everyone in the community, has a story about Union Terminal, either as a train station or as a museum. So to be able to restore a place with such a personal connection, and to do so in such a grand, visible, breathtaking way, is really incredible.”

Amtrak moved its waiting room to an adjacent building during the restoration. It returned to CUT during the first week of November.

During the public reopening on Nov. 17, Hefner said projectors will be used to light the terminal’s exterior with different exhibits each evening.

A large Christmas train display, a tradition at CUT since 1946, will open to the public on Nov. 16.

New York LSL Section to Resume Service

August 31, 2018

The Lake Shore Limited will return to Penn Station in New York City on Tuesday, but the Cardinal will not be back in the Big Apple until November.

The New York section of the Lake Shore was suspended in late May due to construction on the train’s route to Penn Station.

Passengers were forced to transfer at Albany-Renssalaer, New York, and take a connecting train to New York’s Grand Central Terminal.

The Boston section continued to operate between Chicago and Boston as usual.

Also shifting back to Penn Station on Tuesday will be Amtrak’s Empire Corridor trains, including the Maple Leaf, Ethan Allen Express and Adirondack.

The construction work in New York included replacement of components of the Spuyten Duyvil swing bridge between The Bronx and Manhattan; track replacement in the Empire Tunnel; rail, crosstie and grade crossing work between the tunnel and the bridge, and work on Track 19 at Penn Station.

As for the Cardinal, an Amtrak spokesperson said it will continue to originate and terminate in Washington due to other work being done in the Northeast Corridor.

Still No Word on Cardinal’s Return to New York City

August 27, 2018

The return of Amtrak’s Cardinal to New York remains murky.

The Chicago-New York train was curtained to a Chicago-Washington operation last March due to construction work at New York Penn Station.

That work is set to wrap up in early September, but Amtrak has not said when Nos. 50 and 51 will resume operating in the Big Apple.

Members of the Charleston West-Virginia-based Friends of the Cardinal are worried that the “temporary” route of the tri-weekly Cardinal could turn out to be permanent.

Chuck Riecks of the group believes the Cardinal might become part of Amtrak’s efforts to “sectionalize” long-distance trains by dividing them into shorter segments of 750 miles or less.

That would require the states served by the trains to underwrite the costs of the service.

Riecks said Amtrak might be eyeing making the Cardinal a Washington-Huntington, West Virginia, service and a Chicago-Cincinnati service. The carrier might also propose a train between Cincinnati and Huntington.

“Making this change would probably negate such services as sleeping cars and full diners,” Riecks said. “To say nothing of causing a passenger from Huntington who wishes to go to Chicago to change trains at least twice. This is not a new idea. It was proposed in the [President Ronald] Reagan years and then abandoned. But, current Amtrak managers seem to believe this is the way to go.”

Friends of the Cardinal is asking rail passenger advocates to tell their elected officials that the Cardinal should be preserved and expanded to daily service.

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.

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.