Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Downeaster Service’

Track Work Affects Downeaster Service

May 10, 2021

Track work being performed by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is affecting Amtrak’s Downeaster service at Woburn, Massachusetts, on Saturdays and Sundays through June 20.

Southbound Trains 690, 692, 694 and 698 and northbound Trains 691, 693, 695 and 699/1689 will detour between Boston North Station and Haverhill and will not stop at Woburn.

Alternate transportation will not be provided to or from Woburn.

Trains 696 and 697 will detour after May 8 between Woburn and Haverhill with no alternate transportation provided.

Track Work to Disrupt Downeasters

April 28, 2021

Track work being performed by Pan Am Railways will affect some Downeastern trains on April. 29.

Train 682 will terminate at Durham, New Hampshire. Non-stop alternate transportation will be provided between Durham and Boston North Station.

No alternate transportation will be provided to the missed stations of Exeter, Haverhill, and Woburn.

Train 685 will originate at Durham. Non-stop alternate transportation will be provided between Boston North and Durham but no alternate transportation will be provided to the missed stations of Woburn, Haverhill, and Exeter.

Trains 681, 683, 684 and 686 are cancelled with no alternate transportation being provided.

In a service advisory Amtrak said passengers on the affected trains may choose other Downeaster service or alternate dates of travel.

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.

New Portland Station Site Sought, Downeastern Service to Expand by Late May

February 26, 2021

Transportation officials in Maine are searching for a site for a new station to serve Amtrak’s Downeaster trains.

The current station is off the main line used by the trains and reaching it adds 15 minutes to each trip.

Nate Moulton, director of freight and passenger rail services for the Maine Department of Transportation, said the agency has “come to a point where the department is willing to pass the baton on to [the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority] to work on whether we can get a facility located on the main line.”

An MDOT study concludes the best location would be on St. John Street between Congress Street and the entrance to the Veterans Memorial Bridge. 

Patricia Quinn, executive director of the authority, said quick action is needed, as other potential sites have already been developed.

In a related development, Quinn said her agency is looking to restore a fifth Downeaster round trip to Boston by late May.

The additional service was called for in a recently survey conducted by MDOT.

Maine Legislatures Eye Bangor Extension of Downeasters

February 18, 2021

A group of Maine lawmakers are seeking funding of a feasibility study to examine extending rail passenger service to Bangor.

The study will review the cost of infrastructure improvements, station locations, and projected ridership if Amtrak’s Downeaster service is extended northeast from Brunswick, the current northern terminus of the route.

Similar study funding proposals have failed, most recently in 2017.

State Sen. Joe Baldacci, one of the leaders of the latest effort, believes the time may be right to try again because the U.S. Department of Transportation has a rail-friendly top administrator in Pete Buttigieg.

Downeasters to Skip Woburn This Weekend

January 13, 2021

Track work being performed by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will result in Amtrak Downeaster trains missing their scheduled stops at Woburn, Massachusetts on Jan. 16 and 17.

Southbound trains 690, 692, 694 and 698 and northbound trains 691, 693, 695 and 699/1689 will detour between Boston North Station and Haverhill, Massachusetts.

Alternate transportation will not be provided to or from Woburn.

Downeasters to Miss Woburn due to Weekend Track Work

November 7, 2020

Track work being performed on Saturdays and Sundays will disrupt Downeaster service to Woburn, Massachusetts between Nov. 7 and Dec. 20.

The work is being done by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and will result in Amtrak trains having to take a detour route.

Trains 690, 692, 694 and 698 and Trains 691, 693, 695 and 699/1689 will detour between Boston North Station and Haverhill and will not stop at Woburn.

Alternate transportation will not be provided to or from Woburn. Trains will operate normally December 26-27.

Bikes Now Carried on 3 More Amtrak Routes

September 11, 2020

Amtrak has expanded its programs of carrying bicycles to three corridors in the East.

Starting Sept. 8, the passenger carrier began accepting bike aboard Keystone Service and Downeaster trains as well as trains operating on the Hartford Line.

Bikers must pay a $20 fee but reservations are required.

Those booking tickets on the Amtrak website or app should check for an icon that indicates that bike service is available on the train they wish to ride.

If so, the passenger should proceed to the “Add Ons” function to add bikes to a reservation.

Passengers can also make reservations by calling 800-USA-RAIL

In a service advisory, Amtrak said those with bikes should arrive at a station at least 30 minutes before to departure.

All panniers and bags attached to bike must be removed and consolidated before boarding.

Downeaster to Expand to 4 Roundtrips on July 20

July 15, 2020

Amtrak’s Downeaster Service will expand on July 20 to four daily roundtrips.

The service, which is funded and overseen by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, is currently operating just one roundtrip a day between Boston and Brunswick, Maine.

The additional service is described as Phase 2 of a service restoration program.

All Downeaster service had been suspended on April 13 due stay home orders issued during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Service had been five roundtrips a day. One daily roundtrip was reinstated on June 15.

With the expansion of service there will be some availability of onboard food service and the re-opening of some Downeaster station facilities.

However, some services, facilities and amenities may not be available.

Downeaster Ridership Slowly Rising

July 11, 2020

Ridership of Amtrak’s Downeaster Service has begun rising although it remains far below what would normally be expected at this time of year.

The service had been suspended for two months starting April 13.

One roundtrip between Boston and Brunswick, Maine, resumed on June 15. It carried 250 passengers in its first week of operation.

Patronage in the second week was 375 and 543 in the third week.

In 2019, Downeaster trains handled 2,400 riders on the Friday before Independence Day. This year it was 134.

Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, said ridership is far from robust.

The Authority, which oversee funding and operations of the Downeaster Service, is hoping service will increase by two roundtrips a day in the next few weeks.

Before the pandemic, Downeaster service had been five daily roundtrips.

Despite the low ridership, Quinn said she’s not concerned about the financial viability of the Downeaster in part due to it having received CARES funding.

Although Quinn is heartened by the rising ridership, she acknowledged, “it’s going to be a long time before we get back to the ridership we had before.”

In the meantime, the pandemic has delayed a proposed trial extension of Downeaster Service to Rockland, Maine, via the Coastal Connection.

That trial weekend service would have intermediate stops in Bath, Wiscasset and Newcastle.

It had been slated to begin in 2018 but was delayed due to scheduling and safety issues.

Studies project the Coastal Connection will cost $200,000 and generate about $120,000 in revenue. Ridership was projected at 7,000.

“The Rockland service is not anything that we’re spending much time on right at this minute,” Quinn said.

She said how the tourism industry bounces back from the pandemic will shape the future of the proposed service.

“We’re trying to be cautious and thoughtful about every next step that we take,” Quinn said.