Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited’

New Coalition Pushes Old Idea

August 3, 2021

Although the coalition is new, the idea is not.

Seven rail passenger advocacy groups announced last week the formation of the Lakeshore Rail Alliance which has proposed expanding Amtrak’s Chicago-New York service via Cleveland, Buffalo and Toledo from one daily roundtrip to four.

Amtrak currently links Chicago and New York with two trains, the daily Lake Shore Limited via Cleveland and the Cardinal, which operates tri-weekly via Indianapolis, Cincinnati and West Virginia.

In past years Amtrak operated a third Chicago-New York train, the Broadway Limited. The Broadway was discontinued in September 1995 and for a few years another Chicago-New York train, the Three Rivers, ran between the two cities between November 1996 and March 2005.

Neither the Three Rivers nor the Broadway Limited operated over the Lakeshore Corridor.

The proposed four Chicago-New York trains concept was initially proposed in 2011 by Richard Harnish, the executive director of the High-Speed Rail Alliance, a Chicago-based group that is one of the seven members of the Lakeshore Alliance.

His original idea was to upgrade the route to enable trains to cover the distance on schedules several hours shorter than today’s Lake Shore Limited.

No. 48 is scheduled at 19 hours eastbound while No. 49 is scheduled at more than 20 hours.

The Harnish proposal has failed to gain any traction since it was proposed.

A draft plan released by the alliance shows that there would remain other trains in the Lakeshore Corridor, including existing Amtrak Empire Corridor service between New York and Buffalo, and the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited, which operates in the corridor between Chicago and Cleveland.

In a statement, the alliance described the Lakeshore Corridor as a series of overlapping short corridors.

“As a result, maximizing volume would require treating this as a single route—even if no one rode the train more than 400 miles,” the alliance said.

Michael Fuhrman, the executive director of the Lakeshore Alliance, said the Lakeshore Corridor is the second-most-important transportation corridor east of the Mississippi.

“It connects the Great Lakes megaregion of 55 million people with the Northeast Megaregion of 52 million people—the two largest of the 11 megaregions of the U.S. No other corridor between those two areas is better suited for development of passenger rail.”

By combining forces the alliance members hope to generate a wider swath of local political support for the public funding that would be needed to upgrade the Lakeshore Corridor, which largely involves host railroads CSX and Norfolk Southern.

Bill Hutchison, a former officer of alliance member All Aboard Ohio, believes that pushing for four trains might improve the likelihood of getting a second train on the route someday, or even a third.

“Local governments are on board, but we need an organizing force,” All Aboard Ohio member Ed D’Amato said. “We need to bring in new voices—we’re trying to build a choir here.”

Other groups in the coalition include the Empire State Passengers Association, Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance, Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Association, All Aboard Erie, and the Northwest Ohio Passenger Rail Association. 

Some rail passenger advocates see the goal of the Lakeshore Alliance as noble but not necessarily realistic.

“Four trains would be great, but is it realistic?” said Richard Rudolph, chair of the Rail Users’ Network.

Rudolph agrees the lakeshore corridor should have at least two trains, but one of them could be a Chicago-Boston train that would not need to do any switching at the Albany-Rensselaer, New York, station as the current Lake Shore Limited does in combining and separating its New York and Boston sections.

He noted that Amtrak could add service to its national network without violating the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, which limits the national network to routes operating when the law was adopted.

A Michigan rail passenger advocacy group reportedly wants to become involved in the lakeshore alliance, which currently lacks involvement with a group representing Massachusetts.

Buses to Replace Boston LSL Section

July 21, 2021

Track work being performed by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will result in service disruptions to the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited between July 23 and 26.

During that period, Train 448 will terminate at Albany-Rensselaer, New York, with alternate bus transportation provided to the missed stops of Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester and Boston South Station.

No alternate transportation will be provided to the missed stop of Framingham or Boston Back Bay. Those traveling to Back Bay will ride the bus to South Station and take an Amtrak or MBTA commuter train to Back Bay.

Train 449 will originate at Albany with alternate bus transportation provided from Boston South Station, Worcester, Springfield and Pittsfield.

 No alternate transportation will be provided from Boston Back Bay or Framingham.

Back Bay passengers will be given the option of boarding at Boston South Station or traveling on alternate dates.

Passengers at Boston South Station should go to the Amtrak information desk for instructions on boarding the buses.

Passengers at Worcester will board the bus at the main entrance in front of the station. Boarding will not occur at the bus terminal.

The Skyline is Watching

May 10, 2021

The Cleveland skyline watches over a very late westbound Lake Shore Limited as it sits in the station. Dining car Silver Restaurant was built by Budd for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy and has carried two roster numbers at Amtrak. The image was made in November 1997.

Track Work to Disrupt Boston LSL Section

March 27, 2021

Track work being performed by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will affect operations of the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited on March 28.

Train 448 will terminate at Albany-Rensselaer, New York. Alternate transportation will be provided to Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester and Boston South Station but no alternate transportation is being provided to Framingham.

Passengers traveling to Boston Back Bay station will be bused to Boston South and take an Amtrak or MBTA commuter train to Back Bay.

Train 449 will originate in Albany with alternate transportation being provided from Boston, Worcester, Springfield and Pittsfield.

No alternate transportation will be provided from Back Bay or Framingham.

Passengers originating at Back Bay have the option of boarding at Boston South or traveling another date.

Passengers boarding at Boston South Station should go to the Amtrak Information Desk for instructions on boarding the buses.

Passengers boarding at Worcester will board the bus at the main entrance in front of the station. Boarding will not take place at the bus terminal.

There will be no business class or sleeping car between Boston and Albany on the affected date.

Amtrak Long-Distance Trains to Resume Daily Service

March 11, 2021

Amtrak said Wednesday it will reinstate daily service on 12 long-distance routes starting in late May.

Trains on those routes shifted last year to tri-weekly or quad-weekly service in the wake of steep ridership declines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement of expanded service came hours after the U.S. House of Representatives approved a pandemic relief package that contains increased funding for Amtrak.

The legislation also contains a mandate that routes that had daily service until last year resume daily operation and that furloughed employees be recalled.

President Joseph Biden is expected to sign the $1.9 trillion bill on Friday.

Two routes, the Chicago-New York Cardinal and New Orleans-Los Angeles Sunset Limited will be unaffected by the changes because those routes have operated on tri-weekly schedules for years.

Amtrak has already resumed selling tickets for the expanded days of operation on the 12 routes.

Trains returning to daily service on May 24 include the Chicago-Emeryville, California, California Zephyr; Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Starlight; Chicago-Portland/Seattle Empire Builder, and the Chicago-San Antonio-Los Angeles Texas Eagle.

Daily operation returns May 31 for the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited; Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans, Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited, and the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

Resuming daily operation on June 7 will be the New York-New Orleans Crescent, New York-Savannah Palmetto, and the New York-Miami Silver Meteor (via Savannah) and Silver Star (via Raleigh).

In a news release, Amtrak said new Viewliner II sleeping cars will be making their debut on the Silver Service trains.

The Auto Train had continued to operate daily and its operations will remain unchanged.

Amtrak will receive $1.7 billion in emergency pandemic aid, which will help fund restoration of daily service on long-distance routes.

Amtrak Seeking Support for Corridor Service Plan

February 1, 2021

Amtrak officials recently contacted city officials in Ashtabula, Ohio, to discuss making the county seat community a stop for a proposed new Cleveland-New York corridor.

It is not the first time Ashtabula has been talked about as an Amtrak stop.

 A few years ago city officials asked Amtrak to consider stopping the Lake Shore Limited at the former New York City depot.

However, that request yielded nothing and CSX razed the station in 2018.

Judging from the content of a story published by the Ashtabula newspaper, the Star Beacon, Amtrak’s outreach efforts to Ashtabula are part of a larger effort to win political support for a proposal to establish a series of corridor services.

The intercity passenger corridor plan Amtrak is hoping to get Congress to approve would provide seed money for would establish the corridors between major urban areas.

In the case of Ohio, that would be a corridor between Cleveland and New York via Buffalo, and the long-discussed but never developed 3C corridor between Cleveland and Cincinnati via Columbus and Dayton.

Amtrak officials also are talking up the prospect of reviving service between Toledo and Michigan points, a series that existed until April 1995 when it was discontinued as a cost-cutting move.

They also are discussing development of a Chicago-Cincinnati corridor.

Ashtabula City Manager Jim Timonere told the Star Beacon that the corridor development proposal is expected to be contained in legislation creating a new surface transportation law.

Apparently Amtrak is dangling the prospect of being added to its network in front of local government officials in an effort to win their support for the legislation.

 “This stop would be an amazing opportunity not only for tourism here in our area, but to provide another option to our residents who may work in Cleveland or along the route at one of the stops,” he said. “Access to transportation of this magnitude opens up a whole set of opportunities for our area and we will advocate strongly for the passage of this bill.”

Ashtabula would be a stop on the Cleveland-New York corridor. It is unclear if Ashtabula would also be a stop for the Lake Shore Limited.

No. 48 passes through Ashtabula around 7 a.m. while No. 49 comes through around 2:30 a.m.

Currently, Erie, Pennsylvania, is the only stop for Nos. 48 and 49 between Cleveland and Buffalo.

Amtrak was poised to begin stopping the Lake Shore Limited in Dunkirk, New York, in the late 1990s.

Local officials there pushed hard for the stop, putting up fliers in support of it and handing out leaflets seeking to build public support. The community held an Amtrak rally day.

Some Amtrak timetables showed service to Dunkirk to begin on a date to be announced.

However, the proposal fell victim to the breakup of Conrail by CSX and Norfolk Southern and Nos. 48 and 49 never did serve Dunkirk.

All of the corridor proposals that Amtrak officials mentioned in their call to Ashtabula have been proposed in the past but never materialize due to lack of funding.

Amtrak has been telling state and local officials that stand to gain service from these corridors that the passenger carrier will put up the money for some initial capital costs and pay the operating expenses for the corridors for a few years.

But state and local governments would have to absorb those operating costs eventually.

Meeting in a Swirl of Snow

January 16, 2021

Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited meets a westbound CSX manifest freight in Perry, Ohio, during a heavy lake effect snowstorm. The trains are running on the CSX Erie West Subdivision. The freight was stopped due to traffic ahead. Amtrak No. 48 was running a few hours late.

New Buffalo Amtrak Station Opens

November 10, 2020

A ceremony featuring state and local officials was held on Monday to mark the opening of a new Exchange Street Station in downtown Buffalo, New York. 

The station was built on the site of the former 66-year-old New York Central facility of the same name.

The new $29.8 million Amtrak station, though, is elevated, located closer to the street and is twice the size of the depot it replaced.

Amtrak passengers will be able to make connections to local bus and light-rail service.

The low-level platforms of the station were redesigned to comply with Americans With Disabilities Act standards. The station features a covered pedestrian plaza.

The project was overseen by the New York State Department of Transportation.

The station is served by Amtrak’s Empire Corridor trains between New York and Niagara Falls, New York. The New York-Toronto Maple Leaf also stops at the station.

The Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited, however, does not use the tracks passing Exchange Street station.

Crossing Over

October 29, 2020

Amtrak’s westbound Lake Shore Limited had a lot of time to make up when it departed Waterloo, Indiana, on Oct. 8 more than five hours late.

The delay had largely occurred the night before due to a storm near Albany, New York, that left tree limbs on the rails.

The Norfolk Southern dispatcher brought No. 49 into the station on Track No. 2 of the Chicago Line, but crossed it over to Track 1 just west of the station platform.

The image was made shortly before the LSL shifted from daily to tri-weekly operation but it had already begun operating with a reduced consist.

Amtrak to Add Cars for Thanksgiving Holiday

October 16, 2020

Amtrak plans to add additional cars to some trains during the Thanksgiving holiday period, it said this week in a news release.

The passenger carrier urged travelers to book early for holiday travel and noted that due to the COVID-19 pandemic capacity of the trains will be limited to 50 percent of available seats in coach class.

Since early fall Amtrak’s long-distance trains have been operating with sorter consists as the carrier implemented a plan to reduce operation of most of those trains from daily to tri-weekly.

The Lake Shore Limited, for example, is now operating with one New York sleeper instead of two.