Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor’

Anderson Discusses Amtrak’s Priorities

September 6, 2017

Amtrak has dropped the idea of reducing the distance between its seats.

Appearing on the CBS program This Morning, Amtrak’s co-CEO Richard Anderson said that the spacing between seats, known in the industry as pitch, will remain unchanged.

“One of our great advantages is that there are no middle seats,” Anderson said. “Our coach on Amtrak is much, much better than first class on airlines.”

Anderson is a former president of Delta Air Lines. The airline industry is notorious for its efforts over the years to reduce seat pitch in order to cram more passengers aboard its planes.

During the interview, Anderson said that infrastructure repair is the passengers carriers “first imperative.”

The next priority is better service. “We’ve got to clean up our trains, run our trains on time, fix the interiors of our trains, and grow our services in the regions that provide the highest level of service to the communities around the country,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the new equipment that Amtrak has ordered for its Acela Express service will increase capacity in the Northeast Corridor by 40 percent.

He did not, though, say anything about buying new equipment to replace cars used on long-distance trains. Some of that equipment dates to the 1970s. Instead, Amtrak plans to refurbish that equipment.

Increasing service frequency on some routes is an Amtrak goal, but that appears to be limited to densely populated regions.

“If we could get our train speeds up and operate more densely-populated urban corridors, it would be a great service to the traveling public in America,” Anderson said.

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Moorman Upbeat About Future of Rail Passenger Service

July 17, 2017

Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman gave an upbeat assessment of passenger rail even as he acknowledged that the passenger carrier faces challenges fixing decaying infrastructure in the Northeast Corridor.

Speaking to the National Press Club in Washington, Moorman said Amtrak’s need for federal funding was no excuse for not operating “like a great company.”

Moorman

Nonetheless, Moorman said that getting pressure from government officials and tight budgetary resources have taken their toll.

He said that in the 1990s and 2000s Amtrak lost sight of its customers as a result. As an example he cited carpet cleaning.

Amtrak saved $1 million by not shampooing the carpets in its passenger cars as often, but passengers noticed the dirty carpets.

“That’s not the experience we want to create for our customers,” he said.
Providing a better customer experience has been one of four focuses that Moorman has brought to Amtrak after becoming its president last year.

“The customer experience is ticketing, the station, our employee interactions, and our equipment,” he said.

The equipment used by Amtrak is, in Moorman’s words, starting to look “stale,” but the carrier has taken steps to improve it.

“It’s old, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be good,” he said.
Moorman said rail passenger transportation in general is a particularly good business model.

The creators of Amtrak chartered it as a for-profit corporation even though they knew it was not a good business model.

However, Moorman said, they sold at the time to President Richard Nixon and the Congress at the time as a concept of “Create this and [it] will become profitable.”

In essence, Moorman said Amtrak is a government contractor that unlike other contractors can’t always present to government officials a bill that factors in the costs of doing business plus a profit to benefit shareholders.

“We rely on what are in effect user fees – passenger fares,” he said. “And because the marketplace doesn’t sustain the passenger fares we need to make that profit, we ask the government to make up the difference.”

Among Amtrak’s many challenges Moorman said the one that worries him the most is the aging Northeast Corridor infrastructure.

He said the NEC has eight major bridges and only is younger than 100 years old. The B&P Tunnel in Baltimore is 127 years old and well past its “sell-by date.”

Moorman express confidence that the idea of having a national rail passenger network is taking hold and predicted the development of more corridors offering rail passenger service between urban areas.

He also circled back to the need to provide good customer service.

“For 46 years, a lot of people [at Amtrak] were there trying to keep the flame alive, understanding that someday the world would come to the point where people started to say, ‘We really need to have passenger rail as an option.’ I think that day has come,” Moorman said.

“The better we run Amtrak, the better we deliver on projects, the more people understand how good our company is, the easier every funding conversation is,” he said.

In a related note, Moorman said disruptions at New York’s Penn Station may extend in the fall.

He told the New York Post that Amtrak has the ability to finish the remaining work at Penn Station with subsequent weekend outages extending beyond the planned July to early September work curfew.

“We’ve done an exceptional and extraordinary amount of planning on the material side and we know it all fits, and we have a lot of skilled people,” he says.

After those repairs are concluded, Moorman said Amtrak will need to to schedule signal and power system repairs at a later date.

Carolinian Multi-Ride Restrictions Remain in NEC

July 12, 2017

Amtrak advises that its multi-ride ticket restrictions for Train No. 79, the Carolinian, remain in effect.

The carrier made the announcement because Train 79 departs New York Penn Station at 7:25 a.m. and Northeast Regional Train 183, which departs New York at 7:05 a.m. has been cancelled through Sept. 1.

Amtrak said in a service advisory that additional seating has been provided on select Northeast Corridor trains for multi-ride tickets holders.

Passengers are urged to contact Amtrak for other schedule options.

Multi-Ride Tickets are available for travel on many routes, but restrictions vary by route, destination and time of day. Multi-ride tickets may not be used on long-distance trains, certain segments of short-distance trains or Acela Express trains.

Amtrak Names Trains That Will Use Grand Central

July 6, 2017

Amtrak has announced which Empire Service trains will be using Grand Central Terminal once the reconstruction of tracks at New York’s Penn Station gets underway.

Three weekday trains originating at Albany-Rensselaer, New York, will use Grand Central and be turned on the the station’s loop track.

The trains set to diverge at Spuyten Duyvil and head for Grand Central are No. 230, departing Albany-Rensselaer at 5:05 a.m.; No. 236, departing at 8:20 a.m.; and No. 242, whose departure time has been moved up to 2:40 p.m. from 3:10 p.m.)

Northbound trains will depart Grand Central at 11:15 a.m. (No. 233, weekdays only), 2:15 p.m. (No. 235), and 5:48 p.m. (No. 239).

The New York-Montreal Adirondack will continue to use Penn Station but will be combined with the Toronto-bound Maple Leaf as far as Albany. The Adirondack will arrive earlier at intermediate stops to Montreal.

The Friday departure time of the Ethan Allen Express will be moved up to the Saturday-Thursday 3:15 p.m. scheduled departure time.

Amtrak plans to cancel six New York-Washington Northeast Regional trains and the New York-Philadelphia portion of three Keystone round-trips.

Another Keystone Service will terminate at Newark, New Jersey, while the New York-New Orleans Crescent will originate and terminate in Washington

Travel between all Northeast Corridor stops will be allowed on the New York-Miami Silver Star and Silver Meteor, and aboard the Chicago-New York Cardinal.

Those trains ordinarily stop between New York and Washington to pick up and discharge passengers traveling to and from destinations south and west of Washington.

Unaffected by the changes are Empire Service trains operating to and from Niagara Falls, New York, and the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited.

The schedule changes are effective July 10. The work at Penn Station will continue through Sept. 1.

Third-rail shoes have been modified from over-running contact to Metro-North’s under-running configuration on at least four P32-DM locomotives to power the detouring Amtrak trains.

Only tracks 1-9 and 11 of Penn Station’s 21 tracks will be accessible from the west end during the construction work.

Trump Budget Slashes Amtrak Funding by 45%

May 24, 2017

The Trump administration wants to slash Amtrak funding by 45 percent in fiscal year 2018.

The detailed budget proposed released this week proposed giving Amtrak $744 million.

In the current fiscal year, Amtrak received $1.4 billion. The cuts for next year include ending $289 for Amtrak’s long-distance train routes.

The budget document described long-distance trains as “a vestige of when train service was the only viable transcontinental transportation option. Today, communities are served by an expansive aviation, interstate highway, and intercity bus network.”

The document said Amtrak’s long-distance trains represent the greatest amount of Amtrak’s operating losses, serve relatively small populations, and have the worst on-time record.

The Trump administration would instead appropriate $1.5 billion for the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington.

[The Northeast Corridor] “faces many challenges, and the 2018 Budget proposal would allow Amtrak to right-size itself and more adequately focus on these pressing issues,” the budget document said.

Nonetheless, the Trump administration has proposed cutting funding for the development of New York’s Penn Station by 64 percent from $14 million to $5 million.

The Amtrak funding cuts make up the lion’s share of the 37 percent cut proposed by the Trump administration for the Federal Railroad Administration.

The agency’s parent organization, the U.S. Department of Transportation, would receive $16.2-billion in FY 2018, a decline of 12.7 percent over what it received in FY 2017.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s budget would drop by 37 percent from $1.7 billion to $1.05 billion while Federal Transit Administration will decline by 5 percent from its FY 2017 appropriation of $11.8 billion.

The FTA would receive $11.2 billion, which includes $9.7 billion for transit formula grants. The FTA’s Capital Investment Grant program for new starts would be cut by 43 percent from $2.16 billion to $1.2.

Funding would be continued only for programs that FTA is legally bound to support through full-funding grant agreements.

Funding for the Transportation Generating Economic Recovery grant program would be eliminated.

The budget document said projects that are attempting to receive TIGER funding could still earn grants through the Nationally Significant Freight and Highways Projects fund managed by DOT’s Build America Bureau.

The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing and Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation programs would remain in place, but receive no additional funding.

The National Transportation Safety Board would receive $106 million, which is no change from FY 2017.

The Surface Transportation Board would receive a $5 million boost to $37 million in order to implement regulatory changes under the STB reauthorization law of 2015.

The Trump administration budget proposal is likely to undergo numerous changes as Congress considers federal funding priorities for FY 2018.

Maine Rail Expansion Study Shelved

April 5, 2017

A proposed study of expanding intercity rail passenger from Brunswick to Bangor, Maine, has been shelved.

The study drew little support from Maine lawmakers other than representatives from Bangor.

Bangor officials were willing to provide $25,000 for the study, but many state lawmakers said they wanted to wait until a study is completed of expanding service from Brunswick to Lewiston-Auburn.

The cost of a study of expanding service to Bangor also hindered support for the study.

In an unrelated development, Amtrak said track work being performed on select weekends through April 23 will result in some trains being canceled between New Haven, Connecticut, and Springfield, Massachusetts.

Stations affected include Wallingford, Meriden, Berlin, Hartford, Windsor, Windsor Locks and Springfield.

On April 7 and 21, Northeast Regional Trains 136 and 148 will serve all stations from Washington to New Haven but bus service will be provided at all stations from New Haven to Springfield.

On April 8 and 22, Northeast Regional Trains 140, 143, 146 and 147 will serve all stations between Washington and New Haven. Bus service will be provided at all stations between New Haven and Springfield.

The Vermonter, will operate normally from Washington to New Haven with passengers riding a bus from New Haven that will stop at Wallingford, Meriden, Berlin, Hartford, Windsor Locks and Springfield. At Springfield, customers will board the train to their destination.

The Vermonter will operate normally from St. Albans, Vermont, to Springfield where passengers will ride a bus stopping at Windsor Locks, Hartford, Berlin, Meriden, Wallingford and New Haven. At New Haven, customers will board the train to their destination.

On April 9 and 23, Northeast Regional Trains 143 and 157 will serve all stations from New Haven to Washington. Bus service will be provided at all stations from Springfield to New Haven.

Amtrak VP Thinks Status Quo Will Prevail

April 4, 2017

An Amtrak executive believes that once the dust settles in Congress the status quo will prevail at Amtrak, meaning that the long-distance trains the Trump administration wants to stop funding will continue to operate.

Amtrak Executive Vice President Stephen Gardner told the Future Railway Organisation seminar on March 29 that he had little immediate cause for concern over the future of its network.

Gardner noted that previous administrations has proposed zeroing out Amtrak, but Congress has never gone along with those plans.

The Trump “skinny budget” would continue to fund Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and state corridor trains paid for largely by states that they serve. But funding of long-distance passenger trains would end.

“The cost and logistical complexity of removing these trains would be prohibitive, we feel,” he said. “There is a reason that they have survived through recent decades.”

Gardner said the long-distance trains play an important role in serving intermediate markets and said any attempt to “go back in” in the future would cost at least $1 billion.

Noting that in 2015 Amtrak was included in the FAST surface transportation bill approved by legislation passed in Congress, that gives the national rail passenger carrier a greater degree of
institutional stability.

“The most likely outcome is that the status quo will prevail,” Gardner said.

Gardner said Amtrak is supportive of a private sector inter-city  passenger services in Florida known as Brightline and the planned Texas Central high speed project.

“Naturally , we see that as an endorsement of the rail mode, and we welcome the addition of services able to showcase the latest in rail technology,” he said.

Trump Wants to Cut Amtrak Long-Distance Train Funding, Trim Public Transportation Spending

March 16, 2017

Here we go again. Another president has taken aim at Amtrak’s federal funding.

The proposed fiscal year 2018 budget released by the Trump administration this week calls for eliminating federal funding of Amtrak’s long-distance trains and would impose other steep cuts in transportation spending.

Amtrak would not lose all funding, but the funding it receives would be focused on supporting services within specific regions, specifically the Northeast Corridor and state-funded corridors in the East, Midwest and along the West Coast.

The budget described long-distance trains as inefficient and incurring the vast majority of Amtrak’s operating losses.

Trump is seeking to cut the U.S. Department of Transportation budget by $2.4 billion or 13 percent.

If Congress adopts the Trump budget blueprint, DOT will receive $16.2 billion.

Also slated for deep cuts in the budget are Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants.

Funding of the New Starts program of the Federal Transit Administration will be slashed and limited to projects with existing full funding grant agreements.

In a statement with the budget, Trump said the DOT budget is being revamped to focus on “vital federal safety oversight functions and investing in nationally and regionally significant transportation infrastructure projects.”

A statement with the budget request said that the blueprint seeks to reduce or end “programs that are either inefficient, duplicative of other federal efforts, or that involve activities that are better delivered by states, localities or the private sector.”

In a statement, Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman said that Amtrak’s 15 long-distance trains offer the only service in 23 of the 46 states that the carrier .

“Eliminating funding for long-distance routes could impact many of the 500 communities served by Amtrak,” Moorman said.

“These trains connect our major regions, provide vital transportation to residents in rural communities and generate connecting passengers and revenue for our Northeast Corridor and state-supported services. Amtrak is very focused on running efficiently  — we covered 94 percent of our total network operating costs through ticket sales and other revenues in FY16 — but these services all require federal investment.”

Moorman pledged to work with the Trump administration, including U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Congress to “understand the value of Amtrak’s long-distance trains and what these proposed cuts would mean to this important part of the nation’s transportation system.”

As for transit funding, the budget blueprint says that curtailing federal funding leaves funding up to “localities that use and benefit from these localized projects.”
The American Public Transportation Association issues a statement saying it was surprised and disappointed with the budget details so far.

APTA noted that the administration has been touting a broad plan to spend $1 trillion for infrastructure investment, but “the White House is recommending cutting billions of dollars from existing transportation and public transit infrastructure programs.”

The trade group said the budget cuts would affect projects underway in Kansas City; Dallas; Fort Worth, Texas; Indianapolis; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Fort Lauderdale, and Jacksonville, Florida.

The cuts to the TIGER program is aimed at what the budget described as “unauthorized” projects. In January before Trump was inaugurated , DOT had announced that $500 million was available. The TIGER grants were first awarded in 2009.

Among the 2016 grant recipients are San Bernardino County, California., which received $8.6 million for passenger rail service; Mississippi’s 65-mile long Natchez Railway, which received $10 million for rehabilitation and upgrades for five bridges; and Springfield, Illinois, which received $14 million to build two underpasses for proposed high-speed service between St. Louis and Chicago.

Winter Storm Leads Amtrak to Shorten Route of Capitol Limited, Cancel Boston LSL Section

March 13, 2017

A severe winter storm that has prompted Amtrak to cancel and reduce service along the Northeast Corridor will also affect some trains operating to the Atlantic Seaboard from outside the region.

The Capitol Limited will not operate on Tuesday (March 14) between Pittsburgh and Washington.

The Lake Shore Limited will not operate between Boston and Albany/Rensselaer, New York.

Amtrak said there will be no Acela Express service between New York and Boston, and there will be modified Acela Express service between New York and Washington.

Northeast Regional service will operate on a modified schedule between Boston and Washington with the routes of some trains shortened and other trains being canceled. This will affect some trains that operate beyond Washington to points in Virginia.

Also operating on modified schedules will be Empire Service, Downeaster Service and Keystone Service trains.

Baltimore Joining Chicago Union Station in Pilot Program for Upgraded Amtrak Wi-Fi Service

February 4, 2017

Amtrak said this week that Baltimore Penn Station will join Chicago Union Station in receiving enhanced Wi-Fi service.

Amtrak 4The pilot program includes increased connectivity and reliability, as well as two new 30-inch high-top work stations that host charging outlets for laptops, tablets and cell phones.

In a news release, Amtrak said the upgrade will replace technology installed in 2010.

“These improvements are a much-anticipated boost for our customers as the wireless connectivity in-station should be similar to what customers experience on their home networks, and will ensure they stay connected throughout their journey,” said Jason Molfetas, Amtrak’s executive vice president of marketing and business development. “Baltimore Penn is the eighth busiest station in our national network so it was a natural fit to pilot the Wi-Fi improvements to the city’s thousands of daily commuters and local students.”

Amtrak said that Northeast Corridor passengers and those aboard trains in the Midwest will be able to access through the Wi-Fi network The Washington Post, which is now the exclusive news provider for Amtrak.

Previously Amtrak only provided free Washington Post content on Acela Express trains.