Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor’

Flying Toward Miami

December 15, 2018

Amtrak’s Silver Meteor is not far out of New York City as it flies through the Newark Liberty International Airport station in May 2016.

The Miami-bound train has a standard consist of Viewliner sleepers and Amfleet II coaches.

On the point is the Northeast Corridor standard ACS-64 Cities Sprinter. It will be removed in Washington for P42DC motive power.

This image was made on a Saturday afternoon and if No. 97 is able to stay on schedule it will arrive in Miami on Sunday evening just after 6:30 p.m.

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Philly Solari Board Might Stay in Some Form

December 13, 2018

The Solari train information board at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia might be staying after all, a Pennsylvanian congressman said.

U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pennsylvania) said he spoke with Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson in a plea to save the 1970s era relic that Amtrak has said it plans to replace with a computerized state-of-the-art system.

Boyle said Anderson was receptive to the idea of keeping the Solari board at the station in some form.

Earlier news reports indicated the board would be given to a museum.

According to Boyle, Anderson suggested that the passenger carrier could either refurbish the board or replace it with a new model integrated into Amtrak’s computer network.

Some in Philadelphia have protested the pending removal of the Solari board, having grown accustomed to its whirling and clacking as it updates train information.

In late November Amtrak had issued a news release saying it planned to replace the Solari board, which is the last of its kind still in use in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

However, Boyle said Amtrak hasn’t yet solicited bids from suppliers for the Solari’s replacement.

Boyle suggested that a newer model Solari-like information board might be acquired by Amtrak for use at 30th Street Station.

In announcing that the Solari board would be replaced, Amtrak said the Italian manufacturer of the board no longer makes replacement parts for it.

RPA Challenges Some of Cuomo’s Gateway Assertions

December 5, 2018

The Rail Passengers Association has taken issue with some assertions made by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo regarding his idea to revise the Gateway Project in an effort to win support of the Trump administration.

RPA said Cuomo appears to be confused about some basic facts about the project and is glossing over some obstacles to his plan.

This includes a suggestion that the Trump administration could bypass the environmental review process for a proposed new tunnel under the Hudson River between New Jersey and Manhattan.

The review is well underway, RPA noted and is being led by New Jersey Transit and the Federal Railroad Administration.

It is waiting on the FRA to provide a final EIS and Record of Decision.

RPA also took issue with Cuomo’s suggestion that another entity be established to oversee the project with Amtrak being removed from the oversight process.

Noting that such an entity already exists in the form of the Gateway Program Development Corporation, RPA notes that the chair of the three-person GPDC board rotates among representatives from New York, New Jersey and Amtrak.

The state members, though, have the greatest say in overseeing the organization.

RPA said Cuomo’s questioning of a $13 billion estimate by Amtrak of the cost of boring and constructing the new tunnel failed to mention that this included the cost of the two new tunnels, as well as rehabilitation and modernization of the existing tunnels.

Also left unclear, RPA said, is whether removing Amtrak from a project management role would involve seizing Amtrak-owned right of way.

RPA said that although While Amtrak might be willing to relinquish control of the project to New York and New Jersey interest, the carrier is likely to resist any takings of its rights of way in New Jersey and Manhattan.

RPA CEO Jim Mathews said his group is pleased to see Cuomo inject a sense of urgency and provide new leadership for Gateway, but called for it to be based on a clear and accurate communication of facts to the public, and a transparent process for moving the project forward.

“We have clashed with Amtrak during the past year over its failure to communicate openly with its customers on the most difficult questions facing the network. This is a chance for all parties involved to do better,” Mathews said.

RPA said Cuomo is correct in suggesting that the Hudson River tunnels project is too big for New York and New Jersey to oversee on their own. The project will need federal funding to move forward.

4 to Vie to be Philly Station Master Developer

November 29, 2018

Four firms have been chosen as finalists to become the master developer for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor station project in Philadelphia.

The teams are Brandywine Realty Trust: Brandywine, Pelli Clarke, Pelli Architects, WSP, CBRE; G30 Collaborative: Meridiam, Gensler, Gannett Fleming, Turner Construction, Aramark, MarketPlace, and WeWork; PHL 30 Vision LLC: JLL, FXCollaborative, AKF, Pennoni, ARUP, Jingoli, JLL Plenary Infrastructure, and PHL: Plenary, SOM, Pennoni, Arora, Urban, AKRF, Gilbane Building, Johnson Controls, Vantage, and Republic

Amtrak is seeking to update its William H. Gray III 30th Street Station by introducing new passenger amenities, enhancing retail and commercial operations, improving transit and pedestrian traffic flow, and expanding the station’s concourses to accommodate anticipated increases in ridership.

“The selection of the four teams is a significant milestone, as it represents the next step in realizing the future vision of the William H. Gray III 30th Street Station,” Amtrak Senior Program Manager Natalie Shieh said. “By partnering with the right development team, Amtrak will update this major transportation hub as a world-class gateway for the traveling public and Philadelphia.”

The Pennsylvania Railroad opened the station in 1933 at 2955 Market Street. It is Amtrak’s third-busiest station in Amtrak’s network, serving 12 million Amtrak, SEPTA and NJ Transit passengers annually.

Recent work at the station has included spending $100 million to refurbish the building facade, renovating the public restrooms, replacing elevators and escalators, and restoring the historic bronze entrance doors.

Amtrak will issue a Request for Proposals from the four teams, and award a contract in 2019.

Cuomo, Trump Meet to Discuss Gateway Project

November 29, 2018

The proposed Gateway Project in New York City may be getting a makeover following a meeting on Wednesday between New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and President Donald Trump.

Cuomo met with Trump to seek federal funding for construction of new tunnels under the Hudson River between Manhattan and New Jersey that are used by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.

In a news conference following the meeting, Cuomo said Trump appears amendable to separating the tunnel component of Gateway from other proposed infrastructure improvements to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

The Trump administration has been loath to commit to providing a significant level of federal funding for the $30 billion Gateway project, calling it primarily a local project.

New York and New Jersey officials have in turn pointed to a commitment by the federal government to fund half of Gateway made by the Obama administration.

But the Trump administration has claimed there was no such agreement. It also has rejected an application from New York and New Jersey for a federal loan to pay for Gateway.

Some observers believe that Trump is using funding for Gateway as a bargaining chip to get other things from Congress, including funding for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

Cuomo said the stalemate can be broken by “breaking the tunnel away from Gateway,” removing Amtrak’s representative from overseeing the Gateway Project Development Corporation, replacing Amtrak’s rep with a federal representative and immediately putting the project out to bid.

The latter would occur without completing an environmental impact study or having federal funding in place.

Amtrak has estimated that the cost of building the tunnel at $13 billion.

“I’m not signing the check on an Amtrak estimate. And the president’s not signing a check based on an Amtrak estimate. So we need real bids,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo described his meeting with Trump as positive and all good.

The New York Democrat has been a frequent Amtrak critic, particularly in 2017 when the passenger carrier launched a series of emergency repairs at New York’s Penn Station.

The Gateway Project dates to 2011 and calls for a new Portal Bridge and replacement of track in New Jersey.

Cuomo said building new tunnels should have a higher priority that those projects, saying the tunnels sustained severe damage from super storm Sandy in 2012.

“I’m focused on the tunnels, number one from a safety point of view, number two, if we lose one of those tunnels, lose use of the tunnel, it will have a devastating impact,” he said, noting that the failure of the current link would cut off New York and Boston from points south, and impact a fifth of the nation’s gross domestic product. “You’re talking about economic catastrophic circumstances if these tunnels fail.”

Train Capacity to Grow During Thanksgiving Holiday

October 19, 2018

Amtrak will again offer additional capacity for the Thanksgiving holiday travel period to its trains in the Northeast Corridor, and on Midwest and West Coast corridor routes.

The passenger carrier plans to add additional cars to many of those trains.

In the Northeast Corridor, Acela Express and Northeast Regional trains will operate full and extended schedules with additional frequencies and added capacity during the Thanksgiving week.

Additional trains will also be assigned to the Keystone Corridor between New York and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Reservations in advance of travel will be required for all trains.

Reservations will also be required for travel on Hiawatha Service trains between Chicago and Milwaukee between Nov. 20 and Nov. 25.

Additional capacity is planned for the Capitol Corridor, San Joaquin and Pacific Surfliner routes.

Travelers in the Pacific Surfliner corridor must have reservations between Nov. 21 and Nov. 25 while San Joaquin trains will require reservations between Nov. 18 and Nov. 26.

BWI Station Waiting Room Relocated

August 27, 2018

The waiting room for Amtrak’s BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport Station has been relocated due to renovations that began on Aug. 27.

During the project work, the station will be closed and passengers will use a temporary station located on the north side of the facility.

The temporary station will include staffed ticket offices and an ADA accessible seated waiting room and restrooms. Signage on the platforms will direct customers to the temporary station.

The taxi pick up location will be outside the temporary station and service to MARC and Amtrak trains will remain unchanged.

Station renovations will include new customer amenities such as a new canopy, three new larger restrooms, an updated waiting area and entrance space as well as additional improvements to the roof, HVAC, plumbing and station exterior, Amtrak said in a service advisory.

RPA Hits Amtrak Accounting Practices

August 27, 2018

A rail passenger advocacy group is trying to put Amtrak’s accounting practices back into the spotlight.

The Rail Passengers Association released a white paper last week that concludes that how Amtrak measures and allocates its revenues and costs is “catastrophically flawed” and does the American public a disservice.

RPA is hardly the first critic of Amtrak’s accounting, which has come under fire for years by critics and policy makers.

In the RPA white paper, Amtrak’s bookkeeping practices are said to have four major flaws.

Amtrak is described as allocating costs in a way that inaccurately portrays the economics affecting each part of the system without reporting avoidable costs, as required by law.

It also omits all costs of capital consumption and uses imprecise or inadequate data.

“The upshot is that APT exaggerates the cost of operating the national passenger train system, overstates the costs of expanding it, and trivializes the effects of killing it, because it fails to consider the benefits accruing to the communities it serves,” the report concludes. “In short, it radically undercuts the ability of Congress and Amtrak to plan wisely.”

One practice singled out is allocation of track maintenance costs to routes that do not use the given tracks.

The report also said that some Acela equipment maintenance costs are allocated to non-Acela routes.

Amtrak is said to fail to determine each route’s fuel cost and to report reliable station cost data for stations that the carrier owns or maintains.

The carrier fails to accurately count commuter rail passengers using Amtrak-owned stations, thus overcharging the Amtrak trains that use them.

RPA said Amtrak’s accounting practices make the Northeast Corridor system appear less costly than it is while making long-distance trains appear to cost more than they do.

The funding needs of the Northeast Corridor greatly overshadow those of the rest of the system, where the majority of infrastructure costs are underwritten by Amtrak’s host railroads

This results in the false assumption that eliminating long-distance routes would substantially cut Amtrak’s public funding needs.

Major NEC Upgrade Planned

July 30, 2018

Amtrak is planning a major upgrade of its Northeast Corridor that the carrier said will double its engineering efforts and result in the purchase of $370 million of new equipment over a three-year period for maintenance work.

The result, Amtrak officials said, will be a smoother ride and improve on-time performance for the more than 890,000 passengers who ride in the NEC on weekdays.

Amtrak is buying two undercutters, five high-speed surfacing machines, heavy lift cranes for New York Penn Station and freight cars and locomotives to bring the NEC to a state of good repair.

Sleek Acela

May 15, 2018

Amtrak’s Acela Express equipment doesn’t look anything like what used to operate in the Northeast Corridor.

That is by design. Acela more closely resembles the sleek, streamlined look of European or Japanese high-speed trains than it does the boxy Metroliner of the 1960s and beyond.

The equipment used in Acela service is not, relatively speaking, all that old.

Already Amtrak has plans to replace it and the trainset seen above cruising through the Newark Liberty International Airport station is slated to be replaced by early 2023.

Such are the priorities for Amtrak’s top “glamour” train in its most important corridor in terms of traffic.