Posts Tagged ‘COVID-19 pandemic’

Capitol Corridor Service to Increase June 7

June 4, 2021

Amtrak service in California’s Capitol Corridor will increase on June 7.

San Jose-Sacramento service will increase from 16 to 22 trips daily, while Oakland-San Jose service will return to the pre-pandemic level of 14 daily trips.

Café Car service also will be reinstated although with a limited menu.

Capitol Corridor service was last increased in June of 2020 when some frequencies cut the previous March during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic were restored.

Some schedules were modified this past March to improve on–time performance and better service the existing travel patterns.

Illinois, Vermont Trains Coming Back July 19

May 21, 2021

Suspended Illinois-funded corridor trains will resume operation on July 19. On the same day, the Vermonter and Ethan Allen Express will also return to service.

The Illinois Department of Transportation said that it is restoring service as part of its Rebuild Illinois capital plan.

One daily roundtrip each will be added to the Chicago-Quincy and Chicago-Carbondale routes while two roundtrips will be restored to the Chicago-St. Louis corridor.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the Chicago-Quincy Carl Sandburg was suspended along with the Chicago to Carbondale Saluki and Carbondale to Chicago Illini.

Those suspended trains left Chicago in the morning and returned in the evening.

In Vermont, the Vermont Agency of Transportation said the Vermonter will return between St. Albans, Vermont, and Washington.

Also coming back is the Ethan Allen Express between Rutland, Vermont, and New York.

VIA Accepting Reservations for the Ocean

May 10, 2021

Although no date has been announced for a return to service, VIA Rail Canada has begun accepting reservations travel on the Montreal-Halifax, Nova Scotia, Ocean.

Travel can be booked for trips starting July 2, but VIA cautioned that does not necessarily mean the train will begin operations on that date.

The Ocean has been suspended since March 2020. VIA Rail has cancelled and refunded all reservations for travel on the Ocean up to and including, June 30, 2021.

A VIA spokeswoman said the carrier will continue “to monitor the evolution of the situation and work on a safe resumption plan, which will take into account health and sanitary developments of the different provinces where this long-distance route operates.”

Earlier VIA said its Toronoto-Vancouver Canadian would resume operating the length of its route starting May 17.

Currently the Canadian is operating weekly in western Canada with reduced consists and service due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Face Mandate Extended to Sept. 11

May 3, 2021

The requirement that face masks be worn while aboard public transportation has been extended until Sept. 13.

The mandate had been set to expire on May 11 but the Transportation Security Agency said it was extended because the COVID-19 pandemic remains a danger to public health.

“Right now, about half of all adults have at least one vaccination shot and masks remain an important tool in defeating this pandemic,” TSA said in a statement. “We will continue to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to evaluate the need for these directives and recognize the significant level of compliance thus far.”

The mandate applies to air and intercity rail travel. Those refusing to comply will be subjected to fines of $250 to $1,500.

Canada Federal Budget Has Funds for VIA Corridor, Infrastructure Projects

April 28, 2021

Canada expects to budget $4.4 million for planning work on VIA Rail Canada’s proposed “high frequency rail” project.

The project seeks to create a passenger-only route for part of the Toronto-Quebec City corridor.

Also in the budget proposal is $491.2 million over six years, beginning in 2021-22, for VIA infrastructure projects that would support the high frequency rail project.

The budget document said $491.2 million would “help reduce bottlenecks, improve fluidity and connectivity, and allow VIA to take an important step toward high-frequency rail in the corridor.”

In an unrelated matter, VIA said that more stringent travel restrictions imposed last week in Ontario and Quebec are not expected to effect the railroad’s scheduled service.

“Passengers are responsible to comply with provincial restrictions,” VIA said in a statement.

Ontario’s new order prohibits non-essential travel into the province while Quebec has closed its borders to travelers from Ontario, where COVID-19 cases are on the rise.

Stimulus Money Conveyed to Amtrak

April 28, 2021

The U.S. Department of Transportation said this week that it has conveyed to Amtrak $1.69 billion in economic stimulus funds authorized by the American Rescue Act of 2021.

The funding includes $728.6 million for Amtrak’s long distance and regional trains outside the Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak was directed by Congress to allocate $174 million of that total to offset what the carrier charges states for corridor services.

However, the law does not require states to restore their Amtrak corridor services to pre-pandemic levels.

Most states reduced their corridor services during the COVID-19 pandemic due to a plunge in ridership.

Several states have begun restoring suspended services but others have yet to announce their plans.

Among the routes yet to be fully restored is the Wolverine Service between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac).

The route had three roundtrips pre-pandemic, but since March 2020 the level of service has been a single daily roundtrip.

Some Illinois and Missouri routes also continued to operate below pre-pandemic levels.

The directive also mandated that Amtrak return long-distance service to daily operation if they operated as such before last year.

Amtrak has said daily operation will be phased in over a three-weekly period beginning May 24.

The Northeast Corridor will receive $969.4 million of which $109.8 million will go to states and commuter railroads to cover their share of capital costs Amtrak charges them for using the Northeast Corridor.

Another $100.8 million will be used for debt relief that Amtrak incurred before the legislation was adopted on March 11.

Amtrak Vermont Service to Resume July 19

April 9, 2021

Amtrak service to Vermont will resume on July 19.

The service has been suspended for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the trains suspended since March 26, 2020, are the Washington-St. Albans Vermonter and the New York-Rutland Ethan Allen Express.

The routes will be among the last of those suspended during the pandemic to resume service.

“We are very pleased to announce the restart of these vital transportation services for Vermonters and those who wish to travel to and from Vermont by train or bus,” Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn said in a statement.

 “With the Governor’s announcement this week of the Vermont Forward Plan to re-open Vermont fully during the next few months, we now have a target date for when we will be able to safely resume Amtrak and transit services.”

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.

Senate Increases Aid for Amtrak, Public Transit

March 9, 2021

The U.S. Senate last Saturday increased COVID-19 relief funding for Amtrak and public transit.

The changes were made during consideration of H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which was approved by the Senate by a vote of 50-49.

The Senate increased by $1.25 billion the funding for public transit over what the House approved on Feb. 27 and also increased the funding for Amtrak over the House-passed levels.

The bill now goes back to the House for further consideration. The House passed a modified version of the legislation providing $1.9 trillion in COVID-19 emergency funding.

Although some senators proposed amendments that would have cut, transferred or removed the aid to public transit, few of those amendments received a roll call vote and note were approved.

However, the Senate did approve an amendment to make 23 public transit programs eligible for federal Capital Investment Grants.

The House is expected to take up the amended version of the bill today and if approved it would go to President Joseph Biden for his signature.

The American Rescue Plan Act includes $1.7 billion for Amtrak. That is a $200 million increase in funding from what the House approved last month.

Under the Senate version of the legislation $970 million will go toward the Northeast Corridor while the national network will receive $730 million.

The bill also provides $285 million to Amtrak “in lieu of commuter rail and state-supported route payments.”

The bill includes $166 million “to restore service on long-distance routes and to recall and manage furloughed employees.”

The breakdown of other public transit funding in the bill includes $26.09 billion for transit systems in urban areas and $317 million for grants in rural areas.

Also approved was $50 million in grants to benefit services for seniors and those with disabilities, $2.21 billion for operating assistance grants  pertaining to addressing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and $250 million for Small Start projects that are recipients of a CIG allocation or an applicant in the project development phase.

House Committee OKs Pandemic Aid for Amtrak

February 14, 2021

A congressional committee on Wednesday approved transportation funding for a COVID-19 relief bill.

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure approved a plan put forth by committee Democrats to provide $1.5 billion for Amtrak and $30 billion for public transit.

The committee also approved a policy rider directing Amtrak to restore without 90 days daily service for long-distance trains that operated daily before last fall.

The Amtrak funding had to survive two efforts by committee Republicans to eliminate it.

The committee defeated a motion by Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pennsylvania) to cut the Amtrak funding from the bill.

Another committee member, Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Arkansas) withdrew an amendment to transfer the Amtrak emergency funding to a highway-rail grade crossing program.

Crawford withdrew his amendment after Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) agreed to work with Crawford on the grade crossing issue in the upcoming surface transportation reauthorization bill.

The bill now advances to the full House. The Senate is expected to consider a counterpart COVID-19 pandemic relief bill.

Amtrak funding as approved by the House committee would be broken down to $820,388,160 for the Northeast Corridor and $679,622,840 for the national network.

The bill directs that not less than $165,926,000 of the combined amounts of the NEC and national network is to be used to restore all long-distance service in effect as of July 1, 2020, and to recall all workers put on furlough on or after Oct. 1, 2020.

Another clause provides that not less than $109,805,000 from the combined amounts of the NEC and national network shall be used in lieu of capital payments that the state-supported routes and commuter authorities were required to pay.

Amtrak is to use $174,850,000 from the national network funds to offset amounts required to be paid by states for covered state-supported routes.

The $30 billion earmarked for public transit is to be used to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus pandemic and includes eligibility for operating expenses to prevent layoffs and avoid cuts to service.

The legislation includes mandates for how the funding it to be allocated among urbanized areas, rural areas and for services for seniors and those with disabilities.

Some of the public transit emergency aid can also be used for planning purposes.