Posts Tagged ‘Empire Corridor’

Track Work Affects Empire Corridor Trains

April 28, 2021

New schedules on Amtrak’s Empire Corridor have been implemented to accommodate track work being performed between Niagara Falls and Hoffmans, New York.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the work affects the Maple Leaf and select Empire Service trains. The changes are in effect through Oct. 31.

Train 64 will depart Niagara Falls 10 minutes earlier at 12:07 p.m., with intermediate station adjustments, and arrives in Albany 21 minutes earlier at 6:18 p.m.

Train 284 will depart Niagara Falls 16 minutes earlier at 6:31 a.m., with intermediate station adjustments, and goes back to its regular schedule at Utica.

Train 281 will have intermediate station adjustments beginning at Syracuse at 3:55 p.m. and will arrive in Niagara Falls 15 minutes later at 7:26 p.m.

Train 283 will have intermediate station adjustments beginning at Syracuse at 6:49 p.m. and will arrive in Niagara Falls 15 minutes later, at 10:26 p.m.

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 York State to Take Another Stab at High-Speed Rail

December 28, 2019

New York State will try another tactic toward implement a high-speed rail service on the Empire Corridor used by Amtrak.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he will appoint a panel of engineers to review past high-speed rail plans and recommend a new plan for how to build high-speed rail New York-Albany-Buffalo route.

A statement released by the governor’s office said most of the state’s population lives near the Empire Corridor and the average speed of passenger trains on the route is 51 mph.

Various administrations have sought without success over the past two decades to implement high-speed rail service plans but have been stymied by, among other things, high cost.

Previous proposals have also indicated that it would take decades to create a high-speed line to Buffalo.

Cuomo’s statement said the news panel will “reexamine and rethink strategies to bring high speed rail to New York.”

The Empire Corridor hosts Amtrak trains between New York and Niagara Falls, New York, but also sees the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited and the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf.

NY Amtrak Routes Posted Ridership Gains in FY2019

November 23, 2019

Ridership numbers for various Amtrak routes are starting to be released in the wake of the passenger carrier releasing a summary of its fiscal year 2019 performance.

This includes routes serving the Empire Corridor of New York where the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf posted a 6.5 percent increase to 390,355 passengers.

The Lake Shore Limited, which links Chicago with Boston and New York, saw a 5.9 percent gain to 357,682 passengers, while the Empire Corridor south of Albany posted a 5.5 percent gain to 1,214,206 passengers.

The Adirondack between New York and Montreal was up 5.5 percent, while the Ethan Allen Express between New York and Rutland was up 1.7 percent.

NY Won’t Fund More Empire Service Cafe Cars

April 5, 2019

New York transportation officials have ruled out for now funding café car service on Amtrak’s Empire Service trains operating between New York City and Albany-Rensselaer.

Food and beverage service was removed by Amtrak from those trains in 2005 in a cost-cutting move.

Earlier this year, passenger train advocates, including the Empire State Passengers Association, began pushing for food service to be offered on all Empire Corridor trains.

However, a New York Division of Budget official ruled that out this week.

“The FY 2020 Enacted Budget does not include funding to restore food service in the Empire Corridor and we continue to look to the Federal government to restore its role in fully supporting train service,” said spokesman Freeman Klopott.

Nonetheless, the ESPA is not giving up. President Gary Prophet said the money needed to restore food service would used to cover startup costs of the service.

“Cafe service on short-distance trains breaks even,” Prophet said, adding that it was only the dining cars on the long-distance trains that lose money.

Café car service is available on several trains operating in the Empire Corridor including the Adirondack, Ethan Allen Express, Maple Leaf and Lake Shore Limited.

The two New York-Niagara Falls Empire Service roundtrips also offer café cars.

Amtrak cited heavy financial losses for ending food and beverage service on Empire Service trains operating south of Albany in 2005.

It launched a four-month trial in fall 2005 of selling Subway sandwiches aboard those trains, but pulled the plus before the end of the first week of operation.

Passengers since then had to bring their own food or buy something at a coffee shop in the Albany-Rensselaer station.

Second Generation Turboliner

May 29, 2018

Back in the mid 1970s Amtrak tried to make a splash by leasing a couple of French-built gas turbine trains.

Capable of traveling 125 mph, Amtrak knew that the Turboliners would not be able to get close to that in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor where they were introduced in August 1973.

But the Turboliners were the newest equipment that Amtrak had to show off.

The first sets of Turboliners were built in France, but California-based Rohr Industries would build seven Turbotrain sets that were delivered between 1976 and 1977.

These Turboliners were based on the earlier French design but had American couplers and a re-designed cab car.

The Rohr or RTG Turboliners were capable of operating in electrified third rail territory so they were assigned to Empire Corridor Service in New York.

I was waiting for a commuter train in Beacon, New York, in December 1982 on what is now Metro North when one of the RTG Turboliners came charging past.

I had just enough time to get my camera  out and compose this image.

Empire Corridor Service Disruptions Set, Trains to Use New York Grand Central Terminal

May 21, 2018

Amtrak has announced its plans to divert most trains using the Empire Corridor between New York and Albany-Rensselaer, New York, to Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

The diversion will last between May 26 and Sept. 3 and result in the New York section of the Lake Shore Limited being terminated at Albany.

Passengers traveling to and from New York on Trains 48 and 49 will make an across the platform transfer at Albany-Rensselaer.

Passengers on No. 48 will transfer at Albany to Train 244 bound Grand Central Terminal.

Passengers originating in New York and ticketed aboard No. 49 will use Trains 291, 255 or 295 from Grand Central Terminal and Albany.

The Lake Shore Limited during the summer will travel between Chicago and Boston.

Train 449 will depart Albany 30 minutes later than scheduled with other minor timing adjustments.

Empire Corridor trains that will service Grand Central include Empire Service, Ethan Allen Express, Adirondack and Maple Leaf trains.

Trains arriving at and departing from Grand Central Terminal will operate on an adjusted schedule and passengers are urged to contact Amtrak for schedule information.

Amtrak personnel will be available at Grand Central Terminal between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily, to answer questions and provide information. The station also has an information kiosk.

Passengers transferring between New York Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal are being referred to taxi and local transit options. Amtrak is not providing transfer service. The two terminals are located about a mile apart.

Checked baggage service will not be available at Grand Central Terminal.

The service disruptions are being prompted by an infrastructure renewal program at New York Penn Station that also include work on the route leading into the terminal from the Empire Corridor.

Signs Point to Shift to Grand Central for Amtrak

May 22, 2017

Amtrak has yet to comment on reports that it plans to shift some Empire Corridor trains this summer to New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, but there are increasing signs that it will happen.

Gary Prophet of the Empire State Passengers Association told New York radio station WCBS that he has spoken with Amtrak train crews who said they are being trained to operate on the route to Grand Central Terminal.

A New York state legislator who represent the Albany, New York, area, said Amtrak using Grand Central is a real possibility.

“The fact that there’s ongoing discussion and communication . . . indicates that it’s still very much in play,” he said.

Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman didn’t address using Grand Central in speaking to a state legislative panel last week, but said that “for perspective on this, Grand Central Terminal handles only roughly two-thirds the number of daily trains on double the number of train tracks, compared to Penn Station.”

Amtrak has announced that it plans to conduct a track repair project at New York’s Penn Station this summer and that during that work 25 percent of the station’s track capacity will be out of service. That project will begin on July 7.

Penn Station handles 1,300 passenger trains a day. Amtrak has not used Grand Central Terminal since 1991.

Empire Service Skeds Modified for CSX Track Work

April 5, 2017

Some Empire Service trains will operate on modified schedules between April 9 and Sept. 4 due to CSX track work.

In a service advisory, Amtrak did not identify the trains affected but said that some trains will depart as much as 25 minutes early.

Between April 9 and May 10, Amtrak said two Empire Service trains will operate between Niagara Falls and Albany-Rensselaer, New York, on Sunday through Wednesday.

Three Empire Service trains will operate between those points on Thursday through Saturday.

Amtrak said that schedules will change throughout the track work period.

3 Bids Received for Schenectady Station Work

March 31, 2017

Three bids have been submitted for the proposed new Amtrak station in Schenectady, New York.

All of the bids appear to be within the $6 budget for the station.

The bidders were seeking to perform the first phase of the project, which includes razing the current station and doing concrete and structural work around the station platform.

That work is expected to begin this spring once a winning bidder is chosen by the New York State Department of Transportation.

It is the second time that bids have been submitted for the station work.

Last year one bid for the project came in $10 million over budget. State officials decided to break the station project into two phases.

The budget for the project is $15 million, most of which is from federal funding.

The project timeline calls for demolition of the station to be completed this year. Amtrak is constructing a temporary boarding platform at Liberty Street.

The contract for construction of the permanent station is expected to go out for bid this fall with construction starting in 2018.

The new station is expected to resembled the former Union Station, which was razed years ago. The current Amtrak station opened in 1979.

About 60,000 passengers per year board Amtrak at Schenectady, but city officials believe the station could become busier after the opening of the Rivers Casino and Resort.