Posts Tagged ‘Empire Service’

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.

Berkshire Flyer Eyes May 2020 Launch

February 10, 2019

An effort to build another generation of visitors to the Berkshire mountains is behind an effort by Massachusetts officials to launch a pilot Amtrak service to western Massachusetts in 2020.

The plan is to have one of Amtrak’s Empire Service trains that now terminates at the Albany-Rensselaer, New York, station continue operating to Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

The target market for the service is primarily young couples ages 27 to 47 who live in the New York City metro area who don’t own cars and have a household income of more than $100,000.

“We’d love to see rail as an option for the next generation of Berkshire visitors,” said Jonathan Butler, co-chair of the Berkshire Flyer subcommittee and president and CEO of 1Berkshire, the economic development and tourism agency of Berkshire County.

Butler said another market for the train is older people who might already have a second home in the Berkshires.

The train would operate seasonally on weekends and officials hope to launch it by Memorial Day 2020.

The service would be funded by the State of Massachusetts.

A key to making the project work will be offering transportation for the “last mile” from the train to Berkshires resorts.

That could be anything from car-hailing services to rental cars to taxis and local buses.

The Berkshire Flyer is expected to leave New York City on Fridays at 2:20 p.m., arriving at 6:10 p.m. in Pittsfield.

Return trips would leave Pittsfield on Sundays at 2:45 p.m., arriving at Penn Station at 6:45 p.m.

The pilot program is projected to last 20 weeks and cost the state about $237,000.

Pittsfield is already a stop for Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited between Chicago and Boston.

Another task force is looking at adding passenger rail service to Pittsfield from Boston. It is expected to meet in the spring to consider six possible alternatives for that service.

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.

New York-Pittsfield Rail Service Studied

December 12, 2017

A study of rail service between New York City and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, is underway.

The proposal would have trains use Amtrak’s Empire Corridor from New York to Rensselaer, New York, and then reverse direction and travel to Pittsfield via a CSX route now used by the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited.

This route would be unlikely to require any significant additional investment in new track, signals or land purchases on the Amtrak-owned segments.

However, facilities will be needed in Pittsfield for overnight storage and servicing of equipment.

Eddie Sporn, a West Stockbridge resident who heads real estate and planning firm Robin Road Consulting, said another option that would avoid running through Rensselaer is being eyes, but the Rensselaer option appears to be the favored.

6 Empire Service Trains Expected to use Grand Central

June 13, 2017

Six Amtrak Empire Service trains are expected to use Grand Central Terminal in New York City starting July 10 when track work begins at Penn Station.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Interim Executive Director Veronique Hakim said MTA and Amtrak have reached an agreement for sharing Grand Central.

“They will be bringing a small part of their Empire Service into Grand Central,” she said. “We think they’re looking at six trains, three in or three out. That could provide some relief at Penn (Station) as well.”

Amtrak has still not said which Empire Service trains will use Grand Central, but has announced that it would do so soon. Amtrak plans to use Grand Central until Sept. 1.

Empire Service trains are funded by the State of New York. Most of the service operates between Albany-Rensselaer and New York City, but some trains originate in Niagara Falls, New York.

Amtrak has not used Grand Central since 1991 when it moved to Penn Station all trains using the former New York Central mainline into New York along the Hudson River.

LSL Not Affected by New York Penn Station Changes

May 31, 2017

The Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited will not be affected by schedule changes that Amtrak is imposing this summer at New York Penn Station during a track renewal project.

The passenger carrier said on Tuesday that it will change its schedules between July 10 and Sept. 1 to reflect the reduced station capacity as workers undertake track and switch work.

Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman said Amtrak would be affected the most by the schedule changes, which also will affect New Jersey Transit and Long Island Railroad trains.

One long-distance train, the New York-New Orleans Crescent, will terminate in Washington during the construction period. Passengers bound for points north of Washington will need to change trains in Washington.

Northeast Regional service will see three round trip trains New York and Washington canceled. New York-Boston service will operate at current levels.

Keystone Service will terminate in Philadelphia with one roundtrip terminating in Newark, New Jersey.  Service between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, will be at current levels.

There will be no schedule changes for Acela Express service. Amtrak said it would announce changes to Empire Service later.

Amtrak said it decided to speed up previously planned projects to improve conditions and service reliability at the station following two derailments earlier this year.

“While we regret that this work requires some reduction in train service and disruption to passengers over the summer months, we believe it will ultimately be worth the investment in terms of increased reliability of passenger rail travel,” said Moorman in a news release.

 

Locomotive Failures Raise Concerns in N.Y.

May 26, 2017

Deteriorating track conditions at New York Penn Station isn’t the only source of frustration with Amtrak these days in New York State.

New York State Department of Transportation officials are noting that the locomotives used to haul Empire Corridor trains from upstate New York are breaking down, stranding passengers on some trips.

Two locomotives have malfunctioned this spring in the tunnels leading out of Penn Station, marooning hundreds of passengers on Empire Service trains. The locomotive of a third train broke down in the Mohawk Valley.

NYDOT officials wants new locomotives ordered before the breakdowns become chronic, but have been rebuffed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The locomotives in question are P42DMAC units, most of which were built in 1995 but some of which were constructed in 1998.

The locomotives were designed to be dual mode, meaning they could operate as diesel-electrics or as straight electrics in third-rail territory.

The locomotives pull some Empire Service trains as far as Niagara Falls, New York.

“GE [Transportation] has … stopped manufacturing new replacement components, which combined with age and intense use makes it difficult and costly for Amtrak’s Rensselaer Maintenance Facility to keep these locomotives in service,” said Jack Madden, a retired engineer at the NYDOT’s rail division, who argued for replacing them in an opinion piece in The Daily Gazette of Schenectady. “The average failure rate in service for the (dual-mode) fleet is increasing, leading to more frustrating delays to passengers.”

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.

Capital Region Track To Be Done by Summer

March 20, 2017

Amtrak expects to finish a massive rail improvement project in New York’s Capital Region this summer.

The $163 million program is adding a second track between Albany and Schenectady, New York, in order to eliminate a bottleneck on the single-track route used by the Lake Shore Limited, Empire Service trains, the Adirondack, the Ethan Allen Express and the Maple Leaf.

The work also includes upgrading the signal system and improving grade crossings.

An earlier stage of the project involved lengthening two passenger platforms at the Albany-Rensselaer station, primarily for the benefit of passengers boarding and disembarking from the Lake Shore Limited.

Amtrak officials said the work is nearly finished south of the Capital Region and that the second track between Albany and Schenectady should go into service in late spring or early summer.

A NYDOT spokesman said contractors are still placing ballast on the new track, as well as making deck repairs on the Union Street and Erie Boulevard bridges in Schenectady, cleaning and improving culverts, and removing poles, now that the new signal system is underground.

However, officials say that earlier ides to increase the level of service west and north of the region are uncertain at best.

Michael Franchini, who heads the Capital District Transportation Committee, a government planning organization that oversees the disbursement of federal transportation funds, said there are no serious proposals to extend Empire Service trains now terminating at Albany-Rensselaer to Schenectady or Saratoga Springs.

The New York Department of Transportation will say only that it continues to consider increased service.

Saratoga County residents who are now served by the New York-Montreal Adirondack said that they need additional service to provide them more flexibility in their travel plans.

Some now drive an hour to the Albany-Rensselaer station to take advantage of its higher level of service to New York City.

In a related development, NYDOT officials have been asked to replace the locomotives used between Albany-Rensselaer and New York Penn Station.

The dual model locomotives are able to run on diesel fuel or electric current, but use electric power in the Manhattan tunnels that bring trains into Penn Station.

Replacing the fleet with 25 new locomotives would cost an estimated $250 million.

The current locomotives are old and prone to breakdowns that delay trains.