Posts Tagged ‘Empire Service’

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.

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.