Posts Tagged ‘Friends of the Cardinal’

Still No Word on Cardinal’s Return to New York City

August 27, 2018

The return of Amtrak’s Cardinal to New York remains murky.

The Chicago-New York train was curtained to a Chicago-Washington operation last March due to construction work at New York Penn Station.

That work is set to wrap up in early September, but Amtrak has not said when Nos. 50 and 51 will resume operating in the Big Apple.

Members of the Charleston West-Virginia-based Friends of the Cardinal are worried that the “temporary” route of the tri-weekly Cardinal could turn out to be permanent.

Chuck Riecks of the group believes the Cardinal might become part of Amtrak’s efforts to “sectionalize” long-distance trains by dividing them into shorter segments of 750 miles or less.

That would require the states served by the trains to underwrite the costs of the service.

Riecks said Amtrak might be eyeing making the Cardinal a Washington-Huntington, West Virginia, service and a Chicago-Cincinnati service. The carrier might also propose a train between Cincinnati and Huntington.

“Making this change would probably negate such services as sleeping cars and full diners,” Riecks said. “To say nothing of causing a passenger from Huntington who wishes to go to Chicago to change trains at least twice. This is not a new idea. It was proposed in the [President Ronald] Reagan years and then abandoned. But, current Amtrak managers seem to believe this is the way to go.”

Friends of the Cardinal is asking rail passenger advocates to tell their elected officials that the Cardinal should be preserved and expanded to daily service.

Cincinnati Fighting to Keep Ticket Agents

May 7, 2018

Cincinnati officials are eyeing providing assistance in an effort to keep open the Amtrak ticket office at Union Terminal.

The action came after Amtrak said it would remove its two ticket agents from Cincinnati on June 5.

“The city administration is glad to assist in these efforts should that be the desire of the mayor and City Council,” acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney wrote in a memo to the Cincinnati City Council, which must approve any expenditures.

Duhaney responded after being contacted by passenger rail advocacy groups Friends of the Cardinal and All Aboard Ohio, which asked elected officials and city administrators to help keep the ticket office open.

Cincinnati is served by the tri-weekly Chicago-Washington Cardinal. No. 50 arrives in the Queen City on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday while No. 51 stops on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Both trains arrive in the middle of the night.

“While there are other stations on the Cardinal route that are unstaffed, Cincinnati is a popular, multi-level station which makes assistance by Amtrak staff for handicapped and elderly passengers very important,” Duhaney said in his memo.

He said that any loss of station services will degrade ridership and jeopardize continued service.

Aside from selling tickets, Amtrak’s two agents in Cincinnati assist with boarding and checked baggage.

Amtrak plans to hire a caretaker to open and close the waiting room before and after trains arrive.

The situation in Cincinnati is complicated by the fact that renovations at Union Terminal have forced Amtrak to temporarily locate to an adjacent, station facility on Kenner Street behind the Terminal.

The renovations at CUT are slated to be finished this fall.

Amtrak has cited an overwhelming preference by passengers to buy tickets online rather than at ticket offices as well as a desire to cut costs as motivating the closings of 15 ticket offices between mid May and late June.

“This is in no way a reflection on them,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said in reference to the performance of the agents in Cincinnati.

He said that the agents might be able to transfer to a different position within Amtrak.

After the Cincinnati ticket office closes the nearest Amtrak station with a ticket window will be Indianapolis. Amtrak also has ticket offices in Ohio in Cleveland and Toledo.

Magliari said the caretaker the passenger carrier plans to hire in Cincinnati will do more than open and close the waiting room.

He said that person will also assist passengers and receive training in how to operate the station.

The 15 stations set to close reportedly handle 40 or fewer passengers per day, yet rail passenger advocates content that Cincinnati should not be measured by that criteria due to the limited service and ongoing renovations of Union Terminal.

“Cincinnati is an outlier,” said Derek Bauman, the southwest Ohio vice chair for All Aboard Ohio.

“If you look at the other places where this has happened, [these are] basically smaller burgs,” he said. “I think that if it had not been for Union Terminal being under construction for the past year, that we would probably not have been in a position to lose our two people.”

Bauman expressed optimism that once the construction if completed at Union Terminal that Amtrak ridership in Cincinnati will increase.

“If anything, especially during this time of Union Terminal being rehabbed and the location and security and difficulty for (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance, we need the assistance of the full-time Amtrak employees,” he said.

Amtrak Acknowledges Changes Coming for Empire Service, Cardinal, Due to Penn Station Construction

March 12, 2018

An Amtrak official has confirmed that the carrier plans to divert Empire Service trains this year to New York Grand Central Terminal during a construction project at New York Penn Station.

In a related development, Amtrak said it plans to temporarily cease operating the Cardinal between New York and Washington starting March 29.

The Empire Service diversion was discussed by Amtrak’s Empire District general superintendent, Kevin Chittenden, during a meeting of the Empire State Passengers Association.

Although he didn’t say when the diversion would take place, Chittenden said it would last for three months during the summer. During that time, the connecting track that Amtrak uses to move between Penn Station and Metro North tracks will be closed for maintenance.

Chittenden also indicated that Amtrak is considering used FL-9 locomotives as cab cars for trains going to and from Grand Central. However, Amtrak may also use cab cars in push-pull mode.

Amtrak diverted several Empire Service trains into Grand Central last summer, but continued to operate the Lake Shore Limited into Penn Station.

News reports have surfaced that Amtrak plans to temporarily drop the New York section of the Lake Shore while work is being done on the connection track to Penn Station .

As for the Cardinal, Amtrak said it is being terminated in Washington to relieve congestion at Penn Station.

The first eastbound train to terminate in Washington rather than run through to New York will leave Chicago on March 29. The first train to originate in Washington will depart on April 1.

Amtrak did not say how long Nos. 50 and 51 will continue to operate only between Chicago and Washington.

The Rail Passenger Association said the advocacy group Friends of the Cardinal is preparing to enter into talks with the West Virginia Tourism Commission on support for making the Cardinal a daily service.

It currently operates tri-weekly, originating in New York on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, and originating in Chicago on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Cardinal Ridership Up 7.25% in FY2017

November 21, 2017

Amtrak’s Cardinal saw a 7.25 percent ridership boost in fiscal year 2017.

Figures released by the national passenger carrier show the tri-weekly Chicago-New York train carried 112,432 passengers, up 7,601 from FY 2016.

“It’s been inching up, but to have that kind of an increase is a good thing,” said Chuck Riecks, a vice president with the national Rail Passengers Association and co-chairman of West Virginia-based the Friends of the Cardinal group.

Riecks described the ridership figures as encouraging given the on-time issues Nos. 50 and 51 have had during this year’s operational problems on host railroad CSX.

He said Amtrak’s addition of business class service to the Cardinal in January 2016 helped to boost patronage.

The Cardinal serves eight stations in West Virginia and most of them saw an increase in ridership.

White Sulphur Springs handled 5,878 passengers, a 12.6 percent increase. The station serves passengers headed for the famous Greenbrier resort and was a beneficiary of the business class service, which features 18 leather seats, complimentary beverages and a lounge area reserved for business class and sleeper car passengers.

Thurmond — the smallest town in America with regularly scheduled passenger rail service — saw the largest proportional jump, an 18 percent increase to 345 passengers.

Other stations posting slight increases included Charleston (9,812 passengers), Prince (2,988) and Alderson (449).

The ridership figures for Huntington and Hinton fell in FY 2017, in part because Amtrak had attributed to those stations passengers riding Amtrak coaches on the New River Train.

That added about 2,800 passengers each year to each city’s ridership figures.

Hinton’s Cardinal ridership in FY 2017 dropped by 81 passengers from 7,344 to 4,463.

Huntington’s ridership fell by 14.5 percent from 10,723 to 6,925 passengers, or a decline of 998 passengers.

During the past year Amtrak removed its ticket agents from Huntington, thus ending ticket sales and checked baggage at that station.

“That clearly reflects the loss of the station agent,” Riecks said of the decline in Huntington passengers.

Montgomery also saw a decline in ridership, dropping from 669 to 500 passengers.

In the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited route, the two West Virginia stations posted ridership gains.

Martinsburg handled 11,267 passengers, up 146, while Harpers Ferry saw a 12 percent increase in passengers to 8,267.

Amtrak Removing Huntington Ticket Agent

December 20, 2016

Amtrak is planning to remove its ticket agent from its station in Huntington, West Virginia.

amtrak-cardinalThe station agent, who serves the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal, is slated to be removed on Wednesday.

Amtrak will hire a part-time caretaker to open the station 30 minutes before train times and then lock it after the train departs.

Removal of the Huntington agent will leave Charleston as the only station served by the Cardinal in West Virginia that still has a ticket agent.

Amtrak removed its agent at Prince last February.

Chuck Riecks of the advocacy group Friends of the Cardinal, told The Herald-Dispatch, a Huntington newspaper, that Amtrak wants to remove agents at several stations across the country. “The figure I hear is 122 stations,” he said.

He said the standard that Amtrak is using to determine whether to remove an agent is ticket sales. In recent years, Amtrak has not replaced agents who retired or left the company.

When a ticket agent is removed, it usually means that passengers will no longer be able to buy tickets at the station.

Agents also handle checked luggage, provide information on train status and help passengers plan trips by rail.

In news stories about the removal of agents in other cities, an Amtrak spokesman has often cited a rise in the number of passengers who buy tickets online.

Riecks said the Prince station has gone through at least two caretakers since the agent was removed.

“Prince, and more recently Huntington, just had a bunch of Amtrak money spent to put the stations into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Riecks said. “Charleston is the next station slated to get the ADA work, and in all seriousness some of us are thinking we don’t want it. We know what comes next.”