Posts Tagged ‘Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority’

Downeaster Set Ridership Records in 2019

February 3, 2020

Amtrak’s Downeaster Service carried a record 574,404 passengers in 2019

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority said 2019 ridership was 7.8 percent higher than the previous record of 546,056 set in 2017.

NNEPRA Marketing Director Natalie Bogart said the trains posted ridership growth in nine of 12 months with August 2019 of 60,944 passengers set a record as the first time that ridership surpassed 60,000 in a month.

In a news release the NNEPRA attributes the ridership increases to increased service to Freeport and Brunswick, improved reliability, and repeat riders.

Amtrak said customer satisfaction scores for the Downeaster were 91 percent.

Maine State Employees To Get Downeaster Discounts

December 24, 2019

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority is giving a 15 percent discount to Maine state employees who use Amtrak’s Downeaster for travel within or outside the state.

The discount is available on all Downeaster trains. State employees must purchase tickets three days in advance of travel and reference promotion code v503.

A state identification card is required for travel.

The Downeaster operates five round-trips daily between Brunswick, Maine, and Boston.

More information is available at AmtrakDowneaster.com.

“We hope this discount will encourage state employees to choose a cleaner method of travel for both work-related and personal travel,” said Natalie Bogart, marketing director at NNEPRA. “It also makes travel time more productive and less stressful than driving.”

NNERPA Eyes Projects to Improve Downeaster Route

November 27, 2019

Increasing capacity and adding new stations to the route used by Amtrak’s Downeaster trains is being studied by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.

NNERPA is considering adding a siding and second platform in Wells, Maine; building a new station at Portland, Maine; and creating a new stop at Falmouth, Maine, south of Portland.

The proposed siding and platform at Wells would allow for the addition of a new northbound, commuter-oriented train from Wells to Portland and on to Brunswick, Maine.

During a public meeting held in Brunswick, NNERPA officials said the plans are not final nor has a decision been made to pursue them.

They said the ideas are part of an effort to boost ridership between stations even if a majority of passengers are traveling to and from Boston.

“Even though there’s a diverse group of people who ride for different reasons, Boston is really the destination,” said Patricia Quinn, NNEPRA’s executive director. “We’re trying to figure out ways to make the Downeaster more appealing for people to ride it on a regional basis.”

Additional Passenger Service Being Eyed in Maine

August 7, 2019

A study released earlier this year identified a potential new rail passenger route within the State of Maine that could be funded by a combination of fare revenue, state funding and federal funding.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority is overseeing the development of the possible new routes

The Rail Authority currently manages the Amtrak’s Downeaster service between Boston and Brunswick, Maine.

“I think the time has come to look at alternative mass transit to help get people around,” said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Rail Authority in an interview with Trains magazine.

The agency’s passenger rail service plan released in May said potential new services could include diesel multiple-unit equipment would between Lewiston and Auburn, connecting with the Downeaster at Portland or Yarmouth.

The study identified three possible routes for the Lewiston-Auburn service, including an existing Pan Am Railways freight route, an inactive railroad right of way owned by the state that runs parallel to the Pan Am Route, and an abandoned route of way.

Capital costs range from $189-295 million to ready either of those alignments for high-frequency passenger service through to Portland, or $143-184 million to terminate at Yarmouth.

Quinn views the Lewiston-Auburn service as “more of a commuter-type connectivity” that would provide connections for longer trips to the Downeaster.

Another potential service change would involve extending the Downeaster further up the Atlantic coast to Rockland via a rail line owned by the state whose last seasonal weekend passenger trains ended in 2016.

The line has freight service provided by the Maine Eastern Railroad.
“The thought process there is using our third set of equipment and just extending up to Rockland,” Quinn said.

It would be a weekend only summer operation that Quinn hopes can be implemented next year.

“Starting up a train and have it go back and forth between two arbitrary locations doesn’t necessarily mean that this is going to be an economic success.” Quinn said, adding that additional study is needed to identify specific regional and social benefits.

The Rail Authority is also conducting a study of a new rail passenger station in Portland, where some Downeaster trains originate and terminate.

Amtrak now uses the 20-year-old Portland Transportation Center at Thompson’s Point, which is 10-15 minutes by car or city bus from downtown Portland.

For trains to continue to either Brunswick or Boston requires a reverse move that adds 15 minutes to the travel time.

The Portland station has one rail platform and is at capacity for car parking and bus docks.

The Rail Authority would like to see a new multimodal transit center along the Pan Am main line with a double platform so trains could meet there going northbound and southbound.

The Maine Department of Transportation is studying possible station sites and its report is expected to be released in September.

In a related development, the Rail Authority has estimated it would cost more than $100 million to develop passenger rail service between Portland and Westbrook.

A study found that lowest ticket price to cover costs would be about $12.50 per trip, not including weekend revenue.

The study said the next step will be to work with Portland and Westbrook officials to create an operating plan. That will also need the approval of host railroad Pan Am Railways.

Downeaster Train-Bus Passes Launched in Maine

May 19, 2019

A plan has been announced to enable Amtrak Downeaster Service passengers to transfer to public transportation in Maine at no additional fare on a route served by trains and buses.

The agreement involves the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority and the Greater Portland Metro.

NNEPA oversees the Downeaster Service whereas Portland Metro operates the METRO BREEZ bus network.

The two agencies have coordinated scheduling and fares so that passengers will be able to buy one-way, 10-ride and monthly passes that enable them to transfer between train and bus or vice versa for no extra cost.

Amtrak operates five daily roundtrips between Portland and Brunswick, Maine. METRO BREEZ operates 13 express weekday bus roundtrips between Portland and Yarmouth, Freeport and Brunswick, and seven Saturday roundtrips.

A one-way pass will cost $3, a 10-ride pass $27 and a monthly pass $90.

“This schedule and fare structure make it easy for passengers to travel on the mode or schedule that best meets their needs. Take the train one-way and the bus the other.” said Natalie Bogart, marketing director at NNEPRA, in a news release.

The five Downeaster roundtrips between Portland and Brunswick originate or continue to Boston North Station.

Additional information is available at gpmetro.org or by calling 207-774-0351.

Siding to Allow Downeaster Expansion

September 18, 2018

Construction of a siding on Pan Am Railways in Maine is expected to enable an expansion of Amtrak Downeaster service between Boston and Brunswick, Maine.

The siding being built at Royal Junction between Falmouth and Cumberland.

Officials said current track conditions limit the number of trains that can operate between Portland and Brunswick.

The siding, which is costing $9 million, has been in the planning stages since Downeaster service was extended to Brunswick in 2012.

“Royal Siding will improve efficiency of service and increase the amount of service to Freeport and Brunswick,” said Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority Executive Director Patricia Quinn.

Agency Says Downeaster Will Continue Operating

August 30, 2018

The agency overseeing Amtrak’s Downeaster service said rail service will continue even though a portion of the train is exempt from a federal law mandating that passenger routes have a positive train control system in place by the end of the year.

“Amtrak has gone through a review of all lines, even those that aren’t required to have [positive train control], and conducted safety assessments and there are no risks associated with the Downeaster line,” said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority. “The route is not in jeopardy at all.”

Amtrak operates the Downeaster line, which links Boston and Brunswick, Maine.

Quinn said segments of the line received an exemption from the Federal Railroad Administration because the line sees fewer than 12 trips per day.

“For those carriers and routes operating under an extension or under an [Federal Rail Authority]-approved exemption, Amtrak is performing risk analyses and developing strategies for enhancing safety on a route-byroute basis to ensure that there is a single level of safety across the Amtrak network,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

Quinn said the New England rail authority is “not considering” installing the technology at this time.

Rail Pass Offered for Downeaster Service

June 18, 2018

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority and Amtrak have introduced discounted fares through the Discover Maine Rail Pass.

The pass is valid for 10 one-way trips on the Amtrak Downeaster between any Maine station within a seven-day period for an introductory price of $19 per person.

In a news release, Amtrak said the pass is designed to encourage car-free travel within the state and highlight the popular Maine destinations served by the Downeaster.

Although the pass is being promoted to tourists at hotels, B&Bs and campgrounds along the Downeaster route, it is available through all of Amtrak’s distribution channels including online, mobile app, station ticketing kiosks and call center.

The NNEPRA manages the service and provides funding to support it.

Downeaster Trial Expansion Scrapped

March 29, 2018

A proposed extension of Amtrak’s Downeaster service has been canceled.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which oversees the Downeaster, had planned to operate an extension from Brunswick to Rockland, Maine on three weekends this summer.

But Patricia Quinn, executive director of the authority, said the trial service was scrubbed because Amtrak could not conduct a risk assessment of the 58 miles of track to be used by the service in time for the trial runs.

Quinn said Amtrak would conduct its assessment later this year and that the authority is looking to conduct the trials in 2019 with a schedule that “hopefully can be more robust than three round trips.”

The trial service had been expected to operate in August with intermediate stops in stops in Bath, Wiscasset and Newcastle, Maine.

Downeastern Extension Wins 1st Approval

March 1, 2018

An extension of Amtrak’s Downeaster service to the “Vacationland” area of Maine was approved on Monday by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.

Subject to the approval of the Maine Department of Transportation, Downeaster trains will be extended 50 miles from Brunswick to Rockland on weekends for a three-week trial period in August.

Intermediate stops will be made in Bath, Wiscasset, and Newcastle.

The Authority had hoped to operate the extension for 10 weeks, but that was reduced due to funding limitations.

MDOT owns the tracks between Brunswick and Rockland and approves the Authority’s budget.