Posts Tagged ‘Patricia Quinn’

Downeaster Ridership Slowly Rising

July 11, 2020

Ridership of Amtrak’s Downeaster Service has begun rising although it remains far below what would normally be expected at this time of year.

The service had been suspended for two months starting April 13.

One roundtrip between Boston and Brunswick, Maine, resumed on June 15. It carried 250 passengers in its first week of operation.

Patronage in the second week was 375 and 543 in the third week.

In 2019, Downeaster trains handled 2,400 riders on the Friday before Independence Day. This year it was 134.

Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, said ridership is far from robust.

The Authority, which oversee funding and operations of the Downeaster Service, is hoping service will increase by two roundtrips a day in the next few weeks.

Before the pandemic, Downeaster service had been five daily roundtrips.

Despite the low ridership, Quinn said she’s not concerned about the financial viability of the Downeaster in part due to it having received CARES funding.

Although Quinn is heartened by the rising ridership, she acknowledged, “it’s going to be a long time before we get back to the ridership we had before.”

In the meantime, the pandemic has delayed a proposed trial extension of Downeaster Service to Rockland, Maine, via the Coastal Connection.

That trial weekend service would have intermediate stops in Bath, Wiscasset and Newcastle.

It had been slated to begin in 2018 but was delayed due to scheduling and safety issues.

Studies project the Coastal Connection will cost $200,000 and generate about $120,000 in revenue. Ridership was projected at 7,000.

“The Rockland service is not anything that we’re spending much time on right at this minute,” Quinn said.

She said how the tourism industry bounces back from the pandemic will shape the future of the proposed service.

“We’re trying to be cautious and thoughtful about every next step that we take,” Quinn said.

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.

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.