Southwest Chief To Remain Intact; Amtrak IG Issues New Challenges; Amtrak’s Stephen Gardner To Speak At RailNation Miami; “More MARTA” Plan Approved; Tampa Mayor Supports Brightline Service; GAO: Passenger Railroads Lag in PTC Testing
October 5, 2018
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In a major victory for rail passengers throughout the U.S., Amtrak said it will continue to run the Southwest Chief uninterrupted at least through the next fiscal year ending in September 2019. This means that the passenger railroad will not move forward with a proposal to institute bus service on the route between Dodge City, Kansas and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Amtrak Chief Operating Officer Scot Naparstek confirmed the decision before a hearing with Senate Commerce Committee on Surface Transportation.
“On behalf of Rail Passengers, we are truly thankful for the support and perseverance of Senators Udall, Moran, and Gardner, among others, who pressed Amtrak to keep the Southwest Chief intact, as well as the national network,” said Rail Passengers Association President and CEO Jim Mathews. “When our advocacy efforts and members of Congress come together, change can happen. That has been demonstrated here through our combined efforts.”
During the hearing, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) challenged Naparstek, asking, “In previous hearings, Amtrak has stated that ‘Amtrak’s goal is to continue to operate all of our services for all of our routes come January 1, 2019.’ I’d like you to clarify if that means continuing rail service -- will Amtrak commit publicly to stop pursuing the proposal of replacing the train with buses for the Southwest Chief for fiscal year 2019?”
Naparstek confirmed that Amtrak will abandon its so-called “bus bridge,” responding that: “We are well aware of the Senate’s position and the directive that is part of the 2019 appropriations act. We plan to run the Southwest Chief as is through fiscal year 2019. We await Congress’ dealing with the Southwest Chief issue in conference and the final spending bill.”
Sen. Udall went further to say that not only should Amtrak not break up the network, but Amtrak must make improvements to the aging infrastructure of the Southwest Chief.
"I reiterate the need for Amtrak to work with the communities impacted to create a real plan for the future of the Southwest Chief," Sen. Udall said.
This was what the Rail Passengers Association, our members, Amtrak passengers, and our elected officials across the country have been pushing towards for several months - ever since Amtrak first proposed instituting bus service in June.
“This is a critical moment for rail passengers and the work that has gone into supporting the Southwest Chief and opposing Amtrak’s ‘bustitution’ proposal,” said Mathews. “It shows that our voices have been heard and can influence decisions by Amtrak. Sen. Tom Udall secured a public commitment from Amtrak to keep the Southwest Chief in place, and this would not have been possible without the hard work of Rail Passengers’ advocates and staff across the country.”
Earlier this year, after Amtrak began to surface its proposal to run bus service along the Southwest Chief route, Rail Passengers advocacy helped persuade Senators Udall, Moran (R-KS), Gardner (R-CO), and others to write to Amtrak about several serious concerns. Most notable was that the bus implementation plan would effectively cause a permanent break in the national network.
Despite Amtrak’s plan, the Senate's FY 2019 appropriations bill, which was approved in August, included an amendment for $50 million to continue Southwest Chief service. Senators Udall and Moran called out Amtrak for not committing to a matching $3-million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant that was already approved.
“You failed, in my view, to live up to your word,” Moran said. ”... We do not want to lose the TIGER Grant money, and that would be a disadvantage to Amtrak.”
Naparstek also took a few moments during the hearing to retreat from Amtrak’s previous statements on Positive Train Control, which can remotely monitor, slow and stop train. Amtrak previously said it would halt service on routes that are not equipped with PTC by the December 31, 2018 deadline.
“The route on which the Southwest Chief operates on is either PTC compliant, will be under alternative schedule or under exemption ... so we will be in compliance,” Naparstek said. “Our goal will be to be PTC compliance or equivalency.”
Naparstek also said, “We expect all routes to be compliant with the law and operating passenger rail on January 2019. For those routes and locations on an alternative schedule or an exclusion, Amtrak will conduct risk assessments and put in place risk mitigations until those locations have PTC or PTC-equivalency.”
“This hearing, overall, was extremely positive and we are able to say ‘we got what we asked for from Amtrak,’” said Mathews. “As we move forward into the next fiscal year, we will continue to work with Amtrak to ensure the national network continues to remain intact.”
Following this news, we would like to thank you for your continued support of passenger rail in the U.S., and of our work to build a better rail network. Please continue your generous support of our mission!
Looking to hear more about what this week’s news means for the Southwest Chief? Join us in Lamy, New Mexico for a community meeting.
The Southwest Chief Coalition will be hosting an event in partnership with the Lamy Station & SFS Railway Lamy. Attendees will include mayors from Santa Fe and Las Vegas, RPA President Jim Mathews, local candidates, and officials from NMDOT, who will present information and be on hand to answer any questions regarding the Southwest Chief.
Lamy, New Mexico Community Q & A
Sunday, October 7, 2018
2:00 - 4:00 PM
Lamy Amtrak Station
Santa Fe County Road 33, 152 Old Lamy Trail
Lamy, NM 87540
Newly Added To The RailNation Miami Line-Up! Stephen Gardner, Amtrak’s Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, To Address Attendees At Saturday Lunch!!
Former Amtrak presidents Joe Boardman and David Gunn will take part in a fireside chat at the Rail Passenger Association’s RailNation conference in Miami, Florida, on Friday evening, October 19. The event will be moderated by RPA President and CEO Jim Mathews.While Boardman will take part in the chat in person, Gunn will participate via video. Former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis and Trains Magazine columnist Fred Frailey will also join the conversation via video.
“We are very excited to have four great speakers, including two former Amtrak presidents, join us at a very pivotal point for the future of passenger rail in the U.S.,” said Mathews. “With new proposals coming from Amtrak regarding service, and the ongoing fight to protect the Southwest Chief and the integrity of the national network, as well as Amtrak's re-authorization coming up in 2020, we have huge challenges facing us. Now is the time to discuss what the intercity and national rail network should look like both in the near-term and into the future.”
The fireside chat will take place from 6:30pm to 8:00pm on the first full day of RPA’s three-day event in Miami. The panelists will be asked about the future of Amtrak, and other passenger rail services, in the U.S. Mathews will also pose questions from the audience.
“During the chat, we hope to learn some valuable insights from our speakers who have significant understanding of the challenges facing Amtrak and other rail services like Brightline and Texas Central Partners,” said Mathews. “Boardman and Gunn have experience and perspective will be of great interest to attendees.”
Individual tickets for the chat are available at: https://narp.z2systems.com/np/clients/narp/eventRegistration.jsp?event=120&
RailNation Miami is RPA's Fall 2018 Advocacy Conference on passenger rail and runs between October 19 and 21. Audience members will hear from a variety of great speakers over the three-day conference including: Amtrak Senior Director of the Gateway Program Marie Corrado; American Public Transportation Association Vice President of Policy Art Guzzetti; Brightline President and CEO Patrick Goddard; and Midwest High Speed Rail Association Executive Director Rick Harnish.
Rail advocates won’t want to miss a minute of this great event!
For more information or to register for the full RailNation agenda, please visit: www.railpassengers.org/happening-now/events/rpa-fall-2018-miami.
In a new report, Amtrak’s Inspector General (IG) said that Amtrak’s operating budget remains in the red even though Amtrak has seen a stronger financial performance over the last fiscal year, and the last five years overall. Amtrak management pinned budget issues, including a loss of $194 million for Fiscal Year 2017, on the supposed high cost of operating long-distance routes in the U.S. Unfortunately, the report reinforced outdated and preconceived notions that the Rail Passengers Association has been fighting to beat back for decades, including the idea that rail must be profitable while other modes of transportation don’t carry that burden. It did, however, address safety and other important Amtrak initiatives that will move the railroad forward.
“In contrast to the picture this report presents, the increased financial performance by Amtrak is astoundingly positive. The railroad’s management has taken important steps to reduce annual losses. But, more importantly, the assumption that long-distance routes must make money is a false premise that has clung to breath for far too long,” said Rail Passengers President Jim Mathews. “We don't demand that our street lights make money, or for that matter our roads. It's bad logic to apply the profit yardstick to a taxpayer-supported enterprise that was created in 1971 to serve communities that could not be served profitably by private companies back then. If it were profitable, we wouldn't need an Amtrak in the first place.”
By comparison, the Highway Trust Fund has required significant general fund contributions for years. Since 2008, contributions have totaled more than $141 billion, and the Congressional Budget Office projects that the trust fund’s cumulative deficits will grow from $21 billion in FY 2022, to $108 billion by fiscal year 2026.
Unfortunately, the IG report framed the financial issue by noting that Amtrak “has recognized that it could have difficulties eliminating its net operating loss without significant changes to its long-distance service model. Losses on long-distance routes have been an enduring issue for the company. Over the past five fiscal years, these routes have lost an average of $517 million annually... These losses have been large enough to significantly offset the company’s net earnings from other routes.”
Yet, Amtrak has always operated at a net loss, and still it has significantly improved its financial performance over the last five years by reducing costs through the Revenue Growth Initiative, as the report also shows. That initiative includes partnering with private companies, the elimination of passenger discounts--such as those for seniors and veterans--and reducing marketing and advertising costs. As a result, in FY 2017, the company’s adjusted net operating loss was $194 million—an improvement of $167 million (46 percent) over its $361 million loss in FY 2013. By 2021, Amtrak hopes to have eliminated all financial losses, the report said.
The IG report also highlighted other key priorities that Amtrak will face in the coming year. The top priority for the railroad is safety and ensuring that it can address and reduce risks posed to passengers and Amtrak employees.
In a letter to Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson, Inspector General Tom Howard referenced a report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The report from the agency said that Amtrak’s “weak safety culture has contributed to a poor record. This record includes a series of train crashes, derailments, and other safety incidents that have killed 11 passengers and 9 employees since October 2012.”
One of the derailments referenced in the report is the derailment from December 2017 in DuPont, WA. The derailment resulted in the loss of three lives, including two members of RPA - Jim Hamre and Zach Willhoite.
“Safety will always be a top priority for Amtrak. It has to be,” said Mathews. “The lack of positive train control on the curve where Amtrak Cascades 501 derailed was unacceptable, the technology could have helped prevent the tragic loss of three lives.”
The IG said that it recognizes recent efforts by Amtrak to improve safety. These efforts include the implementation of a safety management system, advancing positive train control installation, and the hiring of a Chief Safety Officer to oversee safety operations.
Overall, the IG reported listed eight major management and performance challenges for Amtrak for the coming fiscal year, including:
- Safety and Security: Addressing Significant Risks to Employees and Passengers
- Governance: Institutionalizing More Effective Management Processes and Tools
- Financial Performance: Securing the Company’s Financial Future
- Asset Management: Ensuring Capacity, Coordination, and Effective Planning for Major Asset Upgrades
- Customer Service: Putting Customers First
- Acquisition and Procurement: Strengthening Procurement Processes
- Information Technology: Effectively Delivering on Technology Projects While Minimizing Cyber-Security Risks
- Human Resources: Strategically Managing the Workforce
Make plans to attend RPA’s RailNation Miami 2018 Advocacy Symposium & Meeting in Miami, FL, Friday, October 19 through Sunday, October 21 at the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Miami.
RailNation Miami Registration Is Open! Early registration rates are available through October 5th. Higher rates will apply starting October 6th and at the door! Space is filling fast, so register today!
This is your opportunity to gather with rail advocates from across the country to learn how you can best make an active difference in your local community. You will hear from an impressive lineup of rail advocacy and industry experts, including:
- Friday, October 19 - 6:30pm - 8:00pm
- A Fireside Chat with former Amtrak Presidents Joe Boardman (in person) and David Gunn (via video), who will be joined by Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis (via video) and Trains Magazine Columnist Fred Frailey (via video). Jim Mathews will moderate this session, which will explore the future of Amtrak and U.S. passenger rail from the perspective of the panelists. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear their unique perspectives on the future of Amtrak. Can’t make the entire RailNation event? Individual tickets are NOW available for this special Friday evening session!
- Saturday, October 20
- Former Federal Railroad Administration Administrator and Amtrak President Joe Boardman will kick-off the day’s program at 8:30am with a look at railroad safety; past, present and tomorrow. With the year-end deadline for PTC installation approaching, Joe’s comments are sure to be informative and timely.
- Other Saturday sessions include:
- 'Why The Swiss Can Build Big Projects Cheap And We Can’t…’, (9:50am - 11:20am) moderated by RPA’s Sean Jeans-Gail with panelists Gene Skoropowski, noted U.S. passenger rail project authority; Marie Corado, Amtrak’s Senior Director for the Gateway Project, and Ken Sislak, AECOM’s VP - Manager Transit and Rail Planning. Panelists will discuss why major infrastructure projects cost so much in the U.S. and will delve into possible ways to overcome these mind-numbing estimates.
- ‘How To Pay For Infrastructure; Unlocking The Value Of Real Estate’ (9:50am - 11:20am) moderated by RPA’s James Zumwalt with panelists Albert Hernandez, Assistant Director of Planning and Development for Miami-Dade Transit and Jose Gonzalez, Senior VP of Business Development for Florida East Coast Industries. The panel will look at the often untapped potential of increased real estate values surrounding planned transit hubs as a means of leveraging project funding.
- ‘RPA’s Envisioning Of The Future Of The U.S. Rail Network’ (9:50am - 11:20am) led by Jim Mathews, will explore what current and future travelers need and desire in a truly ‘Connected America’ transportation network. The session will look at the potential for new routes and other services between the growing regions of the country. This is an INTERACTIVE session, designed to begin gathering input from RPA members and RailNation attendees. RailPassengers will use this input to form advice on rail policy to the DOT, the Federal Railroad Administration AND to Amtrak itself. We need to hear from you!
- 'Passenger on Freight - How To Address The Challenge’ (11:30am - 12:20pm) moderated by RPA Chairman Peter LeCody, with panelists Patrick Goddard, President/CEO Brightline; Gene Skoropowski of Brightline and Jay Westbrook (invited), General Manager - Florida Dispatch Company. The session will discuss passenger trains running on freight tracks and how both can work together to provide reliable and safe service.
- ‘The Next Opportunity & Challenge; Amtrak's Upcoming Re-Authorization’ (2:00pm - 3:30pm) moderated by RPA’s Sean Jeans-Gail with panelists Art Guzzetti, Vice-President Policy at the American Public Transportation Association and Rick Harnish, Executive Director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association. The panel will examine the opportunities to codify Amtrak’s National Network into law as part of the upcoming reauthorization.
- ‘Introducing RPA's Station Host Volunteer Program’ (2:00pm - 3:30pm) moderated by RPA’s Carolyn Cokley with panelists Patrick Kidd of Amtrak’s Corporate Communications Department and Bryan Swyer (invited), Amtrak’s Southeast Region District Station Manager. With Amtrak’s continued reduction in staffed stations, RPA is stepping up to the plate to coordinate Station Host Volunteer Programs across the country. Learn how you can get involved in your local area.
- ‘South Florida’s First Mile/Last Challenge’ (2:00pm - 3:25pm) panel moderated by RPA’s Joe Aiello will explore how new innovative services and technologies can bridge the gap in the public transit network.
- ‘SmartCohort’ Pre-Transportation Camp’ (3:35pm - 5:00pm) will be a warm-up session for January 2019’s all-day Transportation Camp conference.
- Of special note is The Jim Hamre Scholarship Fund Benefit Reception on Saturday evening (6:30pm - 8:30pm) at the MiamiCentral Station complex.
- Sunday, October 22
- RPA Council Business Meeting (8:30am - 9:45am)
- ‘Take Me Out To The Ballpark with RPA’s Summer By Rail 2018’ (10:00am - 11:30am) session moderated by RPA’s Mark Colucci will introduce you to Jacob Wallace, our SBR intern who traveled to 19 baseball games across the country, all by rail! Jacob will describe his great experiences spreading the word on the importance of a national rail network.
- ‘The Passenger Experience’ (10:00am - 11:30am) Board Vice-Chair David Randall will lead a highly interactive session looking at what services, amenities, facilities and equipment are important to passengers. Come prepared to share your views!
Don’t miss out on the optional chartered Brightline Round Trip from Miami to West Palm Beach on Friday afternoon. Tours of the Brightline MiamiCentral Station will start at 1:15pm, followed by boarding the train at 2:00pm. Brightline representatives will be on board to describe the service and the Siemens-built train sets. Lite snacks and beverages will be served on route. The trip returns to MiamiCentral at 5:15pm. Advance reservations are absolutely required!
Detailed agenda, programming and speaker information is now available and it is being updated regularly as additional details are confirmed! Discounted $179.00 per night group-rate room reservations at the Hyatt may still be available via this link. Discounted room supply is very limited and may be closed-off at anytime.
Passenger railroads in the U.S. lag behind on testing systems installed with positive train control (PTC), when compared to their efforts to complete installation of PTC equipment. Out of the 28 passenger railroads required to implement PTC, a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that 19 have initiated field testing, while only eight have started revenue-service demonstration. When compared to equipment installation of PTC, more than 90 percent of passenger railroads have completed the work.
According to the GAO report, field testing of PTC equipment lines includes multiple tests of individual components, such as of each locomotive to verify if it meets functional requirements and field-integration. Revenue service demonstrations, on the other hand, are an advanced form of field testing in which a railroad operates PTC-equipped trains in regular service under specific conditions.
Due to being behind schedule and unlikely to meet the December 31, 2018 deadline for PTC installation, more than 20 passenger railroads expect to apply for a two-year extension. If a railroad is to receive an extension from the Federal Railroad Administration, it must meet six statutory criteria, including initiating a revenue service demonstration on at least one track segment.
The GAO’s report, “POSITIVE TRAIN CONTROL: Most Passenger Railroads Expect to Request an Extension, and Substantial Work Remains Beyond 2018” is available online at: www.gao.gov/assets/700/694859.pdf.
The Board of Directors for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) has approved the final version of the $2.7 billion “More MARTA” plan. With the approval, MARTA officials can begin implementing aspects of the 40-year plan that will focus heavily on light-rail, rapid bus service, and improvements to service. The plan also marks the greater Atlanta area’s largest transit investment in more than four decades.
To complete the plan, MARTA conducted a two-year examination of technical data, performance measurements, and community surveys. This all paved the way for the 17-project program that calls for:
- 22 miles of light-rail transit,
- 14 miles of bus rapid transit,
- 26 miles of arterial rapid transit,
- 2 new transit centers,
- additional fixed-route bus service, and
- upgrades to existing rail stations.
“In Atlanta in the 21st century, transit is the lifeblood of opportunity,” Board chairman Robert L. Ashe said in a press release. “It is how millions of Atlantans access jobs, school, health care, and move throughout their communities. Today, we together took an important step in building the Atlanta we want for decades to come.”
The transit program will be partially funded by a half-penny sales tax, which was approved by Atlanta voters in 2016. Additional public and private funding will be sought to advance and expand key aspects of the program. Next steps include developing costs and schedules associated with individual projects and beginning the process of securing additional funding.
Share Your Photos, Win Amtrak Guest Reward Points© and RPA Giveaways
We are asking members, friends and family, and the general train-riding public to share their #ViewsFromATrain on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Prizes include Amtrak Guest Rewards Points© and RPA giveaways.
Just use the hashtag #RailPassengers or #ViewsFromATrain and tag @RailPassengers to show us what you see outside your window.
The pictures should be your own, and should depict what you see outside your train window, whether it’s a photo of countryside, oceans, forests or cities. People who submit photos will have an opportunity to win a variety of great prizes, including 10,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards® Points.
So, if you have taken a train this summer and captured some great photos, or maybe you plan to take a trip this fall, we would love to see them, share them and give you an amazing prize.
On the horizon looms a 15-month shutdown of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) L train for repair work that resulted from Superstorm Sandy. To accommodate the transit demands of passengers during the shutdown, the MTA will increase capacity on ferry service.
“The closure of the L train tunnel will dramatically alter commuting routines for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers,” said NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “Along with increased subway service, alternative buses and better cycling connections, including expanded Citi Bike, MTA and DOT are working cooperatively to provide reliable travel alternatives to the L train across the East River. Especially for commuters whose trips begin or end relatively close to the Williamsburg waterfront and the East Side, new higher-capacity ferries next year between the two communities will provide an exciting, affordable option.”
With the line’s closure being top of mind, passengers were and are concerned about delays. Listening to feedback, MTA officials decided to now include 240-passenger vessels that will provide up to 61 percent more capacity than was originally planned for the shutdown. Once the L Tunnel Reconstruction Project begins in April 2019, NY Waterway will operate the ferry service. The temporary ferry service will transport customers between an existing NYC Ferry landing, Stuyvesant Cove at East 20th St. and the FDR in Manhattan to a temporary landing located at North 6th St. in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In addition to this increase, a third ferry will now be fully staffed and ready for immediate use if there is any interruption in service. This will allow for an hourly capacity of just under 2,000 customers per direction.
On Thursday night, an NJ Transit train derailed at New York Penn Station. The minor derailment caused notable delays during the evening commute for thousands of people. No one was injured during the derailment, which occurred at the entrance to the Hudson River tunnel where Amtrak, which owns Penn Station, carried out emergency repair work in the summer of 2017 following a spate of derailments earlier that year.
The cause of the derailment is currently under investigation.
RPA Members’ Online Forum Now Open!
Rail Passengers Association has a forum for members on Google Groups. Members can share their gripes and their applause, and trade information on the latest passenger rail-related issues.
Click THIS LINK to sign up. It's free and open to the public, but users must join the group before they are able to post messages.
Within the next 45 days, Amtrak construction crews will complete renovations to the Castleton station in Vermont. The work has involved making the station compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act as part of a nationwide effort. Under the program, 511 of the 516 Amtrak stations in the U.S. have been required to be made ADA accessible. Amtrak has already completed ADA upgrades at 83 stations across the country.
“It's part of a national program to bring the station up to building accessibility guidelines,” said Jeff Eichenauer, field engineer for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regional Amtrak projects through Jacobs Engineering out of Dallas, Texas. “There are a lot of ADA requirements. It's important to help people with mobility and sight challenges in every way we can.”
As part of the renovations, the Castleton station is getting a new train platform, parking stalls, signage, outdoor deck improvements, updates to the public restrooms, hand rails and a disabled-access ramp with access to the station and bake shop.
A new milestone has been reached by Texas Central following the selection of construction and engineering firm Salini Impregilo to head the civil construction consortium that will build the proposed high-speed train between Houston and Dallas. Salini Impregilo, an Italian firm that is operating in the U.S. with The Lane Construction Corp., and as the lead of the consortium, the company “will be responsible for all work up to the top of the rail, including viaducts, embankments and drainage.”
“Salini Impregilo’s knowledge and experience in designing, building and leading large scale railway projects across the world is impressive, and its presence in the U.S. market with Lane is also strategic for the project,” Texas Central CEO Carlos F. Aguilar said in a press release. “Their inclusion in the consortium highlights the stature of the Texas project and the interest of global infrastructure companies to be part of America’s first high-speed train.”
Texas Central also said that “under the Limited Notice to Proceed (LNTP) agreement, the project’s design-build participants will proceed with the front-end engineering and design of the train's civil infrastructure. Other services include optimizing execution approaches, strategies and logistics, as well as performing analysis to develop construction costs and schedule estimates.
Salini Impregilo has experience building more than 4,000 miles of rail infrastructure around the world, including many high-speed rail projects in Europe. The company expanded its U.S. presence in 2016 when it merged with Lane Construction.
The City Council in Phoenix has placed street repairs ahead of a planned light-rail line to connect downtown with Paradise Valley Mall. It is estimated that it will cost the city $1.6 billion over five years to bring 4,085 of its 4,863 miles of streets to “good” condition. According to a study by the city, 3,227 miles are already in fair, poor or very poor condition.
As a result of the condition of the city’s streets, the council voted unanimously to delay the light-rail project. Since the city is looking at various ways to find funding for the streets, the vote may have ended any possibility of the light-rail’s development in the future. The council also voted to "delay" the northeast light-rail extension, which is currently planned to connect to Paradise Valley Mall in 2036. The council noted that the delay will likely kill that project.
Terminating both plans will allow the city to free up additional money over time.
New Discounts Add Value to Your RPA Membership!
Whether you are from Bakersfield, Bismarck or Boston, Rail Passengers and MemberDeals has you covered! Wherever you live, work or travel across the country, MemberDeals has discounts available for all RPA members.
We are pleased to announce RPA’s new partnership with MemberDeals. Now you have access to exclusive savings on movie tickets, theme parks, hotels, rental cars, tours, Broadway and Vegas shows & more through the members only area of the RPA website. Be sure to check back often as new products and discounts are constantly being added! You must be a member in good standing and be logged in to the RPA website to have access to these internet only discounts.
On the heels of Brightline officials looking to connect higher-speed passenger rail service to Tampa Bay, the city’s mayor has expressed his support of the project in a new Op-Ed in the Tampa Bay Times. Mayor Bob Buckhorn said that Florida already had the chance to connect Tampa and Orlando eight years ago, and due to traffic congestion and long commutes, the opportunity should not be passed up again.
Buckhorn also wrote about the benefits of building Brightline service to Tampa Bay and Orlando.
“Connecting Tampa and Orlando would increase job growth and workforce connectivity. Furthermore, having Florida’s three largest cities connected by higher-speed rail will be good for the entire state’s economy,” Buckhorn wrote.
To read more of Mayor Buckhorn’s Op-Ed and support of Brightline, please visit Tampa Bay Times online.
Join Us for Our RailNation “Beer & Transit” Kick-Off
When: October 18th from 6:30 to 8:30pm
Where: Fado Irish Pub at Mary Brickell Village in Miami
What: "Beer & Transit" is a great networking event for young professionals and public transportation advocates to come share their ideas and interests in the industry. Since it will be held prior to RailNation in Miami, it will see people from all over the country who have a vested interest in advancing passenger rail in the U.S.
In addition, you will have an opportunity to listen to and speak with our guest speaker, David Capelli, Miami-Dade Millennial Policy Commissioner and Co-Founder of #SmartCohort.
Who: Hosted by the Rail Passengers Association
The event is being underwritten by Uber. Additional information and tickets are available at www.eventbrite.com/e/rail-nation-miami-tickets-50499623734
The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) will begin replacing the Buckram Road Bridge, which is often hit by over-height trucks that can’t clear the bridge’s clearance of 10 feet, 1 inch. The bridge sees LIRR’s Oyster Bay Branch trains cross over it daily as trains travel between stations in Locust Valley and Oyster Bay, NY. Each time a truck hits the bridge, the bridge must then be taken out of service for a safety inspection. The replacement effort will see crews raise the bridge clearance by nearly four feet and give plenty of space for trucks and needless delays.
"Fewer truck strikes means fewer train delays and better on-time-performance for our customers," said LIRR President Phillip Eng said in a press release.
The new bridge has already been built off site and will be affixed into place after construction crews take down the old bridge. Crews will begin the work today, October 5 and it will run through October 9. The Buckram Road Bridge replacement is one component of LIRR's $6.6 billion modernization program, which includes more than 100 individual projects.
Upcoming Regional Rail Passenger & State Association Member Meetings and Other Events:
- Sunday, October 7 - Community Q&A On The Southwest Chief - Lamy, NM
- Friday, October 12 - Kansas – Oklahoma Passenger Rail Summit - Topeka, KS
- Monday, October 15 - Toledo Ohio Rail Forum - Toledo, OH
- Saturday, October 20 - All Aboard Ohio 2018 Fall Meeting - Lima, OH
- Saturday, October 27 - Wisconsin Association of Railroad Passengers Fall Meeting - Pewaukee, WI
- Thursday, November 8 - Vermont Rail Action Network Annual Dinner - Montpelier, VT
- Saturday, November 17 - Association of Oregon Rail & Transit Advocates (AORTA) Annual Meeting - Salem, OR
- Friday, December 14 - TrainRiders NE 30th Annual Meeting & Lunch - Portland, ME
Please contact Bruce Becker to have a state or regional event or meeting added to the RPA calendar of upcoming events!
A $217.7 million contract was awarded to Barletta Heavy Division by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's (MBTA) Fiscal and Management Control Board. The contract is for modernizing the Red and Orange lines’ signal systems, which is part of a larger effort by the MBTA to increase reliability of service and improve peak-hour headways between cars. The MBTA is also planning to enter a new fleet of 400 vehicles into service by 2023, which will also help with service performance.
MBTA officials said that when paired with the new fleet of vehicles, the new signal systems will allow:
- Orange Line trains to run every 4 ½ minutes during peak travel hours
- Red Line trains to run every 3 minutes between Alewife and JFK during peak hours
- Red Line trains to run every 6 minutes between Ashmont and JFK and Braintree and JFK.
“Upgrading our core infrastructure is absolutely critical to improving reliability for our customers,” MBTA General Manager Luis Manuel Ramírez said in a press release. “Replacing our signal systems with cutting edge technology will allow us to maximize the performance of our new fleet vehicles, increase capacity, and position us to respond to issues that may impact service faster and with more accurate information than we have today.”
Under the new contract, Barletta will upgrade the existing analog signals to next-generation digital audio frequency track circuits. The company will also be responsible for replacing the current central instrument houses with updated train-control technology on the Red Line's Columbia Junction. Barletta will also upgrade a series of switches at Andrew Station to a modern, remote-controlled crossover. Other Orange Line work includes replacement of all cabling and switch machines from Forest Hills to State Street.
Passenger Rail Service Notices
Current and upcoming service notifications that could affect affect upcoming train travel include:
Weekend Service On Sound Transit
Link light rail service between the Rainier Beach and Tukwila International Boulevard stations this weekend will experience single-track operations and a one-day stoppage while crews make track repairs in the area. During a routine inspection, Sound Transit maintenance crews discovered irregularities in the rails just south of Rainier Beach Station, where light rail trains cross Interstate 5 near the Boeing Access Road.
- Beginning Friday, 9 p.m., light rail trains will operate on a single track between the Rainier Beach and Tukwila stations.
- Starting Saturday at 5 a.m, through Sunday morning, both southbound and northbound tracks between Rainier Beach and Tukwila will close. King County Metro shuttle bus service Route 97 will operate between the two stations during the closure. In addition, Special ST Express shuttle bus service will operate between Rainier Beach and Sea-Tac Airport.
- Single-track light rail service between Rainier Beach and Tukwila will resume Sunday at 9 a.m.
- Full light rail service will resume Monday at 5 a.m.
Amtrak is preparing to accommodate a surge in travelers for Thanksgiving.
Amtrak is prepared to operate every available passenger railcar in its fleet. This means Amtrak is adding extra trains for more seating on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) and Midwest routes, and is adding extra cars to existing trains along the West Coast.
- On the NEC, Amtrak Acela Express and Northeast Regional trains will operate full and extended schedules with additional frequencies and added capacity during the Thanksgiving week.
- Additional NEC trains, including the Keystone (New York – Harrisburg), will require reservations in advance of travel.
- Hiawatha trains will also require reservations between Nov. 20 and Nov. 25.
- Additional capacity will be added to the Capitol Corridor, San Joaquins and Pacific Surfliner routes.
- During the holiday period, the Pacific Surfliner service will also require reservations between Nov. 21 and Nov. 25.
- The San Joaquins train will require reservations between Nov. 18 and Nov. 26.
Passengers on the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner will soon be able to experience the train ride with the use of new locomotives. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency welcomed 14 new Charger locomotives, produced by Siemens in Sacramento. The vehicles will power the next generation of Pacific Surfliner trains between San Diego, Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo.
"The production and delivery of new locomotives and rail cars does more than provide an environmentally friendly way to travel around the state," Brian Annis, secretary of the California State Transportation Agency, said in a press release. "It also directly employs more Californians in well-paid jobs, while indirectly generating more jobs throughout the state's economy."
Caltrans funded the locomotives with $100 million in state, federal and local funds. The units will replace Amtrak-owned locomotives that are nearly 20 years old. The Charger locomotives have also received the Tier IV emissions certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. With the certification, the Chargers are one of the cleanest diesel-electric passenger locomotives in operation.
A Closing Word From RailPassengers President Jim Mathews:
“What a whirlwind few weeks it has been! All of our Members can pat themselves on the back for the energy and effort that has gone into securing a real advocacy win this week.
We have the Chief reprieved for at least a year, we have a strong coalition of congressional support, we have mobilized leadership from both sides of the aisle, RPA members have stepped up and answered the call for more vigorous advocacy, and we’ve cemented partnerships with like-minded groups like Transportation 4 America and Adventure Cycling. In these contentious political times, just a few short weeks ago 95 Senators voted to support passenger rail. That’s remarkable!
We’ve had a lot of highs and lows since this Spring. From the Chief to PTC, from treasured amenities like the Pacific Parlour Car to dining-car menus, we’ve had a lot of change to digest. It has been an especially tumultuous few months for rail advocates, and it has created a lot of anxiety, as well as a lot of progress.
And it’s important to note here that there has been progress. The RFP from Amtrak for new locomotives suitable for the National Network. The Superliner II refresh program beginning to take shape. Commitments from top Amtrak leaders to improve National Network amenities over the long term. Willingness to challenge host railroads over on-time performance. We are being heard.
How much of what you know depends on what you read and how many other messages you get. Sometimes news outlets have done a terrific job of sounding the alarm, and RailPassengers members and staff alike have responded. Sometimes the news reporting has been less than accurate, all the way to downright misleading.
There are a lot of mis-quotes and mis-representations and strange ideas floating around, and we’ll continue to see some of that as the dust settles on a busy advocacy season. Some of what you read in the papers or hear on TV may sound like something it is not. Sometimes our reliable friends don’t sound the way you’d expect. And sometimes things will be true and just not be things with which you agree.
My bottom line to all of our hard-working RPA members: Don’t get distracted and don’t get discouraged. Instead, let’s focus on the facts: We just won a strong victory, and there are more just around the corner!
As I said earlier this week after the Senate hearing, now it’s time to shift gears. We need to take our advocacy energy and turn it towards the coming reauthorization where we can shape a positive vision for passenger rail in the U.S.: fast and frequent trains, 21st Century equipment, and on-time service that passengers can count on. We have unprecedented support and a newly energized group of advocates and partners nationwide. Let’s all get on board together for faster trains...for more trains...for better trains...for A Connected America. Onward!”
Openings Available For RPA State Council Representatives
The following vacancies now exist for state representatives on the RPA Council of Representatives: Alabama (1 opening); California (6 openings); Idaho (1 opening); Illinois (1 opening); Louisiana (1 opening); Massachusetts (1 opening); Minnesota (1 opening); North Dakota (1 opening); Ohio (2 openings); Pennsylvania (1 opening); Washington State (1 opening); Wyoming (1 opening).
If you are interested in becoming more involved in passenger rail advocacy and serving in a RPA leadership role, this is your opportunity to be considered for an appointment by the Board of Directors to an open state representative seat. There is no deadline to apply and submissions will be considered on a rolling basis as they are received.
Please review the position responsibilities & required qualifications and complete & submit a Candidate Information Statement if you would like to seek a position.