Presidential Infrastructure Package Coming Soon with More Federal Cash; Tariffs Driving Up Cost of Infrastructure Projects Nationwide; Amtrak Responds to Rail Passengers’ Open Letter; Union Pacific Funeral Train takes President George H.W. Bush to Final Resting Place; South Atlanta to Get Light Rail; and Rail Passengers Gives A Detailed Look Inside HQ
December 7, 2018
We Need Your ‘Nose For News’! When you see rail-related news stories, op-eds, editorials, or letters to the editor in your communities, send them along to us! We include them in our social media efforts, along with the weekly Hotline. Send your news items to Bob Brady, [email protected], and we will share it with members. Are you holding a rally, a community meeting, or another kind of rail-advocacy event? We can help spread the word if you send them to us. We can put them on the website, here. Please follow Rail Passengers on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on all things passenger rail.
President Trump’s latest attempt at an infrastructure package is rumored to include a lot more federal cash, increasing the odds that a deal could be struck with the new Democratic leadership in the House.
His first attempt, which would have compelled cities and states to come up with at least 80% of the funding for infrastructure improvements, was dead on arrival in Congress.
After Democrats won the House majority, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D., Ore.), a veteran lawmaker who is in line to take over as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, relayed the following to the White House: “there has to be real money, real investment … [and] it needs to be done soon… This isn’t going to get done without support from the president.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine), who chairs a key appropriations subcommittee that helps set funding levels for existing federal programs for roads, bridges and railroads, also signaled a willingness to strike a deal.
A person familiar with the president’s thinking said he was prepared to spend “buckets of money” on an infrastructure plan as he closes out his first term and prepares for a re-election run—a sign that there could be room for agreement with Democrats -- as long as Trump doesn’t attempt to tie the deal to funding for his proposed wall on the Southern border.
However, Bloomberg reports that Trump’s tariffs are driving up the costs of public works projects across the country. Higher steel prices played a role in bids coming in hundreds of millions of dollars above estimates and available funding to extend the Los Angeles County Metro Gold Line light, according to the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority. While tariffs weren’t the only factor, they’ve raised the cost of several hundred million dollars’ worth of steel needed for the project, says Habib Balian, the authority’s chief executive officer.
U.S. Department of Labor data show double-digit price increases for steel-mill products and other construction materials in the past year. It’s unclear how much Trump’s tariffs will add to overall projects costs but for every $1 spent on highway and bridge construction, 10¢ goes toward steel-related materials, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.
Washington has been unwilling to increase infrastructure spending, says Aubrey Layne, Virginia’s secretary of finance and a former secretary of transportation. “And then here we are, making the cost of that much higher.’’
Rail Passengers Track Update: Where are we and what’re we working on? This new section will give you updates on what Rail Passengers HQ is up to.
Your President and CEO, Jim Mathews, split his time this week between working on internal Rail Passengers matters and representing the American passenger as a member of the DOT’s National Advisory Committee on Travel & Tourism Infrastructure (NACTTI). The 2015 FAST Act created NACTTI to advise the Secretary of Transportation and Congress on travel policy, and we’re working hard to finish our first report – required by law – to be delivered to DOT later this month. Mathews is the only representative for rail on the panel, which includes CEO-level executives from airlines, airports, tourist destinations and providers such as rental car agencies and motorcoaches. NACTTI is looking ahead to help create a national travel infrastructure strategy to foster real mobility across modes throughout the U.S., and the DOT says it wants NACTTI to continue its work in this area. You can be sure Jim will keep rail at the table as these important policies take shape. More on what NACTTI does can be found here.
Sean Jeans-Gail, Rail Passengers Vice President of Policy, and Rail Passengers Board Member Ken Briers attended a preparatory meeting held by the FRA as part of the relaunch of the Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC). This committee was established in 1996 to bring all segments of the rail community—freight and passenger, labor and management—together to develop new safety standards and find solutions for regulatory issues concerning the safety of railroad employees and passengers. RSAC’s charter was renewed for two years on September 10, 2018, and committee members met earlier this week to discuss what safety issues should be addressed in 2019. The Rail Passengers Association holds a seat on the committee to voice the perspective of passengers as a full voting member.
Jeans-Gail also attended a disaster prevention workshop this week that was hosted by the Japan International Transport Institute, USA (JITI) to help U.S. policymakers strengthen railway countermeasures against hurricanes and other disasters. The frequency and intensity of hurricanes, typhoons and other storms are increasing around the globe, and railroad operators are scrambling to understand this new stage of natural disaster, and how to keep these essential systems running in the face of megastorms and other natural disasters. Jeans-Gail spoke with top experts in the international rail community to gather recommendations for what policy solutions exist, and how operators and lawmakers can work together to improve the resiliency of America’s rail and transit networks.
Returning from the Thanksgiving holiday Rail Passengers Director of Policy Research, Abe Zumwalt, has been working with Council Members and local organizations, setting up mailings to notify our national membership base about local upcoming events and calls to action. Feel free to ask us anytime if you need help getting the word out about events, or about upcoming local transit issues needing support! However, most of Abe's time has been preparing a big holiday present to the riders and advocates of the Southwest Chief... it's "under wraps" for now, but look for it next week!
While in town to help Jim with NACTTI meetings, Rail Passengers Northeast Field Coordinator, Joseph Aiello, paid his respects to the late President Bush at the Capitol. While waiting in line for nearly two and a half hours surrounded by strangers, it’s only a matter of time before people get to talking. Joe was explaining what he does for a living to a family nearby when another one of his line-mates asked “Wait, do you work for NARP?” Turns out, he was a lapsed member. After some back and forth on what we have been doing lately (PTC, Southwest Chief, etc.) he asked for Joe’s business card saying, “this is the reminder to reup my annual dues.” You just never know who you will run into!
Carolyn Stagger Cokley, Rail Passengers Director of Customer Programs, is finalizing a “Rail Passengers Travel Review” that will collect your station and on-board experience feedback after every Amtrak trip. This storehouse of comments, reactions and constructive criticisms will give Rail Passengers the opportunity to analyze and evaluate your passenger experiences and report out on travel trends impacting the national network as well as local transportation systems. While the rollout plan is still being finalized, a link will be posted on the Rail Passengers website to give both members as well as potential new members the opportunity to share their travel experiences. Regular reminders will appear in the weekly Hotline as well as the monthly newsletter In his recent open letter to Amtrak's board, Jim Mathews encouraged Amtrak’s leadership, "to go further to modernize Amtrak’s rolling stock and to embrace a wholly customer-centric view.” The data collected through “Rail Passengers Travel Reviews” can be used to further point Amtrak towards that vitally important customer-centric view and become a channel through which Rail Passengers can raise our collective voices. Stay tuned for more information on the Rail Passengers Travel Review, which is scheduled to roll out in January 2019.
Bruce Becker, Rail Passengers Vice-President of Operations, continued coordinating the Spring 2019 Washington, DC Advocacy Summit & Day on The Hill, which is schedule for March 31 - April 3. He secured discounted Group Guest Room Reservations at the Westin City Center, the event’s host hotel. The entire Rail Passengers staff is also engaged in the early planning for RailNation California, being held in Sacramento October 18 - 21, 2019. Bruce was interviewed on Wednesday by local Buffalo, NY media in conjunction with the announcement that New York State DOT awarded the contract for a new Buffalo-Exchange Street Amtrak Station. And, on Thursday, Bruce attended the first public open house sponsored by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA), in support of the Agency’s planned six-mile extension of its popular light rail line to the University of Buffalo’s North Campus.
YOU CAN USE YOUR MEMBER DISCOUNTS FOR HOLIDAY GIFTS! Your membership is more valuable than ever!
Our new partnership with MemberDeals will give members access to exclusive savings on movie tickets, theme parks, hotels, rental cars, tours, Broadway and Vegas shows and more through the members only area of the Rail Passengers website. Be sure to check back often, as new products and discounts are constantly being added!
Whether you are from Bakersfield, Bismarck or Boston, Rail Passengers and MemberDeals have you covered! Our MemberDeals partnership covers venues, services and attractions throughout the country...take a look to see where there might be savings on fun outings near you!
Remember, if you want to use these great internet-only discounts, you must be a member in good standing AND be logged in to the Rail Passengers website. If you need help accessing these discounts, email us at [email protected], or call the office at 202-408-8362.
Rail Passengers Partners With Lonely Planet Guides
They’re the biggest travel-guide book publisher in the world. And now, they’re teamed with us here at Rail Passengers to support our work on behalf of the American rail passenger!
For the month of December, if you buy a copy of Lonely Planet’s Amazing Train Journeys guide, Lonely Planet will donate 15% of the proceeds to your Association. Every donation helps us keep working for More Trains, Better Trains and a commitment to better infrastructure.
Through this beautiful book, you’ll experience 60 of the world’s greatest and most unforgettable train journeys, from classic long-distance trips like Western Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer and Darwin to Adelaide’s The Ghan, to little-known gems on regular commuting lines. It’s the culmination of asking more than 200 travel writers for their absolute favorites.
Some are epic international adventures, others are short suburban routes along stunning coastline. There are incredible feats of engineering, trains that snake their way through mountain peaks, and even those which have achieved Unesco World Heritage status.
More than just a collection, each profile will give you the practical information you need to experience one or more of these epic journeys yourself -- including ticket options, timetables and stops, plus inspiring photos and illustrated maps. It’s all here!
Amazing Train Journeys is available as a book, e-Book or in both formats at a low combination price. And your purchase helps supports your Association’s mission too! Remember, Lonely Planet is contributing 15% of all Amazing Train Journeys sales in December to Rail Passengers! You can order copies by clicking here!
This week, Amtrak Chairman Anthony Coscia wrote to Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews outlining real steps to pursue many of your Association’s customer-focused priorities. Coscia’s letter was a response to Mathews’ October open letter calling on Amtrak’s Board to embrace a bold growth plan for Amtrak focused on serving the entire country.
While we must remain vigilant and keep working closely with our partners in Congress, along with our Mayors and other elected and appointed officials, Amtrak confirmed its broad agreement with us on the need for aggressive action on On-Time Performance, restoration of at least daily service system-wide, growth and expanded service, and the need for new and upgraded rolling stock.
“As you are aware, several of our fleets are close to the end of their useful lives; therefore, Amtrak has begun formulating a comprehensive fleet strategy and is now taking critical steps toward re-fleeting, both on the Northeast Corridor and the National Network,” Coscia said in his letter to Mathews. “...we will soon begin to evaluate the appropriate strategy for our bi-level equipment; your thoughts and recommendations on this important topic would be greatly appreciated.”
Members should know that we are regularly and frequently meeting with Amtrak on all the issues we have outlined in our letter, and that advocacy -- your voice -- is working. We are scheduled to meet next month with Amtrak in the first of several meetings to provide input to the re-fleeting plan and the bi-level equipment strategy.
Amtrak is also well aware of our hopeful and grand vision for more and better service and commitment to the National Network.
“We are eager to grow and expand service to currently underserved cities, corridors and communities across the country,” Coscia wrote. “We are hopeful there will be opportunities for expansion onto new routes in places like Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois.”
Coscia also specifically acknowledged your Association’s continued call for restoration of daily service on the Cardinal and Sunset Limited routes.
“You’ve raised valid concerns about thrice-weekly service which is consistent with the Company’s own view as set forth in our PRIIA-required Route Improvement Plans,” Coscia wrote. “We are looking again at the opportunity for daily service for both the Cardinal and the Sunset Limited. Of course, to do so will require reasonable cooperation from our Host Railroads and available equipment.”
Amtrak also sent Mathews’ letter and Coscia’s response to all employees through a company-wide memo, emphasizing the role our organization plays in advocating for robust investment in passenger rail:
“RPA spends most of its time educating members of Congress and their staffs about the value of passenger rail. This work is important to Amtrak, as the company relies on Congress for significant funding for capital investments. Earlier this year, Amtrak received $1.9 billion from Congress, the largest annual appropriation in the history of the company.”
Coscia’s comprehensive response, and the broad distribution it saw across the railroad, is encouraging; advocates should recognize that they’re playing a role in advancing a vision for a modern rail network. At the same time, we have to be the watchdogs of Amtrak. We have to ensure they do not become too “efficient,” because we know what that really means, and it’s not good for passengers. We should be wary of “rider choice.” Nickel-and-dime fees are the hallmarks of the worst airlines and Amtrak should know this as well as anyone. If they don’t know it, we will be there to remind them, again and again.
Bad service is the scourge that will absolutely push people into their cars. Bad food, no food, old equipment, less frequent services, exorbitant fees or price: these are unacceptable anywhere, whether on the Northeast Corridor or on the rest of the Interstate Passenger Rail System.
We can also never allow prioritization of — or discrimination against — one region over another. Amtrak can’t be allowed to choke the life out of certain routes, intentionally or not.
But that also means advocates need to stop choosing sides, arguing for or against the Northeast Corridor -- which remains a vital part of the overall National Network. We should never take from elsewhere to boost the Corridor, but we should welcome any effort to improve service and the customer experience on any route, and then use that success to push further so that passengers riding anywhere in the Interstate Rail Passenger System get the benefits.
More to the point, riders from Boston and NY and Washington will add to our voice on OTP, Private Right of Action, regular, frequent, safe and reliable service, new and better equipment, and so forth. When Amtrak wants to downgrade food and beverage options, NEC riders will be right there with us and in great numbers.
As Kay Bailey Hutchison once said, it’s National or Nothing!
A locomotive painted in the colors of Air Force One and numbered 4141 departed from Spring, Texas, Thursday carrying the remains of the 41st President George Herbert Walker Bush to his final resting place 70 miles away.
With this final journey, the Bush family reinstates a tradition that has not been seen since the funeral of Dwight Eisenhower almost 50 years ago.Following the deaths of presidents, like Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S Grant, James Garfield, William McKinley, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eisenhower, the funeral train’s journey from town to town proved to be a visual emblem of sorrow and mourning, and a heartfelt way for the American people to honor the office of the president and its legacy.
Union Pacific train number 4141 dates to October 18, 2005, when the locomotive was unveiled during a ceremony at the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the Texas A&M University campus.
Rail Passengers Announce Member Forum and other “Coming Attractions”
by Joe Aiello | Northeast Field Coordinator
I have spent the past few years putting together town halls for the North-South Rail Link in Boston and advocating for transit-oriented development around the Northeast (Hello, Hartford Line!). I can’t help it – it’s in my blood. I am a self-proclaimed “union brat.”
So, allow me to put on my organizer hat for a second and introduce you all to a couple of things that we are going to start to roll out here at Rail Passengers HQ. Our website is the portal that connects all things in our Association’s universe – whether it be the Friday Hotline, upcoming events, ridership data, etc. – and we are making it more interactive.
As you might have seen in the Hotline in recent months, we now have a membership forum through Google Groups. This is a place for you to gather and discuss anything rail related with other members without needing to pick and choose emails through the directory. While you needed a different login through google, we didn’t want it to feel separate and get lost off in the corner somewhere (which it did at first).
Well, that is changing… starting NOW.
Head on over to railpassengers.org/forum and say hello.
You still need to sign up though a Google/Gmail account, but the forum is “in house” now.
The other thing I wanted to talk about is our blog. You might have noticed some familiar names posting the last couple of days. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for? Here are some recent topics we’ve covered on the blog:
- Top Talent Demands Transit, and Employers Are Responding - by Sean Jeans-Gail
- Amtrak Announces Nationwide Roomette Sale - by Bruce Becker
- It's the 21st Century Somewhere; A Postcard from Dijon, France - by Abe Zumwalt
- The Business with the Best Customer-Centric View Always Wins - by Carolyn Cokley
Regular posts from our HQ staff are going to continue for the weeks and months ahead (with a brief holiday hiatus, of course).
And, there’s more to come. I don’t want to give too much away right now; keep an eye out for more information after the 1st.
Joe Aiello | Northeast Field Coordinator
Five-hundred workers from Amtrak’s Riverside call center voiced apprehension, anger and general concern at a meeting called by their union leaders last Thursday.
Amtrak, which opened the call center in 1993, announced Nov. 14 the facility would close, the Mission Grove building sold, and the last day of operation will be Jan. 18.
Riverside workers are being offered a chance to move to Philadelphia and work at the rail service’s single call center. But no relocation expense allocations have been discussed.
Riverside’s local paper, The Press-Enterprise, reports that workers and union leaders are angry, claiming Amtrak is using temporary workers at a non-union call center in Florida who handle heavy traffic days for reservation calls, a claim Amtrak denies.
Formal negotiations between Amtrak and the Transportation Communications Union on relocation benefits were scheduled to start Friday, Nov. 30, said Sal Rodriguez, assistant national representative of the union.
Amtrak spokeswoman Olivia Irvin would not answer The Press-Enterprise’s questions about how many relocations Amtrak expects, and whether this is a move to eliminate union jobs. She also denied Amtrak has opened a non-union facility in Florida, despite statements that Riverside supervisors flew to Florida to train personnel there.
Did you know that the Rail Passengers Association welcomes the donation of stock and other equities in support of our mission?
With year-end deadlines fast approaching, now is the time to consider making such a special stock donation, particularly if you may be subject to any 2018 'minimum distribution' requirements.
Please contact Bruce Becker, Rail Passengers Vice-President of Operations, at [email protected] if you are interested in obtaining the necessary stock donation transfer information.
December Newsletter Available Online
The Passengers Voice December Newsletter features a roundup of Rail Passengers 2018 advocacy efforts, as well as a few things we have on our radar as we prepare for 2019.
The December Newsletter also details the Equipment Committee your Association has convened to develop fleet-replacement recommendations for Amtrak; and several upcoming Rail Passengers Association and State Passengers Association events.
Now that Democrats control the House and the governor’s office, Minnesotans are optimistic that a second daily passenger train from St. Paul to Chicago could materialize.
Though planning is still underway, the train would follow the same route as Amtrak’s Empire Builder. It would travel through Red Wing and Winona and across the midsection of Wisconsin before reaching Milwaukee and turning south to Chicago.
MnDOT is working with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to complete the first phase of the project, which involves weighing costs and potential infrastructure improvements.
The next phase of the project requires state funding to move forward. Rail planners need $4 million in capital funds to conduct an environmental analysis and generate a service development plan.
Requests for the money have gone unfunded over the past two years, though the project could enter its final stages of engineering and construction once this phase is complete.
State Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, said he thinks funding for the project’s second phase is more likely now that Democrats will control the House.
The second train could cost anywhere from $136 million to $168 million, said Dan Krom, director of MnDOT’s passenger-rail office. Minnesota and Wisconsin would be on the hook for the local investment, which could range from 20 percent to 50 percent. Federal grants would pay for the rest.
If planning for the project moves forward, the second passenger train could be up and running as early as 2022.
Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) approved plans for a Clayton County passenger rail line on the south side of metro Atlanta.
The moves are the latest fruit of Clayton voters’ 2014 decision to join MARTA and pay a 1-cent sales tax for transit expansion.
The line would parallel existing Norfolk Southern railroad tracks, using the same right of way and would stretch 22-miles from MARTA’s East Point Station to Lovejoy, via Jonesboro. Construction could get under way in 2023, with service beginning in 2027.
CEO Jeffrey Parker said MARTA is “incredibly excited to take this important step in fulfilling our promise to Clayton County of first-class transit, economic opportunity and community development.”
All regularly scheduled freight and passenger services have been restored on The Alaska Railroad. Service was suspended after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck south-central Alaska on November 30. There were a number of areas along the railroads, about 500 miles of track, that sustained damage, with some track sections deemed impassable.
"We could not be more pleased with the work our crews have done to get the Alaska Railroad back up and running in just over 72 hours," said Dale Wade, The Alaska Railroad Corp.’s (ARRC) vice president of marketing and customer service.
The first post-earthquake passenger train — the Winter Hurricane Turn Train — ran on Thursday and will be followed by regularly scheduled Aurora Winter Trains this weekend. Holiday trains also will resume service this weekend.
Office Corner: We want your membership to be as seamless as possible. Glitches happen, things break and sometimes you just don’t have the time to reach out to us to ask about it. Not a problem; we’ll be sharing a few Frequently Asked Questions with you each week. We get these questions from phone calls and emails and we hope that by sharing them with you here, you might get answers to questions that you didn’t even know you had!
- Where’s my membership card?
- The Rail Passengers card machine was out of service for a week, but it is now back up and running and Rail Passengers HQ staff is working diligently to catch up and get new membership cards out as quickly as possible.
- Why did I get a renewal notice when I already renewed?
- We are receiving calls regarding renewal notices for memberships that are current. We are working to resolve this issue. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 202- 408-8362 or send an email to [email protected] We are happy to check your account and make sure everything is current.
- How can I add people to my family membership?
- Here’s how to add members to your family account step by step:
- Login to our website as yourself
- Click on your name in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.
- A drop-down will appear.
- Click new additional member.
- Fill in the information
- You will also need to create a username and password for the new member which can be changed at any time.
- When you have finished filling all the information click ADD.
- Here’s how to add members to your family account step by step:
NEW PHOTO CONTEST: #ViewsOnATrain
We are now asking you to submit photos of #ViewsOnATrain. This could be of you preparing for your train journey; of your children admiring the view from a moving train; of the crowd waiting on a platform; or of you standing under the departures board at Grand Central.
Photos can be submitted via Instagram, Facebook or Twitter depicting your experience as “The Rail Passenger”. Rail Passengers Association executives will be judging the photos, and the winners’ images will be used as part of our new visual identity on our website, in our monthly newsletter, on social media, and more!
Grand prize winners will receive of 10,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards® points.
Runner-Up photos will also be awarded, including Rail Passengers gear.
When submitting your photos on social media, be sure to use the hashtag #ViewsOnATrain and tag @RailPassengers.
We can’t wait to see your submissions!
Southern California Regional Rail Authority’s (SCRRA) Metrolink announced plans to make a provisional 25 percent discounted fare on the San Bernardino Line the permanent fare price beginning January 1.
Metrolink's board authorized the discounted fare in May to help boost ridership. The move showed immediate results, with the line registering year-over-year ridership gains of 8 percent in August and 10 percent in both September and October, according to a Metrolink press release.
The 57.6-mile, 14-station line — which runs from downtown San Bernardino, California, to Los Angeles Union Station — is one of Metrolink’s busiest routes, averaging nearly 10,000 weekday boardings.
The New York State Department of Transportation has awarded the design/build contract for a new Buffalo (NY) Exchange Street Station. The $27.7 million dollar project, to be completed in the fall of 2020, will replace the current dilapidated former New York Central RR-era facility, with a much larger and modern station at the same site, which will feature an extended high-level platform and which will be fully ADA compliant.
“The new station is going to be night and day over what Amtrak passengers have experienced for many, many years in downtown Buffalo," said Rail Passengers Vice-President of Operations (and Buffalo resident) Bruce Becker.
The Exchange Street Station, in increasingly busy & popular downtown Buffalo, is served by six daily Amtrak trains, including the New York - Toronto Maple Leaf. Based on historical & geographical limitations, the New York/Boston to Chicago Lake Shore Limited does not serve Exchange Street, but makes its Buffalo area stop at the suburban Depew Station location.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has extended the deadline for proposals to operate the $2.7 billion Silver Line extension, which will run 11.7 miles from Reston, Virginia, to Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County, Virginia.
WMATA is providing more time to accommodate the “considerable number of vendors who expressed interest” in the RFP, WMATA officials said in a press release. A conference and four-day tour of the extension’s associated operations and maintenance was attended by 70 people from two dozen companies. An additional 115 others joined the pre-proposal conference through a virtual meeting room, according to officials.
To help those interested in the RFP, WMATA plans to host several online forums to engage further dialogue and provide additional opportunities for clarifications from the agency’s subject matter experts. The new request for proposals (RFP) deadline is March 18, 2019.
Also in Virginia, state transit officials are considering cutting the price of Amtrak tickets for trips within the state in a bid to increase ridership.
A Department of Rail and Public Transportation’s market study estimated that a 15 percent fare reduction would lure an estimated 51,000 additional riders onto trains every year — a roughly 7 percent increase. The move would cost the state $683,000 annually, which represents about 1.3 percent of what the state collects in ticket revenues.
A consultant called the financial impact “absolutely modest,” particularly in light of transit officials’ goals of maximizing ridership over ticket revenue in a bid to get more cars off the road.
State rail officials said they’d like to have the price reductions in place within the first three months of next year, pending further analysis and discussions with Amtrak. They also emphasized that the reductions would only apply to trips within Virginia and Washington on the four trains subsidized by the state, which begin in Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond and Roanoke and travel to Washington.
Have You Ever Said ‘I Wish My Congressman Would Support Trains’? Well, Why Not Come To Washington This Spring To Make Your Voice Heard!
The dates are set for Rail Passengers’ RailNation: Washington 2019 Washington Advocacy Summit, Day on The Hill And Congressional Reception - Sunday, March 31st through Wednesday, April 3rd - and we hope to see YOU there!
Rail Passengers meetings aren’t just for Council and Board Members...they’re for anybody who wants our country to invest in More Trains, Better Trains and a Commitment to Infrastructure. Whether you’ve been a member for decades or you’re brand-new to Rail Passengers...or even if you aren’t a member at all...you should come to Washington in March to make sure YOUR congressional representatives hear directly from YOU about rail and transportation!
We’re building informative sessions and hands-on workshops to make you a better advocate in your hometown. You won’t want to miss it.
The event agenda includes:
- Sunday, March 31 - Afternoon Committee & Board Meetings
- Monday, April 1 - Advocacy Summit Speakers, Presentations & Day on The Hill Prep
- Tuesday, April 2 - Day on The Hill Visiting Congressional Offices & Rail Passengers Annual Congressional Reception
- Wednesday, April 3 - Rail Passengers Council Annual Business Meeting & Elections (Concluding By Lunch)
There’s also a new Host Hotel for 2019...the Westin City Center at Thomas Circle (3 1/2 blocks from the Metro). Discounted Group Rate Room Reservations Are Now Available!
Watch for more information online at www.railpassengers.org.
Upcoming Regional Rail Passengers & State Association Member Meetings and Other Events:
- Saturday, December 8 - All Aboard Washington Annual Holiday Meeting - Tumwater, WA
- Friday, December 14 - TrainRiders NE 30th Annual Meeting & Lunch - Portland, ME - On-Line Registration Is Now Open!
- Thursday & Friday, January 24 & 25 - 15th Annual Southwestern Rail Conference - Dallas, TX
Please contact Bruce Becker to have a state or regional event or meeting added to the Rail Passengers calendar of upcoming events!
Passenger Rail Service Notices
Current and upcoming service notifications that could affect affect upcoming train travel include:
Keystone Service and Pennsylvanian Trains 42 and 43 Holiday Service
Reservations will be required on all Pennsylvanian and Keystone Service trains (including Philadelphia to Harrisburg service) on the following dates:
- Friday, Dec. 21 through Friday, Dec. 28
- Monday, December 31, 2018 through Tuesday, January 1, 2019.
Reservations will not be required for monthly and ten-ride ticket holders.
Pacific Surfliner Weekend Service Change
Track work being performed by Union Pacific will affect the outlined Pacific Surfliner service trains, December 8 and 9 only:
- Saturday, December 8
- 3585 & 4885 will depart later than normal train consult Amtrak.com for specific information
- Train 785 which normally operate between San Diego and Goleta, will operate between San Diego and Chatsworth only. Bus 4885 will operate from Chatsworth to Oxnard only. Train 3585 will operate between Oxnard and Goleta, with regular bus connections north from Santa Barbara. No alternate service will be provided to the missed stations at Simi Valley, Moorpark and Camarillo.
- 3796 & 4896 will depart earlier than normal train consult Amtrak.com for specific information
- Train 796 will originate at Chatsworth and operate Chatsworth to San Diego only. Train 3796 will operate between San Luis Obispo and Oxnard, connecting to Bus 4896 which will operate from Oxnard to Chatsworth. No alternate service will be provided to the missed stations at Camarillo, Moorpark and Simi Valley.
- Sunday, December 9
- 3561 & 4861 will depart later than normal train consult Amtrak.com for specific information
- Trains 1761 which normally operate between San Diego and Goleta will be operate between San Diego and Chatsworth only. Bus 4861 will operate from Chatsworth to Oxnard. Bus 4861 will connect Train 3561 which will operate Oxnard to Goleta. No alternate service will be provided to the missed stations of Simi Valley, Moorpark and Camarillo.
- 3568 & 4868 will depart earlier than normal train consult Amtrak.com for specific information
- Train 768 will operate between Chatsworth and San Diego only. Train 3568 will provide service from Goleta connecting to Bus 4868 operating Oxnard to Chatsworth. Alternate transportation will not be provided for the missed stations of Camarillo, Moorpark and Simi Valley.
A local, newly-formed Wisconsin company wants to raise some $1.4 billion for a commuter rail system in the Milwaukee area.
Transit Innovations LLC, aims to raise about $1.456 billion to create a commuter rail system along 55 miles of existing tracks in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties, and build an estimated 7,000 units of new multi-family housing and other real estate, such as retail and offices.
About 70 percent of the money would go to develop those real estate projects around the 23 rail stations envisioned. Plans show the rail network using pre-existing freight railroad tracks and the system ultimately serving downtown Milwaukee, Mitchell International Airport, the Menomonee Valley, Wauwatosa, West Allis, Brookfield, New Berlin, Elm Grove, Waukesha and the Century City project.
Transit Innovations’ President said the company is in talks with Bombardier Transportation about operating the system. A Bombardier spokeswoman said by email that the Canadian company has “been in discussions with some organizations to possibly take part in the development of passenger rail solutions in the Milwaukee area.” However, officials with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission said they have spoken briefly with Transit Innovations representatives.
As the year nearly comes to a close, Daily Commercial News catalogues railroad and rapid transit projects that have recently started or are in the planning stage in the U.S.
Underway ($s USD):
- Salesforce Transbay Transit Center − Mission Street, San Francisco, $2.4 billion, ground broken in 2008, nearing completion, includes 1 million square-foot transportation hub;
- Green Line Light Rail Transit Extension − Eden Prairie/Minnetonka/Minneapolis, Minnesota, $2.0 billion, 14.5 miles of double track, late 2018 start;
- Purple Line Light Rail Project − Bethesda, Maryland, $2.0 billion, 16 miles and 21 stations, ground broken in 2017 and completion target 2022;
- Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) Expansion Project – Floral Park, New York, $1.8 billion, ground broken in September 2018;
- The Brightline, All Aboard Florida/Miami Central Transportation Hub – Miami, $1.5 billion, ground broken 2014;
- Green Line Expansion – Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, $1.3 billion, seven new stations, ground broken in 2018.
Upcoming ($s USD):
- Texas Central Railway – ‘Bullet’ train between Dallas and Houston, $15.0 billion, 240 miles of track, 3 stations, (Dallas, Brazos Valley and Houston), design/build contractors have been assigned;
- Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail – D.C. and Maryland, $15.0 billion, proposed superconducting magnetic levitation train, target start date 2020;
- Gateway Tunnel Project – to accommodate rail traffic under Hudson River, between Newark N.J. and Penn Station N.Y., $13.0 billion, also includes renovation of an existing bridge, financing and environmental issues remain to be resolved;
- North-South Rail Link Feasibility Study – proposes tunnel deep underground between Boston’s two main railroad stations, goal is to speed up traffic entering and leaving the city, $12.0 billion, target start in 2024;
- Philadelphia 30th Street Station District Plan − transit and other projects atop 88 acres of rail yards along Schuykill River, Philadelphia, $6.5 billion, target start in 2020;
- Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit – North Carolina, from southwest Chapel Hill to east Durham, 18 miles, $2.5 billion, target start 2020 at earliest;
- Brightline Express Project (2nd Phase), Florida East Coast Railroad – Miami to Orlando rail system, $3.0 billion, 235 miles from West Palm Beach to Orlando’s International Airport, Brightline/All Aboard Florida also has plans for a high-speed rail line Tampa to Orlando;
- Northern Colorado Commuter Rail – new commuter rail line to connect northern Colorado to Denver metro area, $2.0 billion, 94 stations, segments of double tracking, presently on hold;
- West Seattle Link Extension/Sound Transit – West Seattle to downtown, $1.8 billion, with transit primarily on an elevated guideway, will include rail-only crossing of the Duwamish River, in long-term planning stage, start target late 2020s;
- Honolulu Rail Transit Project –city center transit line extension, $1.6 billion, 4.1 miles and 8 stations, will possibly adopt Public Private Partnership (P3) delivery model;
- Bottineau Light Rail Transit Project/Blue Line Extension – Minneapolis, $1.5 billion, between Mall of America and downtown, need for corridor sharing agreement with BNSF Railway;
- Purple Line Extension Section 3 – Los Angeles, $1.2 billion, 2.6 miles of track;
Openings Available For Rail Passengers State Council Representatives
The following vacancies now exist for state representatives on the Rail Passengers 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 Rail Passengers 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.