January 4, 2019
Government Shutdown Continues; Four Railroads Completed PTC Requirements; Amtrak’s NEC is at Risk Due to Climate Change; Lawsuit Against Brightline Dismissed; WMATA To Improve OTP; AZ Contractors File Lawsuit to Keep Funding for Phoenix Light Rail
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.
The Democrats first action upon taking over the House of Representatives was to pass a bill that would fund the government for the remainder of fiscal year 2019, ending the shutdown. That bill included funding for transportation and passenger rail, including:
- $650 million for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor
- $1.29 billion for Amtrak’s National Network
- $50 million dedicated to bringing Amtrak facilities and stations into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act
- $50 million dedicated to “capital expenses related to safety improvements, maintenance and the non-Federal match for discretionary Federal grant programs to enable continued passenger rail operations on long-distance routes… on which Amtrak is the sole tenant of the host railroad and positive train control systems are not required by law.”
- $300 million for State of Good Repair grants
- $255 million for consolidated rail infrastructure and safety improvement (CRISI) grants
- $221.7 million for safety and operations
- $40.6 million for railroad research and development
- The bill includes critical language that Rail Passengers worked to include in the Senate version: “it is the sense of Congress that—(1) long distance passenger rail routes provide much needed transportation access for 4,700,000 riders in 325 communities in 40 States and are particularly important in rural areas; and (2) long-distance passenger rail routes and services should be sustained to ensure connectivity throughout the National Network.”
- $2.56 billion for Capital Investment Grants for transit
This is a good outcome, and it’s now up to the Senate to pass this bill. The bill doesn’t include money for President Trump’s border wall, and it’s unclear whether the Senate GOP leadership will put this bill up for a vote.
The December 31, 2018 deadline for Positive Train Control (PTC) installation has come and gone, and only four railroads fully met it, while the 37 other railroads, comprising of freight and passenger rail, requested a two-year deadline extension from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The four railroads that completed installation of PTC, a technology that can remotely monitor, slow and track trains, are the North County Transit District, Metrolink, Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corp. and the Portland & Western Railroad.
Despite the low percentage of railroads that met the federally mandated requirement, railroads have made significant gains in installing PTC equipment on routes. In total the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) said that 41,000 route miles are operating with PTC. This is 71 percent of the route miles that must be covered in the federal mandate. Importantly, all 41 railroads required by Congress to implement PTC were able to submit documentation sufficient to meet the statutory requirements to qualify for an alternative schedule for up to two additional years to complete full implementation.
“There have been railroads that have done a better than others in executing this mandate, and a few operators who have done an outright bad job,” said Jim Mathews. “However, we’d be fooling ourselves that shutting down passenger railroads would make travelers safer.”
Out of the 37 railroads that requested extensions from the FRA, 25 are intercity passenger and commuter railroads. The list includes Amtrak, NJ Transit, Metra, Caltrain, New York City’s MTA and more. Of the 12 other railroads that requested extensions seven are Class Is and five are short-line or terminal railroads. Twelve of these railroads have also obtained conditional PTC system certification from the federal government, and this allows the railroad to operate PTC in revenue service.
The implementation of PTC on railroads has been a major topic for half a decade. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has called on the federal government and railroads to equip routes to prevent accidents, injuries and deaths. NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said in a testimony before Congress in February 2018 that PTC could have helped prevent 150 accidents, which caused 300 deaths, since 1969.
To help railroads move forward with PTC installation, the FRA awarded $46.3 million in grants for 11 projects. The FRA said the grants will fund several aspects of PTC implementation, including back office systems; wayside, communications and onboard equipment; personnel training; system testing; and interoperability.
The 11 recipients and their grant awards are:
- Amtrak's Southwest Chief route via BNSF Railway Co. through Colorado and Kansas, up to $9,157,600;
- Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, up to $7,548,335;
- New Jersey Transit, up to $6,542,353;
- Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, up to $5,957,151;
- Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (Caltrain), up to $3,976,560;
- Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink), up to $3,150,000;
- Alaska Railroad Corp., up to $2,530,618;
- Rio Metro Regional Transit District (New Mexico Rail Runner), up to $2,496,842;
- MTA Metro-North Railroad, up to $2,300,000;
- Metra, up to $2,058,163; and
- North Carolina Department of Transportation, up to $584,080.
"These grants not only help railroads continue to make progress implementing positive train control, but they also show that we're steadfast in our commitment to make investments in passenger rail and rural communities," FRA Administrator Ronald Batory said in a press release.
The grants were provided from the fiscal-year 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act and the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program. The CRISI Program was authorized by the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, which funds projects focused on safety, efficiency and reliability of passenger- and freight-rail systems. This was the second round of grants awarded by the FRA under the program; the FRA awarded $203.7 million in PTC grants for 28 projects.
January 2019 Newsletter Now Available
In case you missed it, our January 2019 Newsletter is now available online. Get the latest updates from Rail Passengers staff and our recent advocacy efforts and meetings on the NSRL with MassDOT, Amtrak, All Aboard Arizona and more.
Locations throughout Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor are at risk of serious damage caused by climate change. The findings were revealed in a new three-volume study, “Amtrak NEC Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment.” The study focused specifically on Amtrak’s Consolidated National Operations Center and a stretch of track that runs along the Christina River in Wilmington, DE. The authors focused on Wilmington because of its low elevation, its proximity to the two rivers, and its concentration of critical facilities. The report said that flooding, rising seas, and storm surge are likely to occur by 2050 if steps are not taken now.
To prevent significant damage and loss of use of the tracks in the NEC, the report recommended that Amtrak construct barriers that can block flood waters. The barriers would be temporary and could be installed prior to a storm and removed afterward. The report estimates that the walls would cost about $24 million per track mile and would take 12 to 30 days to put up. The estimated cost of protecting just the Wilmington area would be $78 million.
In a previous interview with Bloomberg, Amtrak executive vice president and chief commercial officer Stephen Gardner said that Amtrak does not “see any fundamental risks to the integrity of the corridor.”
Amtrak spokeswoman Christina Leeds also said that “Elevation or relocation of the infrastructure is likely to be expensive, disruptive, or impractical, and given the current levels of federal and state funding for Amtrak and the Northeast Corridor, well beyond our means.”
The report was completed by two consulting firms in April 2017 - first started by Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. and then Stantec Inc. There is a portion of the report that includes an analysis of risks for the entirety of the 457-mile NEC, as well as the costs of protecting the corridor from flooding, but the information was redacted and has not been made public by Amtrak.
Brightline management has been granted an additional six months to issue $1.15 billion in tax-exempt bonds that the private railroad needs for planned service from South Florida to Orlando. The extra time was allotted by U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper, who dismissed a lawsuit by Indian River County, which wanted to block the bonds. If officials with the county want to continue to oppose development of Brightline service, they can determine with direction to go during a meeting on January 8.
“The court’s decision adds momentum to our efforts of connecting Orlando to South Florida. We remain focused on exploring locations for a Brightline station in the Treasure Coast and are encouraged by the tremendous amounts of support we have received in the region,” Brightline representative Ali Soule said.
Indian River County, along with Martin County, has raised concerns about safety since Brightline first began development, but Judge Cooper’s decision also marks the 10th time courts have sided with Brightline over any of the Treasure Coast counties in Florida.
To develop service between Orlando and Tampa, Brightline is currently in talks with Orlando Utilities Commission, Central Florida Expressway Authority, the Florida Department of Transportation and with private landowners to lease or buy land for rail and stations.
Brightline has also confirmed a timetable for the start of construction of new track from West Palm Beach to Orlando International Airport. Brightline President Patrick Goddard said that the company will issue a construction-start notice to contractors in March 2019 for a second track along a 128.5-mile stretch of single-track from West Palm Beach to Cocoa. There will also be 40 miles of track built between Cocoa and Orlando.
Brightline, which has agreed to partner with and rebrand as Virgin Trains USA, said the construction could take up to 36 months. Once construction and testing are complete, Goddard said that passenger service could begin in late 2021 or early 2022. The rebranding of Brightline to Virgin Trains USA will most likely occur in 2019. Preliminary predictions estimate that service between Miami and Tampa through Orlando has the potential to carry 9.5 million passengers annually.
YOU CAN USE YOUR MEMBER DISCOUNTS FOR EXCLUSIVE SAVINGS
Rail Passengers’ 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.
General contractors in Arizona are pushing back against opponents of light-rail in Phoenix who want to distribute the project’s funding elsewhere. The Arizona chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America (AZAGC) filed a lawsuit to prevent an initiative by "Building a Better Phoenix" to have the city hold an election on the projects funding. If the measure is supported by voters, city officials would halt spending on future light-rail development and put the funding towards projects like increased bus service and upgraded roads.
In their lawsuit however, AZAGC said that “Building a Better Phoenix" misled voters, illegally collected signatures in November by paying petition gatherers by the signature. The group submitted 40,000 signatures to the city to get the vote held. The lawsuit says that “Building a Better Phoenix" neglected to provide voters with appropriate information in its description of the initiative.
AZAGC said that the description used:
- Does not point out that the initiative could affect current light-rail lines.
- Implies that all money that would have been spent on light rail would instead be spent on other transportation projects.
- Only money collected by Phoenix through a transportation tax approved by voters in 2015 would be redirected to other projects — money that would have come from other sources (federal grants, countywide tax money, etc.) will not.
- Implies that the initiative would save the city money, when it only redirects the funds to other projects.
Phoenix has until January 18 to verify all signatures collected by Building a Better Phoenix, after which the court will review the lawsuit.
X Rail Entertainment could begin passenger service of its X Train between Southern California and Las Vegas by mid-2019 according to the operation’s parent company, United Rail, Inc. The proposed service would initially make the trip in 4.5 hours utilizing Union Pacific and BNSF-owned lines, operating one round trip a week to Las Vegas on Fridays and returning on Sundays. The company states that it has assembled the equipment for the proposed service and that the necessary agreements in place. The company also states that the trip time could be reduced to 3.5 hours once infrastructure improvements are completed along the route allowing for higher-speed service. As a final stage of the X Train project, the company plans to open a 500-room hotel called “The X Hotel”, to be built above their proposed Las Vegas train station.
Kathleen S. Baldwin has been selected as the new president of Travelers Aid International (TAI). Baldwin, who is currently the president of Travelers Aid Society of San Diego, was selected by the organization’s Board of Directors and will assume the role on February 11. Baldwin has led the San Diego agency since 2001, and has been a TAI board member for the last 13 years.
Travelers Aid International is a network of 43 Travelers Aid members and locations working together to assist today’s “stranded traveler.” Today’s network consists of members in the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada and Australia. For more info on TAI, please visit: www.travelersaid.org.
Office Corner: We want your membership to be as seamless as possible with the Association, but it’s not always possible when things break or items are delayed. We’ve received a few Frequently Asked Questions this week via phone and email. Here are a few updates to answer any questions you may have.
Why did I get a renewal notice when I already renewed?
We are still working to fix the overlapping renewal requests. Please continue to reach out to us via email at [email protected] or call 202 408-8362 with any issues or concerns. We are happy to help update your information and research the facts to resolve any issues.
Where’s my membership card?
We appreciate your patience as we work to catch up on new membership cards. They are going out as fast as we can process and print them.
Can I share my passenger rail story with you?
- It's the time of year when we reminisce and spend time with family. We've had some very nice calls this week from members telling us of their travels and sharing their memories of growing up traveling by train. Thank you for taking time out of your schedules to talk to us and for continuing to support The Rail Passengers Association. In doing so you allow us to continue working towards keeping and improving rail travel in America. We love hearing from our members and we appreciate all your inquiries! Keep them coming!
After exiting-Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy called out Amtrak for violating its agreement with the state by refusing CTrail ticket holders on crowded Amtrak trains, the passenger railroad said it does so due to safety concerns. CTrail passengers, who can ride either the Hartford Line or Amtrak trains, have been asked on several occasions to leave an Amtrak train and wait for the next arriving train. The number of instances has led Governor Malloy to ask Amtrak to find a solution, such as adding additional cars to its trains to relieve crowding.
Amtrak spokeswoman Beth K. Toll said that Amtrak does not want “to restrict customer utilization of our trains, but for the safety of our passengers and employees, crew members may ask passengers to wait for the next available train instead of creating an unsafe condition, such as standing in the vestibule.” Toll also said, “We continue to work with (the Connecticut Department of Transportation) to resolve the crowding issues that are occurring on some ... trains.”
The Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) said the issue arises during the afternoon, when three Amtrak trains tend to be crowded and Amtrak passengers have reservations for seats while Hartford Line passengers do not. ConnDOT also wrote in a letter to Amtrak in October that two other issues disrupt service: on-time performance and performance maintenance problems. The best solution, ConnDOT said, is to add another Amtrak train.
In a response to ConnDOT, Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson said that Amtrak doesn’t have additional coach capacity to alleviate the crowding. In addition, he said on-time performance “best reflects” customers’ expectations, except for Shore Line East trains due to a lack of mechanical maintenance staff and a reduction of locomotives that have been overhauled.
Ahead of his departure from office, Governor Jerry Brown re-appointed Dan Richard and Tom Richards to the board of California’s high speed rail. Both Richard and Richards are set for new four-year terms, as chairman and vice chairman respectively, to oversee the development of the rail line that will connect Los Angeles and San Francisco in under three hours.
Governor-elect Gavin Newsom will also have a say on the board once he takes office in California. Newsom will be able to either re-appoint or select two other board members as two seats are currently expired. Depending on how Newsom moves forward, his decision could shape the future of HSR in the state. Newsom has not been as strong of a supporter of the rail line as Brown, and would like to focus on the northern portion of the HSR.
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!
State and local officials in Maryland will be able to study how to best connect people to the forthcoming Purple Line, and how to spur economic development around it. The state was awarded a $2 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which also includes determining ways to make sure residents and business owners are not priced out due to the higher rents that are expected once the line opens. Concerns raised about the Purple Line’s effect on local communities has led to an agreement signed last year by government, business and community leaders to help the people who live and work along the route.
The $5.6 billion transit project will run 16 miles between New Carrollton in Prince George’s County and downtown Bethesda in Montgomery County. It is in its second year of construction is is expected to begin passenger service in 2022.
The ski season is officially underway for people looking to hit the slopes at Winter Park Resort in Colorado and Amtrak is providing the transportation to get there. Amtrak's Winter Park Express ski train began seasonal service today and it will run on Saturdays, Sundays and the first two Fridays of each month through March 31. New this year, the train will also include a Superliner lounge car with drinks and snacks.
"The number one thing we've been hearing in the first two years is a request for food and beverage service -- coffee in morning, maybe other stuff coming back and snacks." said Amtrak media relations manager Marc Magliari. "We'll serve that in this car with ceiling to floor windows in it. You an see a lot more climbing up from Denver to Winter Park."
Tickets from Denver Union Station to Winter Park Resort are available online at: Amtrak.com/WinterParkExpress. Fares start at $29 each way.
Amtrak’s popular Adirondack Winter Weekend Getaway fares are back, offering a discounted $45.00 one-way adult fare between any two points along the Amtrak’s Adirondack New York to Montreal route. Valid for travel Thursdays through Mondays, the Weekend Getaway fares are being sold through April 26, with trips to be completed by April 29. No other discounts are applicable (including the 10% Rail Passengers benefit) and other terms and conditions apply.
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! This year’s theme is: ‘Blueprint 2020: Be The Architect’
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 Board Meeting
- Monday, April 1 - Advocacy Summit Speakers, Presentations & Day on The Hill Prep
- Tuesday, April 2 - Day on The Hill Visiting Congressional Offices & The Rail Passengers Annual Congressional Reception
- Wednesday, April 3 - Rail Passengers Council Annual Business Meeting & Elections (Concluding By Noon)
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! Room supply is limited! Don’t miss out; make your reservation today!
Event registration will open Wednesday, January 9! Visit the Event Page for complete information!
Other Upcoming Regional Rail Passenger & State Association Member Meetings and Other Events:
- Saturday, January 12 - Empire State Passengers Association Working Group Meeting - Schenectady, NY
- Thursday & Friday, January 24 & 25 - 15th Annual Southwestern Rail Conference - Dallas, TX
- Saturday, March 9 - New York State Passenger Rail Advocates Meeting & Lunch - Schenectady, NY
- Saturday, May 18 - Rail Passengers Northwest Division Meeting - Cut Bank, MT
Please contact Bruce Becker to have a state or regional event or meeting added to the Rail Passengers calendar of upcoming events!
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) officials in Washington, D.C. have made a promise to passengers to keep improving the Metro’s on-time performance (OTP). The transit agency previously provided customers with a credit for travel if their train was delayed by 15 minutes or more during rush hour. In 2019 however, customers are eligible to receive the same credit if a train is delayed by 10 minutes or more. The program is known as Metro’s Rush Hour Promise and the change is effective as of January 2, 2019.
“Through our Rush Hour Promise, we want to demonstrate to customers that they can have confidence in Metro’s reliability,” Metro General Manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld said in a press release. “With a fleet of new railcars and vastly improved maintenance programs, we are now in a position to make an even stronger commitment to riders.”
Metro’s OTP reached a seven-year high in 2018. In September the agency reached 90 percent out of 3.1 million passenger trips taken. Officials credit the improvement as a result of investments in new trains, expanded preventive maintenance and capital improvements. For the entire year, Metro’s OTP reached 87 percent, also the highest in the past seven years.
To take part in the program, Metrorail or Metrobus customers must use a registered SmarTrip card. If a passenger experiences a rush-hour delay of 10 minutes or more between now and June 30, he or she will receive a Metro credit for future travel. Since its launch in January 2018, Metro customers have received approximately $1 million in credits for trips experiencing a delay greater than 15 minutes, representing 0.3 percent of all rush-hour trips. The expenditure is less than 50 percent of original projections.
Metro is also providing cyclists in the D.C. area with the ability to ride the train with their bikes in hand during peak hours. WMATA will end its restriction on bikes on its Metro trains during rush hour starting January 7. As a result, cyclists can board a train with their bike at any time and WMATA hopes the change will spur new growth. Less than one percent of riders arrived at their station by bike in 2016, but WMATA's board has set a goal to increase the percentage to 2.1 percent by 2020.
"We received requests from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and others in the bicycle community asking us to take a fresh look at our policy," said WMATA Chief Operating Officer Joe Leader. "We believe this change supports ridership growth."
Standard-size bikes will now be allowed on any car at all times, provided space is available. WMATA plans to monitor the implementation of the new policy to determine whether any modifications are necessary.
Passenger Rail Service Notices
Current and upcoming service notifications that could affect affect upcoming train travel include:
Checked Baggage Service To End On Trains #448 & #449
- Effective January 7th, checked baggage service on the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited will end, thus also ending all checked baggage service at Springfield & Worcester, MA. Checked baggage has not previously been available at Framingham or Pittsfield.
- Checked baggage service will continue to be offered at Boston’s South Station, but only on Northeast Corridor trains #65, 66 & 67 which operate south to New York and beyond. Trains #48 & #49, the New York section of the Lake Shore Limited, will continue to offer checked baggage service between New York and Chicago and at other staffed stations along the route.
- Amtrak has stated that storage space will be made available in the Boston section’s sleeping car to accommodate sleeping car passengers oversize luggage which may not fit into their room, but this storage space will not be considered ‘checked baggage’ and will not be available to coach passengers.
Alton, IL Station Service Enhancements
- Effective December 31, 2018, the Alton, Ill., Station has expanded hours of ticket window operation. Amtrak Ticketing and Passenger Services will be available daily from 7 am to 6:45 pm.
- Customers also now have access to the station waiting area and restrooms daily from 5 am to 7 pm.
Paoli, PA Platform Construction
- As of December 31, 2018 Amtrak trains will board from the temporary high-level platforms in Paoli, PA due to ongoing construction.
Van Nuys Station Closed
- Amtrak Pacific Surfliner and Coast Starlight trains will not stop at Van Nuys station on Saturday, January 5 through Sunday, January 6 due to scheduled track work preventing boarding and leaving trains at this stop. Minimal delays are expected during this time.
- Customers who use Van Nuys station for travel can use these nearby stations for their traveling needs:
- Los Angeles: Three stops south of Van Nuys; staffed station.
- Hollywood Burbank Airport: One stop south of Van Nuys; unstaffed station.
- Chatsworth: One stop north of Van Nuys; unstaffed station.
Bus Service between Atlanta and New Orleans on Crescent Route (Trains 19/20)
- Track work being performed by Norfolk Southern Railway will affect Trains 19 and 20 between New Orleans and Atlanta, Monday through Thursday, on the following dates:
- January 7 through January 10
- January 14 through January 17
- January 21 through January 24
- January 28 through January 31
- February 4 through February 7
- February 11 through February 14
- Southbound Train 19: New York to Atlanta Only
- On the dates shown above, Train 19 will terminate in Atlanta. Passengers will be provided bus service from Atlanta to Anniston, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Meridian, Laurel, Hattiesburg, Picayune, Slidell and New Orleans.
- Northbound Train 20: Atlanta to New York Only
- On the dates shown above, Train 20 will originate in Atlanta. Passengers will be provided bus service from New Orleans to Slidell, Picayune, Hattiesburg, Laurel, Meridian, Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Anniston and Atlanta.
- Friday, Saturday and Sunday Service Operates Normally
- On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during this period, Trains 19 and 20 will operate between New Orleans and Atlanta, but may encounter delays along the route due to speed restrictions and freight train interference.
Rail passenger advocates in Michigan are pushing to keep the Pere Marquette Amtrak train running after a study proposed terminating the service. The Pere Marquette runs from Chicago through St. Joseph and Bangor to Holland and Grand Rapids, but the study proposed a "coast-to-coast" rail service from Chicago to Kalamazoo, with connections to Grand Rapids, Lansing and Detroit. From 2007 to 2017, the Pere Marquette, among nine other Midwest lines, was one of two that saw a decline in annual ridership, with a drop of 11 percent, to 93,449 customers. The report said that Pere Marquette's stations do not have a large enough population to attract the ridership that the new coast-to-coast could accommodate.
To counter the decommissioning of the train service, the Twin Cities Area Transportation Study (TwinCATS) passed resolutions in support of keeping the passenger rail line operating, and also recommended a study of connecting the tracks in New Buffalo to increase service. TwinCATS also wants to place an emphasis on getting stakeholders involved in supporting the Pere Marquette.
TwinCATS said that "in the competition for funding, the Pere Marquette could lose if existing stakeholders do not lead the Pere Marquette into a more efficient, reliable and safe future. ... Pere Marquette stakeholders need to clearly state that passenger rail is important."
The future of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief has been called into question recently, after Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson stepped into leadership. Threats included the implementation of a bus-bridge along the route, which was rebuked by Congress. Colorado Springs City Council President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler, who chairs a state commission that has been closely looking at ways to expand service of the Southwest Chief, spoke with KRCC radio about the commission’s efforts and the effects Amtrak leadership has had on the Southwest Chief.
In part one of the interview, Gaebler said that “smaller communities throughout the state of Colorado and then down into New Mexico really depend on this line. We don't have of course air service to these locations and I think it's critical that we find a way to serve them… so I think it's relevant it's important and I wish more people understood the complexities of the conversation and that there there's a chance they could lose their line.”
Part one of the interview is available online at: www.krcc.org/post/change-amtrak-leadership-raises-questions-about-future-southwest-chief.
Part two of the interview is available online at: www.krcc.org/post/plans-front-range-passenger-rail-rolling-along.
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.
"I wish to extend my appreciation to members of the Rail Passengers Association for their steadfast advocacy to protect not only the Southwest Chief, but all rail transportation which plays such an important role in our economy and local communities. I look forward to continuing this close partnership, both with America’s rail passengers and our bipartisan group of senators, to ensure a bright future for the Southwest Chief route."
Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS)
April 2, 2019, on receiving the Association's Golden Spike Award for his work to protect the Southwest Chief