Happening Now

Hotline #1,146

December 6, 2019

Rail news for the week ending December 6th!

A Note to Our Members

Dear Rail Passengers Members:

Due to issues with the U.S. Postal Service, we are experiencing check payment processing times that are much longer than usual. We apologize for any confusion this may have brought for renewing members. We expect this problem to be fully resolved quickly, as we have worked with the Postal Service to find and implement a fix. That’s underway right now.

While we work to sort through this issue, please disregard any renewal notices you receive if you have already sent in a payment. We will update your account in the order in which your payment has been received. For questions, please feel free to email me at [email protected].

Thank you as always for your membership, support, and patience,

Kim Williams - Membership Manager

Rail Passengers Mathews’ Talks to Industry Leaders About Importance of Intercity Rail to Reduce Pollution, Improve Energy Efficiency

The Rail Passengers Association’s Jim Mathews spoke before a crowd of industry leaders about how intercity passenger trains can be used to battle climate change at the American Public Transportation Association’s High-Speed Rail Policy Forum this week, explaining that trains are important not just for their superior energy efficiency over automobiles, but because they shape neighborhoods, cities, and businesses for use by people rather than cars.

The panel, called “Partnering to Save the Planet: Leveraging Technology to Facilitate Conversion to Renewable Fuels and Reduced Energy Intensity,” featured representatives from the electric transmission sector, the business community, researchers, and transportation.

Mathews addressed pollution from transportation, which in the U.S. accounts for over 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. He argued that—with proper funding—energy efficient rail systems can be developed to help cut fuel consumption from the transportation sector, guard against future oil price shocks, avoid costly military operations and bolster national security. Amtrak is 23.5% more energy efficient per passenger-mile than cars, and 31.4% more energy efficient than light trucks. This inefficiency is only compounded by worsening congestion: three billion gallons of fuel were wasted in traffic in 2017, enough to fill the New Orleans Superdome four times over!

[Read our full coverage of the event at “Ride a Train, Save the Planet”]

Amtrak CEO Acknowledges Obligation To Serve Rural America

In an interview on National Public Radio’s ‘Here and Now’ program this week, Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson acknowledged the railroad’s legal obligation to serve rural America with a National Network -- something we at Rail Passengers have been saying from the very beginning.

This is an important acknowledgment as lawmakers in both the House and Senate begin work on the next five-year surface transportation authorization, a measure that will set policy for Amtrak and passenger rail in this country for years to come. Our position, which is gaining support in Congress -- and apparently even in some quarters of Amtrak -- is that a separate funding source needs to exist for Amtrak’s growth initiatives so that the railroad doesn’t have to take trains from one American to start service for another.

Asked by the radio interviewer why Amtrak doesn’t just “do what the airlines do with unprofitable routes,” telling Congress that long-distance trains aren’t part of Amtrak’s core business, Anderson admitted that “no, that wouldn’t be appropriate for Amtrak.”

The full quote: “Well, no, that wouldn't be appropriate for Amtrak because we have a statutory responsibility to provide intercity travel. We also have a statutory responsibility to minimize losses and run this like a business. So we're at an intersection of both a really important public-policy role and the responsibility to be very good stewards. So, we have to have good answers for rural communities. So we take that challenge.”

Rail Passengers is glad to see Mr. Anderson acknowledge the “statutory responsibility to provide intercity travel.” We’re also glad to see that he recognizes Amtrak’s “important public-policy role” and especially glad to hear him declare that “we have to have good answers for rural communities.” This is a subtle but important change from earlier rhetoric, and it’s very welcome.

We at Rail Passengers also have to acknowledge that the ever-present pressure to take cost out of the operation -- as Anderson says, the need to “minimize losses and run this like a business” -- creates a tension between the mission of serving communities that are unprofitable and running the tightest ship possible with the taxpayer dollars entrusted to it.

This is one reason why your Rail Passengers DC professional staff has spent so much time trying to find ways for Amtrak management and congressional leadership to come together to resolve that tension. Important members of Congress, including some Committee leaders, are already exploring with us language that would make it crystal-clear that the mission of Amtrak has to come first. One way to keep that mission top-of-mind is to ensure that Amtrak has funds for exciting growth initiatives, such as the shorter corridor trains and new rolling stock, that protect the National Network from serving as a piggy bank.

We happen to believe that the existing law is already quite clear. In 1978, Section 301 of the Rail Passengers Service Act was amended to read that Amtrak will be “operated and managed as” a for-profit corporation; before the amendment, it said simply that Amtrak was set up to be a for-profit corporation. That amendment was an important change, and it’s still on the books. Congress’ intent in making that amendment was to make the mission first, rather than the profit. Here’s what lawmakers said in the report on the bill: “Section 9 amends section 301 of the RPSA…to conform the law to reality, providing that Amtrak shall be ‘operated and managed as’ a for-profit corporation. This amendment recognizes that Amtrak is not a for-profit corporation.”

We also wish that Mr. Anderson would stop minimizing the value of the National Network in every public appearance, which he went on to do in the radio interview with the encouragement of the interviewer. Rail Passengers CEO Jim Mathews responded to the NPR interview with a message to the program’s producers, and he shared a version of that message in a blog post earlier this week. You can read Mathews’ entire response here at this link.

Freight Railroads Seek to Delay Congressional Action on Freight Train Interference

At a hearing held yesterday by the House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, Congressional leaders looked at how the surge in the movement of goods movement is impacting transportation investment needs—and how the added stress to the system is negatively affecting passengers.

Titled “Where’s My Stuff? Examining the Economic, Environmental, and Societal Impacts of Freight Transportation,” the Committee investigated the way digital commerce has increased demand on a system in a way that’s invisible to most Americans.

“Whether they realize it or not, shoppers who took advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are relying on a vast and complex freight network to provide and deliver their purchases,” said Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR).

Committee leaders also investigated the impact this freight surge is having on passenger traffic on roads and rails, highlighting that more than two out of every five miles of America’s urban interstates are already congested. Sparks flew when Chair DeFazio directly confronted Ian Jefferies, President & CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR), about freight train interference and the harm it is doing to Amtrak Passengers.

[Read the rest of the story at Freight Railroads to Congress: “Not So Fast”]

[Join us in taking action on freight delays!]

Congress Opposes Amtrak’s Binding Arbitration Requirement

US Senator Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut is leading congressional pushback against Amtrak’s new ticketing policy, which prevents passengers from suing the company. Early this year, Amtrak changed the boilerplate legal language for ticketed passengers to prevent those injured in Amtrak accidents or those with any other grievance from suing the company in court. Instead, such passengers will be forced into binding arbitration. Initially, few noticed the change, which would also prevent class-action lawsuits against Amtrak.

But now the revised language has gotten the attention of Congress. Last week, Blumenthal led a group of 13 Senate Democrats, in a letter to Amtrak demanding it “immediately eliminate this anti-consumer arbitration and class action policy.”

The senators said that claims subject to forced arbitration “are relegated to private forums where powerful defendants, like Amtrak, can stack the deck against claimants and cover up wrongdoing.”; “Faced with these daunting odds, many potential claimants decline to file claims in the first place,” the senators wrote. The lawmakers also said the closed-door nature of forced arbitration “lacks transparency” and prevents the public from learning about the causes of accidents that result in major injuries and death.

Amtrak President Richard Anderson wrote the senators a swift and defiant response saying that the company will continue its new policy. Anderson said Amtrak did not develop its arbitration program in order to disadvantage passengers or escape liability or accountability for accidents, but to “expedite resolution of claims and to reduce unnecessary litigation costs.”

“Arbitration provides a resolution in less time — generally well within a year of filing — by avoiding unnecessary discovery and other time-consuming proceedings, and the often years-long wait for a trial date on overcrowded court dockets,” Anderson wrote. “Agreements to arbitrate are desirable precisely because they trade the procedures of the federal courts for the simplicity, informality, and expedition of arbitration.”

Anderson also provided the senators with an accounting of claims against Amtrak from 2015 through this year that shows a vast majority of claims against his company are resolved outside of litigation and those that are taken to court have cost the company approximately $11 million in legal fees. “We believe arbitrating disputed passenger claims under our policy will reduce those costs significantly; that is money that can then be spent in safety programs and other passenger service and care programs,” Anderson wrote.

Blumenthal said Anderson’s is the “typical response” to criticisms about force arbitration. “They say it costs less, it’s quicker, but the rights of plaintiffs are vastly undercut,” the senator said. “Amtrak should not be able to deny them a day in court.” Blumenthal also said he and other Democrats who have asked Anderson to eliminate the new contract language on passenger tickets are not intent on banning arbitration. “We’re just saying (arbitration) has to be mutually agreed to,” he said.

Federal regulations prohibit airlines from imposing a contract that precludes passengers from suing them in “any court of competent jurisdiction.” But those regulations don’t apply to railroads.

Amtrak’s arbitration clause has also caused a stir at a wide-ranging hearing on Amtrak last month by the House Transportation Committee. Top Democrats said they would consider legislation banning forced arbitration clauses for railroads that is similar to the existing ban on forced arbitration clauses for airlines.

Brightline Working To Stem Suicides On Tracks

Despite operating engineers’ best efforts and brand-new equipment in perfect working order, the new Brightline higher-speed service in South Florida this week was reported to have notched a grim record as the railroad with the highest per-mile death rate of any in the U.S., mostly due to suicides.

Brightline President Patrick Goddard calls it “tragic,” noting that his team is doing everything they can to drive down these statistics. Some of those steps are as you might expect, such as working with suicide prevention groups, posting signs with suicide-prevention hotline numbers, putting up fences or plant barriers in problem areas, installing more four-way grade-crossing gates and working with local communities to eliminate crossings at side streets. But Goddard also told the Associated Press that they’re planning to experiment with infrared motion detectors and even drones to keep a watch on the rights-of-way.

The AP reported that the drones would use cameras to spot people lingering near the tracks, which is a common behavior for those contemplating suicide. The drones will carry speakers so that those monitoring the drone feeds can speak to the person in the ROW to avoid tragedy. The monitors would also warn the operating engineers and alert police.

This week Brightline announced it would match a $500,000 appropriation request by Florida State Rep. Mike Caruso aimed at supporting the 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast Helpline. The money will help pay for a comprehensive program of public service announcements, digital advertising, geo-fencing, signs along the right-of-way and outreach efforts.

Brightline and the 211 Helpline are teaming together to deploy a unique outreach tool once a month called Buzz Boxx. The Buzz Boxx is a mobile barbershop that will provide free haircuts at homeless shelters, community events and schools in exchange for signing a rail-safety pledge, promoting mental health education.

“We stand here today with the help of Representative Caruso and the support and validation of Tri-Rail to announce a new initiative with Brightline to combat suicide by rail,” Helpline President and CEO Sharon L’Herrou said in a statement issued by Caruso’s office.

A psychologist quoted in the AP story noted that Brightline may be uniquely susceptible, sadly, for the same reasons many of us are so excited for the new service: the trains are fast, new and brightly colored.

But apart from suicides, Brightline still suffers from impatient people attempting to get across at-grade crossings despite lights, bells, four-way gates and other barriers. While this isn’t Brightline’s fault, naysayers have done their best to capitalize on this to attack the idea of the train service altogether.

We’ll be looking to our Florida members to stand up for this service, which is now expanding to additional stations and making rapid progress in connecting South Florida to Orlando. We need to add your voices -- and your common sense -- to this very tragic but avoidable situation.

Transportation Department Says Changes Coming for Highway – Rail Crossings

In related news, U.S. Department of Transportation announced this week that it will update rules governing highway-rail grade crossings as part of a safety initiative. It will also update oversight and best-practices for states to help prevent deaths from pedestrian and automotive incursions into active rail corridors.

“Grade crossing collisions are the second leading cause of rail-related deaths in America, but nearly every one of them is preventable,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Ron Batory. “The action plans provide states a tool to engage with federal and local partners, railroads, and rail safety advocates to identify high risk crossings and develop strategies to save lives.”

The FRA has issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making that would require states implement new and updated highway-rail grade crossing action plans within a year of the rule going into effect. Upon receiving approval from the FRA, the state action plans will be used to prioritize infrastructure and equipment investments at railway crossings and open up additional sources of federal investment.

The vast majority of crossing incidents result from pedestrians accessing unauthorized parts of an active rail corridor, or a driver or pedestrian trying to beat a train at a marked crossing—sometimes knowingly, often times not. For the latter scenario, the FRA has released guidance that focuses on “the physical and operational improvements that can be made at highway-rail grade crossings to enhance the safety and operation of both highway and rail traffic over crossing intersections.”

Congress Makes (Slow) Progress on Transportation Budget

Leaders in the U.S. House and Senate are inching closer to a budget deal for the overdue Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations bills. For transportation, that means an increase in funding for Amtrak and the enactment of a number of proposals designed to ensure quality service on-board and at stations.

Leaders on the appropriations committees have agreed on top-line numbers for the FY2020 budget, and are assembling a subset of the 12 annual appropriations bills to pass before the December 20 deadline. Transportation funding is reported to be included in that first round of bills.

Salt Lake City’s TRAX turns 20

Earlier this week, officials in Salt Lake City celebrated the 20th anniversary of the opening of Transit Express (TRAX), the light rail system that serves SLC and it’s suburbs throughout Salt Lake County. Chairman of the Utah Transit Authority Carlton Christensen, who was a City Councilor at the original celebration in 1999, spoke of the criticism and challenges year ago but highlighted TRAX success by stating that “as you look down Main Street now, it’s obvious we did the right thing”. Murray, UT Mayor Blair Camp praised the system for allowing for growth outside of the city’s core and said that the Intermountain Medical Center is in Murray due to it because it “being such a great location for transit”.

After seven separate expansions from the original straight line connection between Sandy, UT and downtown Salt Lake City - including connections to the University of Utah and the airport, ridership has grown from 1 million in its first year of operation to 293.4 million in 2018.

Virgin Trains Gets Support from Clark County

Virgin Trains’ $4.8 billion plans to connect Las Vegas with Southern California got a big push this week as the Clark County Commission in Nevada voted unanimously to endorse the company’s plan to obtain industrial development bond financing. To fully fund the construction of the 170-mile passenger rail route, Virgin (formerly Brightline) is seeking $950 million in private activity bonds - the same method they used to for construction in Florida.

County Commissioner Michael Naft spoke about not only the transit benefits of the project, but what it will mean for jobs for local residents. “We’re talking about more than 1,000 (construction) jobs in Clark County,” Naft said. “Once the train station is open and operational, there will be a continuation of about 400 Clark County (resident) employees working on site.”

The County will not be financially responsible for any part of the project, which was a highlight of the Commission’s endorsement, and Virgin Trains’ is putting up a separate $50,000 to cover the administrative cost of the application for approval of findings.

Metro North To NJ Transit – Provide Full Service

New York’s Metro North Railroad recently fired a shot across the bow of New Jersey Transit (NJT), aimed at getting NJT to resume the operation of two express trains suspended in June 2018 on Metro North’s ‘West of The Hudson’ Pascack Valley line. NJT operates this service and the Port Jervis line into New York’s Orange and Rockland counties under a $25.2 million contract for Metro North.

Starting in January, Metro North will begin withholding an additional 5% of its operating support to NJT, for a total of 15% of the funds it pays for the operations. Metro North started withholding an initial 10% in December 2018, which still remains in escrow.

In addition to the suspended trains, Metro North has is also complaining about the number of train cancellations in recent months. In a recent letter to NJT, Metro North President Catherine Rinaldi said “I write because I was both surprised and disappointed to hear there remains absolutely no time frame for restoring two Pascack Valley Line trains that were temporarily suspended on June 4, 2018,”…“Indeed, NJ Transit was even unable to commit to which quarter in 2020 you expect Pascack Valley express trains to be restored.”

NJT has stated that PTC installation is the reason for the ongoing cancellations, though Metro North notes that PTC-related suspensions on other NJT lines have since been restored. Last month, NJ Transit’s PTC contractor, Parsons Inc. said the safety system’s full implementation was going to be delayed by 5 months, a software problem pushing back the start of revenue service testing to March 2020.

And apart from PTC issues, NJT has been suffering from wide-spread crew shortages across its network and is reportedly working to rebuild train operation staffing. In September, NJT officials stated, “Rail Service Planning staff are analyzing staffing and equipment resources to determine restoration dates.”

Regional Transit-Related Bill Up For Debate in Michigan

Lawmakers from counties in Metro Detroit are hoping to pass a change to the 2011 Michigan Municipal Partnership Act that would lift tax caps and change the ways proposals are placed on the ballot in an effort to increase funding for public transportation. The 2011 Act allows local governments to group together to levy property taxes in an effort to offer more “efficient joint public services”.

A number of current and former county lawmakers, as well as local business leaders, has testified in favor of the bill. David Woodward, a Royal Oak Democrat who chairs the Oakland County Board of Commissioners, stated that this is the “right tool at the right time” and that the bill would help spur critical economic growth for the region. Jared Fleisher, vice president of government affairs for Quicken Loans, cited the lack of reliable transit options as one of the main reasons Detroit was not chosen by Amazon during its second headquarters search.

The legislation, of course, is not without its opposition. Some Republican lawmakers are arguing that would result in an “open line of credit” for Wayne County (Detroit) and that lifting the property tax cap for transportation funding is creating a “tool of foreclosure and taxing” those who can least afford it.

Atlanta BeltLine Secures Builder for Southside Trail

During 2019’s final quarterly briefing held this week for the Atlanta Beltline, CEO Clyde Higgs and Atlanta City Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd announced that a contractor has been secured for construction of a segment of the 4.5-mile multi-use Southside Trail -- originally purchased from CSX in March of last year.

Astra Group Inc. who had previously done work on other sections of the project, is now tasked with building out the path between University Avenue and Pittsburgh Yards. This comes after the news that the project had been turned down for a $16 million federal grant that would have allowed for construction to start on a 1.5-mile leg at the easternmost part of the trail.

Season of Giving

As we near the end of the year, you may be considering your end of year philanthropic choices. We ask you to support the Rail Passengers Association. As a charitable organization, we rely on the generosity of others so that we can continue being the voice of the passenger. As the only national organization that consistently advances the cause of commuter rail, regional rail, and inter-city rail as well as Amtrak’s national network trains, our concerted efforts have saved national routes from what once seemed to be certain demise and have prevented many of the worst cuts that had been planned to sought-after services such as food offerings and sleeping car accommodations.

We need your help so that we can continue to advocate for the country’s 40+ million rail passengers. To donate with a credit card, click on the image below. You can also mail in a donation, written out to the Rail Passengers Association at 1200 G Street NW, Suite 240, Washington, DC 20005, ATTN: Jonsie Stone/EOY. Please include “EOY Donation” in the check’s memo field. If you live in the DC area, please feel free to drop a donation off at the same address.

Click the image below to donate!

Rounding Up This Week’s Social Media Highlights

This week our Top Posts included SD DOT’s sale of state own tracks as covered by our SD Representative Dan Bilka, Jim Mathew’s blog on Amtrak’s Good Stewardship, and what #givingtuesday means for our community. Join the digital conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Quotes of the Week:

“In the last month I’ve flown on two trips and trained it for one. Give me the trains any time. I rode Acela today from Wilmington to NYC. Was very comfy and a nice ride. I’d like to go Washington to Boston sometime.” - Christopher Capobianco

“You guys do amazing work! I'm asking for a gift membership to your organization this year for Christmas, and I will be so proud to join you!” - Ryan Green

Tell Us What’s Happening Where You Live!

When you see rail-related news stories, op-eds, editorials, or letters to the editor in your communities, send them along to us! We will include them in our social media efforts, along with the weekly Hotline. Send your news items to Joe Aiello at jaiello[at]narprail.org, 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.

Rail Passengers Track Update

Where are we and what are we working on? This section will give you updates on what Rail Passengers HQ is up to.

  • Jim Mathews, President & CEO, spent considerable time this week on internal business matters but found time to respond to Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson’s NPR radio interview (read the response elsewhere in the Hotline). Jim also appeared on a panel at the 6th annual High-Speed Rail Policy conference in DC, put on by the American Public Transportation Association, to talk about rail’s role in addressing the climate crisis.

  • Sean Jeans Gail, Vice President of Policy, attended the 6th annual High-Speed Rail Policy conference in DC, helping prepare the policy notes for Jim Mathew’s speech on the environmental benefits of rail. He also attended Congressional hearings on federal freight policy and worked with legislators to advance a legislative response to growing delays.

  • Carolyn Cokley, Director of Customer Programs, has used the week preparing for the December 14 open house in Fort Worth, TX and looking forward to engaging with the Fort Worth community and recruiting advocate volunteers to staff the station.

  • Joseph Aiello, Field Coordinator, is getting back into the swing of things after spending the last two weeks in Australia. Joe assisted staff on social media outreach for #givingtuesday as well helping Madi set up meetings for a southern trip in January. He is also looking forward to catching up with local and regional activists at a number of year-end meetings over the next few weeks.

  • Madi Butler, Grassroots Organizer, spent time working on the #givingtuesday campaign this week as well as coordinating upcoming mayoral meetings in Mississippi and Alabama. Madi is heading to Fort Worth, TX next Saturday to provide support to the Station Volunteers Open House.

  • Bruce Becker, Vice-President of Operations, is pleased to announce that discounted group-rate room reservations for RailNation:DC - Rail Passengers 2020 Advocacy Summit, Day on The Hill & Congressional Reception - are now available. This year's event host hotel is the Embassy Suites Alexandria Old Town, which is adjacent to the King Street Metro and Alexandria Amtrak stations. Event registration will be availabe starting December 13th.

  • Jonsie Stone, Director of Resource Development, spent a fair amount of time this week shepherding the Association’s Giving Tuesday campaign. As of this morning $5,037.50 was raised through our Giving Tuesday efforts. Well done everyone! Thank you for your support! The Giving Tuesday link remains open for your contributions, https://bit.ly/2DOFTzh

  • Kim Williams, Membership Manager, spent the earlier half of the week with family for Thanksgiving and the latter half troubleshooting errors with several of our external partners. Thanks to everyone who donated for Giving Tuesday!

The Rail Passengers Association would like to thank our Annual Partners for their support.

We are excited to welcome Texas Rail Advocates as our newest Annual Partner. The Southwestern Rail Conference is hosted by Texas Rail Advocates, the largest grassroots, non-profit organization in Texas that promotes smart development of freight and passenger rail throughout the Southwest. To learn more about the Conference please click the image below.

RailNation:DC - Rail Passengers’ Spring 2020 Advocacy Summit, Day on The Hill & Congressional Reception

Sunday, March 29 - Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Day on The Hill & Congressional Reception - Tuesday, March 31

Host Hotel - Embassy Suites Alexandria Old Town (Adjacent to the King Street Metro & Alexandria Amtrak Stations)

On-Line Discounted Group-Rate Guest Rooms Are NOW Available!

Make Your Reservations & Travel Plans Today.

RailNation:DC Event Registration Will Open On December 13th!

Upcoming Regional Rail Passenger & State Association Events

Please contact Bruce Becker to have a state or regional event or meeting added to the Rail Passengers calendar of upcoming events!

Passenger Service Notices

Flagstaff Station Hour Changes

Effective December 2, 2019

Please be advised that beginning Dec. 2, Flagstaff station ticket office and waiting room hours will be reduced.

New Ticket Office Hours:

Daily 7:15 pm to 6:30 am

New Waiting Room Hours:

• Visitor Center: Monday-Saturday 8:00 am to 5:00 pm

• Visitor Center: Sunday 9:00 am to 4:00 pm

• Waiting Room: Daily 7:00 pm to 7:00 am

Waiting Room Closed:

• Monday-Saturday 7:00 am to 8:00 am and 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm

• Sundays 7:00 am to 9:00 am and 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm

Baltimore Station Restrooms Temporarily Closed

Effective Dec. 9 through 20, 2019

Due to a restroom refresh, the Baltimore station restrooms will be temporarily closed from Dec. 9 through Dec. 20.

Passengers will not have access to restrooms inside the station during this time. There will be a restroom trailer outside of the Charles Street exit. There will be signage and Amtrak employees in the station to assist with directions.

Jefferson City, MO Station Waiting Room Temporarily Closed

Effective Immediately

Due to structural problems with the station building reported to us by the building owner, the Jefferson City, MO station waiting room is temporarily closed until further notice. Trains will continue to stop at the station and passengers will have access to platforms.

Passengers will not have access to the inside of the station or restrooms during this time. City volunteers will be on site to help with questions or directions during scheduled train times. Be sure to dress warmly and be prepared to use portable lavatories. Rather than waiting for trains outdoors, please use the Amtrak app or other means to check train status while waiting in a personal vehicle.

Keystone Service Schedule Changes

Effective Dec. 7, 8, 14 and 15, 2019

Due to track work being performed along the Keystone Service line, some schedules will be affected on the weekends of December 7-8 and 14-15.


  • Train 611, 615, 661, 663, 667, 669 and 671 will operate 7 minutes later from Exton to Harrisburg.

  • Train 665 will operate 5 minutes earlier from Philadelphia to Paoli and 2 minutes later from Exton to Harrisburg.

Ashland, VA, Station Platform Update

Effective through Fall/Winter 2020

Beginning mid-October, Amtrak will begin construction to upgrade platforms at the Ashland station in order to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The platforms and passenger loading areas will be raised, although a lift will still be required for passengers with mobility disabilities to board the train. Additional lighting will be added to the east side of the platform. Below is a rendering of the final improvements as seen from the south end of the platform facing north.

Ashland, Va

Construction will be performed in two phases, updating the southern portion first and then the northern portion. The Visitor Center inside the train station will continue to be open and Amtrak trains will continue to serve Ashland during construction.

Parking in certain areas will be limited during the different phases of construction. Please refer to the parking information page http://www.ashlandva.gov/562/Parking-Information for updates on parking throughout the project.

For updates about the project visit https://www.amtrak.com/stations/asd.html

TravelReviews submitted as of 12/6/19 - 1,001

Travel Tip of the Week

Give the Gift of Amtrak Travel

I am sharing with you, this week, my, “learn something new today”. I did not know that Amtrak offers a gift card. So, if you are stumped for a gift for a traveling friend or family member, an Amtrak gift card can be the answer.

Whether it’s for your newly retired aunt who has a travel bucket list or your college bound brother who could use the extra trip or two back home next year, they will appreciate the thought and will enjoy the ride.

Cards can be purchased online at Amtrak.com or through select third-party retailers. You may purchase physical and electronic Cards online via the following website: https://amtrak.cashstar.com/store. Cards purchased on the Website are sold by CASHSTAR, which is not affiliated with Amtrak.

Amtrak gift cards:

  • Can be purchased in an amount up to $500
  • Have no fees
  • Never expire
  • Can be emailed or sent through the mail
  • Can be redeemed online, in the app, by phone or in the station
  • Cards may not be reloaded with additional value.

Gift Card Terms & Conditions

Your Feedback is Important to Improving American Passenger Trains

As you travel, please help us promote the Travel Review with other rail passengers. As you encounter passengers who want to make their positive and negative opinions known, please direct them to www.railpassengers.org/Travel Review. All participants will remain anonymous. If you encounter any problems with the Travel Review, or have any questions, please send an email to [email protected]

Do You Need More TravelReview Feedback Cards?

Please help us to spread the word. We need your help in engaging other passengers when you travel and let them know that their feedback is welcomed by RailPax. To facilitate this sharing of information the TravelReview Feedback Card is now available for you to download and print for regular usage. The card can be given to fellow passengers to introduce the work that RailPax is doing as well as our desire to have their feedback. The cards can also be left behind in stations as you pass through.

The template is in a .pdf format and will open in Adobe document cloud. First download the file and save it to your desktop for easy access. Then print as needed. The original template is formatted for Avery 5871 or 5371 cardstock which are both 2” x 3½” business card formats. Any brand cardstock should function as long as the dimensions match.

If you experience any problems in accessing the file, please send an email to [email protected]

Lonely Planet's Amazing Train Journeys

Planning a holiday-season vacation including trains, or looking for a great holiday gift idea, then you need a copy of Lonely Planet’s ‘Amazing Train Journeys’ guidebook! And with every purchase Lonely Planet will donate 15% of the proceeds to your Association, to help 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 to Rail Passengers! You can order copies by clicking here!