Happening Now

Hotline #1,148

December 20, 2019

Rail news for the week ending December 20th1

NOTICE: There will be no Hotline for the next two weeks as our staff travels to spend time with friends & family.

From all of us at the Rail Passengers Association office, we wish you and yours a happy & healthy holiday. We will see you all in 2020!

Virginia Unveils Remarkable Investment Program for State Passenger Rail Network

The Commonwealth of Virginia unveiled a stunning $3.7 billion investment program that will dramatically expand service across the state rail network, while simultaneously creating a pathway to separate passenger and freight operations on the Richmond – Washington, D.C. corridor.

“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make our rail system work better for everyone, both in Virginia and along the entire East Coast,” said Governor Ralph Northam (D) at yesterday’s event announcing the plan. “This agreement will change the future of transportation in Virginia, improving our ability to move people and goods across the state, and opening up potential rail service in underserved parts of the Commonwealth.”

The Commonwealth and CSX will work to finalize a definitive agreement, with help from Amtrak. The funding will come from a mix of sources, including Virginia’s transportation-dedicated sales tax revenue, federal monies, $944 million from Amtrak, and other local sources. Execution of the agreement will begin before the end of 2020, and includes a number of game-changing projects, including:

  • Building a new Virginia-owned Long Bridge across the Potomac River, with tracks dedicated exclusively to passenger and commuter rail;

  • Acquisition of more than 350 miles of railroad right-of-way and 225 miles of track; and

  • 37 miles of new track improvements, including a Franconia-Springfield bypass.

“It's a great example of what can be done when states, local governments and industry come together to work out a win-win for everyone,” wrote Rail Passengers’ Jim Mathews. “This country is dotted with unused or lightly used rights-of-way that could form the basis of a new generation of passenger service. Selective investments in projects like this one could transform passenger rail in the U.S.”

This ROW acquisition mirrors a proposal Rail Passengers has outlined in our transportation reauthorization proposal, which you can access at RailPassengers.org/Blueprint. In it, we recognize that the creation of a passenger-dedicated corridor allows for a number of dramatic service improvements, and call on Congress should create a federal grant program that would allow states and municipalities to purchase abandoned and underutilized corridors from freight railroads. (It’s also worth noting that it’s likely none of this would have happened if Virginia’s legislature had not approved a bipartisan transportation fund that utilizes not just fuel taxes, but sales and use taxes.)

According to the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, the improvements specific to this invest program, scheduled to be phased in over the next 10 years, include:

  • Doubling the number of Virginia Amtrak trains;

  • Providing nearly hourly Amtrak service between Richmond and Washington, D.C.;

  • Increasing Virginia Railway Express (VRE) service by 75 percent along the I-95 corridor, with 15-minute intervals during peak periods and adding weekend service;

  • Increasing Amtrak service to Newport News and allowing for improved schedule of the third Amtrak train to Norfolk;

  • Laying the foundation for Southeast High Speed Rail through the acquisition of the abandoned S-Line which runs from Petersburg into North Carolina; and

  • Preserving an existing freight corridor between Doswell and Clifton Forge for future east-west passenger service.

West Virginia's Leaders Announce Last-Minute Reprieve for MARC Commuter Rail Service in the State

West Virginia announced a last-minute agreement with the State of Maryland yesterday to continue Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) Train service to the Eastern Panhandle of the state.

At a press conference held in Martinsburg Railway Station – the end-of-the-line for MARC in West Virginia – state and local leaders praised the work of the diverse, bipartisan coalition for securing $3.4 million requested by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) to continue service in West Virginia in 2020.

“I am grateful beyond belief to all who had a hand in pooling together the funding that we needed to keep this vital connection between our state and Washington D.C. alive,” said Governor Jim Justice (R). “Hundreds of West Virginians and several businesses use this important service every day and I’m fully committed to keeping it running in our state for many years to come... My administration is committed to finding a permanent funding solution. We realize that our Eastern Panhandle is an economic driver in our state and the MARC Train is a big part of that.”

Congress Passes Budget, With Increase for Amtrak and Key Policy Wins

A $1.4 trillion funding bill is headed to the White House, where President Donald is expected to sign the measure into law, narrowly avoiding a government shutdown just days before the Christmas break.

Amtrak was a clear-cut winner, with appropriators budgeting $2 billion for the railroad, an increase of $58 million over last year. The bill also contains a number of important policy wins that Rail Passengers fought hard for, including protections for the National Network, directions for Amtrak to work more closely with groups like ours, a funding set aside for new equipment, restoration of station agents, and more.

However, the bill takes a step back in several areas, with $586 million in cuts to funding for key rail and transit programs below FY2019 levels—equivalent to a 3.6 percent drop in funding. Rail grant programs supporting new and improved service suffered significant cuts. While the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure & Safety Grants got through relatively unscathed, the Federal State of Good Repair program was cut in half compared to FY2019 levels. Similarly, the Capital Investment Grants program—a critical tool used to launch new transit rail services—lost over half a billion dollars in funding.

While the grant funding was disappointing, overall the bill lays a solid groundwork for FY2021 and the upcoming reauthorization, and should give passengers hope for better things in the coming year.

For more, check out Rail Passengers reporting on our blog.

First Segment of the Purple Line to Open in 2022

Transit officials in Prince George’s County, Maryland announced this week that a five-mile stretch of the Purple Line between New Carrollton and College Park stations will open for revenue service in two years, with the remaining 16-miles opening six months later. The first segment - opening in late 2022 - will link Metro’s Green, Yellow and Orange lines, as well as MARC commuter rail’s Penn and Camden lines. It also will serve the Amtrak station in New Carrollton.

After an unsuccessful lawsuit and delays pushed back the original plan to open the entire 21-station line in the spring of 2022, Maryland Transit Administration’s Charles Lattuca announced a two-phase approach back in September so they could “get some Purple Line benefits by the end of 2022”. Even with limited service for the first six months, many elected officials have been praising the announcement. College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn said that he understands the current challenges but that “people in College Park are very excited about seeing the Purple Line come”.

USDOT Announces Grant for Sound Transit

Members of the Washington congressional delegation announced this week that the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is taking a number of steps to award funding for Sound Transit's Federal Way Link Extension in Seattle. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) transmitted a $790 million Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) for the light-rail project while Congress approved $100 million in FY 2019 Capital Investment Grant funding that will represent the first installment of the grant. The USDOT also notified Congress of its intent to close a $629.5 million Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan for the project. The agreement will save regional taxpayers between $200 and $300 million in borrowing costs over the life of the bonds

Sound Transit Board Chair and Redmond Mayor John Marchione praised the hard work and advocacy of the delegation in DC and that this was a “vital step to transform people's commutes and build a more prosperous future for the region." Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell commented that this project will “transform our downtown for generations.”

Trains on the nearly 8-mile light rail extension from Angle Lake in SeaTac to Federal Way will serve three stations along the route in Kent/Des Moines, at South 272nd Street and at the Federal Way Transit Center. Demolition and utility relocation work began this fall, and construction is set to begin in early 2020. Sound Transit will expand light rail in a series of phases, forming a 116-mile regional system by 2041.

‘Unanswered Questions’ Linger Over Mobile’s Amtrak Commitment

A Mobile, AL city committee meeting this week kicked up a number of concerns regarding the current effort to bring passenger trains back to the region. The council met on Thursday to review a proposal to use $3 million in city funds over three years to help cover the operations cost of Amtrak service between New Orleans and Mobile that would return starting in 2023. Mobile City Councilman Joel Daves questioned not only what the city’s initial commitment would be but also “what happens after the first three years?”

The city is expected to vote on a “letter of intent” resolution at its final meeting of the year on December 31st. The resolution is likely to include a host of contingencies that absolve Mobile from obligating the city toward a full financial backing of the Amtrak project - especially since there is a question of how much it will cost to build a new station for passenger service and just how improvements from the Mississippi line to Mobile will be handled.

The timing of the vote is very important, as is the city’s commitment to the project, due to a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) deadline on January 6th for matching funds to be dedicated toward a Restoration and Enhancement (R&E) grant. That grant will be paying the bulk of the operational costs for this project.

The states of Mississippi and Louisiana have already pledged funds for the Gulf Coast rail project, but Alabama has been been the lone hold out. AL Governor Kay Ivey has withheld support of the project and recently raised questions on the impact passenger trains would have on freight coming in and out of the State Port. This concern is shared by other officials such as Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson and State Port Authority CEO Jimmy Lyons. Stimpson said that he is interested in hearing public comments on the freight impact “so we don’t stumble on this thing.”

Even proponents of Gulf Coast passenger rail understand that this is a major sticking point for many. Wiley Blankenship, president & CEO of the Coastal Alabama Partnership and a member of the Southern Rail Commission (SRC), said that the location of the potential station (at the Brookley Aeroplex, instead of downtown) would not put any commercial activity in and out of the Port at risk. “The Port is a priority for me above passenger rail,” said Blankenship. “If I felt that operating the train at Brookley would jeopardize the Port, I would not be standing here today. I would ask the governor to remove me from the office, and that I cannot serve.”

Metrolink To Add Millions of Jobs Over Next 30 years

Metrolink commuter rail service, will add 1.3 million jobs and inject about $684 billion into the local economy through 2050 as a result of its rail improvement program, according to a report from the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation released last week.

Preparations for the 2028 Olympics include a nine-year construction program focused on track additions, station improvements, better signals and grade crossings to improve safety, as well as scheduled departures every 30 minutes for every line throughout the day according to Paul Gonzales, spokesperson for Metrolink.

“We will have millions of people coming here (during the Summer Olympics) and we want to have a first-class system,” Gonzales said. “But the people of Southern California will have this for their usage for decades to come.”

The heavy-rail line says the benefits will reduce 3.4 billion vehicle miles traveled between 2023 and 2078, also eliminating 515.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in the same time period. CO2, produced as a result of the combustion of fossil fuels, is the most prevalent contributor to global climate change, which heats up the earth and causes rising sea levels, record highs and more intense droughts and wildfires.

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

Top stories on Social Media this week include commuter rail wins, Brightline’s announcements to expand towards Disney, and remarks on freight rail pollution. Do you want to weigh in on the digital conversation? Join us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay in touch and up to date on all things RPA everyday.

“If you see an event or other opportunities in your area listed on a Facebook page that’s accessible by transit, comment on the post telling people that they can take a Transit agency’s trains and/or buses to that event or opportunity in order to help reduce car traffic, road congestion, and parking hassles to help spread the word to people to take and think more about regularly taking transit options to and from places!” - Paul McManus

“This (Disney via Brightline Extension) is great news and something the airlines can't offer.” - Jim Norton

Trump Administration Attempts to Halt California High-Speed Rail Project (Again)

California is headed on a towards yet another conflict with President Donald Trump, who is now attempting to block the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s attempt to execute a track and systems contract that would allow for construction of tracks and necessary operations systems for a 119-mile segment between Bakersfield and Merced in the Central Valley.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) sent a letter announcing its disapproval of the for the Request for Proposals (RFP) on December 9. The FRA, which previously supported the project under President Barack Obama, reversed course under the Trump Administration, which has engaged in a series of political and policy conflicts against the deep blue state. The Trump Administration is withholding a $929 million federal grant previously approved by the FRA and says it will try to claw-back $2.6 billion in federal funds that has already been distributed.

“It is premature for CHSRA to undertake another major design-build contract,” wrote FRA project manager Juliana Shu Barnes, regarding the current RFP. “The current (construction contracts) continue to face significant and continuing delays building the necessary civil infrastructure.”

CAHSRA CEO Brian Kelly fired back at the FRA, criticizing it for faulty analysis and saying it has failed to review materials California has already provided.

“[Your objection] is based on misunderstandings and your agency’s own inaction, which does not provide a good faith basis for interfering in this authority’s efforts to meet the timelines in our federal grant agreements,” wrote Kelly on December 10 “As you know, or should know, the installation of track on the 119-mile segment is a deliverable under our federal funding agreements with your agency,” Kelly added, “and pursuant to those agreements must be completed by December 31, 2022. We did not have the luxury of inaction on this issue.”

The Fresno Bee has secured copies of the letters. It is likely the matter will need to be settled in courts.

Amtrak Airline-Style Ticketing Considerations

According to an internal memo seen by Business Insider news website, Amtrak is considering making its cheapest fares nonrefundable and nonchangeable. Other fares will see a 25% cancellation fee and 15% change fee within 14 days of travel.

As Amtrak seeks to turn a profit for the first time in its history, it is no surprise that they are considering the introduction of a more airline-style ticketing policy and fee practice at the railroad.

The internal memo shows, Amtrak's cheapest "saver" fares could become completely nonrefundable and nonchangeable 24 hours after purchase, with the second level "value" fares subject to a 25% cancellation fee or 15% change fee within 14 days of departure. Currently, saver fares can receive a 75% voucher for cancellations and value fares can be fully refunded up to 8 days before departure. There are currently no change fees for any tickets, according to Amtrak's fare guide.

Richard Anderson, said earlier this year that small changes in fare structures have already helped the railroad's bottom line. “Pricing and revenue management was thought of like some department over in another building and we didn't pay much attention to it," Anderson said at an event in September. "We've been able to bring some commercial instincts in and make some basic investments in revenue management technology. Nothing fancy, just basic, good, RM practices."

An Amtrak representative declined to comment says Business Insider.

Stay tuned.

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, enjoyed spending some time with our friends at Brightline (soon to be Virgin Trains USA), getting updates on the grade-crossing situation in Florida, a new agreement emerging between Brightline and Disney in Orlando, and the latest on launching service between Las Vegas and Southern California. Jim also reviewed the rail provisions of the Omnibus spending bill with VP Policy Sean Jeans-Gail, and the latest data from Amtrak on host-railroad delays.

  • Sean Jeans Gail, Vice President of Policy, worked with Congressional offices to analyze the final government budget bill to understand changes to key transportation programs, communicating these important updates to the Rail Passengers Council and our members. He also heard from federal safety officials over the role of the National Transportation Safety Board in responding to safety incidents on the freight and passenger rail networks in the US.

  • Carolyn Cokley, Director of Customer Programs, has used this week to review the applications submitted during the Fort Worth open house last week and to follow-up with those residents who were not able to attend and extend applications to them and has been working with the Amtrak Police Department to start the background check process. Carolyn anticipates a pool of 20-25 volunteers to be approved and trained for the program. Training will be scheduled for late January at the Fort Worth Station. Thanks to all who worked to make this a successful event. Happy Holidays!

  • Joseph Aiello, Field Coordinator, traveled to Portland, ME earlier this week to attend the TrainRiders/Northeast’s 31st Annual Meeting - celebrating the 18th birthday of “America’s Favorite Train”, the Downeaster. He also spent time with Former Governor Dukakis to talk about regional rail and the North-South Rail Link before the Governor travels to teach at UCLA over the winter semester.

  • Madi Butler, Grassroots Organizer, finalized plans for the Southeast Rail Excursion in Jan 2020 and worked on securing grants for upcoming grassroots projects. Madi is in Central Kentucky visiting with family for the holidays and meeting with community leaders along I-64 and RJ Corman lines as well as visiting the Bluegrass Scenic Railroad and Museum in Versailles.

  • Jonsie Stone, Director, Resource Development, has spent the majority of the week processing donations and generating thank you letters. As a reminder, for end of year donations to count for 2019 tax purposes envelopes must be postmarked in 2019. Thank you so very much for your support.

  • Kim Williams, Membership Manager, sent out all Gifts of Membership this week (enjoy!), developed membership communications for the new year, and is currently writing a blog post about my experience on the long-distance train ride to Fort Worth, TX. Please be sure to read through the note below about our banking changes (“Special Appeal and Renewal Letter Changes Ahead In 2020”) - it impacts your payments through our mailings to you.

Special Appeal and Renewal Letter Changes Ahead In 2020
We are changing mail lockbox partners from Wells Fargo to BNY Mellon. Just like Wells Fargo, BNY Mellon will be processing your responses and payments from all direct mail and membership renewal letters.

Starting on January 1, 2020, our new lockbox mailing address will be:
National Assn of Railroad Passengers

P.O. Box 392849

Pittsburgh, PA 15251-9849

The response envelopes that are enclosed in our direct mail and membership renewal appeals will still be processed for a period of time by Wells Fargo, but we’d prefer that you please use the new business reply envelopes in the 2020 mailings. You can also send your donation or renewal directly to the office.

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.


Make Plans To Attend RailNation:DC 2020

Washington, DC - Sunday, March 29 through Wednesday, April 1!

  • The Rail Passengers’ 2020 Annual Advocacy Summit Is Monday, March 30; The ‘Day on The Hill’ & Congressional Reception Is Tuesday, March 31 And The Annual Council Business Meeting Is Wednesday, April 1

  • Host Hotel - Embassy Suites Alexandria Old Town (At The King Street Metro & Alexandria Amtrak Stations) - Discounted Group Rate Rooms Are Now Available!

  • Event Registration Is Now Open!

  • Visit The Event Page For Complete Information & Details

Upcoming Regional Rail Passengers Association and State Passengers Association Member Meetings & Events

Please contact Joe Aiello ([email protected]) to have a local, state or regional meeting added to the Rail Passengers calendar (print and on-line) of upcoming events!

Passenger Service Notices

San Joaquins Service

Effective Jan. 10-11, 17-18, 2020

Track work being performed by BNSF Railway will affect San Joaquins service on Fridays and Saturdays, January 10-11 and 17-18, as described below:

Fridays, January 10 and 17

  • Train 704, which normally operates from Sacramento to Bakersfield, will terminate at Wasco.

    • Amtrak Thruway Bus 5804 will originate at Wasco and provide alternate transportation between Wasco and Bakersfield.

  • Train 718, which normally operates from Oakland (Jack London Square) to Bakersfield, will terminate at Wasco.

    • Amtrak Thruway Bus 5818 will originate at Wasco and provide alternate transportation between Wasco and Bakersfield.

Saturdays, January 11 and 18

  • Train 711, which normally operates from Bakersfield to Oakland (Jack London Square), will originate at Wasco.

    • Amtrak Thruway Bus 5811 will operate through to Wasco, providing alternate transportation between Bakersfield and Wasco. Bus 5811 will depart all station stops from San Diego to Bakersfield 15 minutes earlier than normally scheduled

Track Work Affects Downeaster Service

Effective December 16 through 20, 2019

Due to track work being performed by Pan Am, Downeaster service will be affected as described below.

Monday, December 16

  • Trains 687 and 689, which normally operate between Boston North Station and Brunswick, will terminate at Portland. Alternate transportation will be provided between Portland and Brunswick, making an intermediate stop at Freeport.

Tuesday, December 17, Wednesday, December 18 and Thursday, December 19

  • Trains 681, 683, 685, 687 and 689, which normally operate between Boston North Station and Brunswick, will terminate at Portland. Alternate transportation will be provided between Portland and Brunswick, making an intermediate stop at Freeport.

  • Trains 680 (December 18 and 19 only), 682, 684, 686 and 688, which normally operate between Brunswick and Boston North Station, will originate at Portland. Alternate transportation will be provided between Brunswick and Portland, making an intermediate stop at Freeport.

Friday, December 20

  • Trains 680, 682, 684, 686 and 688, which normally operate between Brunswick and Boston North Station, will originate at Portland. Alternate transportation will be provided between Brunswick and Portland, making an intermediate stop at Freeport.

  • Trains 681 and 683, which normally operate between Boston North Station and Brunswick, will terminate at Portland. Alternate transportation will be provided between Portland and Brunswick, making an intermediate stop at Freeport.

  • All other trains will operate normally.

Kalamazoo, MI Station Ticket Window Closing

Effective Jan. 2, 2020

The Amtrak station in Kalamazoo, MI, will no longer have a staffed ticket window, but Amtrak trains will continue to serve the station daily. If you are traveling to or from Kalamazoo, please refer to the following:

  • Waiting Area: Customers will continue to have access to the station’s waiting area and restrooms.

  • Customer Assistance: Amtrak conductors and attendants aboard our trains will assist customers boarding and detraining.

  • Ticketing Options: Customers can make reservations and obtain eTickets at Amtrak.com, using our free mobile apps, or by calling 800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245). These eTickets can be displayed on a smartphone or tablet, printed at home or on the Amtrak Quik-Trak kiosk at this station. Payment can be made by bank-issued credit cards, reloadable debit cards carrying a credit card logo or the new Amtrak Gift Cards, which are sold in supermarkets, drug stores, big box stores and Amtrak.com/GiftCards. Customers using cash can pay for tickets on the train, but they will be priced at the highest published fare and subject to availability.

  • Other Stations: Customers seeking travel for unaccompanied minors or other services can use the ticket windows with customer service representatives at the Amtrak station in Battle Creek, Sunday through Thursday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Keystone Service and Pennsylvanian Trains 42 and 43

Dec. 20 through Dec. 30, 2019

Reservations Required During the Holiday Period

To better accommodate the increased number of travelers expected during the busy holiday period, reservations will be required on all Pennsylvanian and Keystone Service trains (including Philadelphia to Harrisburg service) from Friday, Dec. 21 through Monday, Dec. 30, 2019.

Reservations will not be required for monthly and ten-ride ticket holders.

  • Holiday Travel Reminders:

  • Use eTicketing to avoid ticket counter lines.

  • Allow ample time to arrive at the station and board the train.

  • Make sure your baggage is tagged with your name and address.

  • Amtrak customers must produce valid photo identification when:

    • Obtaining, exchanging or refunding tickets

    • Storing baggage at stations Checking baggage

    • Onboard trains, in response to a request by an Amtrak employee

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.

Travel Tip of the Week

Riding the rails for the holidays? Whether you are an experienced traveler or if it is your first-time riding, there are a few things you should know.

  • Amtrak advises passengers to arrive at the station 45 minutes before departure.

  • Most travelers will want to reserve their tickets ahead of time. You can do this via Amtrak's website or its mobile app or by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL. Effective December 20-30, passengers on the Keystone Corridor and Pennsylvanian trains will be required to reserve their seats in advance. The Keystone trains operate between New York and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, via Philadelphia. The Pennsylvanian trains operate between New York and Pittsburgh via Philadelphia.

  • Amtrak does not currently charge a fee if your plans change, but you may encounter a 25% cancellation fee for certain fares. Fares are fully refundable if canceled within 24 hours of purchase.

  • Amtrak does not charge passengers for the first two checked bags. There are also restrictions based on size and weight. Amtrak allows two personal items and two carry-on items per passenger. Personal items must weigh 25 pounds or less and fit within 14”x11”x7”. Carry-ons must weigh 50 pounds or less and fit within 28”x22x14”, or 28”x22”x11” on the Pacific Surfliner trains in California.

  • Passengers can check two bags that weigh 50 pounds or less and can check two overweight or oversize bags for a fee of $20 per bag.

  • Passengers can bring their bikes aboard many trains, as long as they weigh 50 pounds or less. In most cases, passengers will need to reserve spots for bikes, as they are limited. Riders can either carry their bikes on or check them. Fees range from $5 to $20 per bike.

  • Dogs and cats that weigh 20 pounds or less can travel on certain trains in approved carriers for a $26 fee. Pets must be properly vaccinated and cannot travel in business class or in sleeping cars. Spaces must be reserved and are limited to one pet per passenger.

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!

Looking towards 2020

As the decade comes to a close, we reflect on all of our accomplishments over the past 10 years and consider what the coming years might have in store. As you may know, 2020 will be a critical year in determining the future of passenger rail service nationwide.

Amtrak is quasi-public corporation, with the federal government providing a significant portion of the railroad’s annual operations and capital budget. The current funding authorization expires at the end of FY2020, and in 2020 the Rail Passengers Association will be leading efforts in the courts and on Capitol Hill to ensure that America’s passenger rail service continues to thrive. We will fight to sustain our vision of “A Connected America” where all of us, rich or poor, rural or urban, are linked together.

We’re committed to this work and ready to take action, but we can’t do it alone. As we look towards 2020, please consider donating to support this critical work.