Happening Now

Hotline #1,150

January 17, 2020

Rail news for the week ending January 17th

Hotline #1,150 - January 17, 2020

A Note to Our Members

Dear Rail Passengers members:

We are still experiencing long processing times for renewals and donations sent in through the mail. We sincerely apologize for any confusion this may have brought you. To make sure everyone is kept abreast of these sorts of updates, I’ve added a section in the Hotline called “Membership News and Notices.. Please be sure to take a look!

As we’ve previously mentioned, two issues over the last three months created an error that has made it difficult for us to attribute members’ mail payments to their individual accounts. Unfortunately, that means that our six person staff has to manually add those payments back into all the accounts of those affected. That’s underway right now and we’re working as quickly as we can to clear the backlog.

As a reminder, please disregard any renewal notices you receive if you have already sent in a payment and do not send in a second payment. We will update your account in the order in which your membership dues or donations have been received. For questions, please feel free to email me at [email protected]. Please note that numerous members calling about this issue has increased the call volume and wait times for a response through our main office phone line.

We understand how frustrating this is, but we truly appreciate your persistent efforts to support our work to expand and improve passenger rail. Thank you as always for your membership and patience!

Kim Williams, Membership Manager

House Democrats Tease Infrastructure Bill for Next Week

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters yesterday that the House Democrats plan to unveil an infrastructure bill next week, though she kept quiet on the details of the proposal.

It’s unclear from her statements whether Rep. Pelosi was referring to a surface transportation proposal -- either highway, mass transit, passenger rail, or some combination of the three -- or whether she was referring to a stand-alone infrastructure bill that would include transportation as a small part of an investment package that included elements such as water and sewers, power transmission systems, municipal facilities, and others. Democratic leadership have repeatedly attempted to find a compromise on infrastructure with the White House over the course of the Trump Administration, but have so far failed to achieve any meaningful legislative milestones.

Just last week, House Transportation & Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) told reporters to expect his draft surface transportation later in the year, indicating Pelosi may be referring to a more comprehensive infrastructure proposal. Stay tuned for updates next week. In the meantime, you can go to www.RailPassengers.org/Blueprint for the full set of our policy proposals for 2020.

Amtrak Talks With Tennessee Legislators About New Train Service

For the year, Amtrak management has outlined a service growth plan that called aggressive expansion of frequencies on state-supported corridors. However, these generalized proposals mostly failed to include any specifics about which states would actually receive more train service. That changed this week with reports that Amtrak presented Tennessee legislators with a plan for new passenger rail corridors that would connect Nashville to the National network via a Chicago - Atlanta corridor.

Since the termination of the Floridian (Chicago - St. Petersburg/Miami) in 1979, Tennessee is served by a single daily train, the City of New Orleans, which stops in Memphis and Newbern-Dyersberg on the far-western edge of the state. The annual state ridership comes in at just under 75,000 alightings & boardings per year.

"Our route map doesn't really reflect where the nation's population has shifted to — places like Nashville, Louisville, Columbus and Las Vegas that we don't serve at all," Amtrak Senior Director of Government Affairs Ray Lang told the Tennessee state legislature’s House Transportation Committee's committee. "We have to do something to change the Amtrak network. Otherwise we'll just wither away… It's going to take anywhere from 12 to 24 months to redo the surface transportation bill," Lang said. "We think this presents us an opportunity to really transform the company"

All parties involved emphasized that conversations are in the early stages, with a lot of work ahead of them -- especially CSX, which owns the majority of the track in question, and would have to consent to hosting passenger trains along the corridor.

"I understand that Amtrak is here today simply to gauge the state's interest. This is the first we're seeing of this," said CSX’s Jane Covington to the committee. "And I understand that you guys are hearing from your constituents about the crowded roads, and you're obviously looking for solutions to that. But we want to make sure you do it in a way to make sure it doesn't backfire and divert freight off the rails and onto the highways."

CSX is required by law to host Amtrak trains, but has the ability to price state DOTs and Amtrak out of the market if it so chooses. State officials will have to act accordingly, and work to bring all stakeholder groups onboard.

Rail Passengers is currently advocating for improved funding for capital improvement grants, as well as right of way acquisition funds, both of which would be essential to ensure this project is a success.

Sens. Kaine, Warner Ask For Federal Funding to Improve Amtrak Service

Virginia’s Senators -- Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine -- are urging Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to support the state’s application for state-of-good-repair grant funds to modernize and replace Amtrak rolling stock running in the Virginia service.

The National Transportation Safety Board recommended that Virginia retire many of the existing Amtrak rail cars serving Virginia, some of which are more than 40 years old.

Virginia made a joint application with Amtrak for matching funds from DOT’s Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair, and the Senators, and the Senators asked Chao to “give full and fair evaluation to this project.”

Virginia is one of 17 states and regional authorities to fund the state-sponsored Amtrak business lines of service, which account for nearly 50 percent of total Amtrak ridership nationwide. In FY2019, nearly one million riders used the Amtrak Northeast Regional service in Virginia, which the Senators noted was the highest number of riders recorded in the

“Maintaining and repairing current equipment is costly in terms of both safety and efficiency. New railcars will provide safer, better, and more reliable mobility,” the Senators wrote in their letter to DOT Secretary Elaine Chao. “This funding, in conjunction with Virginia's numerous high priority passenger rail projects, will help make state-sponsored service a more reliable and pleasant transportation alternative.”


The Southern Rail Commission and Rail Passengers Association Needs Your Help

On Tuesday, January 28th, the Mobile City Council will decide whether or not to endorse a resolution committing financial support toward the restoration of Amtrak service along the Gulf Coast. The city is being asked to commit $3.048 million over three years in potential matching funds that will be combined with federal grant monies and similar funding from Mississippi and Louisiana to help pay operational costs of a route that will connect daily train service connecting New Orleans, Pascagoula, Biloxi, Gulfport, Bay St. Louis, and Mobile. via passenger rail.

Why now? On behalf of the proposed train operation which will serve Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, the Southern Rail Commission (SRC) is applying for nearly $8 million in Federal Railroad Administration “Restoration & Enhancement” (RE) funding. The grant application is due on February 6th. The RE program helps offset the first 3 years of operating costs for restored or enhanced passenger rail services. These grant funds are tiered over three years and require a commensurate 3-year commitment from the three states this route will serve to provide for the net remaining operating costs after the federal grant and any passenger generated revenue from tickets, food and beverage sales. The grants will pay for 80% of the states’ cost in year 1, 60% in year 2, and 40% in year 3. This three-year program is designed to help a restored or enhanced service build ridership and revenues. In 2019, the SRC was awarded an FY17 RE grant providing $4.5+ million in operations cost support. The upcoming grant opportunity will provide FY18, FY19, and FY20 RE funds that will be added to the initial grant award and provide nearly $11.8 million in federal funds for the initial 3-year operating term. Mississippi and Louisiana have already pledged their needed match funds.

What can you do? The City Council needs to hear from you!

Click here to see how you can help

New York And Washington DC Help Lead Rise In U.S. Transit Ridership

Recent statistics from the Federal Transit Administration’s National Transit Database suggest that the decline in public transportation ridership across the country over the last five years might be coming to an end. Led by ridership jumps by both New York’s MTA and Washington DC’s Metro, public transit systems saw an overall growth of 2.2 percent. The second and third quarter increase in 2019 marked the first back-to-back quarter growth since the end of 2014.

The two leading agencies, which also represent the first- and third- highest share of transit commuters in the country, have made a number of significant system upgrades in the last couple of years that have helped spur this ridership jump. New York has invested nearly $800 million for signal upgrades and various improvements, while track maintenance on DC’s Metro has been going around the clock. MIT researcher and transit consultant Yonah Freemark commented that the growth is “undoubtedly” a product of these regional investments. Weekday ridership on the DC Metro rose 3.3 percent thanks to the best system wide on-time performance numbers in a decade.

While the overall ridership increase around the country is clearly newsworthy, a number of cities are continuing to see their numbers dwindle. Construction and reliability issues have put LA Metro in the negative, while riders are weary of another major derailment in Boston - like what happened on the Red Line last summer.

South Florida’s Tri-Rail Sees Ridership Gains

While the growth in NY and DC are mostly attributed to their robust subway systems, commuter rail ridership in South Florida has also seen significant gains over the last year. On the back of an over 90% on-time performance for all of 2019, which included it’s highest ever single month of 96.64% last July, South Florida Regional Transportation Authority’s (SFRTA) Tri-Rail saw an all-time best ridership of nearly 4.5 million passengers - an increase of almost 2% over 2018. SFRTA Executive Director Steven L. Abrams, who finished his first full year on the job, celebrated the increase and noted that residents are happy “getting from one point to the next while avoiding highway traffic”.

Austin City Council and CapMetro Explore Massive Transit Expansion

Capital Metro Board and Austin City Council held a public joint work session this week addressing prospective updates to Project Connect, with transit plans ranging from $3.2-$10.2 billion. CapMetro reported an anticipated 40% of the budget to be covered by federal grants. The remainder of funding could be determined by an upcoming public vote in November - with a transportation bond election being one of the few options currently on the table. Having the city’s share of the total bill approved and committed would be a requirement for federal money.

The Orange line, from north at Tech Ridge to south at Slaughter and the Blue line, from the airport to downtown Austin then ACC Highland have been long discussed as both potential Light Rail and Bus Rapid Transit options. However, Board members at CapMetro have stated BRT would leave the system at capacity by 2040 according to their studies. A Light Rail route could include a downtown tunnel, 1.6 miles along 4th Street between Trinity and Guadalupe sheltering rail, bus, and bicycle traffic from the frequently congested I-35 off ramps.

Agency officials have also stated that these plans are being floated with the premise that any new fleet equipment would be electric, offering greater environmental benefits for the entire region.

CapMetro says their board and Austin City Council will have to make a decision by May about which plan they are going to call for and how they will attempt to pay for it. With the growing transplant population, CapMetro has seen an increase in ridership across their network for 15 consecutive months.

RTD Schedule Adjustments Hit A Snag With Riders

A day after Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) made a number of service and schedule changes, an ongoing labor shortage forced the agency to cancel more than 80 light-rail trips. Passengers, as expected, took to social media this week to voice their numerous grievances with the RTD. The schedule changes were not a complete surprise as the RTD typically makes this type of adjustment three times a year, what is not clear is if this newest change caused even more challenges with the driver shortage that has been plaguing the city for years. To get a handle on the employment problems, RTD officials announced back in December that they would need to eliminate six bus lines and lower the frequency on the R-Line and D-Line corridors, as well as the very popular 16th Street Mall shuttle. The authority has blamed their recruitment problems on the good economy and low regional unemployment.

New Year, New Fights, New Energy!

Now that 2020 has begun, Congress will soon kick into high gear to decide what kind of passenger rail network our country will have in the next five years and beyond. It’s called “Reauthorization,” and it’s a mouthful. But it’s what we’ve all been working for since 2017, and now that 2020 is here, your Rail Passengers Association professional staff is taking the fight for More Trains, Better Trains and Better Infrastructure directly to people who make the decisions. We can’t do that without your voice and without your financial support. 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 fight for the country’s 40+ million rail passengers...including YOU! 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/Hotline. Please include “Hotline 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!


#ICYMI - In Case You Missed It: This Week’s Social Media Highlights

This week we covered a variety of editorials and opinion pieces on the state of commuter rail in a number of major cities. We also dug into coverage of the Southern Field Trip highlighting great stations, destinations, and meetings throughout Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

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.

Top Comments from our Facebook Page:

(On seeing the return of on-demand microtransit to Sacramento) “We had this when I was growing up in my small town in the 70s and 80s. Glad to see it come back” - Todd Taylor

(On Austin’s 2020 light rail goals) “Honestly I would rather cities take the time to do transit right than get a lot of transit quickly. I have a pretty unfavorable view of a lot of the quickly built LRT systems and most modern streetcars. They were built quickly and cheaply without attempting to build useful transit. If Austin manages to get a grade separated (subway or elevated) LRT in downtown I will be mighty impressed but CapMetro is at least investigating it. Other agencies have just discarded similar ideas out of hand.” - Eddie Sackinger

(On Field Team Coverage) “As someone from the UK I'm really enjoying learning about America from such and enthusiastic and interesting team. And from a really unique perspective. Thank you!” - Hannah Edwards

Membership News and Notices

  • Did you know that you can add family members to your account if you have a Family membership or higher? Create an account on www.railpassengers.org and follow the prompts to update your account.

  • If you have received a renewal letter and have already sent in a payment, please disregard the letter. We will update your account in the order in which it was received.

  • If you’d like to change your membership level and the payment associated with it, please contact our office at 202-408-8362, ext. 3123 instead of contacting your financial institution for a chargeback. We can cancel or refund the payment. By working through your bank, Rail Passengers could be assessed fees. We are happy to quickly assist you with your membership needs.

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, met with Amtrak to discuss food and beverage issues, including Rail Passengers’ efforts to permit coach passengers to buy food in the dining car on the Eastern services where that is no longer possible under the Flexible Dining program. Jim also caught up on the latest info on freight interference and host-railroad delays to Amtrak trains. We’re starting to develop ideas for a summer grassroots campaign to attack the late-by-freight issue with your help. Stay tuned! Jim also helped pull together materials for the Council elections, with a lot of help from members Steve Musen, Lynn Aldrich, Michael Testerman and Board Member Tom Girsch. Thanks to our members for their help!

  • Sean Jeans Gail, Vice President of Policy, attended the Transportation Research Board this week, where he heard from policy experts and researchers on the latest thinking about how to upgrade the U.S. rail network and effectively implement infrastructure improvement programs within existing operating constraints.

  • Carolyn Cokley, Director of Customer Programs, has spent this week working on reading through the TravelReview report. Thank you for your significant comments and recognition of Amtrak’s onboard and station personnel. I will continue to work on my report out in between organizing and traveling for the station volunteer program. I’ll be in Fort Worth next week for the training of the station volunteers scheduled for Saturday, January 25.

  • Joseph Aiello, Field Coordinator, joined Madi Butler in the field this week as they traveled to Memphis, Greenwood, and New Orleans to talk to local elected and business officials about the importance of better rail service throughout the region. Joe is also continuing to work the Southern Rail Commission on the letter writing campaign to the Mobile City Council.

  • Madi Butler, Grassroots Organizer, is heading south on the Southern Field Trip to advocate for more frequent and reliable service in the Deep South. Madi is preparing for upcoming meetings with Mayors, community leaders, and Southern Rail Commission as well as tonight’s transit advocate mixer at Port Orleans Brewing 5pm-7pm

  • Jonsie Stone, Director, Resource Development, spent the majority of the week battling the flu instead of joining Joe and Madi in Memphis, TN and Greenwood, MS as originally planned. Returning to the office on Thursday, Jonsie worked on closing out 2019 and writing the next round of solicitations.

  • Kim Williams, Membership Manager, spent the week processing payments, answering member queries, making website updates, assisting with the Rail Passengers Council of Representatives elections, and sending out new member and renewal packets and membership cards.

Mail Payment Changes Ahead In 2020

We are changing mail payment partners from Wells Fargo to BNY Mellon. This means that BNY Mellon will be processing your responses and payments from all direct mail solicitations and membership renewal letters.

Starting on January 1, 2020, our new mail payment 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 donation and membership renewal appeals will still be processed for a period of time by Wells Fargo, but it is very important 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 promoting 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!

Amtrak Passenger Service Notices

Northeast Corridor Service Schedule Changes

Effective Jan. 25 through Mar. 20, 2020

Due to the Mystic River Bridge outage, Northeast Regional and Acela schedules will be adjusted as outlined below.

New York, NY to Boston, MA:

Acela Express and Northeast Regional trains will be operating between 30 minutes earlier and 5 minutes later on the Northeast Corridor.

New Flexible Dining Service Launches on the Silver Star

An Exclusive Benefit for Sleeping Car Customers

Effective May 1, 2020

Starting May 1, Amtrak will debut a new, complementary dining experience exclusively for Sleeping Car customers aboard the Silver Star: flexible dining. This dining service is currently available on six routes: Capitol Limited, Cardinal, City of New Orleans, Crescent, Lake Shore Limited and Silver Meteor. Sleeping Car customers aboard the Silver Star can expect the following enhancements to their trip:

  • A new dining menu with hot, ready-to-serve choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner

  • A wide selection of wine, beer and spirits (the first one is on us), plus unlimited soft drinks throughout the journey

  • Complimentary room service provided by the Sleeping Car attendant

  • Exclusive onboard lounge space for Sleeping Car customers to dine and socialize 24x7

  • Flexible dining times without the need for reservations

The new flexible dining menu offers entrees such as:

  • Lunch & Dinner: Asian Noodle Bowl, Red Wine Braised Beef, Chicken Fettuccini with Broccoli, Creole Shrimp and Andouille. Plus, a children’s menu with Pasta and Meatballs.

  • Breakfast: Deluxe Continental Breakfast will be served buffet style from a selection of muffins, yogurt, fresh fruit, hard-boiled eggs, cereal, oatmeal, breakfast sandwich.

  • Dessert: Blondies, Brownies

Café service will also be available for both Sleeping Car and Coach customers, offering meals, snacks and beverages for sale. More information and sample menus can be found at Amtrak.com/flexdining. Information on special dietary requirements, including kosher meal requests, can be found at Amtrak.com/dining.

Amtrak’s traditional dining service will continue to be offered on seven overnight routes: California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle and for sleeping car customers aboard the Auto Train.

In the coming months, customers aboard overnight trains can also expect:

  • The completion of fully refreshed Amfleet II cars for Coach class along the East Coast, including new seating cushions, carpets, curtains and LED reading lights.

  • Upgraded bedding, towels and linens for Sleeping Cars-beginning with the Auto Train

  • The debut of new Viewliner II Sleeping Cars for trains on the East Coast-the first addition to the Amtrak sleeper fleet in over 25 years.

Crescent Trains 19 and 20 Bus Service Provided between Atlanta and New Orleans

Effective Jan. 19 through Feb. 20, 2020

Track work being performed by Norfolk Southern Railway will affect Trains 19 and 20 between New Orleans and Atlanta, on the following dates:

Monday through Thursday

January 20 through January 23

January 27 through January 30

February 3 through February 6

February 10 through February 13

February 17 through February 20

Southbound Train 19: Service Operating 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.

  • On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Train 19 will operate normally, serving all stations on the route.

Northbound Train 20: Service Operating 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.

  • On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Train 20 will operate normally, serving all stations on the route.

New York Penn Station Waiting Room Improvements

Effective Jan. 6, 2020

Beginning January 6, Amtrak will start a multi-phase project to modernize and refresh the customer waiting area at New York Penn Station.

As a result, the Ticketed Waiting Area will be closed as of January 6. Temporary seating accommodations for ticketed customers will be available on the concourse level between west gates of 9/10 and 13/14, during Phase 1 and in the Rotunda during Phase 2.

The refreshed waiting area will have new furniture, including communal tables equipped with electrical and USB outlets, a dedicated family area including a nursing mothers’ pod and new lighting.

St. Petersburg, FL Thruway Stop Closing

Effective Jan. 2, 2020

The Amtrak Thruway stop in St. Petersburg, FL, will be closed, but Amtrak thruway buses will continue to serve the stop daily. If you are traveling to or from St. Petersburg, please refer to the following:

  • Waiting Area: Customers will no longer have access to the waiting area and restrooms.

  • Ticketing Options: Customers can make reservations and obtain eTickets at Amtrak.com, using our free mobile app, or by calling 800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245). These eTickets can be displayed on a smartphone or tablet or printed at home. 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

  • Baggage Options: Customers will be able to check baggage traveling south to St. Petersburg but will not be able to check baggage from St. Petersburg to another destination.

  • Other Stations: Customers seeking assistance or other services can use the ticket windows with customer service representatives at the Amtrak station in Tampa, daily from 9:45 am to 6:15 pm.

Weekend Track Work Affects Downeaster Service at Woburn

Saturdays and Sundays Jan. 4-5, 11-12 and 18-19, 2020

Due to track work being performed by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), the Downeaster trains shown below will not stop at Woburn on Saturdays and Sundays, Jan. 4 through 19.

Southbound Trains 690, 692, 694, 696 and 698 and northbound Trains 691, 693, 695, 697 and 699/1689 will detour between Boston North Station and Haverhill and will not stop at Woburn.

Alternate transportation will not be provided to or from Woburn.

Pacific Surfliner Weekend Service Changes

Friday, Saturday and Sunday Jan. 11 through Feb. 2, 2020

Track work being performed by North County Transit District will affect Pacific Surfliner service, on the dates shown below:

Fridays, Jan. 10 and 31

  • Train 590 will be cancelled. Passengers can make reservations aboard other Amtrak trains.

  • Bus service will be provided from Los Angeles to San Diego, making stops at Oceanside, Solana Beach, Old Town San Diego and San Diego Downtown. No alternate transportation will be provided to Fullerton, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Irvine and San Juan Capistrano.

Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 11-12 and Feb. 1-2

  • Trains 562, 578, 583, 1565, 1566, 1569, 1572, 1573, 1590 and 1591 will be cancelled. Passengers can make reservations aboard other Amtrak trains.

  • Southbound Train 782 will terminate at Los Angeles. No alternate transportation will be provided between Los Angeles and San Diego. Passengers can make reservations aboard other Pacific Surfliner trains.

  • Southbound Train 796 will terminate at Los Angeles and bus service will be provided for all missed stops.

  • Southbound Trains 580, 768, 774, 792, 1564 and 1584 will operate normally to Irvine, where bus service will be provided from Irvine to San Diego. Express buses will run from Irvine to San Juan Capistrano, Oceanside, Solana Beach, Old Town San Diego and downtown San Diego only.

  • Northbound Trains 579, 593, 595, 763, 777, 785, 1761 and 1767 will originate in Irvine. Bus service will be provided from San Diego to Irvine to connect with the trains listed above, with the exception of Train 1761. Buses will depart downtown San Diego, Solana Beach, Oceanside and San Juan Capistrano earlier than the train schedule to allow time to connect with trains in Irvine. o Buses will not pick up at Old Town San Diego. Passengers can take the trolley to downtown San Diego to board buses to Irvine.

    • Bus service will not be provided to connect with Train 1761.

    • Metrolink will honor Amtrak tickets between San Juan Capistrano and Los Angeles.

Please note: There will be no checked baggage or express service south of Santa Ana on the dates shown above. Alternate bus service will not serve San Clemente Pier.

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

Travel Tip of the Week

Crushed Car on Display As A Warning to Other Drivers

According to FRA statistics, 2,217 highway-rail grade crossing collisions occurred in 2018. Approximately 67% of all Year 2018 highway-rail grade crossing collisions occurred in 15 states and North Carolina was number 11 with 56 collisions, 12 deaths and 25 injuries. I recently came across this story by reporter Richard Stradling, The News & Observer and I wanted to share it with you as a reminder to remain aware and the importance of safety on and around railroad tracks.

Two days after Thanksgiving, a four-door Honda Accord got stuck on the railroad tracks at the intersection of Aviation Parkway and Chapel Hill Road. The driver and two passengers managed to get out before the car was hit by an Amtrak train headed to Raleigh. Now the Accord is parked on a trailer at the intersection, under a banner that reads, “Respect the Crossing. Respect the Tracks.” Morrisville police have put it here, at the center of town, as a warning of what can happen if drivers are careless at a railroad crossing, said police Lt. Tim Hendrickson. “This is a safety message for people to recognize and understand the hazards of a crossing,” Hendrickson said. “Not just this crossing, but any railroad crossing that you come to.” Hendrickson said the police department had long thought about placing a crushed car at the crossing as a warning of sorts, the way some agencies use them to get people thinking about driving while impaired or texting. After the accident on Nov. 30, the department got in touch with the owner’s insurance company, which agreed to lend the car to the town.

The town also got the blessing of the car’s owner, said Chief Patrice Andrews. Since it went on display Jan. 3, some residents have indicated on social media that they find it jarring but effective, Andrews said. “It’s causing people to look. It certainly is, I think, slowing some traffic down as they’re looking,” she said. “I think we’re getting the effect that we’ve hoped to get with the awareness.” Four people have died in collisions with freight trains at this intersection in the last five years. A couple from Southern Pines were killed when their car got stuck between the crossing arms in August 2014. A year later, in November 2015, a Cary couple died when they apparently made a wrong turn and got stuck on the tracks.

That’s what happened to the driver of the Honda Accord, who was attempting to turn left from Aviation Parkway onto Chapel Hill Road, also known as N.C. 54, at about 10 p.m., Hendrickson said. The driver overshot the intersection and ended up turning onto the tracks, where the car got lodged. The crossing is more complex than some because it is part of the intersection of two busy roads. The N.C. Department of Transportation plans to eliminate a similar crossing up the road by building a bridge to carry McCrimmon Parkway over N.C. 54. Andrews says NCDOT eventually wants to realign N.C. 54 to shift the intersection with Aviation Parkway away from the railroad tracks.

ut Hendrickson said the message police hope to send with the smashed Honda isn’t about any one crossing.

“People need to understand, this intersection is no more or less dangerous than any crossing regardless of if it’s Cary, it’s Raleigh, it’s in the mountains or it’s in California,” Hendrickson said. “They’re all dangerous.” The car will remain on display through the end of the month.


TravelReview Feedback Card

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.