Happening Now

Hotline #1,166

May 8, 2020

Rail news for the week ending May 8th

D.C. Office Closed, Rail Passengers Staff To Telework.

Click here for more information on how this affects your membership.


The May Passengers Voice Newsletter is now available.

Click here to read the digital version.

Public Transit Will Require Another $24 Billion to Keep Going

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) sent a letter to Congress and the Trump Administration yesterday identifying another $23.8 billion in COVID-19 funding needs, which will be required to address additional costs and revenue losses. This comes on the tail of $25 billion in emergency funding passed in March as part of the CARES Act.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly increased public transit operating costs and slashed state and local sources of transit funding, including agency farebox, parking, and other revenue; dedicated sales tax, gas tax, and other state and local tax revenues; and state and local funding. For instance, with stay-at home orders and fare-free services for essential riders, transit fare revenue has dropped 86 percent over the past month,” wrote APTA President Paul Skouletas. “Further, we currently estimate that 37,000 construction jobs in 2020 and 34,000 in 2021 will be lost because of transit project delays and cancellations.”

The additional funding for COVID-19 Emergency Response and Recovery APTA has identified in discussions with transit agencies would be used to cover additional costs of disinfecting trains and buses, and to keep the mostly-empty services running for the essential workers who rely on transit to get to jobs in hospitals, pharmacies, grocery stores, and other essential trades.

APTA is proposing that Congress allocate the relief payments between two funds:

  • $19 billion provided through the Emergency Relief Program, which would be distributed proportionally to all public transit agencies with a demonstrated need; and

  • $4.75 billion provided through Urbanized Area Formula Grants, Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities Formula Grants; and Rural Area Formula Grants.

APTA also proposes the two funds both be eligible to cover operating and capital expenses at a 100 percent federal share.

Appeals Court: Yes, Texas Central Is a Railroad

A four-year court battle in Texas ended Thursday with a state appeals court ruling that Texas Central Railway is legitimately both a railroad and an interurban electric railway, reversing a previous trial court ruling and clearing one more hurdle to begin physical construction of the proposed high-speed link between Houston and Dallas. The court sent the question of court costs back to the trial court for review.

Justice Nora Longoria of Texas’ Thirteenth District Court of Appeals wrote that the trial court was wrong when it concluded that because TCR is not yet operating trains and stations it can’t claim to be a railroad or behave like a railroad – doing land surveys, for example, or claiming the potential to exercise eminent domain.

“Considering the legislature’s instruction to view present tense as including future tense in the statute and the actions taken by appellants to begin to operate a railroad, we conclude that TCRI [Texas Central Railroad & Infrastructure, Inc.] and ITL [Integrated Texas Logistics, Inc.] are railroad companies,” Justice Longoria said in a 20-page judgment filed on May 7.

When Texas Central asked landowner James Miles for permission to survey his land as part of the potential build-out of the railroad, Miles objected and challenged whether Texas Central could even ask to do the survey if it wasn’t yet operating like an actual railroad. His suit in Texas state court also challenged whether Texas Central could be considered an interurban electric railway under the Texas statutes, a claim the Appeals Court also rejected.

“To the extent that Miles contends that this statute does not extend to high-speed rails, but rather was intended for ‘localized, electronic trolley-car companies of a century ago,’ we find nothing in the statute to confirm this assertion,” Justice Longoria wrote.

“This decision is rooted in state law that allows survey access and use of eminent domain by railroads, pipelines, electrical lines and other industries that provide for the public good and a strong economy,” said Texas Central CEO Carlos Aguilar, quoted on the website of Texas Rail Advocates. “This decision confirms our status as an operating railroad and allows us to continue moving forward with our permitting process and all of our other design, engineering and land acquisition efforts.”

The question of eminent domain power is always emotional, and especially so in Texas. The Appeals Court even acknowledged this in its decision Thursday. But Texas Central has declared repeatedly that while it has the ability to use eminent domain – just like other utilities – it will use that power sparingly and only as a last resort. In fact, Texas Central publicly committed to a detailed landowner bill of rights for potentially affected landowners that goes beyond the existing Texas landowners’ bill of rights.

Among the protections Texas Central outlines are a commitment to acquiring the bare minimum of land required for the right of way, payment at or above market rates and putting landowners first in line to get their properties back if the rail project fails to materialize. These are strong protections and Texas Central is doing their best to move the project forward while being fair to everyone involved.

Mathews Testifies In Support of Texas Central Technical Safety Rules

Rail Passengers President and CEO Jim Mathews on Tuesday strongly supported the Federal Railroad Administration’s proposed technical safety requirements to govern how Texas Central operates its high-speed service in the U.S.

“I’m testifying today to share Rail Passengers’ strong belief that Texas Central’s proposed operation clearly qualifies for an FRA exemption under 49 USC 20306, that the technical requirements as published in the [Notice of Public Rulemaking] are more than sufficient, and that altering any of the standards as proposed could substantially limit benefits accruing to the traveling public,” Mathews said during a public hearing about the new rules.

Mathews’ testimony was meant to bolster Rail Passengers’ formal written comments to the rulemaking docket about the FRA’s Texas Central Railroad High-Speed Rail Safety Standards, which would regulate Texas Central separately from conventional American railroads because the plan to replicate and operate Japan’s Shinkansen bullet train between Houston and Dallas is so radically different from the way U.S. railroads now do business.

The driving force is the desire to import from Japan not just the equipment or the signaling or even the business model but the entire operation and its culture. FRA itself noted that there are “standards and practices unique to [Shinkansen’s] operations that are inherent to the safe operation of this proposed service in Texas, which must be maintained and protected in order to ensure that the safety record of the Tokaido Shinkansen can be effectively transferred.”

That safety record is jaw-dropping: unlike any system anywhere else in the world and particularly in the United States, not a single passenger or crew member has ever been killed on the Shinkansen service in 56 years of operation, despite ridership approaching half a million passengers each day traveling to 17 stations between Tokyo and Osaka.

And it’s not just the safety record that’s enviable. The Tokaido Shinkansen measures on time performance not in hours but in seconds. The average delay per train for an entire year comes to less than 30 seconds, for a system running 368 trips per day and which has carried more than 6 billion passengers in the five decades since it opened.

Mathews reiterated in his testimony that “the only way to have any hope of replicating that extraordinary safety record and on time performance is to adopt not just the rolling stock or the construction techniques or the track geometry or the crew training paradigm, but the entire operating philosophy. Implementing a standalone high-speed rail system allows Texas Central to replicate the safety culture of the Japanese Shinkansen operations that have resulted in an unparalleled safety record.”

Mathews also noted that the multi-year process that led to publishing the proposed rules did not take place in a vacuum, but included passenger-centric feedback.

“We are voting members of the FRA’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee and Passenger Safety Working Group, and we represented the fare-paying public as these proposed standards were developed using RSAC’s consensus process,” Mathews testified. “We stand by that consensus: FRA is taking the correct and prudent course in regulating this transformative and privately funded venture as a single, standalone entity. We support FRA’s regulatory efforts to implement high-speed rail, and we continue to support a Tier IV system within the RSAC.”

Tier IV systems would cover rolling stock, equipment and processes designed specifically for high-speed operation.

Gov. Hogan Vetoes Maryland - Virginia MARC Rail Connection

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) vetoed a bipartisan bill passed by the state’s General Assembly to implement the Hogan Administration’s own MARC Cornerstone Plan, a measure that would have helped speed Maryland’s economic recovery by bolstering the commuter rail system.

Hogan cited financial uncertainties as he announced actions on a wide range of legislation passed by the General Assembly during the 2020 legislative session.

Rail Passengers joined with the Greater Washington Partnership and several other local groups to support the measure, known as HB 1236, in a letter to the governor. The legislation would have advanced the MARC Cornerstone Plan—supported by Gov. Hogan’s administration—through three initiatives of statewide importance, including:

  • A plan to pilot an extension of MARC trains beyond Union Station south to L’Enfant Plaza, Crystal City and Alexandria;

  • A plan to close the gap between Perryville, Maryland and Newark, Delaware—opening job opportunities for residents in Cecil and Harford counties in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania; and

  • A concept plan to connect the Penn Line and the Camden Line to enhance these lines’ resiliency and improve operations and maintenance.

“The General Assembly passed a number of bills worthy of consideration, but COVID-19 has caused sudden and unprecedented economic turmoil,” wrote Gov. Hogan. “…The economic fallout from this pandemic simply makes it impossible to fund any new programs, impose any new tax hikes, nor adopt any legislation having any significant fiscal impact, regardless of the merits of the legislation.”

HB 1236 would not have required an increase in state revenues, but it falls within the Hogan Administration’s prohibition on funding new programs.

Rail Passengers will continue to work with Greater Washington Partnership to try to support this important program.

Read more on how the Maryland – Virginia rail connection would benefit the state’s economy.

USDOT Awards Over $22 Million In Restoration and Enhancement Grants For Passenger Rail

The US Department of Transportation announced this week that it was awarding grant funding to projects in Connecticut, the Gulf Coast, and the Upper Midwest to “help connect communities as the economy recovers”. The more than $22 million in funding comes from the Federal Railroad Administration’s Restoration and Enhancement (R&E) Grants Program, which is authorized under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

The R&E grants will be going to the Connecticut Department of Transportation to add two additional weekday trains to the current Harford Line schedule, the Southern Rail Commission to cover operational costs of the returning Gulf Coast passenger rail service, and to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation for a second daily round trip between Chicago and the Twin Cities.

“This funding will make a significant contribution to passenger rail-related operating assistance projects in our communities and ultimately make a big difference in people’s lives,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory.

To read the entire release and to learn more about the three projects, please click here.

BLET Celebrate Anniversary

Originally founded as the Brotherhood of the Footboard on May 8th, 1863 in Michigan, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) celebate their 157th anniversary this week. The BLET proudly holds the distinction of being the oldest labor union in the Western Hemisphere and were the first labor group to hold contracts with the railroads in the United States.

Click here for the BLET’s official statement and to learn more of the history of this important labor organization.

Amtrak Requires Facial Coverings as Added Measure of Protection

In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, beginning on May 11 Amtrak will require that all customers in stations, on trains and Thruway buses wear facial coverings.

“The safety of Amtrak’s customers and employees is our top priority and requiring a facial covering is one more way we can protect everyone,” Amtrak President and CEO Bill Flynn said in a press release. “Amtrak continues to operate as an essential service for those who must travel during this public health crisis. Our services will be even more critical as our nation recovers.”

This new policy will require customers wear a facial covering over their nose and mouth while in stations, on trains and Thruway buses. Facial coverings can be removed when customers are eating in designated areas, in their private rooms, or seated alone or with a travel companion in their own pair of seats. Small children who are not able to maintain a facial covering are exempt from this requirement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the use of simple cloth facial coverings or masks to slow the spread of the virus and prevent transmission. Customers must supply their own facial covering. Customers can go to CDC.gov for detailed instructions on how to make their own facial covering.

Amtrak continues to take extra steps to sanitize stations and trains. Additional measures include the following:

  • Limiting bookings: To help maintain CDC recommendations for physical distancing onboard trains, we have temporarily reduced Coach and Business class sales to 50% capacity.

  • Going cashless: As an added measure to ensure the health and safety of our customers and employees, we are temporarily accepting only cashless payments in stations and on trains.

  • Promoting physical distancing: Signage has been displayed at several of our busiest staffed stations to indicate safe distances in high customer traffic areas such as waiting rooms, in front ticket offices, at the base/top of escalators, lounge entrances, etc. In addition, clear protective barriers have been retrofitted at staffed stations where there are no current glass barriers.

  • Updating food and beverage service: We are temporarily offering Flexible Dining service in the dining or lounge car on all long distance routes (except Auto Train) and encouraging all Sleeping Car customers to select optional room service for their meals. In addition, we are limiting seating in dining and café areas.

Amtrak continues to evaluate current practices and pilot new opportunities to support personal safety.

You can visit Amtrak.com for up-to-date information about how Amtrak is working to maintain a safe environment.

2020 Spring Advocacy Summit and Day On The Hill

On March 9th, when the initial postponement was announced, we sincerely hoped three months’ time would be enough to be able to bring everyone together in June. Unfortunately the persistence of the coronavirus threat across our country has led us to reschedule all in-person meetings until 2021.

The Spring Summit and Day On The Hill activities put us front and center with decision makers on Capitol Hill and it gives all of us a chance to share our successes -- and there have been so many in the past few months! But we have to embrace a new way of conducting business, at least temporarily.

Outlined below are the Association’s exciting plans to keep the energy going, to keep our message in front of the people who will decide rail’s future, and to do an even better job of supporting YOU in your efforts to focus on projects in your community that are most important to you, alongside your help fighting for national passenger rail priorities.

Spring Meeting, Hotel Planning And Options

We are working with our hotel partner for new dates in the Spring of 2021. Much will depend on the hotel’s book of business, the degree to which we and other groups may incur financial penalties, how many other groups have cancelled, along with other factors which frankly are out of our control such as local or state restrictions. Even so, we’re doing our best to secure new 2021 dates that are closer to our traditional dates -- April 4 through April 7. As soon as additional information is available we’ll share it with you.

Meanwhile, because we are postponing until 2021, the options below are offered for your consideration.

  • Apply your 2020 registration fee to RailNation:DC 2021. If you choose this option, you will be locked in at the 2020 rate no matter what. So, if event registration fees were to be higher in 2021, you would still owe nothing further to the Association.

  • Consider donating your RailNation:DC 2020 registration fees to the Association. Like many other non-profit organizations, we are seeing real financial impacts from the COVID-19 crisis, and we would appreciate your generosity. You will receive a tax receipt for your records showing your donation. If you register for RailNation:DC 2021 you will be paying the 2021 event registration rate.

  • Request a refund. If you register for RailNation:DC 2021 you will be paying the 2021 event registration rate, which could be higher.

The above options only relate to fees paid to the Rail Passengers Association. You will need to contact the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Old Town Alexandria to cancel your hotel reservations. Remember to also reach out to your travel provider to better understand the options available to you. Please make sure you mention that the event you were traveling to attend was postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus.

Please send an email to Jonsie Stone, [email protected], with your preference. Include in the subject line RailNation:DC Registration Option. This way we can be sure we don’t overlook anyone’s responses.

Staying In Front Of Policymakers While Also Staying At Home

Starting May 27th, and continuing every month afterwards, we’ll be organizing a series of online events for anyone who wants to keep informed, stay involved, and upgrade their personal organizing and advocacy skills. The idea is to give you the knowledge, the background, and the practical tips you’ll need to help us carry on this work from wherever you are. We’ve already started developing programs to cover the following:

  • National Briefing (May 27): Beginning with a dive into policy, we will review the first four phases of coronavirus legislation and what it means to current service levels for Amtrak and transit; future needs for transit and rail in any upcoming packages; updates on transportation legislation that is currently in play; and strategies for ensuring passenger rail projects are included in any upcoming infrastructure packages.

  • Online Advocacy 101: Focusing on communications and messaging, our team will provide a walkthrough of best practices for engaging an audience using the new digital tools and social media, gaining the attention of policy makers through online channels, free online platforms for hosting regional meetings and conferences, and more.

  • Corridor Spotlights: Our field team will coordinate with our Council Members and local groups to provide regional updates on corridor development initiatives, speakers from state rail groups to help provide vital local context, and opportunities to get personally involved at the local level.

  • Transportation Stakes in the 2020 Elections: The policy staff will walk you through potential outcomes in the 2020 general elections and their projected impact on transportation policy at the federal level, key national- and state-level races to watch, and any state and local transit initiatives on the ballot [Rail Passengers is a 501(c)(3) and is prohibited by law from endorsing any political candidates].

Our team wants to hear from you about any additional topics you’d like us to cover:

  • Is there a specific corridor or region you’d like us to focus on?

  • Have an idea for a campaign, but need to see how the policy team would go about creating a communications strategy and ground game?

  • Do you have questions about how a federal grant program works?

Help us understand what you need to be a more effective voice for passengers in your region! Please reach out to Joe Aiello ([email protected], Subject: Webinar Topics) with topics and questions you’d like addressed in any upcoming Rail Passengers briefings.

Please consider applying your 2020 RailNation:DC registration fee to next year’s event or simply making it a donation. And please also plan to take part in as many of our new online events as you can.

We look forward to working together to represent the interests of America’s passengers over the coming months!

Addressing Rumors Regarding Membership Benefits Suspension

We’d like to address some rumors around our April 30th membership benefits suspension announcement.

We are NOT taking away the discount on Amtrak. At no time has that ever been communicated to our members. The 10% everyday discount remains in force and can be used today, or tomorrow or when you feel comfortable traveling by rail.

You are NOT losing your Amtrak Guest Rewards points. While we work closely with Amtrak, we are not the railroad. We have no power over how you use your Amtrak Guest Rewards points in any way. Those policies are set by Amtrak. Nothing we have done would prevent you from using the points you have been saving up. If you have a trip you want to take with those points, Amtrak will honor them.

Our announcement on April 30th was only about the bonus points that we, as a nonprofit association, make available to our dues-paying members from time to time. We have typically awarded points in two ways: we have given members bonus points for their annual renewal, and we have run promotions a couple of times a year where we might offer extra point totals for buying a membership at a certain level. This has nothing to do with Amtrak having the points program or letting you use points to travel.

To clarify: we are TEMPORARILY suspending awarding bonus Amtrak Guest Rewards points for memberships. With the economic crisis facing the country, we have seen our income and donations decline and we had to find ways to economize. Once the financial situation improves, we fully expect to restore points.

When you give us money (as a member or as a donation) you are NOT giving money to Amtrak; you are supporting the Rail Passengers Association. We work to educate our members and the general public about rail travel, and we help our members support Amtrak by reaching out to their congressmen and Senators and other leaders asking them to support Amtrak. We do not own nor manage Amtrak or the Amtrak Guest Rewards program.

We hope you'll understand that we have to do things to preserve the financial health of your Association so that we can continue to fight for more trains, better trains, restoration of important routes and new equipment, and all of the rest of the things our staff does every day to make sure that Amtrak passengers' voices are heard in Congress, at the Federal Railroad Administration and in Amtrak's executive offices.

Member & Donor News

  • In addition to including funding for passenger trains and transit agencies, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act also included new tax incentives for charitable giving. We’ve provided a quick overview here and encourage each of you to seek advice from a financial planner.

  • If you are renewing or donating by credit card, before you seal your envelope, PLEASE double check to make sure you’ve included the card’s expiration date and CVV number. Without those numbers your payment/donation can not be processed.

  • Save us postage. If you respond to one of our membership renewals or direct mail appeals, you can save us money on postage if you apply your own stamp to the reply envelope. Every little bit helps!

  • Check your envelopes before returning your donation. If you respond to one of our direct mail appeals, please double check the return envelope before you seal it. We’ve had several instances over the last few weeks of receiving sealed, empty envelopes. Also, please include the buck slip or coupon attached at the bottom of our letters. The information on the coupon helps us allocate your contribution.

  • While the Rail Passengers staff is working remotely, we are unable to print permanent membership cards or membership/benefits information. Luckily, you can find information about your Rail Passengers membership (like your member number and membership level), update your personal information, and print a temporary membership card by creating an account at www.railpassengers.org and selecting “My Account” on the homepage. Additional member benefits information can be found on our website.

  • While the Rail Passengers staff is working outside of the office, without access to stationery, mailed copies of ‘thank you’ letters are a challenge. We are currently working with our Neon membership database to use email distribution as an alternative; let us know at [email protected] if you would like us to add your email address to your account. Even though the thank you letters are delayed, please know that your membership and donations are immensely appreciated. Thank You!


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

As we wrap up another week at home, our social media has been buzzing! From PPE updates to reopening services, we want to make sure our members are receiving news that keeps them safe, healthy, and up to date. This week we covered next steps for Texas Central, Minnesota Inner City Passenger Rail plans, #GivingTuesdayNow, and SRC advancements for Gulf Coast Restoration. Follow along and join the conversation via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and our blog posts on RailPassengers.org


If you are working with a local organization and have news you would like to share, please reach out and let us know by emailing Madi Butler ([email protected]) with links to your press release, blog, or article. Are you holding a community meeting, networking opportunity or another kind of rail-advocacy event? We can help spread the word if you send them to us. Email Joseph Aiello ([email protected]) We will include those updates in our coverage and put them on the website here.

Rail Passengers Track Update

Where are we and what are we working on? This section will update you on what Rail Passengers HQ is up to...even when we’re all working online or from home!

  • Jim Mathews, President & CEO, split time this week between Texas Central high-speed testimony and working alongside staff on the next coronavirus relief package, as well as reviewing plans for our new series of virtual meetings and conferences. He also spent considerable time on internal administrative issues.

  • Sean Jeans Gail, Vice President of Policy, has been working with Amtrak and transit agencies to assess current needs in the face of anemic ridership as Congress begins to consider the CARES 2 package. He is also working with the policy team to prepare for our national passenger rail briefing on the state of rail in the US, and how we can safely get passengers back on trains.

  • Carolyn Cokley, Director of Customer Programs, has spent much of this week connecting/reconnecting with Amtrak managers regarding the Station Volunteer Program and its feasibility in staffed locations in the country. Carolyn has also continued working to recruit for and build out the Working Focus Group project.

  • Joseph Aiello, Field Coordinator, worked with the policy/field team this week preparing for a number of national advocacy webinars being created by our staff that will kick-off later this month. Joe also assisted with outreach for this week’s #GivingTuesdayNow campaign.

  • Madi Butler, Grassroots Organizer, is wrapping up a successful week after assisting with #GivingTuesdayNow. Thank you to all who have followed along and shared our donation link. Madi has also been reaching out to regional organizations with updates on webinars and digital advocacy methods.

  • Jonsie Stone, Director, Resource Development, spent the week focusing on our GivingTuesdayNow campaign and working on Association administrative activities.

  • Kim Williams, Membership Manager, is responding to member inquiries, processing payments, and assisting with setup for our first National Policy Overview webinar on May 27.

Is the Press Pining for a Return To the Rails?

By Jim Mathews / President & CEO

I've noticed a lot of journalists seem to be spending their lockdown time writing about train travel, and that might be a good thing as we start looking at when, and how, we might start to restore travel in the U.S. once the coronavirus crisis eases.

The New York Times offered a nice feature Wednesday profiling just who IS traveling on Amtrak these days, now that the coronavirus pandemic has sent ridership plummeting down 95%.

And you know what? It's the same kinds of folks who traveled before the crisis began. A young woman who splits her time between farming and traveling. Another woman hoping to catch up with an old college roommate facing a terminal illness. A retired police officer who's spending his retirement on the rails.

Each one of these riders has a personal story, a reason for heading out. Those stories will still be true, whether they're wearing a mask or not. And that's the magic of rail travel, the way a long-distance train becomes a kind of temporary community serving the needs of rich and poor alike. If you have the time, take a look at the Times photo-essay. It’s a comforting reminder of why we’re all fighting for more and better trains.

After you’ve perused the photo essay, however, settle in with a cup (or a glass) of your favorite beverage to read Anthony Lane’s beautifully written take on Europe’s overnight trains. The subheading on Lane’s story -- written on the eve of the coronavirus explosion in Europe -- declares “the beguilements of the sleeper car have never seemed sharper than on the eve of a global lockdown.”

Now that we’re all in the middle of it, those “beguilements” are sharper still.

If the newspapers and magazines are a guide to popular culture, perhaps there's a pent-up desire after the crisis to head out into the world. And there seems to be renewed interest in the space and the distance of train travel. If it's a marker of the cultural climate, I'll take that as a very good sign to keep in mind as I don my mask to ride Amtrak. And if that gets me back out on the rails, frankly I'm OK with that

Thank You for Supporting Rail Passengers during #GivingTuesdayNow!


Wow! You have blown staff away with your response and kindness. When our GivingTuesdayNow campaign began on Friday, May 1st, you started giving immediately and have continued giving. So far, $13,145.50, from 123 different donors, has been raised because of YOUR generosity. With the $5,000 match from a very thoughtful Board member the grand total for GivingTuesdayNow is $18,145.50. If you’d like to join the GivingTuesdayNow efforts, you can still donate here.

Stuck at Home for Awhile? Grab a Copy of Lonely Planet's ‘Amazing Train Journeys’ and Support Your Association at the Same Time

If you’re spending more time than you used to at home waiting for the “All Clear” to start hitting the rails again, why not order yourself a copy of Lonely Planet’s ‘Amazing Train Journeys’ guidebook to pass the time? It’s not only a gorgeous and fun book, but 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! You win and we win!

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!

Get Your Own ‘Rail Passengers’ Signature Federal Credit Union VISA Card!

We are excited to announce our recent partnership with Signature Federal Credit Union. Rail Passengers members now have access to a full service, nationwide federal credit union with extensive product and service offerings. Signature FCU also becomes the exclusive provider of the Rail Passengers Association-branded Visa credit card with our logo, which supports our work by giving back to our organization, and gives you 1 point for every $1 you spend to redeem for travel and merchandise. The card has no annual fee, no balance transfer fees, no foreign transaction fees, and has a very low interest rate.

Gifts from Donor Advised Funds


If you have a donor advised fund, please consider recommending a grant from your fund to be the Rail Passengers Association. It is a great way to maintain flexibility with your support throughout the year. For more information, go to http://myimpact.railpassengers.org/daf. As always, please feel free to contact Jonsie Stone if you have any questions.

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


Upcoming Events

go to railpassengers.org/events for more events and information

Due to the current situation with the COVID-19 outbreak, many meetings around the country are being postponed and rescheduled for later dates. Please check our events page for updates and information.

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

Washington, D.C., Union Station Boarding Changes

Effective May 4, 2020

For the safety of our customers and employees, and to promote physical distancing, Washington, D.C., Union Station will implement several boarding changes effective May 4.

Boarding Changes:

  • Priority boarding will be discontinued, and boarding times will be adjusted, to avoid lines and waiting in the station.

  • Passengers without checked baggage are advised to be at the station no more than 30 minutes prior to departure and passengers with checked baggage, no more than 60 minutes prior to departure.

  • Amtrak is limiting reservations to 50% of the available seats to ensure plenty of available seats.

  • Amtrak employees in stations and on board are required to wear facial coverings and customers are strongly encouraged to wear masks when using Amtrak services at this time.

  • Boarding will begin approximately 20 minutes prior to departure.

linian Trains 79 and 80 Palmetto Trains 89 and 90 Silver Star Trains 91 and 92

Effective May 4 through 28, 2020

Due to track work being performed by CSX, the following trains will be impacted.

Monday through Thursday, May 4 through 28 (except Monday, May 25)

  • Silver Star Train 91, which normally operates between New York and Miami, will be cancelled with no alternate transportation provided.

    • Train 91 will operate its normal schedule Friday through Sunday and Monday, May 25.

    • Train 92, which normally operates between Miami and New York, will be cancelled with no alternate transportation provided.

    • Train 92 will operate its normal schedule Thursday through Saturday, and Sunday May 24.

Monday through Thursday, May 18 through 28

  • Carolinian Trains 79 and 80 are cancelled through Sunday, May 17.

  • Beginning May 18, Carolinian Trains 79 and 80 will operate between Charlotte and Raleigh, only.

    • Trains are cancelled between New York and Raleigh, with no alternate transportation provided.

    • Trains will operate normally Friday through Sunday.

    • Amtrak Thruway Buses 6079 and 6080 are cancelled.

  • Palmetto Trains 89 and 90 will operate between New York and Washington, D.C., only. Trains are cancelled between Washington, D.C. and Savannah with no alternate transportation provided.

    • Trains will operate normally Friday through Sunday.

    • Amtrak Thruway Buses 6089, 6090, 6189 and 6190 are cancelled.

Please note: Trains 52, 53, 97 and 98 can expect up to 45-minute delays between Rocky Mount and Richmond, Monday through Thursday.

Temporary Station Changes Wilmington’s, Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Station

Effective May 10, 2020

Effective May 10, Wilmington’s Joseph R. Biden, Jr., station will reduce the number of entrances and modify station hours, until further notice.

Station Changes:

  • Station entrances will be reduced to the accessible entrance at the corner of French and Front Streets.

  • Facial coverings are required when in the station per Delaware State Ordinance.

  • The station will be closed between 12:00 am and 5:45 am, to all non-Amtrak personnel, in order to clean and disinfect for our riders and employees.

  • Faber store is closed.

  • Restrooms are closed to the public

  • SEPTA/DART ticket office is closed. Tickets may be purchased on the train.

  • Only ticketed passengers, or those wishing to purchase tickets, are permitted inside the station during this time. SEPTA passengers needing to purchase a ticket can come into the station approximately 15 minutes prior to train departure.

Temporary Station Changes Milwaukee Downtown Station

Effective Immediately

Effective immediately, the Milwaukee Downtown station will reduce ticket office hours and implement various station changes, until further notice.

Station Changes:

  • The ticket office will be open 5:30 am to 8:00 pm.

  • Station entrances will be reduced to the west end door, only.

  • The station will be closed between 10:00 pm and 5:15 am, to all non-Amtrak personnel, in order to clean and disinfect for our riders and employees.

  • Only ticketed passengers, or those wishing to purchase tickets, are permitted inside the station during this time.

Amtrak Thruway Buses Temporarily Replace Hiawatha Trains
Between Milwaukee and Chicago

Effective Friday, April 24, 2020

In response to lower ridership demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Amtrak, in partnership with the Wisconsin and Illinois state transportation departments, will temporarily substitute daily Amtrak Thruway Buses for Amtrak Hiawatha Service trains between Milwaukee and Chicago.

Effective Friday, April 24, Bus 3332 will operate in place of Hiawatha Service Trains 330 and 332. The bus will originate at the downtown Milwaukee Intermodal Station at 7:55 a.m. and arrive at Chicago Union Station at 9:54 a.m. Also effective that day, Bus 3339 will operate in place of Hiawatha Service Train 339, originating in Chicago at 5:00 p.m. and arriving at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station at 6:59 p.m. All times local.

These buses will serve all Amtrak stations on the Hiawatha Service corridor except Glenview, Ill. The Amtrak Empire Builder serves Glenview and will continue to also temporarily provide daily service at all other Hiawatha stations. Full schedules are on the Amtrak Passenger Service Notice.

Reservations will be required in order to maintain social distancing for seating on Buses 3332 & 3339. Amtrak customers traveling with current monthly and 10-ride tickets are welcome without reservations.

Customers are strongly encouraged now to wear masks while using all Amtrak services. The bus operator will wear a facial covering while interacting with customers and the buses will be thoroughly cleaned between trips. More information about safe essential travel is at Amtrak.com.

The Thruway Bus service substitution will be in effect through Monday, May 25. Hiawatha train service is expected to resume on Tuesday, May 26. These ADA-accessible motor coaches offer passengers many of the same features as our trains including Wi-Fi service, reclining seats, ample legroom, tables, cupholders and lavatories.

Station Elevator Out of Service Downtown Riverside, CA, Station

Effective Immediately

The elevator located inside the Riverside, CA, station is out of service for approximately 6 weeks.

Trains 3 and 4 arrive and depart from the East platform which can be accessed at ground level via Commerce Street, address below:

3801 Commerce Street Riverside, CA 92507

The pedestrian bridge is still available from the normal access point of 4066 Vine Street. The nearest station with an accessible elevator is San Bernardino, approximately 10 miles away.

Allow Extra Time – Don’t Miss Your Train Customers using the pedestrian bridge may need to allow extra time to get to the boarding platform.

Warrensburg, MO, Station Waiting Room Temporarily Closed

Effective Immediately

Effective immediately, the Warrensburg, 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.

Rather than waiting for trains outdoors, please use the Amtrak app or other means to check train status while waiting in a personal vehicle.

Centralia, IL, Station Waiting Room Temporarily Closed

Effective Immediately

Effective immediately, the Centralia, IL, 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.

Rather than waiting for trains outdoors, please use the Amtrak app or other means to check train status while waiting in a personal vehicle.

Wolverine Trains 351 and 352 Blue Water Trains 364 and 365

Effective April 27, 2020

Due to track work being performed by Amtrak, and Norfolk Southern, Wolverine and Blue Water Service will be affected, as follows:

Blue Water Trains 364 and 365

  • Train 364 will arrive at Port Huron 28 minutes later at 11:59 pm.

  • Train 365 will depart Port Huron 28 minutes earlier, at 5:52 am, arriving at Chicago 17 minutes later at 12:02 pm.

Wolverine Service

  • Train 351 will depart Pontiac 38 minutes earlier at 5:12 am, arriving in Chicago at the scheduled time of 10:32 am.

  • Train 352 will depart Chicago 30 minutes earlier at 12:55 pm, arriving at Pontiac 7 minutes later at 8:39 pm.

Thruway Service Changes Sunset Empire Bus Terminal in Astoria Temporarily Closed

Effective April 27 through May 31, 2020

Attention Amtrak Passengers: Amtrak Thruway Service between Portland and Astoria will be reduced, effective April 27 through May 31. The Sunset Empire Bus Terminal in Astoria is temporarily closed.

Thruway Schedules Reduced

  • Buses 5500 and 5565 are suspended

  • Buses 5563 and 5564 will continue to run, offering two round trips daily from Portland to Astoria.

Illini Train 393 Departs 30 Minutes Earlier

Effective Fridays, April 24 - May 22, 2020

Due to track work being performed by Canadian National Railway, Train 393 will operate 30 minutes earlier Fridays, April 24 through May 22.

Train 393 will operate on its normal schedule Saturday through Thursday, as shown.

Illini Train 393 Temporary Schedule

April 24 through May 22, 2020



Sat - Thur

Chicago, IL




Homewood, IL



Kankakee, IL



Gilman, IL



Rantoul, IL



Champaign Urbana, IL



Mattoon, IL



Effingham, IL



Centralia, IL



Du Quoin, IL



Carbondale, IL




William H Gray III, 30th Street Station Temporary Changes

Effective Immediately

Effective immediately, Philadelphia’s William H Gray, III 30th Street station will reduce the number of entrances and modify station hours, until further notice.

Station entrances will be reduced to a single entrance in the 30th Street Portico, the SEPTA concourse from 30th street and through the parking garage.

The station will be closed between 1:00 am and 5:00 am, to all non-Amtrak personnel, in order to clean and disinfect for our riders and employees.

City of New Orleans Trains 58 and 59 Suspended between McComb and New Orleans

Until Further Notice

Please be advised that Canadian National Railway is prohibiting passenger trains over the Bonnet Carre Spillway due to planned emergency flood control, affecting the City of New Orleans service as outlined below:

Train 59, which normally operates between Chicago and New Orleans, will terminate at McComb, MS. Bus 3259 will operate between McComb and New Orleans, serving intermediate station stop of Hammond.

Train 58, which normally operates between New Orleans and Chicago, will originate at McComb, MS. Bus 3258 will operate between New Orleans and McComb, serving intermediate station stop of Hammond. Bus 3258 will depart New Orleans at 1:00 pm, 45 minutes earlier than Train 59’s scheduled departure time.

Please note: Trains 58 and 59 will not stop at Brookhaven and Hazlehurst and no alternate transportation will be provided.

Piedmont Services Schedule Changes

Effective March 23, 2020

Piedmont Service schedules are adjusted effective March 23, until further notice, as outlined below:

Train Service Changes

  • Piedmont Trains 73, 74, 77 and 78 are cancelled.

  • Piedmont Trains 75 and 76 will operate daily on their current schedule.

Vermonter and Ethan Allen Schedule Changes

Effective March 26, 2020

Effective March 26, schedule changes and station closures will impact Vermonter and Ethan Allen trains, until further notice, as outlined below:

Vermonter Trains and Stations:

  • Trains 54, 55, 56 and 57 will not operate between New Haven, CT and St. Albans, VT.

  • Vermonter trains will continue to operate between Washington, D.C. and New Haven, Monday through Saturday.

  • All Amtrak stations in Vermont are temporarily closed.

Ethan Allen Trains:

  • Ethan Allen trains will not operate between Rutland and Albany.

Coaster Commuter Trains

Effective March 23, 2020

The North County Transit District has announced it will temporarily reduce service for its Coaster commuter trains starting Monday.

  • Weekday train service will be reduced by about 50%, particularly around the noon hour, when several northbound and southbound trains will be suspended. Likewise, just one evening train in either direction will continue to run, 5:41 p.m. southbound and 7:13 p.m. northbound.

  • Southbound commuters will have to be on the 7:40 a.m. train or wait until 2:42 p.m. Northbound commuters can leave as late as 9:18 a.m.

  • Weekend Coaster service will be suspended entirely beginning March 28. The Breeze bus service has been temporarily eliminated.

  • In addition to the Coaster trips which will remain active, riders with a valid Coaster Regional day or monthly pass will still be able to ride the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner. Amtrak will also be implementing service reductions.

Capitol Corridor Service Schedule Changes

Effective March 21, 2020

Please be advised that the Capitol Corridor service will operate on limited schedules beginning March 21.

In addition to schedule changes, some station facilities will be adjusting hours of operation.

For the most up to date information and changes, please visit www.capitolcorridor.org or call 1-877974-3322.

Travel Tip of the Week

Essential Service Plan and Coronavirus Update

Thursday, May 7, 2020

  • Service Reductions: While Amtrak continues to operate as an essential service for those who must travel during this difficult time, we have temporarily suspended the following services due to reduced demand.

  • Protect Everyone: To protect our customers and employees, we strongly recommend customers follow CDC guidelines and wear facial coverings in public, including in our stations and on trains. If you don’t have a face covering, click here for instructions on how to make your own.

  • Arriving Out of State: At this time, various states are undertaking specific safety precautions for customers arriving from out of state. Some states are also requiring that customers wear masks in waiting room areas. Please check with each state for specific guidance.

  • Station Staffing: Due to service reductions, some stations may not be staffed. If the station is closed, please use the Amtrak app or call 1-800-USA-Rail to check train status while waiting in a personal vehicle.

Amtrak’s Commitment to Customers and Employees During the COVID-19 Crisis

Amtrak wants to express its heartfelt appreciation for our frontline team members who work tirelessly to provide our service to those who need it most. To protect customers and employees, all customers in stations and on trains and thruway buses are required to wear a facial covering, beginning May 11.

The safety of Amtrak’s customers and employees is our top priority. To protect both our employees and customers, Amtrak is strongly recommending customers wear facial coverings and follow guidelines around physical distancing, consistent with CDC guidelines. If you need to travel with us, know that we are taking extra steps to sanitize our stations and trains, including taking the following measures:

  • Limiting bookings: To help maintain CDC recommendations for physical distancing onboard trains, we have temporarily reduced Coach and Business class sales to 50% capacity.

  • Going cashless: As an added measure to ensure the health and safety of our customers and employees, we are temporarily accepting only cashless payments in stations and on trains.

  • Promoting physical distancing: Signage has been displayed at several of our busiest staffed stations to indicate safe distances in high customer traffic areas such as waiting rooms, in front ticket offices, at the base/top of escalators, lounge entrances, etc. In addition, clear protective barriers have been retrofitted at staffed stations where there are no current glass barriers.

  • Updating food and beverage service: We are temporarily offering Flexible Dining service in the dining or lounge car on all long distance routes (except Auto Train) and encouraging all Sleeping Car customers to select optional room service for their meals. In addition, we are limiting seating in dining and café areas.

To protect against all communicable diseases:

  • Wash your hands: Wash hands frequently with soap and water – and for at least 20 seconds. If you can’t wash your hands, use hand sanitizer.

  • Cover your mouth: When sneezing or coughing, use tissues and promptly dispose of them or cover your mouth with your sleeve or elbow.

  • Take care of yourself and keep others safe: If you are feeling ill, please stay home until you are well.

Service will be restored on select trains and routes once circumstances improve and demand returns. We will continue to monitor and make changes to our procedures, policies and operations as necessary and are updating this page regularly with any changes. For more information about the coronavirus, visit the CDC.

Ticket Changes and/or Cancellations

  • Amtrak is waiving change fees: For reservations made before May 31, 2020. This includes reservations booked with points. To modify a reservation, log in to your account, go to ‘Modify Trip’ on Amtrak.com, or find your reservation from your account on the home screen in the Amtrak app. A fare difference may apply to your new itinerary. If you want to cancel your reservation with no fee, you must call 1-800-USA-RAIL and speak with an agent (not available via Amtrak.com or the app).

  • Multiride Tickets: Multi-ride train and city pair restrictions are removed on the Northeast Corridor through May 31, 2020

Stay healthy.

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]

Looking Beyond Pandemic: The Work Continues

Even before the coronavirus outbreak, 2020 was shaping up as a critical year for the future of American passenger rail. With Amtrak ridership down more than 90% and rescue packages taking shape for intercity passenger rail, private operators, mass transit and airlines, there is a risk that when the crisis is over critically needed investment capital will be cut off -- and the legislative gains we have spent five years setting in motion could be squandered.

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 gear up to fight for passenger rail’s present and future, please consider donating to support this critical work.