Category Archives: AMTRAK

Amtrak Says It Won’t Pay For LIRR’s Emergency Penn Station Plan. It’s Unclear Who Will.

GOTHAMIST from California Rail News

Amtrak does not want to front the bill for at least eight weeks of Long Island Railroad schedule changes, fare reductions and ferry and bus alternatives during this summer’s emergency Penn Station repairs, president C.W. Moorman confirmed in a letter to the MTA on Wednesday. The news comes a week after the MTA outlined a contingency plan of unknown cost, insisting the burden will not fall on commuters.

“The LIRR has no basis to seek compensation for such costs from Amtrak,” Moorman wrote. He added that Amtrak estimates its contribution this summer to be between $30 and $40 million, and that the MTA’s call for reimbursement would violate the authority’s contract with Amtrak (the MTA rents terminal space from Amtrak at Penn Station).

Acting MTA Director Ronnie Hakim hinted at Wednesday’s MTA Board meeting at a price tag in the millions for planned LIRR contingencies. Hakim also vowed to consult MTA lawyers about “our rights” to force Amtrak’s hand. But some Board Members were skeptical, accusing Hakim and the MTA of poor planning in assuming Amtrak would pay. Some also demanded clarification on the cost of the plan, and argued that putting time and energy into avoiding the expense would be a waste.

“We should be doubling down on seeking federal funding, and focus our legal team on addressing funding [issues] in D.C.,” she added.
Other members of the board said that they doubted the federal government would come through. Amtrak’s federal funding was cut in 2015, and Trump’s vague infrastructure plan could also spell cuts. “We would always like to talk about the receipt of federal funds,” said acting board chairman Fernando Ferrer. “I don’t engage in fantasy, so let’s be realistic about this.”
Polly Trottenberg, a mayoral appointee to the board and commissioner of the NYC Department of Transportation, was more blunt.
“I will boldly say, I don’t think we’re getting the money from Amtrak and sadly I don’t think Uncle Sam is riding to the rescue either,” she said. “I think we’re going to have to accept that we’re going to be paying for this. So I have a basic question: what’s the price tag?”

All aboard for the new Rochester train station

Democrat & Chronical via California Rail News

It was only supposed to be a temporary solution. Thirty-seven years after the Rochester train station was built, construction is now near completion for a new hub for Amtrak and CSX and an enhanced traveling experience for passengers.

Together with area business owners, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, led a tour of the new train station that’s slated to be completed in a few weeks. She helped secure a $15 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration to help fund the expansion.

The remodel was much needed to help grow businesses and to serve the entire community, Slaughter said.

“Our community is blessed to be close to so many major cities and this new state-of-the-art, ADA-compliant station will help move goods and people where they need to go and encourage new companies to open their doors right here in Monroe County,” Slaughter said.

The project will be fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Once completed, it will feature 12,000 square feet of space, including a passenger concourse, platform and passenger display systems. The station will offer full access to the platform by elevators, escalators, stairs and ramps. Currently, passengers must climb up steps to board the train and passengers with disabilities need to use a lift.

Infrastructure is critical to the success of area businesses and trains are as important as other modes of transportation, Slaughter said. Many passengers prefer to take the train versus flying so they can relax and stretch out on the ride, she said.

Irondequoit resident Marlene Canavan agrees. She was waiting for her daughter, Darla, to arrive from New York City at the train station. Her daughter switches between flying and taking the train and sometimes prefers the train because it is time consuming to go through airport security. Canavan is eager to see the upgrades to the Rochester train station.

Accessibility to Rochester is important for visitors coming to the area, said Naomi Silver, president and CEO of Rochester Red Wings minor league baseball team.

Having a good infrastructure for different transportation is important for businesses in the area, said John Hart, CEO of Lumetrics in Henrietta. The infrastructure helps bring customers in, he said.

Work at Penn Station N.Y. to impact Amtrak’s Keystone service

PennLive via California Rail News

Frequent rail travelers to New York take note: Amtrak service from Philadelphia to New York is about to change slightly this summer.
As part of infrastructure upgrades to New York’s Penn Station, Amtrak has announced a short list of service changes that may impact travel from Harrisburg to Philadelphia to New York.

Acela Express service will run as scheduled.

Trips that do not make as much money like some Harrisburg trains are killed.

Going South, there are no alternatives to switch too like Grand Central.

Anderson New Amtrak CEO

Breaking news from Politco.com

Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman is stepping down at the end of the year, and will be replaced by former Delta CEO Richard Anderson, according to knowledgeable sources and confirmed Monday by Amtrak.

The two men will serve as co-CEOs until the end of December.

Anderson, a 62-year-old former prosecutor from Texas, rose through the ranks of the airline industry to become CEO of Delta in 2007, just as it was leaving bankruptcy.

By the time Moorman steps down, he will have served roughly a year and a half as Amtrak’s CEO.

Moorman is himself a private sector transportation “icon,” said Amtrak chairman Tony Coscia. Both he and Moorman said it was always their plan for Moorman to be a temporary CEO.

“When I came to Amtrak, I had a clear understanding with my wife about how long I could do it,” Moorman said. “And in fact, I have exceeded that, as she points out to me.”

One of Moorman’s tasks, said Coscia, was “to help us recruit a CEO of the company who will serve as a long-term CEO.”

Moorman called Anderson a “superlative” leader and said they’ll be serving as co-CEOs for a half year because, “The one thing he doesn’t know is the railroad business, which obviously is my background.”

“And then I’ll have some ongoing role after that to assist him,” Moorman said.

The news comes during a tumultuous time for Amtrak. It’s just starting emergency repairs to the tracks beneath Penn Station, in the aftermath of two recent derailments there.

The difference between the NEC and other regional corridor services.

M.E. Singer opinion from California Rail News

The premise of regionalization of passenger rail should be incorporated to ensure the viability of any national infrastructure program in the US. Although the California JPAs have created from scratch a spectacular inter-connecting regional program; the Northeast Corridor merely picked-up from where the Pennsylvania, New Haven, and New York Central left off, their remains a void of far too many unserved potential regional corridors.

However, unlike California and the NEC, their is little linkage between other regional states, despite their past history of being well served by a network of passenger rail operated by the private railroads. The issue today is how to incentivize the Class 1s, Amtrak, commuter, and the individual states to work together, as the markets are there, unserved by rail; forced to accept clogged interstates and expensive, infrequent air service–all inhibiting economic growth and tourism, due to a lack of mobility. The answer is not by operating but a daily long distance train, but frequently scheduled, convenient regional trains, capable of quick turnarounds, rather than languishing in yards all day.

Such markets just in the Midwest include: Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison; Chicago-Milwaukee-Green Bay; Summer seasonal services Chicago Wisconsin and Michigan; Chicago-Milwaukee via UP North Line thru Evanston-Waukegan-Racine; Chicago-Champaign-Springfield-Peoria; Chicago-Cleveland-Youngstown-Pittsburgh; Cincinatti-Columbus-Cleveland; Chicago-Quad Cities-Iowa City-Des Moines. Even The Milwaukee Road utilized its new bi-level commuter cars in the 1960s to operate weekends Chicago-Wisconsin Dells. Also, in conjunction with commuter lines, what about Special Trains for the vast number of football events throughout the Midwest? With two run-thru tracks at Chicago Union Station, the stub-end terminal concept should not prevent enhancing schedule convenience and true regional inter-connectivity by run thru services. (In 1972, even Amtrak operated two run thru schedules between Milwaukee-Chicago-St. Louis.)

The successful California JPA model appears to be the best formula to follow, given how the JPAs control marketing (routes, services, frequencies, fares, advertising), with Amtrak providing T&E crews, staffed depots, and maintenance. LOSSAN JPA has wisely extended schedules from San Diego to run thru LAUPT to serve San Luis Obispo; it is a matter of time before reaching San Jose. San Joaquin JPA acknowledges market potential to schedule day trips between Fresno-Sacramento. Capitol Corridor JPA provides true regional connecting service running from Sacramento thru Emeryville (Oakland) to San Jose, with plans for further route expansion.
What stops the continued growth of these JPAs is the acute shortage of equipment and the Amtrak cost methodology for state services. Given the near breakeven of LOSSAN, even under the current higher cost formulas, perhaps it is appropriate to consider full takeover of all passenger services; to serve as a Beta site for the other JPAs; eventually other regional/state consortiums?

Amtrak statewide ridership dips in NY State

ALBANY Times-Union

On the eve of massive track repair work at Penn Station in New York City, Amtrak’s upstate ridership is struggling to grow.

For passenger rail advocates such as Bruce Becker, vice president of operations for the National Association of Railroad Passengers, that’s troubling.

“It is a cause for concern,” Becker said. “While ridership in the Hudson Valley has grown modestly, ridership across upstate New York and on the Adirondack has dropped.”

Becker cites a number of possible reasons for the decline.

“One is lower gas prices,” he said. They’re down about $1.25 per gallon in the Capital Region compared to the summer of 2014, according to figures from GasBuddy.com.

But Amtrak’s own difficulties may also have contributed.

It had to cancel one daily train for a number of days last summer west of the Capital Region while CSX worked on the tracks.

“Last summer was not a stellar period for on-time performance,” Becker added.

It has been nine years since Congress approved the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, which shifted more of the cost of passenger rail operations to the states.

New York has continued to use the existing passenger cars, many of which are now 40 years old. Its specially built dual-mode locomotives that can operate on diesel or electric power have seen several breakdowns this spring, stranding hundreds of passengers.

For passenger rail advocates such as Bruce Becker, vice president of operations for the National Association of Railroad Passengers, that’s troubling.

“It is a cause for concern,” Becker said. “While ridership in the Hudson Valley has grown modestly, ridership across upstate New York and on the Adirondack has dropped.”

It had to cancel one daily train for a number of days last summer west of the Capital Region while CSX worked on the tracks.

A recommendation by some state Department of Transportation officials to replace the locomotives wasn’t included in the most recent state budget.
The state,meanwhile, has a vested interest in seeing higher passenger revenues, because they reduce the amount it must pay Amtrak to operate the trains.

Nationwide, Amtrak saw record ridership last year, carrying 31.3 million passengers. But statewide, ridership fell nearly 4.7 percent to 1.7 million, according to a recent presentation to the Empire State Passengers Association.

About half of those — 855,000 — began or ended their trips at the Albany-Rensselaer train station, one of Amtrak’s busiest.

Many factors can contribute to a decrease in ridership levels including gas prices, construction and service reliability and we continue to evaluate ways to mitigate these impacts and highlight Amtrak’s many passenger amenities and value proposition,” Amtrak spokesman Mike Tolbert said. “Amtrak ridership overall remains strong, with a record 31.3 million passengers in Fiscal Year 2016, marking the sixth consecutive year Amtrak has carried more than 30 million customers.”

EDITORS NOTE: Is the upstate operation “pure” AMTRAK or dependant on the State too? How about borrowing rolling stock and dual diesel- electric locomotives from other NY State agencies (like Metro-North)?

Why Did The Penn Central Railroad Fail?

The Penn Central was born amid great expectations and promises on February 1,1968 by the merger of the New York Central System into the Pennsylvania Railroad on that date.

Neither railroad had been forced through the trauma of bankruptcy and reorganization.

With incompatible computer systems ,signal systems, operating styles, and personalities at the top, the new railroad remained essentially two in operation though it was one in name.

1.) PC was forced to pay $125 million for the bankrupt New Haven, which had a negative cash flow.

2.) PC was required to operate well over one half of all the passenger service in the US, which by that time had a monstrous negative cash flow. Amtrak only partly relieved this in 1971, as PC was still saddled with commuter service in the New York and Philadelphia areas.

3.) Freight rates and abandonments were rigidly regulated, preventing PC and others from adapting to market conditions.

4.) The “red” and “green” teams were more interested in “oneupmanship” than creating a viable enterprise. No thought had been given prior to the merger, for example, on compatibility of computer reporting systems.

The merger between the New York Central RR and the Pennsylvania RR was like a shotgun wedding. Both bride and groom hated each other. Yet, there was no other option but to join hands in unholy matrimony, and if this wasn’t bad enough, the bride and groom had to accept the New Haven RR as an unwelcome boarder in their honeymoon suite.

Read More About The Wreck Of The Penn Central Railroad

https://penneyandkc.wordpress.com/penn-central-a-wreck-of-a-railroad/

Could this ‘visionary’ plan solve the area’s transit woes? (VIDEO)

NJ.com via California Rail News

With Penn Station’s failing infrastructure at capacity, a plan to merge the area’s train and bus service into one regional system is the cornerstone of an idea floated by a New York design firm as a solution to the region’s commuting problems.

Called ReThink NYC Plan 2050, the centerpiece of the idea is a unified commuter rail that connects NJ Transit, Metro North and the Long Island Rail Road lines through a revamped Penn Station…

Some funding for the plan, estimated to cost $48 billion, would come from scaling back plans to replace the Port Authority Bus Terminal with a smaller structure. It would eliminate plans to build an annex south of Penn Station, which Rick called “a $7 billion to $8 billion mistake.”
The main criticism of Penn South annex is the extra tracks would dead end, limiting their usefulness.

“No other city is building a terminal in its core,” Rick said.
Instead, all platforms under Penn Station would be extended beneath the Moynihan Station, which will be the new name of the converted Farley postal facility.

GOVERNORS CHRISTIE AND CUOMO CALL FOR PRIVATIZING PENN STATION

WABC via California Rail News

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a joint letter declaring they have lost all faith in Amtrak. “A professional, qualified, private station operator must be brought in to take over the repairs and manage this entire process going,” the letter read.

Many of the infrastructure problems in the New York Metro Area can be blamed on the Governors of New York and New Jersey. Both States have power over the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The Port Authority controls most of transportation in the Metro New York area. It is funded from revenue from bridge and tunnel tolls which allow it to issue bonds to build major projects without approval from legislatures or a vote from the people. The problem is many people consider the Port Authority a piggy bank for both state’s governors for money without the need need of dealing with the legislature. At the same time the Authority is not keeping up with maintaining infrastructure they already control. One example is the Port Authority’s Bus Terminal in Manhattan which is literally falling apart and needs replacing. The other is LaGuardia Airport which the Port Authority owns with the other regional airports. It was built in the 1930s and is a favorite butt of jokes. In New York the state has a major role in funding the Subway system. The state hasn’t been willing to fund the Subway which leaves much of the signalling and infrastructure predating the 1950’s. As for New Jersey it was Christie who cut money of the Gateway Project he now has to support and to New Jersey Transit. The result of the NJT cut backs has been in increase of accidents and breakdowns on NJT.

Man Saves the Day by Delivering Pizza to ‘Hangry’ Passengers on Stalled Train

From TIME via California Rail News

A pizza deliveryman saved the day by trekking out to a stranded Amtrak train and delivering pizza to the hungry passengers.

Jim Leary heard on Sunday during a routine shift at Dom’s NY Style Pizzeria in Newport, Del. that some passengers on a stalled train less than a mile away had ordered pizza. That didn’t faze Leary, who says he has delivered pizzas to passengers on airplanes and boats throughout his 17-year career.
“I was like, ‘hell yeah, I gotta hook them up,'” Leary, 46, told TIME. “I know they gotta be hungry.”