Category Archives: AMTRAK

You’ll soon be able to get to Chicago an hour faster

From the Belleville News-Democrat via California Rail News

“We’re getting close to finishing the project,” said Scott Speegle, the Passenger Rail communications manager for IDOT.
Work this year includes upgrades at 21 rail crossings between Granite City and Shipman, Speegle said.
Upgrades include putting in four quad gates to prevent cars from weaving through crossings when a train is approaching. Signaling upgrades, increased fencing and pedestrian gates, if necessary, also are planned. Most of the work is expected to be completed by the end of the summer, Speegle said.
The crossings will be temporarily closed while upgrades are taking place.
What has not received much press are efforts to throw a money wrench to raise passenger speeds in the Midwest by the UP. Where it controls the rails that used government funding for track improvements to reduce running times for passenger trains, the UP is trying to block the use of new High Speed “Charger” locomotives. Among the issues UP is claiming is the the Chargers don’t meet current FRA regulations. One thing the UP is claiming is that since the Charger uses LED lights, it can’t be used on American railroads since FRA regulations says nothing about LED lights.

After NYC mess, senators call for Amtrak funding

RailwayAge Magazine – ‎Apr 12, 2017‎

Senators Bob Mendez and Cory Booker (both D-NJ) sent a letter to Senate Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Committee on Appropriations Chairman Susan Collins and Ranking Member Jack Reed, calling for $2.3 billion for the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts capital grant program and $1.6 billion to support Amtrak. The New Starts grant program funding was slashed and Amtrak’s funding for long distance service was eliminated in President Donald Trump’s proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget.

“The President proposed, Congress disposes”

Amtrak close to reviving Gulf Coast rail line despite Trump budget concerns

AL.COM via California Rail News

 

Plans to bring passenger rail back to the eastern part of the Gulf Coast for the first time in 12 years are close to being realized, according to Amtrak and other officials that met in Mobile Wednesday night. However, the plans hang in the balance because of extensive cuts contained within President Donald Trump’s recent budget proposal that outlines $54 billion worth of cuts aimed at programs across the country.

“When we look at the situation of where we are, we are closer now than we have ever been over the course of the last 12 years,” said Thomas Stennis III, Amtrak’s Director of Government Affairs South, who told stakeholders from Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida to urge their respective members of Congress to reject Trump’s America First Budget. “I cannot urge that enough.”

Once agreements are finalized between the states, CSX and Amtrak, the rail service could be up and running in as little as six to 12 months, according to Amtrak Director of Government Affairs Todd Stenniss.

Amtrak officials and members of the Southern Rail Commission (SRC) hosted a meeting Wednesday to update the public on efforts to restore passenger rail service to the Gulf Coast.

The meeting in Marianna was the second in a series of six taking place across the stakeholder states of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Louisville Not Alone Anymore; “Skinny Budget” To Bring MORE!

In the middle of the picture is the Louisville railroad station. No AMTRAK here!!! Better for Louisville to donate station for the Louisville to Chicago HYPERLOOP. (Some money to fix would be appreciated too).

Now we are going to get more “Louisville’s” thanks to President Trump’s Skinny Budget”.

Headline (really bottom line) Cutting Off ‘Fly-Over’ States, Trump to Axe Amtrak for 220 Cities.

President’s so-called “skinny budget” will eliminate all federal funding for Amtrak’s national train network.

Some of what we know:

In addition to slashing funding for the arts, education programs, climate change research, and worker protections (among many other things), another lesser known casualty of President Donald Trump’s “morally obscene” budget proposal: Amtrak.

The president’s so-called “skinny budget” will eliminate all federal funding for Amtrak’s national train network, meaning 220 cities will lose all passenger service, the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) warned this week.

“It’s ironic that President Trump’s first budget proposal undermines the very communities whose economic hardship and sense of isolation from the rest of the country helped propel him into office,” said NARP president Jim Mathews.

“These working class communities—many of them located in the Midwest and the South—were tired of being treated like ‘flyover country,'” Mathews continued. “But by proposing the elimination of Amtrak’s long distance trains, the Trump administration does them one worse, cutting a vital service that connects these small town economies to the rest of the U.S..”

“These hard working, small town Americans,” he added, “don’t have airports or Uber to turn to; they depend on these trains.”

Specifically, Trump’s proposal slashes $2.4 billion (or 13 percent) from transportation spending, threatening long distance routes including the east coast’s Silver Star and Silver Meteor lines, the New York-Chicago Cardinal train service, the Empire Builder, which connects Chicago to the Pacific Northwest, as well as the effort to restore the Gulf Coast line.

Indianapolis and Cincinnati will now join the “club” of NO AMTRAK.

Last week HYPERLOOP ONE (the leader in the HYPERLOOP world) held a conference in Washington. They “show-cased” projects they are supporting. Pittsburgh-Columbus-Chicago is included. Cincinnati-Chicago is affiliated with another Hyperloop manufacturer. Louisville-Chicago will be built with private funding using HYPERLOOP ONE technology. They attended the conference and were very, very impressed.

Louisville-Chicago “The Muhammad Ali Hyperlink” will offer other HYPERLOOPs use of it’s entrance to Chicago’s Millennium Station. And YES! They are into freight (like steam-ship containers).

Stay tuned to this blog! We will be the first to know.

The Sorry State Of The AMTRAK Hoosier State

Working on the HYPERLOOP from Louisville, Kentucky to Gary, Indiana, we cannot help but notice Indianapolis. We go right thru it on Interstata 65. But we have “ignored” it because: (1) Indianapolis HAS AMTRAK and (2) Indianapolis to Gary is “too short” to be an efficient HYPERLOOP.

We forget how the “Hoosier State” was nothing more than a “hospital train” to Amtrak’s Beach Grove shops near Indy. It received a name and Horizon cars only so CSX would move it in some semblance of a designated schedule between Chicago-Indy. Hard to believe this once was a vibrant corridor into the early 1960s for NYC, PRR, and Monon. The NYC’s “James Whitcomb Riley” was featured in a 3 hour timecard on its way serving Cincinatti, including change of power between IC/NYC in Kankakee, operating over jointed rail with multiple grade crossings, and making several stops en route.

Given the starvation diet assessed to Amtrak by Congress, the lack of any economic incentives for CSX, and Indiana’s deferred approach to rail infrastructure investment, frankly we can expect nothing will change without federal involvement, as well a spirited encouragement of major P3. To compete with the bus and auto relying on the toll-free I-65 to achieve 3 hour runs, significant funds will be required for rail to achieve:

1) Re-building the antiquated signal system and right-of-way of the CSX between Dyer-Indy. Approximately a minimum of $1 Million per mile just for track infrastructure over that 150 route.

2) $500,000 for 2 power switches at Dyer, IN to divert the train off of the current slow 29 mile route thru 5 dispatchers into Chicago Union Station (CUS) and instead, onto the CN to the St. Charles Air Line access into CUS.

3) How long before the South Shore Line extends to Munster to allow running the “Hoosier State” on its ROW from the St. Charles Air Line to connect there to Dyer?

4) How long for the CREATE program to be funded to eliminate Chicago region rail gridlock by re-building Grand Crossing/75th Street to facilitate passenger rail?

Current Indianapolis Union Station is a decrepit, dark, dank hole in the wall, in an unsafe neighborhood, frequented by the homeless and panhandlers; shared as a bus depot. Rehabilitation drastically required.

By now, we should have learned that an acceptable schedule and timecard are paramount to a train’s potential to attract traffic; with the reality that convenience is key as interpreted by every market metric as provided by more than one frequency each way.

a) The “Hoosier State” must immediately change it current departure and arrival at Indy to be more convenient. Schedule should be changed to leave Indy between 0730-800 and leave Chicago between 1545-1615. HYPERLOOP WILL SOLVE!

b) The train is currently non-competitive on a 5.05 schedule vs. bus or auto at 3-3.30, despite the I-65 truck conga lines, Chicago parking rates, and weather. HYPERLOOP WILL SOLVE!

c) Ideally, there should be 3 daily frequencies (morning, noon, afternoon) HYPERLOOP WILL SOLVE!.

d) If Amtrak ever takes “The Cardinal” daily, it could potentially operate the “Hoosier State” daily on an alternative schedule.HYPERLOOP WILL SOLVE!

1) Indiana got used to the service enhancements provided by Iowa Pacific, but was willing to accept only when the bid was under the full cost to provide.

2) Iowa Pacific under-bid its services apparently with the intent to get one state corridor on the board, so it would have that story to offer to other potential current, or, new state corridor interests, seeking to have an option to Amtrak.

3) Passenger railroading is not cheap, with no flexibility for neophytes and wannabes; little room to negotiate costs, e.g., Class 1 track access and dispatching; cost of slot to achieve optimal timing and scheduling.

4) Without a 180 change in Congress, the “Hoosier State” will best exemplify our failed national transportation policy, bouncing along on freight trackage at almost twice the travel time required by interstate.

Thanks to Mark E. Singer for his AMTRAK comments.

Many Opponents to AMTRAK Scheme To Bypass Southeastern Connecticut Towns

Opposition to the proposed Amtrak bypass through southeastern Connecticut is more than bipartisan: It has become multi-partisan.

A recent statement warning that bullet-train tracks would erode New London’s tax base and damage historic sites was co-signed by the leaders of New London’s Republican, Democratic and Green parties.

“It is rare that political parties reach consensus on an issue, but on this we are united,” says their letter to federal railroad regulators.

For the past year and a half, the Amtrak bypass idea has been creating uncommon alliances throughout the region. Business leaders stand alongside environmentalists in fighting it, and politically conservative and liberal homeowners alike are pressing regulators to scuttle the plan.

It is a really “knock down and drag them out” battle. AMTRAK and the Federal Rail Admintration have spent all kinds of money. They keep talking about not “destroying historic towns”. Everybody wants to go to court.

Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder sent the FRA more than 65 pages of reasons to kill the idea, all heavily laden with foot notes on relevant federal regulations. The CT Trust for Historic Preservation’s own letter cited an extensive number of legal cases.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Wednesday that he urged new Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to start a fresh review of the proposal. He has called it a “half-baked” waste of planning money that should have been used elsewhere.

I can stand back and be neutral. My feeling is the whole stupid battle is about BRIDGES.

There are eight very huge, moveable (can go up and down) bridges on the shoreline in Connecticut. AMTRAK uses all while the four bridges at the Western end are also used by commuters to New York City. The West End carries more passengers to NY City than AMTRAK ever dreamed of.

Connecticut Department of Transportation has “stepped up to the bar” on these. The other four at the East End are clearly in the hands of AMTRAK. These bridges were all built by the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company in the late 19th Century to early 20th Century

Amtrak to Chicago: Advocates hope train service can grow from limited options Cincinnati has now

CINCINNATI — It’s the last remaining portion of Union Terminal’s original use, but many today don’t even know it’s there.

Tucked behind the now under-construction Cincinnati Museum Center is the city’s access point to Amtrak, the country’s primary regional and long-distance passenger railroad service.

The station is a modestly sized version of the terminal in its heyday, which originally was designed to accommodate more than 200 trains and some 17,000 passengers each day. Today — secondary to housing the museum center — the station serves only a fraction of the railroads and passengers it once did, with just three arrivals and departures scheduled each week.

But there is a growing conversation in the region to change that.

New AMTRAK “Charger”Locomotives Testing on Cascades Route in Washington

National certification testing of Amtrak’s new Charger locomotive is being conducted by the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The WSDOT said that the Siemens SC-44 Charger units are testing on the Amtrak Cascades corridor throughout February. If all goes well they are scheduled to enter regular service later this year.

The WSDOT has ordered eight of the 4,400-horsepower locomotives, which are being assembled by Siemens in Sacramento.

Siemens is headquartered in Germany and builds locomotives also for Florida East Coast Railway’s BRIGHTLINE

‘Put the Junction Back in the Junction’

Every seat was occupied in the waiting room at the Essex Junction Amtrak station on the first Wednesday in January. Passengers going south to New York City and Washington, D.C., spilled onto the platform next to the tracks. The drab station was the center of activity as the shops and restaurants in the old commercial buildings along Railroad Avenue began to open.

With a blast of its horn, the Vermonter arrived promptly at 9:54 a.m. from St. Albans, and 110 people climbed aboard the train. Such large crowds delight Essex Junction leaders, who want to boost train ridership in the historic railroad town.

The goal is “to put the junction back in the Junction,” said George Tyler, president of the Essex Junction Board of Trustees.

To that end, he and his colleagues are doing everything they can to accelerate the proposed extension of passenger rail to Montréal, which they figure could bring throngs of Canadians to Essex Junction, the train’s sole stop in Chittenden County. It would restore the old Montréaler service that for decades brought tourists and skiers through Vermont, linking Quebéc and Washington, D.C. The trains ran until 1995, when Amtrak discontinued the run because of financial problems. St. Albans became the northern terminus, and the line was renamed the Vermonter.

Citing renewed interest in rail and a national increase in Amtrak ridership, state officials predict the new service to Montréal will start in 2019. “Everything that needs to be done is in Canada,” said Dan Delabruere, rail director at the Vermont Agency of Transportation. “We’re ready on the Vermont side.”

Village leaders are touting other rail projects, too, as part of a broader village revitalization that encourages better pedestrian access, more street life and taller buildings in the core of the commuter burg.

For years, the area around the Junction sprouted strip development, parking lots and outlet stores while commercial spaces in the historic center sat empty. No more. New planning and zoning goals promote downtown-style redevelopment and seek to inject more life into the village.

“This community came into existence because of rail, and one of the best things we can do is take advantage of this fact and redevelop our rail assets,” said Tyler.

Originally named Painesville after Vermont governor and railroad owner Charles Paine, the village in the town of Essex earned a different moniker in the 1850s. It became known as “the Junction” because at least six rail lines chugged through it.

Read more on this story

AMTRAK Builds Momentum Behind Critical Upgrades

THE appointment of Mr Wick Moorman as president and CEO of Amtrak last September was greeted with enthusiasm from across the North American railway industry, bringing more than 40 years of railway experience and an intimate understanding of the freight carriers to the top job in US passenger rail.

Moorman began his railway career with NS’ predecessor Southern, initially working in track maintenance during his college days, before rising from management trainee to become president and CEO of the Class 1 railway. At a time of considerable political and economic uncertainty for the United States, Moorman’s understanding of how the railway operates, how it makes money, and how to influence policymakers in Washington DC should help to give Amtrak stability and build a future based on growth.

Indeed, growth has been a defining feature of Amtrak’s recent history, and ridership has now exceeded 30 million passengers for six consecutive years. Unaudited ticket sales for the 2016 fiscal year, which ended on September 30 2016, reached a record $US 2.14bn, a $US 12m increase compared with 2015. This was driven by a 400,000 increase in passenger journeys, which rose to a record 31.3 million.

Amtrak covered 94% of its operating costs from ticket sales and other revenues, up from 92% in 2015. Unaudited total revenue in 2016 reached $US 3.2bn and as a result, Amtrak reduced its operating loss by $US 78m to $US 227m, its lowest since 1973.

As he begins his first full year at the helm, Moorman is seeking to build on these results by driving efficiency and making Amtrak more responsive to the needs of customers. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report published in January 2016 recommended that Amtrak should extend the use of its strategic management system company-wide and improve its financial reporting, and Moorman is keen to follow this path in 2017.

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