The Michigan Department of Transportation, Amtrak, and Norfolk Southern have reached a deal to perform work that will remove “slow orders” that NS imposed in March, returning operations on the Wolverine and Blue Water to their normal speeds.
NS crews will begin work on April 16 that will allow for a return to safe operations at the original, higher speeds. It will continue until the April 19, and certain trains will be cancelled, rescheduled, or covered by dedicated motor coaches to allow the crews to work. Amtrak reports that service in mid-Michigan will continue to be delayed (between 45 to 90 minutes on Pontiac-Detroit-Chicago Wolverine trains), with “lesser delays to the Blue Water trains to and from Chicago and Port Huron.”
A full list of the changes to schedule can be found in this Hotline’s Travel Advisory. Further alterations to service may occur to accommodate the work; Amtrak will be posting up-to-date information at Amtrak.com/Alerts.
Washington State and Oregon announced on April 4 that they will be creating a unified management structure for the rail corridor stretching from Eugene, Oregon all the way north to Vancouver, British Columbia. The new partnership is part of a goal towards developing a faster and more frequent Amtrak Cascades service.
As part of this agreement, the Washington State and Oregon Departments of Transportation have appointed John Sibold as the Cascade Corridor director. Sibold has previously worked as the rail and marine director at WSDOT.
“[Sibold] will help improve customer service along the corridor and maximize the economic benefits of reliable rail travel that is on-time, fast, safe and affordable,” Washington Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond. “More and more people realize that passenger rail is convenient, affordable and a good alternative to automobiles.”
The Cascades service has seen steady growth over the past decade, with ridership rising 51 percent between 2001 and 2011, carrying nearly 850,000 passengers last year. The service has greatly benefited from the addition of a second daily roundtrip to British Columbia. The train was added for the Winter Olympics held in Vancouver in 2010, but the success in ridership led Washington State to extend the train’s operation indefinitely in conjunction with the Canadian government.
“One of [Sibold’s] immediate tasks over the next six months will be to develop a new plan for managing the rail corridor in full partnership with Oregon and in consultation with British Columbia,” said Oregon Director of Transportation Matt Garrett. “We anticipate a plan that leads to cost savings, greater efficiency between our states, improved contract management with equipment and service providers, innovative service improvements and coordinated delivery of federal projects.”
The Cascades will introduce two new 13-car Talgo trains into the fleet this summer, funded in a partnership between the state of Oregon and the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. One of the first goals for the new director is to add two daily Amtrak Cascades roundtrips between Seattle and Portland, for a total of six each day.
“It’s an exciting time to be in the passenger-rail business, given that rail ridership is going up and we have federal dollars to make system improvements,” Sibold said. “Our goal in all that we do as partner states, and as we work with Amtrak, BNSF and Talgo, is to meet customer expectations for service.”
Mobile’s Mayor put forth a proposal on April 3 to throw the city’s support behind the movement to bring back the full Sunset Limited, restoring passenger train to the Gulf Coast region.
Mayor Sam Jones of Mobile, Alabama put forth the idea at a council meeting. The mayor cited the economic benefits that restoring the service would bring. Advocates argue that the train will help Mobile by connecting it to larger economic markets, and by giving tourists a better way to visit the city.
The plan was met with enthusiasm from the other councilmen.
“For people who don’t have money to fly airplanes, they don’t have the car to drive, get up on Amtrak,” Councilman Fred Richardson told a local news station. “Relax and watch it roll.”
The city has been without service since Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the station and track infrastructure in 2005. But with the track already restored to move freight trains, communities would only have to restore the stations to accommodate a restoration of service.
NARP has set up a campaign for people looking to support this vital link or our national network.
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the Frontier Group released a report yesterday that shows an emerging downward trend in the amount that Americans drive—identifying less reliance on cars amount the younger generation in particular.
The report, Transportation and the New Generation: Why Young People are Driving Less and What it Means for Transportation Policy, shows that the average American drives 6 percent fewer miles per year than they did in 2004. That decrease is far more distinct among young people:
The average young person (age 16-34) drove 23 percent fewer miles in 2009 than the average young person in 2001. The report also notes that a growing number of young Americans do not have driver’s licenses; from 2000 to 2010, the share of 14 to 34-year-olds without a license increased from 21 percent to 26 percent.
According to the report, between 2001 and 2009, the annual number of miles traveled by 16 to 34 year olds on public transit such as trains and buses increased by 40 percent.
“For the first time in two generations, there has been a significant shift in how many miles Americans are driving each year,” said Phineas Baxandall, Senior Transportation Analyst for U.S.PIRG Education Fund and a co-author of the report. “America needs to understand these trends when deciding how to focus our future transportation investments, especially when transportation dollars are so scarce.”
This report provides ammunition for transportation advocates looking to move the discussion beyond a roads-only approach to the U.S. infrastructure network. It also shows that people are expecting to have more mobility options now, and the clock is ticking on expanding capacity to meet that demand.
You can read the full report here.
Passengers of Amtrak’s Missouri River Runner will get to enjoy the unique travel experience offered by the Great Dome Car—just in time for spring!
The Great Dome car, with upper-level windows that run the length of the car—walls and ceiling—travelers will get distinctive panoramic views of Missouri’s rivers and prairies on the St. Louis to Kansas City, Missouri corridor.
Amtak provided a look at the car’s history:
The only remaining dome car in Amtrak service, car number 10031, is a Great Dome car previously used on the Chicago-Seattle Empire Builder when the train was operated by the Great Northern Railway and the Chicago Burlington & Quincy Railroad (later the Burlington Northern Railroad). It was built in 1955 by the Budd Company for the Great Northern and carried the name “Ocean View,” car number 1391. It was conveyed to Amtrak in 1971, with this car first being given the number 9361. It was renovated in 1985, renumbered 9300, and used in daily service on the Amtrak Auto Train to and from the Washington, D.C., and Orlando, Fla., areas through 1994. It was further refurbished in 1999, renumbered to 10031.
The car will run for one week in April.
Seats in the dome car are not reserved and are available on a first-come, first served basis.
In order to accommodate work to restore normal operations, Amtrak will need to make the following alterations to train service in Michigan:
Train 350, the morning eastbound Wolverine from Chicago to Pontiac, will terminate at Kalamazoo. Passengers continuing east of Kalamazoo will be accommodated on a dedicated bus serving Battle Creek and Jackson, where passengers will reboard a train for the remainder of the trip to Dearborn and intermediate stations. Train 351, the morning westbound Wolverine from Pontiac, will terminate at Jackson. Passengers continuing west of Jackson will be provided with dedicated bus service to Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, where they will reboard a train for service to Chicago and intermediate stations. The Kalamazoo departure of the continuation of train 351 will be 90 minutes later, at 11:20 a.m., arriving in Chicago at 12:54 p.m. CT.
The late morning Wolverine 353 from Pontiac to Chicago is cancelled. The early afternoon Wolverine 352 from Chicago to Pontiac is also cancelled. Wolverine trains 354 (Pontiac to Chicago) and Train 355 (Dearborn to Chicago) will continue to operate with delays until the track repairs are completed.
Blue Water (Train 365) operating eastbound between Port Huron and Chicago, will depart Port Huron two hours earlier at 4 a.m. All intermediate stations between Port Huron and Chicago also will be served two hours earlier than the published schedule.