Happening Now

Hotline #1,100

January 18, 2019

Amtrak Issues RFP To Replace Amfleet I; Amtrak Offers New Dining Options; Amtrak Cancels Trains Ahead of Winter Storm; Southwest Chief Brings $180M Annually to NM, CO and KS; New Lawsuits Filed Against Virgin Trains and Purple Line; SMART Reaches One Million Riders; CTDOT and Amtrak Agree To Fix Overcrowding

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As part of Amtrak’s efforts to improve service, the passenger railroad issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a new fleet of single-level passenger rail vehicles. The new cars would replace Amtrak’s 470 Amfleet I and ex-Metroliner railcars, which are 40 and 50 years old respectively. The new vehicles will be used on the Northeast Corridor and on adjacent State Corridor routes, including Empire Service, Ethan Allen Express, Maple Leaf, Adirondack, Vermonter, Downeaster, Carolinian, Pennsylvanian, Keystone Service, Virginia Service and New Haven/Springfield Service.

“Nearly half of Amtrak’s annual ridership is comprised of trips along the Northeast Corridor and adjoining corridors, and this new state-of-the-art equipment will provide customers with an enjoyable and efficient travel experience,” Amtrak Vice President of Corporate Planning Byron Comati said in a press release.

The RFP seeks several new amenities of a modern rail car including:

  • Improved Wi-Fi equipment and connectivity,
  • Enhanced seating,
  • Weather-tight doors and vestibules,
  • Large picture windows,
  • Improved climate control systems for passenger comfort and
  • New designs for restrooms and passageways between cars.

“We are excited to see Amtrak’s new RFP for a modern rail fleet that will replace dated equipment and enhance the customer experience,” said Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews. “The RFP also highlights Amtrak’s effort to look to the future and improve its service for years.”

Amtrak is seeking 75 trainsets or their railcar equivalents with options to provide equipment for future service growth along the NEC and other state-supported routes.

New Dining Options Are Here: Amtrak Is Listening To Passenger Concerns

By Carolyn Cokley, Director of Customer Programs for Rail Passengers

As you all know, back on June 1, 2018, Amtrak launched contemporary, fresh dining choices for sleeping car customers on-board its Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited trains. On-board meal preparation was replaced with a small variety of fresh and ready-to-serve boxed meals.

Let’s just say that the new menu has been met with very mixed reviews.

As Rail Passengers President Jim Mathews revealed to you all in a Hotline from last December, he and Sean Jeans-Gail, Rail Passengers Vice President of Government Affairs, met with the senior team at Amtrak working on customer-facing improvements and shared with them members’ desire for more and better food options. The meeting was very positive, and Amtrak revealed that many initiatives that would speak to member concerns were already in the pipeline.

The Association received assurances that Amtrak’s product-development side was very sensitive to the need to improve the Contemporary Dining menu’s choices. They also went on to say that the long-term vision for the two-night National Network trains would be an improved service, “with more traditional dining options.”

Here is the good news: a new menu went live this week and now includes a total of three hot lunch/dinner options, plus a hot breakfast item on the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited.

Amtrak is apparently moving out quickly in part because of the overwhelming demand for more hot options. The original plan shared with Rail Passengers was that the menu would roll out when new high-capacity convection ovens were installed on the trains to enable cooking those hot meals in volume. What we’ve now learned this week is that the ovens are still on the way, but they went ahead with the new menu anyway. Amtrak says it “remains confident” that the modifications with new ovens will be in place before the peak summer travel season.

For more on Amtrak’s new and improved dining options for passengers, please visit our blog at: www.railpassengers.org/happening-now/news/blog/new-dining-options-are-here.

With a strong winter storm expected to hit the northeast and midwest this weekend, Amtrak has canceled at least 15 trains and reduced operations for other trains. Amtrak said it will cancel six trains on Saturday from Chicago to Washington and New York. For Sunday, Amtrak has canceled six of its Keystone Service trains that normally travel from New York to Philadelphia and then on to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Canceled service for Saturday, Jan. 19, and Sunday, Jan. 20, includes:

  • Capitol Limited (Chicago – Washington, D.C.): Trains 29, 30
  • Lake Shore Limited (Chicago – New York/Boston): Trains 49, 449, 48, 448
  • Cardinal (Chicago – New York), Train 50 on Jan. 19 and Train 51 on Jan. 20 between New York and Indianapolis.

Modified and cancelled service for Sunday, Jan. 20, includes:

  • Acela Express service (Boston – New York – Washington, D.C.): Trains 2250, 2254, 2249, 2251, 2253 will not operate only between New York and Boston. Train 2290 is canceled entirely.
  • Northeast Regional service (Boston – New York – Washington, D.C.): Trains 160,164, 88,161,135,167 will not operate only between New York and Boston.
  • Keystone Service (New York – Philadelphia – Harrisburg): Trains 662, 664, 672, 661, 667, 671 are canceled.
  • Pennsylvanian service (New York – Philadelphia – Harrisburg – Pittsburgh): Trains 42 & 43 are canceled.
  • Vermonter (St. Albans, Vt. – New York – Washington, D.C.): Trains 54, 57 are not operating between St. Albans, Vt. and New Haven, Conn.
  • Northeast Corridor service between New York and Washington, D.C., and points south will continue to operate as scheduled.

If you were scheduled to take Amtrak this weekend, please check for any updates from the passenger railroad at www.amtrak.com.

The ranking members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s six subcommittees have been named. The ranking members and their subcommittees are:

  • Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials;
  • Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Subcommittee on Highways and Transit;
  • Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), Subcommittee on Aviation;
  • Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation;
  • Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management; and
  • Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.

“These are the type of leaders the Committee will need as we work together in the coming weeks and months on an infrastructure package and other priorities that address the needs of America’s infrastructure and make our transportation network stronger, safer, and more efficient,” Ranking T&I Member Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said in a press release.

“We look forward to working with and addressing the challenges that our country’s transportation infrastructure faces with the new subcommittee ranking members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, including Rep. Rick Crawford,” said Rail Passengers President Jim Mathews.

Southwest Chief Brings $180M Annually to NM, CO and KS

Thwarting plans to replace a portion of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief service with a bus between Albuquerque, NM and Dodge City, KS, saved the economies of New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas from what would have been $180 million in annual losses, according to the findings of a new study by the Rail Passengers Association and the University of Southern Mississippi. Had it gone through, the bus bridge also would have imposed a temporary loss of $135 million in those communities, the study showed.

“Regular and frequent train service has proved to be an economic engine for communities large and small time and again,” said Jim Mathews, President of the Rail Passengers Association, which represents the interests of 40 million riders nationwide. “This study illustrates not only the damage that would have come from Amtrak’s proposed ‘bus bridge’ for the Chief, but also the real ‘return on investment’ for robust rail funding in both urban and rural communities nationwide.”

As the report -- Bustituted: The Socioeconomic Impacts of Replacing Southwest Chief Service Over Raton Pass -- shows, the $180-million economic loss annually would be the result of “Permanent Direct Economic Losses” totaling $116.4 million, as well as “Permanent Indirect Losses” of $63.7 million. Direct losses consist of cancelled operating spending, fewer visitors and lost income from those visitors, and higher travel costs for families that live along the Southwest Chief route. The indirect losses would be felt through increased pollution control, highway fatalities, increased highway maintenance and forgone trips.

These losses alone are more than three times what Amtrak requests from Congress to operate the entire route of the Southwest Chief, which runs from city to city, through eight states: Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

To read more on the report and its findings, please visit the Rail Passengers Association website: www.railpassengers.org.

Rail Passengers Track Update: Where are we and what’re we working on? This new section will give you updates on what Rail Passengers HQ is up to.

Jim Mathews, Rail Passengers President and CEO, enjoyed a conversation this week with a Colorado NPR affiliate, talking about the value of the Southwest Chief. NPR was interested in talking to Rail Passengers about our study on the economic impact of bustitution between Albuquerque and Dodge City – a study that showed that the Chief contributes $180 million annually to the economies of New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas.

Jim also enjoyed confirming this week that Amtrak is trying to listen to Rail Passengers’ concerns by adding three hot options to the Contemporary Dining menu on the Lake Shore and Capitol routes. Apparently, the new TurboChef convection ovens are not even installed yet to replace the microwave (as they told Jim they would be), but Amtrak is going ahead with the new menu anyway – to try to be responsive to customer concerns. Food preferences are as individual as freckles, and what one person loves another loathes. But it’s significant that Amtrak is hearing our concerns and trying to address them within the constraints that they face. The real answer, of course, is to get Congress to lift the law’s mandate that Amtrak must “break-even” on food and beverage.

Sean Jeans-Gail, Rail Passengers Vice President of Government Affairs, worked with Rail Passengers Council Members and allied Congressional offices to develop rail and transit proposals for the Surface Transportation Reauthorization, and introductory meetings to educate incoming Members of Congress on transportation issues.

Rail Passengers Director of Policy Research, Abe Zumwalt, starting on Saturday, January 11, represented the association at the 13,000 attendee Transportation Research Board meeting here in DC. He gained recognition within the passenger rail subcommittees, and even started a few [constructive] arguments about things like whether the Hartford Line is Commuter Rail or Intercity Service (he thinks the distinction is perhaps harmful in starting other services like it), made sure the plight of Amtrak’s National Network trains were well represented in the rural transportation panels, and generally pointed his fellow attendees towards the opportunity to gain tractive effort for recent research findings through the upcoming surface transportation reauthorization (see www.railpassengers.org/2020 for more about that!)

Rail Passengers Northeast Field Coordinator, Joseph Aiello, celebrated his one-year anniversary as a staff member with the Association this week. It has been an incredible ride (on the rails) so far and Joe is very much looking forward to what the future brings for everyone in the transportation advocacy world. Joe spent Thursday at the Massachusetts State House for the monthly North-South Rail Link Working Group meeting to discuss what is sure to be an extremely pivotal year for the potential project.

Joe will be spending some time on Monday meeting with members of TransitMattters to discuss “mobility hubs” and how they could help first/last mile efforts with our own intercity rail needs. MassDOT is holding a public meeting on Tuesday which will finalize the alternatives for the Tier 2 analysis of their Rail Vision plan (Joe will have more to talk about that next week), which includes “regional rail” and the NSRL.

As part of Joe’s one-year anniversary, he shared his experience in getting to and working with the Rail Passengers Association in a new blog post. You can read Joe’s blog at: www.railpassengers.org/happening-now/news/blog/we-all-have-to-start-somewhere.

Carolyn Cokley, Director of Customer Programs for Rail Passengers, is continuing to work on the administrative and behind the scenes work that is necessary to set up the Passenger Travel Review that will soon be available. The revised plan is to embed the Travel Review on the Rail Passengers Association website which will give members, potential new members and rail passengers the opportunity to share their travel experiences. As data is collected and evaluated, Rail Passengers Association’s ability to report out on travel trends and passenger concerns impacting the National Network will be enhanced.

Bruce Becker, Rail Passengers Vice-President of Operations, has been busy coordinating the communications plan and strategy for this year's Rail Passengers 'Day on The Hill', which will be held on Tuesday, April 2, as part of the RailNation Washington Advocacy Summit. The goal is a 100% participation rate by the members of the Rail Passengers Council of Representatives (either in person or by remote messaging). In addition, Bruce has been working with our IT support team to roll-out new on-line functionality for gift membership purchases (which will solve the problem of what gift to get that Rail Advocate you know). And on Thursday evening, Bruce represented the Association at a gathering of local rail & transit advocates in the Western New York region.

Six weekday Shore Line East trains will return to service between New Haven and New London, CT on January 22. The reintroduction of the trains will replace bus service that has been running since April 2018. Two Friday-only trains will also run every weekday as part of the change. Shore Line East is owned and operated by Amtrak under an agreement with the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT).

CTDOT and Amtrak have also come to an agreement to reduce overcrowding on the Hartford Line and Amtrak trains. Ticket holders for the Hartford Line have recently been asked to disembark from Amtrak trains to accommodate Amtrak passengers, but Amtrak will now limit advance ticket sales through the railroad's reservation system.

"We are pleased to return these trains to the schedule, but our work is not yet done. We will work tirelessly to restore full train service on Shore Line East," said CTDOT Commissioner-designate Joseph Giulietti. "And on the Hartford Line, we believe these changes will alleviate some of the ongoing overcrowding on weekday afternoons.”

Milwaukee’s streetcar, The Hop, saw a second month of ridership exceeding 76,000 trips. The Hop’s ridership totaled 76,044, for an average of 2,453 per day in December. In November ridership totaled 76,125, with an average ridership of 2,297 per day.

“Our ridership numbers show that the city is embracing this new asset, and that people are riding for a wide variety of reasons,” Mayor Tom Barrett said. “We’ve seen some fantastic crowds on weekends as the streetcar attracts business and activity downtown, and we’re also seeing an uptick during the week as more and more riders utilize the system to connect with their jobs, residences and other destinations. The early returns on The Hop have been very encouraging, and we look forward to seeing continued ridership in the year ahead.”

Mayor Barrett said he expects ridership to drop due to cold temperatures, but that the novelty of the streetcar will keep numbers strong. Mayor Barrett also said free rides could last past November 2019, it’s one-year mark. He said he's not ready to make an announcement yet -- but it's possible.


Rail Passengers’ new partnership with MemberDeals will give members access to exclusive savings on movie tickets, theme parks, hotels, rental cars, tours, Broadway and Vegas shows and more through the members only area of the Rail Passengers website. Be sure to check back often as new products and discounts are constantly being added!

Whether you are from Bakersfield, Bismarck or Boston, Rail Passengers and MemberDeals have you covered! Our MemberDeals partnership covers venues, services and attractions throughout the country...take a look to see where there might be savings on fun outings near you!

Remember, if you want to use these great internet-only discounts, you must be a member in good standing AND be logged in to the Rail Passengers website. If you need help accessing these discounts email us at [email protected], or call the office at 202-408-8362.

New counterterrorism measures for transportation centers, such as Penn Station, have been recommended by a New York state advisory panel. The recommendations include enhancements such as:

  • Increased coordination among the state's counterterrorism agencies and authorities;
  • Strengthened security at airports, bridges, tunnels and mass gathering sites; and
  • Additional restrictions to further limit terrorists' access to certain lethal weapons.

"As we've seen time and again, terrorism is an ever-present threat, and we will do everything in our power to help ensure that New Yorkers are safe from whatever extremists try to send our way," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press release. "In order to continue to combat this changing and complex threat to New York, we will take concrete steps to implement the recommendations from our bipartisan national experts."

One of the notable recommendations for transit hubs was to establish state-of-the-art command centers. These would allow for law enforcement agencies to communicate in a centralized location and access real-time information before, during and after a crisis.

The panel also included recommendations to use new and existing security technologies, or upgrading current security technologies including advanced cameras, explosives and hazardous materials detectors, drones and bomb disposal robots.

The Counterterrorism Advisory Panel's full report is available online.

Amtrak Cascades Service Could End On A Single Popular Vote

How a corruption fraud case could disembowel transit service in Washington State

By Abe Zumwalt, Rail Passengers Director of Policy Research

Washington State primarily funds its transit operations from vehicle licensing fees. For a diverse and robust transit network--one which boasts the largest ferry system in the continental United States, extensive rural regional bus service, explosively popular light rail service, and a healthy intercity passenger rail program--this unvarying source of funding has proven in the past to be a dangerous Achilles heel. Voters face a choice on the November 2019 ballot to cap this fee at $30, which would bring the state to a standstill in more ways than one.

For more on this issue, please visit our blog at: http://ow.ly/nGYg30nlGLI.

In the third quarter of 2018, Americans took 2.5 billion trips on public transit services. This represented a 1.75 percent decrease in ridership from the same time in 2017 according to a new report from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). When breaking down the quarter further, passenger rail ridership was down on heavy- and light-rail systems, but ridership was up 0.7 percent on commuter-rail systems, compared to 2017. In addition, APTA said more than half of commuter railroads saw ridership increases.

“Public transit systems are committed to providing safe and reliable service to the millions of people who depend on public transportation,” said APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas. “In order to increase mobility options, public transit systems are increasing frequency, improving routing, experimenting with fare changes, and engaging in partnerships to offer the best service possible to meet customers’ needs.”

Other statistics on ridership from APTA’s report include:

  • Commuter railroads logged a combined ridership of 126.6 million trips;
    • 18 of 31 of the commuter railroads reported increases;
  • Ridership on heavy-rail systems (subways and elevated trains) fell 2.4 percent to about 916.3 million trips;
  • On light-rail systems (modern streetcars, trolleys and heritage trolleys), ridership in the quarter fell to 3.6 percent to 133.2 million trips compared with the year-ago period.
    • Ridership grew in eight out of 27 systems.

The new rail line in Fort Worth, TX carried 11,000 riders in its first weekend, and officials at Trinity Metro want to extend service due to its early popularity. The commuter line links Fort Worth, North Richland Hills, Grapevine and DFW Airport, but Trinity Metro wants to extend the line another 1.5 miles southwest and open another station in Fort Worth’s medical district. Officials say if they start now, the extension could be completed within three to four years at a cost of $130 million. Trinity Metro said it could also cost $70 million to extend the line to Texas Christian University.

“We already have the designs. We know the route. We know what needs to be done,” Trinity Metro board chairman Scott Mahaffey said during a Trinity Metro committee meeting. The committee voted unanimously to recommend to the Trinity Metro board to immediately initiate expansion plans.

The Trinity Metro full board will be asked to consider the expansion at its next monthly meeting.


We are now asking you to submit photos of #ViewsOnATrain. This could be of you preparing for your train journey; of your children admiring the view from a moving train; of the crowd waiting on a platform; or of you standing under the departures board at Grand Central.

Photos can be submitted via Instagram, Facebook or Twitter depicting your experience as “The Rail Passenger.” Rail Passengers Association executives will be judging the photos, and the winners’ images will be used as part of our new visual identity on our website, in our monthly newsletter, on social media, and more!

Grand prize winners will receive of 10,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards® points.

Runner-Up photos will also be awarded, including Rail Passengers gear.

When submitting your photos on social media, be sure to use the hashtag #ViewsOnATrain and tag @RailPassengers.

We can’t wait to see your submissions!

New Jersey Transit has several passenger rail cars sitting idle since the agency focused on completing implementation of positive train control (PTC) technology on its rail system, and not routine tasks. The agency was able to install emergency-braking software by the December 31, 2018 deadline, but it required that NJ Transit utilize staff who had other responsibilities, such as routine repairs and maintenance work. As a result, a new backlog of repairs has accumulated, as well as equipment shortages for the agency’s rail system. Through the start of 2019, NJ Transit has been forced to cancel passenger trains due to the shortages.

NJ Transit said that staff is working around the clock to reduce the current backlog of repairs and inspections, but no timeline is available for when all rail cars will be up and running again.

In a new lawsuit against Virgin Trains, Indian River County in Florida is arguing that it shouldn’t have to pay for railroad crossing improvements within the Treasure Coast area of Florida. The lawsuit was filed in Circuit Court and asks a judge to agree that without an agreement between the county and Virgin Trains, the county should not be required to pay for improvements which benefit Virgin Trains, formerly Brightline. The county said that it’s current agreement has been with the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) for maintaining 21 railroad crossings for decades, and that Virgin Trains shouldn’t be considered a third-party beneficiary of the county's agreements with FEC Railway.

Notably, the county is arguing that taxpayers should not be forced to pay for the railway improvements, however, the county has spent more than $3 million in opposition of Virgin Trains. Martin County has also spent about $4 million before settling its lawsuit with Virgin in November.

In addition to the new lawsuit, Indian River County also filed notice that it would appeal a federal judge's December 24 ruling. The judge threw out a lawsuit that challenged the legality of Virgin Trains' selling tax-free bonds to fund the railroad's extension from West Palm Beach to Orlando.

High Speed Rail Came To America 50 Years Ago This Week!

Or Did It?

By Bruce Becker, Rail Passengers Vice-President of Operations

January 1969 witnessed a number of historical events:

  • Led Zeppelin released their first album in the U.S. on January 12th
  • Richard Nixon was sworn in as the Nation’s 37th President on January 20th
  • And on January 16th, the Penn Central Railroad inaugurated the original Metroliner train into revenue service.

Just as Russia’s 1950’s space program led to Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon later in 1969, Japan’s launch of the its high-speed Shinkansen train in 1964, led President Johnson in September 1965 to enact the High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965; the first U.S. government initiative focused on developing a comparable high-speed train for the Pennsylvania Railroad’s busy New York to Washington route, with hoped-for top speeds of 150 mph.

For more on this historical month in passenger rail, you can read the rest of the blog online at: http://ow.ly/MZa230nlGU1.

Riders of Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) have helped the agency reach a memorable feat - providing more than one million rides since opening for service on August 25, 2017. SMART reached the milestone this week and as part of the celebration, SMART riders could receive passes for free train trips.

“We are fortunate and grateful to have such strong community support,” Debora Fudge, chairwoman of SMART’s Board of Directors said in a press release. “This is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to our riders and it is also a way for them to share their SMART train experience with a friend or family member.”

SMART will build on the services success and is set to open its Larkspur extension later this year and is working on two new stations in Larkspur and downtown Novato. SMART is also working on extending further north to Windsor by the end of 2021.

Have You Ever Said ‘I Wish My Congressman Would Support Trains’? Well, Why Not Come To Washington This Spring To Make Your Voice Heard!

The dates are set for Rail Passengers’ RailNation: Washington 2019 Washington Advocacy Summit, Day on The Hill And Congressional Reception - Sunday, March 31st through Wednesday, April 3rd - and we hope to see YOU there! This year’s theme is: ‘Blueprint 2020: Be The Architect’

Rail Passengers meetings aren’t just for Council and Board Members...they’re for anybody who wants our country to invest in More Trains, Better Trains and a Commitment to Infrastructure. Whether you’ve been a member for decades or you’re brand-new to Rail Passengers...or even if you aren’t a member at all...you should come to Washington in March to make sure YOUR congressional representatives hear directly from YOU about rail and transportation!

We’re building informative sessions and hands-on workshops to make you a better advocate in your hometown. You won’t want to miss it.

The event agenda includes:

  • Sunday, March 31 - Afternoon Board Meeting
  • Monday, April 1 - Advocacy Summit Speakers, Presentations & Day on The Hill Prep
  • Tuesday, April 2 - Day on The Hill Visiting Congressional Offices & The Rail Passengers Annual Congressional Reception
  • Wednesday, April 3 - Rail Passengers Council Annual Business Meeting & Elections (Concluding By Noon)

There’s also a new Host Hotel for 2019...the Westin City Center at Thomas Circle (3 1/2 blocks from the Metro). Discounted Group Rate Room Reservations Are Now Available! Room supply is limited! Don’t miss out; make your reservation today!

Event Registration is NOW OPEN! Please visit the Event Page for complete information!

Other Upcoming Regional Rail Passenger & State Association Member Meetings and Other Events:

Please contact Bruce Becker to have a state or regional event or meeting added to the Rail Passengers calendar of upcoming events!

A third lawsuit has been filed to halt the Purple Line light-rail project in Maryland, and claims that permitting construction to occur in streams and wetlands is illegal. The lawsuit was filed by Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, and Chevy Chase residents John M. Fitzgerald and Leonard Scensny. They state that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should not have allowed dredging and other construction work in streams and wetlands since it is illegal under the Clean Water Act. Instead, the lawsuit says that the corps should have required Maryland to demonstrate that it couldn’t improve east-west transportation in the state, and made an effort to avoid damaging wetlands. The lawsuit says the Corps relied on the Maryland Transit Administration’s analysis and did not independently verify it, as required under federal law.

Sarah Lazo, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Baltimore could not talk about the pending lawsuit, but said that the corps evaluated the construction’s potential permanent effects to a half-acre of non-tidal wetlands and 5,100 linear feet of streams, including from 40 stream crossings. Lazo said that Maryland is required to mitigate those impacts by restoring Paint Branch Stream in College Park and creating wetlands in the area of Ken-Gar Palisades Park in Kensington.

Passenger Rail Service Notices

Current and upcoming service notifications that could affect upcoming train travel include:

Old Saybrook Station Closed Effective Immediately

The Old Saybrook station in Connecticut is closed until further notice due to structural concerns. Access to the platform is still available to board and de-train, but there will be no ticketing at the station for Amtrak or Shore Line East trains. An Amtrak Customer Service Representative will be available to assist passengers from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm, daily.

Pacific Surfliner Weekend Service Changes

Through February 10, 2019 track work being performed by North County Transit District will affect Pacific Surfliner service:

  • Friday, February 8
    • Train 590 will be cancelled. Passengers can make reservations aboard other Amtrak trains.
    • Bus service will be provided from Los Angeles to San Diego, making stops at Oceanside, Solana Beach, Old Town San Diego and San Diego Downtown. No alternate transportation will be provided to Fullerton, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Irvine and San Juan Capistrano.
  • Saturday and Sunday, February 9 - 10
    • Trains 562, 583, 1565, 1566, 1569, 1572, 1573 and 1590 will be cancelled. Passengers can make reservations aboard other Amtrak trains.
    • Southbound Train 782 will terminate at Los Angeles. No alternate transportation will be provided between Los Angeles and San Diego. Passengers can make reservations aboard other Pacific Surfliner trains.
    • Southbound Train 796 will terminate at Los Angeles and bus service will be provided for all missed stops.
    • Southbound Trains 580, 768, 774, 792, 1564 and 1584 will operate normally to Irvine, where bus service will be provided from Irvine to San Diego. Express buses will run from Irvine to San Juan Capistrano, Oceanside, Solana Beach, Old Town San Diego and downtown San Diego only.
    • Northbound Trains 591, 595, 763, 777, 785, 1579, 1761 and 1767 will originate in Irvine. Bus service will be provided from San Diego to Irvine to connect with the trains listed above, with the exception of Train 1761. Buses will depart downtown San Diego, Solana Beach, Oceanside and San Juan Capistrano earlier than the train schedule to allow time to connect with trains in Irvine.
      • Buses will not pick up at Old Town San Diego. Passengers can take the trolley to downtown San Diego to board buses to Irvine.
      • Bus service will not be provided to connect with Train 1761.
      • Metrolink will honor Amtrak tickets between Irvine and Los Angeles.

Track Work Affects Service for Carolinian and Palmetto Trains

From January 15 through March 7, 2019, CSX Transportation will perform track work on the railroad, causing approximately 30-minute delays and schedule changes along the route.

  • Monday - Thursday, January 21 - 24 and February 4 - 7
    • Palmetto Service: Trains 89 and 90 will operate between New York and Washington, DC, only. Trains are cancelled between Washington, DC and Savannah with no alternate transportation provided.
  • Other Delays
    • Monday through Thursday between January 15 and March 7, Trains 52, 52, 89, 90, 97 and 98 can expect approximately 30 minutes of delays between Rocky Mount and Fayetteville.

Track Work Affects Saluki Trains 390 and 391

Effective January 22, 2019, track improvements being performed by Canadian National Railway and CSX, Trains 390 and 391 will be impacted as follows:

  • Train 390 which normally operates between Carbondale and Chicago, will originate at Champaign. Train 390 will depart at 10:45 am, 31 minutes later than the normal schedule and will operate on this later schedule at all stations from Champaign to Chicago. Alternate service will be provided as described below.
  • Train 391 which normally operates between Chicago and Carbondale, will terminate at Champaign. Alternate service will be provided as described below.
Alternate Transportation to 3390(22)

3391(22) Read Up

Carbondale (CDL) 5:20 AM 3:45 PM
Du Quoin (DQN) 5:50 AM 3:10 PM
Centralia (CEN) 6:45 AM

2:15 PM

Effingham (EFG) 8:00 AM

12:45 PM

Mattoon (MAT) 8:40 AM

12:00 PM

Champaign-Urbana (CHM) Ar/Dp 9:50/10:45 AM

10:25/10:45 AM

Bus Service between Atlanta and New Orleans on Crescent Route (Trains 19/20)

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

  • Monday through Thursday:
    • January 21 through January 24
    • January 28 through January 31
    • February 4 through February 7
    • February 11 through February 14

Southbound Train 19: New York to Atlanta Only

On the dates shown above, Train 19 will terminate in Atlanta. Passengers will be provided bus service from Atlanta to Anniston, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Meridian, Laurel, Hattiesburg, Picayune, Slidell and New Orleans.

Northbound Train 20: Atlanta to New York Only

On the dates shown above, Train 20 will originate in Atlanta. Passengers will be provided bus service from New Orleans to Slidell, Picayune, Hattiesburg, Laurel, Meridian, Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Anniston and Atlanta.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday Service Operates Normally

On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during this period, Trains 19 and 20 will operate between New Orleans and Atlanta, but may encounter delays along the route due to speed restrictions and freight train interference.

Amtrak is giving away a free train ride across the country as part of its social media residency program, #AmtrakTakeMeThere. Amtrak is accepting applications through January 31 from people who are good with a camera and like using social media to share new experiences. Amtrak said that is interested in applications from “real people” and they don’t have to have a huge number of social media followers. Amtrak even said that it would like to see “creatives, introverts, families, survivors and retirees” apply for the position, which includes a free long-distance train trip and $1,000 in spending money.

Details on how to apply to #AmtrakTakeMeThere can be found online at: www.amtrak.com/about-amtrak/residency.html.

Rail Passengers Association Board Director Elections

Nominations are now being sought from qualified Rail Passengers Association members interested in being elected to one of two available Board Director positions at the upcoming Council of Representatives Annual Business Meeting being held on Wednesday, April 3, 2019.

These Board Director positions are for three-year terms, ending in April 2022.

For more information on how you could make a difference as a Rail Passengers Association Board Director, please review the position’s required qualifications, description, duties and responsibilities.

If you are interested in seeking a Board Director position, you must complete and submit a Candidate Information Statement by the March 31, 2019 deadline. Questions may be directed to either Board Chair Peter LeCody at [email protected] or Vice-President of Operations Bruce Becker at [email protected].

Openings Available For Rail Passengers State Council Representatives

The following vacancies now exist for state representatives on the Rail Passengers Council of Representatives: Alabama (1 opening); California (6 openings); Idaho (1 opening); Illinois (1 opening); Louisiana (1 opening); Massachusetts (1 opening); Minnesota (1 opening); North Dakota (1 opening); Ohio (2 openings); Pennsylvania (1 opening); Washington State (1 opening); Wyoming (1 opening)

If you are interested in becoming more involved in passenger rail advocacy and serving in a Rail Passengers leadership role, this is your opportunity to be considered for an appointment by the Board of Directors to an open state representative seat. There is no deadline to apply and submissions will be considered on a rolling basis as they are received.

Please review the position responsibilities & required qualifications and complete & submit a Candidate Information Statement if you would like to seek a position.