Happening Now

Hotline #1,118

May 24, 2019

Proposed FY 2020 House Funding Levels Positive For Rail; NTSB Releases Report On Amtrak 501 Derailment; Amtrak's Richard Anderson Responds To Senate Letter With Mixed Signals; California Sues To Retain Federal Funding For High Speed Rail Project; RailNation:California Registration Now Open

Tell Us What’s Happening Where You Live’! When you see rail-related news stories, op-eds, editorials, or letters to the editor in your communities, send them along to us! We include them in our social media efforts, along with the weekly Hotline. Send your news items to Joe Aiello at jaiello[at]narprail.org, and we will share it with members. Are you holding a rally, a community meeting, or another kind of rail-advocacy event? We can help spread the word if you send them to us. We can put them on the website, here. Please follow Rail Passengers on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on all things passenger rail.

The June 2019 edition of the ‘Passengers Voice’ is now available. Check out the stories on Amtrak’s plans for new long distance equipment; Amtrak’s continued focus on on-time performance; the end of Indiana’s Hoosier State service; Summer By Rail 2019 and much more.

The House Appropriations Committee on Transportation and Housing has released its transportation budget for FY 2020, and the news is good for passengers, where our advocacy continues to produce incremental gains.

[Rail Passengers is providing tools for passengers to support this bill—and improve it! Please join us in taking action today.]

Subcommittee members unanimously approved an increase in funding of $146 million for passenger rail and $60 million for transit compared to last year’s funding levels. While this isn’t the transformative infrastructure bill that is perpetually looming on the horizon, it’s another step in the right direction—and billions more than the horrible transportation budget proposed by the Trump Administration.

FY2019 Appropriated Levels

Rail Passengers Association FY2020 Request

White House FY2020 Budget Proposal

FAST Act FY2020 Authorized Levels

House THUD FY2020 Proposal


Amtrak - National Network






Amtrak - NEC






Consolidated Rail Infrastructure & Safety Grants






Federal State Partnership For State Of Good Repair






Restoration & Enhancement Grants












Transit Formula Grants






Capital Investment Grants












Key Policy Wins

In addition to funding levels, House Appropriators also included some positive policy riders that should aid in several key transit and rail projects:

  • California high-speed rail: the bill included language prohibiting the U.S. DOT from canceling previously approved grant agreements and clawing back funds; and requiring the agency to wait until recently-filed litigation between the State of California and the DOT is resolved redistributing any funds.

    • Also of note for California: the bill does not include any prohibitions on federal funding for the project, a mainstay of appropriations bills passed under the GOP-controlled House.

  • On Time (Funding) Performance: in response to U.S. DOT foot-dragging over certain rail and transit grant programs, appropriators included a trigger for automatic dispersement in the event of agency inaction. If funds for the transit grant program aren’t awarded to new projects by the end of 2021, the money will automatically flow to projects already in the engineering phase.

  • Maintaining the Federal Role: Responding to complaints from transit agencies that felt they were unfairly being forced to provide more local matching funds than the law required, the bill prohibits the U.S. DOT from using any appropriated funds to suggest or require grant applicants lower the federal project share below 50%. (For context, highways receive an 80/20 split between federal share and local match.)

Rail Passengers is providing tools for passengers to support this bill—and improve it! Please join us in taking action today. We need your help to move this bill through the House and Senate, and secure a better future for America’s passengers!

The National Transportation Safety Board this week singled out the Central Puget Sound Transit Authority’s failure to mitigate the hazardous Defiance Bypass curve in the absence of Positive Train Control as the formal “probable cause” of the Amtrak 501 derailment that killed Rail Passengers members Jim Hamre and Zac Wilhoite.

But we all know that in reality, despite the legal requirement to uncover a single “probable cause,” many factors contributed to this tragic accident. In fact, in making 53 specific findings and issuing 26 targeted recommendations to everyone from DOT and the Federal Railroad Administration to Amtrak, Washington State and even the Defense Dept., the Board highlighted the many ways that individual decisions – each of which seemed reasonable in the moment to the people who made them – added up to indefensible results.

Minimal state and federal oversight, minimal coordination among all the various agencies and actors, minimal training for the Amtrak engineer, FRA’s decision to grant Talgo VI sets a “grandfather” safety waiver without any intention of going back and re-certifying periodically, Washington DOT’s decision to begin operations without operating PTC, and many other choices all contributed to this tragedy.

Breaking this chain of events at any one of these points probably prevents this incident from happening.

For example, NTSB concluded that the engineer was not distracted by the conductor sitting next to him getting qualified on the territory, but that he was distracted by the overspeed alerts that the locomotive was giving him. This is because the engineer was confused by the bells and alarms and screens since he hadn’t seen those alerts before in regular training. One recommendation stemming from this is that locomotive engineers ought to get more simulator training so that they can encounter abnormal situations in a safe environment. NTSB also concluded that the conductor sitting in the cab with him was too passive, acting more like an observer than an active member of the crew.

The Board also found that the modifications that Talgo made to satisfy FRA’s safety grandfathering clause had deteriorated over time, reducing their usefulness and effectively eliminating the safety benefit the modifications originally provided.

While the findings around Talgo are sobering, we hope they aren’t used to justify a blanket rejection of European and Asian designs for U.S. use. There are many modern trainsets, including Talgo-built sets, that meet current requirements and, on a passenger-rail network with PTC or PTC-equivalent safety levels the overall operating environment can be much safer than it is today.

Further, it’s not clear what Washington State would do to replace the existing Talgo sets while preserving service on this very busy corridor. More than 796,000 trips were made on this corridor last year. In the absence of a comprehensive plan for a ready replacement of these trainsets, disrupted service on this corridor would merely dump tens of thousands of commuters back on to the highways where their statistical likelihood of involvement in an accident would be 17 times higher than it is on the train.

Although much has been made of the Talgo cars’ catastrophic failure – and NTSB’s recommendation that FRA withdraw any grandfathering for trainsets and require all railcars to comply with current standards – NTSB Chair Robert Sumwalt nonetheless opened and closed this week’s nearly five-hour hearing by focusing on preventing wrecks rather than surviving them, hammering on the serial delays to PTC implementation as the tragic reality.

“Today’s new and reiterated and reclassified recommendations, if acted upon, will make rail transportation safer for passengers and train crews,” Sumwalt said Tuesday. “But they will require action by several parties, including the Federal Railroad Administration. The repeated postponement of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations Part 270, ‘System Safety Program,’ has delayed needed safety improvements for passenger rail.”

Sumwalt went on to question these delays, glancing over at staff from the dais and asking, “How many stays of that have we had now? Six?”

Visibly impatient, Sumwalt declared: “It’s time. It’s time to move forward on it. We want the FRA to move. They’re saying it will be done by September. It’s time. It’s past time, to get it done. There’s no other way to put it. It’s time, it’s past time, for the FRA to act. As we’ve seen, lives depend on the issuance of that rule.”

Board members agreed on a package of new recommendations aimed at avoiding incidents altogether but, failing that, reducing the severity of incidents when they occur. Among the more significant, NTSB wants:

  • DOT to require inward-facing image and audio recordings in locomotive cabs;

  • FRA to act more forcefully on PTC, even requiring passenger service to operate only on PTC territory, to study how better signage and wayside plaques might improve situational awareness for train crews, to compel better compliance with emergency lighting rules, to look into child safety-seat use and securement on trains and to research how the compartmentalization approach to interior safety can be affected by the range of passenger sizes;

  • WashDOT to stop using Talgo Series VI trainsets;

  • Amtrak to work harder at ensuring that crewmembers demonstrate better knowledge of their working territories, to revise classroom training for engineers so that they better understand what to do in abnormal conditions, to take another look at wayside signs and plaques, and teach operating crews about the principles of crew-resource management;

  • Central Puget Sound Transit to conduct an immediate review of all operating documents, coordinate to develop operating documents with current and prospective tenant on railroads where it is the host, and immediately review its safety program, analyze any gaps, and develop an action plan to address deficiencies.

Significantly, many recommendations the Board directed to Amtrak -- such as aspiring to PTC-equivalent safety, performing switch-by-switch, mile-by-mile reviews of where it operates, and implementing an airline-style Safety Management System -- were already CEO Richard Anderson’s priorities once he assumed leadership of Amtrak. NTSB noted this during this week’s hearing, with Sumwalt praising Amtrak’s moves to implement SMS aggressively throughout the railroad.

In addition, new NTSB Member and former House Transportation staffer Jennifer Homendy amended many of the findings and recommendations to include references to “states that own infrastructure over which Amtrak operates.” This is because there are four states in which this is the case, but because they aren’t Amtrak or host railroads, theoretically many rules and practices would not apply, and Homendy wants to close that gap.

Reacting to a series of statements made by Amtrak executives regarding the long-term viability of the National Network, a group of United States Senators have publicly released a response letter written by Amtrak that raises as many questions as it answers.

A group of eleven Senators—including all six of the 2019 Rail Passengers Golden Spike winners, Senators Michael Bennet (CO), Cory Gardner (CO), Martin Heinrich (NM), Jerry Moran (KS), Pat Roberts (KS), and Tom Udall (NM)—pressed Amtrak for answers about the future of the National Network.

The answers Amtrak provided implied that not all long-distance routes would receive the railroad’s endorsement in its reauthorization proposal, due to be released sometime in Fall 2019.

“While we strongly believe that there is a permanent place for high-quality long-distance trains in our network,” Amtrak’s President and CEO Richard Anderson’s wrote to the concerned Senators, “the time to closely examine the size and nature of that role is upon us for numerous reasons.”

Senator Moran responded that he expects Congress to successfully use the annual appropriations bill that funds Amtrak to require the railroad to serve all current long distances routes, but stressed it would be a “battle.”

“I need to make sure that Amtrak, its board of directors, its management has a commitment to long-term passenger services in places in the country in which it’s not probably ever going to be profitable,” Sen. Moran told Kansas News Service.

Senator Moran is vowing to lead the fight and has promised to hold all nominees to Amtrak’s Board of Directors until he gets the assurances for the Southwest Chief he needs.

Rail Passengers is already spreading the word with our Congressional allies—especially among Senate staff—that the long-distance trains provide an economic value to their communities many times over what the federal government spends on them.

“Amtrak is clearly not getting the message,” responded Rail Passengers President Jim Mathews. “Congress gets to decide what network Amtrak runs. They made that abundantly clear in last Fall’s vote, and our coalition of Senators is holding very, very firm. We applaud Senators Moran and Udall for being loud and clear about their expectation, and for refusing to back down.”

“When I was in Montana last week, I spoke to a packed house, with representatives from the Montana Congressional delegation and a half-dozen Montana state legislators, county commissioners and the other local officials,” continued Mathews. “I presented data from the economic model our association developed to describe the value of the Empire Builder to Cut Bank itself (which is about $327,000 annually), to the entire state of Montana (roughly $36 million annually), and to all of the states arrayed along the route—a very healthy $327 million for all the Builder-served states. It’s not a question of whether the train makes money--it’s about who makes money from the train.”

Mathews continued, “Mr. Anderson is right that all travel modes evolve and change, and we think Amtrak would be well-served by some evolution and thoughtful change. But it’s vital to realize that Amtrak is not a private bus company or an airline, but a government-supported enterprise operated to serve a public need in the public interest. This conversation needs to shift from whether a route is profitable to instead an examination of the value the taxpayers receive for the spending on that route. The Builder, for example, creates value that is worth 5.7 times the taxpayer dollars Amtrak spends on it. And this is why the taxpayers give Amtrak those dollars.”

Infrastructure talks took a turn Wednesday as President Trump abruptly walked out of a scheduled meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The meeting, a follow-up to a gathering at the White House in April where the two sides agreed in principle to a $2 trillion infrastructure package, was arranged to discuss how to fund last month’s proposal. After the breakdown, lawmakers have seemingly set their sights on FAST Act reauthorization as a way forward without an agreed upon bill in hand.

Your Right To Be On Time

After Years Of Tussle, We Head Again To The Supreme Court...Or Do We?

May 21, 2019

by Jim Mathews, Rail Passengers President & CEO

In the seemingly never-ending saga of settling once for all how Amtrak and host railroads can agree on measuring on-time performance for passenger trains, the host railroads' umbrella organization -- the American Association of Railroads -- is again pressing for the Supreme Court to hear its appeal of our victory last summer in the federal Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

This petition to the Court, formerly known as a request for a writ of certiorari, or "cert," could set the stage for another chapter in this saga this Fall if the Court grants the petition.

While it’s always dangerous to try to predict what the Supremes will do, there are a lot of factors in play that suggest they just might not grant cert this time around, meaning they might decline to hear the case.

To finish reading Jim’s thoughts, continue here

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

  • Jim Mathews, President & CEO, spent the first part of the week returning from Cut Bank, MT, on the Empire Builder and the Capitol Limited, using the opportunity to visit with many Rail Passengers members he met while traveling on the train. We’ve started spreading the word with our allies – especially among Senate staff – that the long-distance trains provide an economic value to their communities many times over what is spent on them, and Jim used his remarks to the NW Division meeting in Cut Bank to introduce our new way of talking about trains, focusing on their value rather than their profitability. Jim spoke to a packed house in Cut Bank, with staff from the offices of Sen. Tester (D), Sen. Daines (R) , and Rep. Gianforte (R) , plus another half-dozen Montana state legislators and county commissioners. Jim presented slides using our IMPLAN model to describe the value of the Empire Builder to Cut Bank itself (about $327,000 annually), to Montana ($36 million annually) and to all of the states arrayed along the route ($327 *million* to the Builder-served states!). We opened A LOT of eyes! Jim also stayed on top of the NTSB’s hearing to consider its final report on the tragic derailment of Amtrak 501, the crash in 2017 that killed our friends Jim Hamre and Zac Wilhoite.

  • Sean Jeans Gail, Vice President of Policy, tracked House appropriations for rail and transit accounts, working with Members of Congress to support investment in passenger rail.

  • Carolyn Cokley, Director of Customer Programs, has finalized the next two ACAC Customer Service Award presentations. Angela Figueroa, Customer Service Representative in Emeryville, CA will be presented on Sunday, June 2 at the Emeryville station. Michelle Cook, Station Agent in Newton, KS will be presented on Tuesday, June 25.

  • Joseph Aiello, Rail Passengers Northeast Field Coordinator, spent Tuesday afternoon at a Central Massachusetts TOD Forum in Fitchburg that was hosted by MassINC - the group responsible for the Gateway Cities Initiative. Joe will be attending a similar meeting in Lowell next week. He also spent Wednesday afternoon with Former Governor Michael Dukakis and Rail Passengers Vice-Chair Tom Girsch at the monthly meeting of the North-South Rail Link Working Group.

  • Bruce Becker, Rail Passengers Vice-President of Operations, was in the Washington office this week to facilitate the smooth transition of responsibilities & duties with the departure of Abe Zumwalt from the staff.

  • Jonsie Stone, Director of Resource Development, attended the National Association of Railway Business Women (NARBW) 75th Annual Conference in Atlantic City.

Three months after the Federal Railroad Authority (FRA) announced that it would cancel a near $1 billion grant that was meant to supplement funds for the high-speed rail project (CAHSR) and just a week after that threat was officially carried out, the state of California has sued the Trump administration in U.S. District Court. In the 20-page complaint, the state has called the FRA’s move a “political response” for challenging the President’s border emergency and that the agency is going against their own set procedures. The FRA has claimed that the cancellation of the grant was based on California's failure to reign in costs and show any progress with the project.

While the lawsuit is ongoing, California Governor Gavin Newsom was able to strike a deal with the Trump administration that would not allow the FRA to redirect the grant funds to other transit projects. The agreement to hold the money was sent to the District Court on Wednesday morning and also gives the state the right to a temporary restraining order if the administration does move the funds.

Not everyone in DC has lost hope on the high-speed rail project moving forward. The House Appropriations Committee finished with their markups of the Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) bill this week and included a rider protecting funding for CAHSR. The bill does not allow the FRA to take back $2.5 billion in already expended funding or to cancel the $1 billion grant that is the basis for the current lawsuit.

To view the Association's High-Speed Rail one-pager from Day on the Hill, click here

We Love New England

Making our voices heard

May 23, 2019

by Joe Aiello, Northeast Field Coordinator

I wanted to write a follow-up to last week’s blog about the Northeast Division meeting that took place earlier this month - since this topic was brought up at yesterday's North-South Rail Link Working Group meeting. While what I am going to be discussing is all a work in progress, this really does show the importance of being able to advocate “across state lines”.

Governor Dukakis, for quite some time now, has been advocating for the six New England Governors (a group that does meet yearly under the banner of “The Coalition of Northeastern Governors”) to meet for regional issues on a more regular basis as they did when he occupied the corner office at the Massachusetts State House. The reasoning behind this is pretty simple: because the region is the most “tight knit” of any other in the country - an issue in one state, is an issue for us all, especially when it comes to transportation. The worsening traffic conditions in Boston (and Massachusetts as a whole) have a direct effect on the surrounding states. The same goes for public transportation & passenger rail issues that connect the eastern coast (north & south via Boston - just not through) and the Knowledge Corridor (Hartford-Springfield).

Click here to read more of Joe’s plan.

Amtrak Service Remains Temporarily Suspended between Kansas City and St. Louis Due to Ongoing Flooding Issues.

Chartered buses to provide substitute transportation for Missouri River Runner trains through today, Friday, May 24.

Due to flooding issues on the Union Pacific network resulting in diverted freight train traffic, a temporary service suspension remains in effect for Amtrak Missouri River Runner service (Trains 311, 313, 314 & 316) between Kansas City and St. Louis.

This service adjustment will continue through today Friday, May 24. Chartered buses are covering this Amtrak route and stopping at all stations as close to the train schedules as possible, but delays are to be expected.

Anyone planning to travel should check their train status on Amtrak.com or the smartphone apps prior to departing, allow extra time to get to the station and be extremely careful in stations and on platforms.

"Customers with reservations on trains that are being modified will typically be accommodated on trains with similar departure times or another day. Amtrak will gladly waive additional charges for customers looking to change their reservation during the modified schedule by calling our reservation center at 800-USA-RAIL," Amtrak said.

WMATA moves up plan to offer Yellow Line trains to Greenbelt

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) will begin running all Yellow Line trains to Greenbelt, Maryland, on Saturday, May 25, more than a month earlier than expected, when the platform improvement project begins at six Yellow and Blue line stations south of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

The service adjustment, originally scheduled to take effect July 1, will allow WMATA to provide "more reliable service" between the Washington National Airport station, downtown Washington, D.C., and points north during the summer shutdown. The Yellow Line currently stops at Mt. Vernon Square during rush hour or Fort Totten during non-peak hours. With the additional service, which starts Saturday, Metro riders will be able to take the Yellow Line all the way to the northeast end of the Green Line.

WMATA’s board approved the change in its latest budget earlier this year. "By making this change now, we can better serve our customers impacted by the summer-long closures," said WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said in a press release. "At the same time, customers on the Yellow and Green lines will benefit from the additional service a bit sooner than expected."

The six Blue and Yellow stations that will be closed May 25 through Sept. 8 for full platform reconstruction and major station improvements are Braddock Road, King St.-Old Town, Eisenhower Avenue, Huntington, Van Dorn Street and Franconia-Springfield. The station closures are part of WMATA's three-year platform improvement project, which calls for reconstructing the outdoor platforms at 20 rail stations.

During a recent weekend simulation of rail service for the summer project, Metro determined that extending all Yellow Line trains to Greenbelt would improve train spacing, reduce congestion and maintain Metro’s commitment to operating normal service outside of the shutdown area,” Metro representatives said in a news release.

WMATA also plans to run all Red Line trains to Glenmont, doubling rush-hour service at an additional three stations. That won’t take effect until July 1.

After years of discussion from elected officials and advocates alike, the MBTA will begin late night commuter rail service on the Greenbush, Kingston/Plymouth and Middleboro/Lakeville lines this fall. All three lines will have trains leaving Boston at 11:20pm or later which, according to MBTA Advisory Board member Richard Prone, will allow commuters from the South Shore to enjoy more concerts & sporting events in the city. Currently the MBTA doesn’t have a train on these routes that leaves after 11pm, and are the only ones in the system without a later departure..

While the news of this service chance has been welcomed by many with open arms, it is not a guaranteed permanent change. MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak commented during the Fiscal Management Control Board meeting this week that he is moving this proposal forward but the T would review the ridership numbers after a year to see if expectations were met and if the schedule change would continue.

No date has been set for the new service.

Virgin Trains USA announced this week that construction has started on the company’s Orlando to West Palm Beach expansion which will connect South Florida with Orlando by 2022. When completed the Miami to Orlando trip will take approximately three hours and trains will ultimately travel at up to 125 mph on some segments.

The expansion project encompasses four distinct phases and will include 170 miles of new track, including the construction of 40 miles of new right of way from the coast inland to Orlando.

The services’ Orlando terminus will be at the new South Terminal at the Orlando International Airport. The initial construction now underway is at this location and at the adjacent maintenance facility for the service. Work on the existing route north from West Palm Beach and the new right of way is expected to be underway soon.

The project is estimated to represent $4 billion of private investment, Virgin Trains officials said in a press release.

"Connecting Central and South Florida will bring thousands of jobs today and by modernizing infrastructure, we will strengthen Florida’s economy for decades,” said Virgin Trains USA President Patrick Goddard. "For a project of this scope and magnitude, a world-class construction team has been assembled to undertake this tremendous assignment and we congratulate them helping us make history.”

Visions for a robust regional rail system in North Texas are alive and well as Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) officials are fast-tracking plans to extend service - just four months after TEXRail starting moving nearly 200,000 passengers between Grapevine and Fort Worth.

One of the projects, the Cotton Belt Line, was approved for a $900 million finance loan back in December and will connect seven area cities through a rail route that will run east-west from DFW Airport and Plano. Another being planned by the Denton County Transit Authority will extend service from Denton to Carrollton - connecting it to the proposed Cotton Belt Line and the DART Green Line. When this network is completed, it would allow for transfer service via nine different regional lines around the greater Dallas region. The rail system will give more residents access to the Texas Central bullet train that will take passengers from Dallas to College Station and Houston - scheduled to start in 2025.

Our Best Fall Meeting Yet! Make Plans Now For RailNation:California in Sacramento, Friday, October 18 - Monday, October 21.

Planning has been in high gear for the past few months, and we think this is truly going to be our best meeting yet! Over the four-day gathering, passenger rail advocates from across the country will take in area tours and trips, in addition to participating in Saturday’s all-day Advocacy Symposium. Great speakers will talk about both history and the future, and real hands-on workshops will give you the tools you need to go back home and fight for passenger rail! The Association’s Council of Representatives will hold its fall business meeting on Sunday morning.

Meeting Registration Is Now Open and Tour & Trip Tickets Are Also On Sale!

Discounted Group Rate Room Reservations at the host hotel, the historic Sheraton Grand Downtown, are also available.

Be sure to check the RailNation:California event page more information and further details.

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

  • Tuesday, May 28 - Western Pennsylvanians for Passenger Rail Meeting - Pittsburgh, PA

  • Thursday, May 30 - Bristol TN/VA Rail Coalition Meeting - Bristol, TN

  • Saturday, June 1 - Empire State Passengers Association Meeting & Lunch - Schenectady, NY

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


Empire Service Schedule Change

Sunday, June 2, 2019

To accommodate trackwork being performed on the Empire Service Line, schedules are affected on Sunday June 2, as outlined below.

Train 288

  • Which normally operates between Niagara Falls and New York Penn Station, will transfer to a special Metro-North train at Croton-Harmon on the above dates.

  • Metro-North will operate an extra train for Amtrak between Croton-Harmon and New York Grand Central Terminal. This train will not stop at New York Penn Station. Amtrak Train 288 tickets to New York Penn Station will be honored on this train

  • There will be no Amtrak staff on the Metro-North train or at Grand Central Terminal

  • There will be no alternate transportation between Grand Central Terminal and New York Penn Station.

Lake Shore Limited Trains 448 and 449

Track Work Affects Service Sunday through Thursday - May 19 through August 1, 2019

Attention Amtrak Passengers:

Track work being performed by CSX will affect Trains 448 and 449 between Albany and Boston, as follows:

Train 448 Albany – Boston Service: May 19-23, 27-30; June 2-6, 9-13, 16-20, 23-27, 30; July 1- 3, 7-11, 14-18, 21-25, 28 - August 1. Bus service will operate from Albany to Boston on the above dates.

Customers who are traveling to Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester and Boston (South Station) will get off the train at Albany on the dates above. At Albany, bus service will be provided to and from all stations listed above. No alternate transportation will be provided for missed stop of Framingham. Passengers traveling to Back Bay will be bussed to Boston and then may take an MBTA or Amtrak commuter train between Boston and Back Bay.

Holiday Exceptions:

  • Memorial Day Train 448 will operate normally to Boston on Sunday, May 26

  • Independence Day Train 448 will operate normally to Boston on July 4

Train 449 Boston – Albany Service: May 20-23, 28-30; June 3-6, 10-13, 17-20, 24-27; July 1-3, 8-11, 15-18, 22-25, 29 - August 1

Train 449 will not operate between Boston (South Station) and Albany on the dates above. Passengers boarding at Boston (South Station), Worcester, Springfield and Pittsfield will be provided bus service to Albany. No alternate transportation will be provided for missed stops at Back Bay and Framingham. Passengers traveling from Back Bay will have the option of boarding at Boston or traveling on alternate dates.

Boston (South Station) and Worcester

  • Passengers at Boston South Station should go to the Amtrak Information Desk for instructions on boarding the buses.

  • Passengers at Worcester will board the bus at the main entrance in front of the station. Boarding will not occur at the Bus Terminal.

Please Note: There will be no Business Class or sleeping car to/from Boston during this period

I-5 Construction Affects Cascades POINT Bus Service

Effective May 20 through September 30, 2019

Attention Amtrak Passengers:

Highway I-5 construction scheduled to begin on May 20 will affect Amtrak’s Cascades and Oregon’s POINT bus service between Eugene and Portland. Adjustments are being made to schedules to allow time for connections to Amtrak Cascades trains, as outlined below.


  • Bus 5502 will depart Eugene Willamette Station 15 minutes earlier at 5:15am, on Saturday and Sunday, only.

    • Eugene Station will not be open for the departure of Bus 5502

  • There will be no checked baggage available for Bus 5502 at any stop

  • Bus 5504 will depart Eugene Willamette Station 1 hour earlier, at 7:25am Monday through Friday, only.

  • Bus 5506 will depart Eugene Willamette Station 30 minutes earlier at 2:00 pm

  • Bus 5518 will depart Eugene Willamette Station 1 hour earlier at 10:55 am

  • Bus 5528 will depart Eugene Willamette Station 1 hour earlier at 12:15 pm

  • Bus 5544 will depart Eugene Willamette Station 15 minute earlier at 7:15 am


  • Bus 5541 will depart Portland Union Station 1 hour earlier at 6:00 am

  • If you are boarding at Woodburn, Salem or Albany the schedule may have changed. Be sure to check Amtrak.com or Amtrak’s mobile app prior to travel for updated times.

Downeaster Service Weekend Schedule Change - Beginning May 20, 2019

Attention Amtrak Customers:

Downeaster trains listed below will see schedule changes on weekends beginning May 20, including adding a seasonal stop at Old Orchard Beach.


  • Train 691 will operate 35 minutes earlier

  • Train 693 will now provide service to Brunswick and will operate 50 minutes earlier from Portland to Boston

  • Train 695 will operate 5 minutes later

  • Train 697 will operate 10 minutes later


  • Trains 690 and 692 will operate 30 minutes earlier

  • Train 694 will operate 60 minutes later

  • Train 696 will now provide service to Brunswick and will operate 35 minutes later from Boston to Portland

  • Train 698 will operate 5 minutes earlier

Please note: Beginning June 24, Downeaster trains will add stops at Woburn.

New York Penn Station Infrastructure Renewal Work

June 28 through September. 2, 2019

Continued Infrastructure Renewal at New York Penn Station

Amtrak will continue its Infrastructure Renewal program at New York Penn Station during Summer 2019, affecting service of Northeast Regional, Keystone, Cardinal, Adirondack and Maple Leaf trains.

Amtrak Schedule Changes

  • Northeast Regional Trains 110 and 127 will be cancelled

  • Keystone Train 640 will terminate in Newark, Train 643 will originate in Newark and Train 653 will depart New York a few minutes earlier than scheduled

  • Cardinal Train 51 will depart New York early on weekdays only

  • Maple Leaf Train 63 and Adirondack Train 69 will run as a combination train on Train 63’s schedule. The trains will split in Albany.

Any passenger already booked on a train will be contacted and accommodated on other scheduled services.

Customer Information:

The following resources are available for all Amtrak customers:

  • Amtrak.com/NYPrenewal: Find the latest train schedule information, project overview and updates.

  • Amtrak Social Media: Customers can follow @AmtrakNECAlerts and @Amtrak on Twitter for timely information.

  • Email or text alerts: Amtrak now offers a new feature that will allow customers to sign up to receive customized texts or emails for train and service information.

  • Amtrak.com and the mobile app: Get train status information or modify existing reservations.

Travelers’ Tip For The Week

Mobility Limitations when Traveling via Amtrak

If you or someone you know are traveling aboard Amtrak and have mobility limitations, here are a few tips that may come in handy.

Making Reservations for Passengers with a Disability

  • Online - Reservations for train travel can be made on Amtrak.com for passengers who are deaf or have a hearing loss, passengers who are blind or have a vision loss, passengers with a disability who need space for a wheeled mobility device, access to the transfer accessible seat or an accessible room, or passengers with a disability who do not need assistance and up to one adult companion and for service animals.

  • Telephone - Call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245). Agents are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can assist any passenger with reservations that include special service requests (oxygen equipment, special dietary requirements, etc.).

  • TTY - Call 1-800-523-6590. Agents are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

  • At a Station Ticket Counter - Ticket agents at staffed stations are available to sell tickets during regular ticket office hours.

Rail fare discounts are available for passengers with disabilities and up to one traveling companion. Reservations are encouraged on all trains, including on “unreserved trains” for wheeled mobility device space, transfer accessible seats (for when you travel in a seat and stow your wheelchair) or accessible room accommodations. Accessible spaces for a wheeled mobility device and/or transfer accessible seats are limited. Reservations should be made as far in advance as possible to ensure availability.

Who May Reserve Accessible Room Accommodations

Up until 14 days prior to the departure of each train from its origin city, reservations for accessible bedrooms may be made only for passengers with a disability who travel with a wheeled mobility device.

Passengers booking an accessible bedroom accommodation will be required to certify that they require one or more of the accessible features of the accessible room accommodation in order to book and receive the discount. Passengers are not required to indicate the type of disability they have but only that they require the accessible features due to a disability. Conductors on trains with accessible room accommodations will provide a self-certification form to be completed by the passenger.

Within 14 days prior to a train departure from its origin city, and if all other Bedroom and Family bedrooms have been reserved, accessible bedroom are made available to all passengers on a first-come, first-served basis. For this reason, reservations should be made as far in advance of travel as possible.

Passengers must provide written documentation of any disability at the ticket counter and when boarding the train.

Acceptable documentation includes:

  • Transit system ID card for persons with a disability

  • Membership card from a disability organization

  • Letter from a physician

  • Medicare card, if under 65

  • Veteran's Administration ID with "Service Connected"

  • Disabled/Accessible parking placard issued by a state Department of Motor Vehicle (photocopy is acceptable).

Station Accessibility

Most Amtrak stations in major cities, and many other stations across the country, are accessible to passengers with a disability. The most up-to-date information regarding the accessibility of Amtrak stations can be found on your itinerary or by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).

The best way to make sure that you receive assistance at a station is to make a specific request for assistance when you make your reservation. If you book on Amtrak.com, you can request the use of a station-provided wheelchair to help you get to your train, or assistance from a uniformed Amtrak staff member. To ensure adequate time for assistance, please arrive at the station at least one hour prior to the train departure time. Courtesy wheelchairs are available at most staffed stations.

Boarding and Detraining

Amtrak aids passengers with disabilities who use a wheeled mobility device in the following situations:

  • High Platforms

  • Low-Level Platforms

  • Bi-Level Trains

Onboard Seating Options

There are two onboard seating options for passengers that travel with wheeled mobility devices.

  • If using a wheeled mobility device not identified as collapsible, passengers must remain seated in device enroute to your destination and brakes should be applied when the train is in motion.

  • If using a collapsible wheelchair, passengers must transfer to an accessible seat and stow the wheelchair nearby. Onboard Amtrak personnel will assist with stowing the device, if requested.

Specifications for Wheeled Mobility Devices

Amtrak trains accommodate most wheeled mobility devices in use today.

  • Dimensions: Device should not exceed 30 inches (76 cm) wide and 48 inches (122 cm) long and should have a minimum of 2 inches (5 cm) of ground clearance.

  • Weight: The combined weight of the wheeled mobility device plus the occupant must be under 600 lbs (273 kg).

  • Manual and battery powered: Both manually operated, and battery powered wheeled mobility devices that meet these specifications are permitted.

Use of Oxygen Equipment

Portable oxygen equipment must meet the following specifications:

  • Power Source: Oxygen equipment, including oxygen concentrators, must be able to operate a minimum of four hours without available onboard electrical power (in the event of an on board power disruption).

  • UL or FM Listed: Oxygen equipment must be Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM) listed.

  • Weight Limits: The total weight of all tanks may not exceed 120 lbs (54 kg). Within this limit, no more than 2 tanks, 50 lbs (22.7 kg) each, or no more than 6 tanks, 20 lbs (9 kg) each.

Reservations: Because it is not possible to make reservations that include oxygen equipment on Amtrak.com, passengers must call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245) to make reservations in advance. For TTY service, call 1-800-523-6590. Agents are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Service Animals

Service animals are trained to perform a specific task for the benefit of a person with a disability and are permitted in all areas where passengers are allowed. Amtrak personnel may ask what task(s) the service animal performs. Carry-on pet guidelines are for animals for which no claim of service is made, and do not pertain to passengers traveling with service animals. Comfort animals who are not trained to perform a specific task are considered as pets and must follow the carry-on pet guidelines.

Control of Service Animal

Service animals must always be kept under control. Animals should always be on a leash, harness or other tether, unless this is not possible due to a disability or if the leash or other tether would interfere with the service animal's safe, effective performance of work or tasks, in which case the service animal must be otherwise under the handler's control.

A service animal must sit under the passenger's seat or at his or her feet. Service animals are not allowed to sit in the aisle, on seats or on beds.

Amtrak may require you to remove your service animal enroute or from the station premises if:

  • The animal is out of control and effective action is not taken to control it or;

  • The animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.

Walking Your Service Animal

If the train schedule permits, service animals may be walked at station stops. If you plan to walk your animal during the trip, notify the conductor when you first board the train. Some routes may have limited or no stops for the duration of your trip, so please check schedules before you make your travel plans. Amtrak employees are not responsible for the care or supervision of any passenger's service animal.

Thruway Bus Service and Accessibility

Some routes in the Amtrak system include Thruway services. These include transportation provided by bus, train, ferry, van or taxi through a variety of operators. Amtrak dedicated Thruway bus services are accessible and lift-equipped. Thruway services provided by partners are also accessible but may require up to 48 hours advance notice.

In-Room or At-Seat Meals for Passengers with a Disability

On all trains with meal service, passengers with a disability can request that meals be brought to their room or seat.

Meal Service in the Lounge Car

If you choose, and when possible, meal service can be provided in the Lounge Car. On some long-distance trains, passengers who use a wheeled mobility device may transfer to and from the Lounge Car at appropriate station stops. Please ask your onboard service attendant to make the necessary arrangements.

Special Dietary Requirements

Alternative menu options for those with special dietary requirements are also available. Be sure to review these options along with the guidelines for bringing personal food, beverages and medication before your travel.

Traveling with a Companion/Attendant

If a passenger anticipates that he or she may need personal care assistance during the trip, such as assistance with feeding, bathing, dressing, medicating or toileting, the passenger must travel with an attendant who can provide such assistance. Amtrak train crews are not required or permitted to provide personal care assistance to passengers. If it becomes apparent during a trip that an unaccompanied passenger requires such assistance, the passenger may have to detrain prior to his or her final destination.

Companion Discount

Amtrak offers a 10% discount for persons traveling with a passenger with a disability as a companion. Those designated as a companion must be capable of providing the necessary assistance to the passenger with a disability. Additional restrictions may apply.

Have a ‘Travelers Tip’ you would like to share or have a question/topic you would like us to address, please drop us a message at [email protected] - Attention ‘Travelers Tips.

Planning a summer vacation including trains (and who wouldn’t be?), then you need a copy of Lonely Planet’s ‘Amazing Train Journeys’ guidebook! And 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.

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!


MemberDeals is excited to offer Rail Passengers members exclusive discounts for Universal that are not available to the public! https://memberdeals.com/railpassengers/pages.php?sub=usf&login=1

New Harry Potter experiences await you in Orlando.

  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ is welcoming an epic new addition—an extraordinary new adventure that’s taking flight at Universal Orlando Resort on June 13, 2019. In this amazing place you can step inside the story on the streets of Diagon Alley™ where hidden dangers lurk far beneath Gringotts™ bank. Travel to the village of Hogsmeade™ and into Hogwarts™ for a spellbinding journey through the skies. Soon, you’ll be able to experience the wizarding world like never before—joining Hagrid™ as you fly beyond the grounds of Hogwarts™ castle and soar into the Forbidden Forest to discover rare magical creatures on an all-new thrilling roller coaster. For discounted tickets visit; https://memberdeals.com/railpassengers/pages.php?sub=usf&login=1

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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.

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); Minnesota (1 opening); North Dakota (1 opening); Ohio (2 openings); Pennsylvania (1 opening); Utah (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.