June 21, 2019
White House Threatens Veto Of 2020 Funding Bill Over Support For Amtrak; Creation Of Gateway Development Commission Expected; Amtrak Consumer Arbitration Provisions Questioned; Future Of Rail Funding In Pennsylvania Uncertain; New Haven to Springfield CTrail Line Celebrates First Anniversary With High Ridership; Tri-Rail Service To Downtown MiamiCentral Station Delayed; La Crosse, WI Supports Twin Cities Service Expansion
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.
Rail Passengers reported earlier this week that the White House issued a veto threat against the fiscal 2020 funding bill, citing (among other issues) an increase in Amtrak funding as a source of disappointment in the bill. The House of Representatives is still considering the bill, which means there’s still time to take part in Rail Passengers campaign standing up for passenger rail funding!
The White House issued the veto threat in response to increased funding for transportation programs, saying President Trump was "disappointed" at Congress for boosting investment in Amtrak—instead of eliminating the National Network, as outlined in the President's budget request. The White House also made a point to criticize policy language bolstering the California high-speed rail project and funding for the Essential Air Service program.
While the House is almost certain to pass the bill, given Democratic control of the body, it’s important that this threat not go unchallenged. Our elected officials need to hear from the passengers and communities that depend on these trains, whether your home station is in New York City or Newton, Kasas.
Congress has already started voting on specific amendments, and will likely continue voting through the early part of next week. Call your Representative today and let them know you support investment in passenger rail!
Transportation Amendments Under Consideration
More than 500 amendments were submitted to the minibus funding package which included the transportation budget for fiscal year 2020. It appears that voting on the 62 amendments focused on transportation and housing will slip to Monday:
Several Republicans filed amendments what would decrease transportation funding across the board -- some by as much as 14 percent.
Amendment No. 259 from Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA.) requires Amtrak to abide by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act and give advance notice when it intends to layoff employees.
Amendment No. 237 from Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) would strike policy riders added this year to ensure that the U.S. DOT meets Congressional mandates that the federal government pay for 50 percent of costs in rail transit projects (compared to the 80 percent share it pays on highway projects); the Trump Administration has been trying to pay less than 50 percent on rail transit projects funded by the Capital Investment Grant program.
Amendment No. 233 from House T&I Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) would seek to halt allowing railroads to move liquefied natural gas by rail tank car.
Three amendments filed by Republicans to strike language preventing the U.S. DOT from clawing back federal funding from the California high-speed rail project were ruled not in order, and won’t be voted on.
Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Phil Murphy of New Jersey are expected to sign bills establishing the Gateway Development Commission, a multi-state entity established to advance a set of critical passengers rail projects connecting the two states.
The Gateway Commission would function similar to the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, overseeing planning, financing, and construction of the critical pieces of the Gateway Project, notably the new Hudson River rail tunnels and the Portal Bridge. These projects are a critical connection into Penn Station for Amtrak and New Jersey Transit passengers.
“This was a rather difficult bill to negotiate the last week, I would say. It is a bistate, bicameral, bipartisan bill—but we actually got it done,” New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg told reporters. “We have to have this vehicle set up in order to be able to receive any of the federal funding toward the Gateway tunnel. So this is an important step forward.”
Delays on NEC Highlight Need for Action
Amtrak and NJT passengers experienced significant service delays and disruptions this week due to a series of infrastructure failures along the NEC, coupled with an Amtrak maintenance program that has taken some capacity offline.
A track fire on the evening of June 20th caused significant delays, with trains forced to use a single track through the Hudson River tunnels.
The delays came a day after a disruption to service all along the NEC due to a disruption to power infrastructure.
"As of approximately 10:30 am [on June 19th], due to an overhead power issue between Trenton and Philadelphia, all trains traveling between New York Penn Station and North Philadelphia have been stopped, and there is a hold on the tracks,” said Amtrak in a statement. “The cause is under investigation, but at around 10:45 am power has been restored in full, although the hold of the trains traveling east of Philadelphia is still in effect. There are also three disabled trains in the South Tube that are currently being rescued. [Amtrak will] share more information as it becomes available."
Amtrak has initiated a more aggressive maintenance program to respond to the backlog created by decades of underinvestment, but the long-term cure also produces short-term pain. Amtrak took two tracks at Penn Station offline for replacement, reducing capacity and diverting thousands of passengers to alternate parts of the NJT network.
Federal Partners Lagging Behind
During a June 19th surface transportation reauthorization hearing held by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Senators pressed the Federal Railroad Administrator Ron Batory on the Gateway Project. [See below for more on this week’s Congressional hearing action.]
“We have 95 processing [environmental review] steps completed behind us. There’s another 27 yet to be completed. Does that mean another year? I don’t know,” Batory said, suggesting the project could be delayed another year.
The Trump Administration has made a point of blocking funding for the Hudson River tunnels, part of the President’s larger feud with Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). But Congress has zeroed in on the project, mindful of the negative repercussions to the U.S. economy if this critical transportation corridor fails for any extended period of time.
State legislators are clearly counting on the federal logjam being addressed, and want to be ready for it.
“When federal funding is finally approved, we will have the right agency and people in place to plan, build and manage the largest and most important mass transit project in the nation,” Senator Weinberg concluded.
Amtrak’s recently introduced consumer-arbitration provisions are starting to draw more attention from angry travelers and Rail Passengers members, but unfortunately the current political climate has made it nearly impossible to fight back. In early January, Amtrak released a brief statement -- which today seems absent from Amtrak’s website -- announcing the shift to a consumer arbitration model.
“Amtrak has revised its Terms and Conditions to institute an arbitration program to resolve some customer claims more efficiently. Arbitration proceedings before an American Arbitration Association arbitrator will take the place of court proceedings, which can be very drawn out and are costly for the parties. Customers may continue to resolve claims directly with Amtrak without any proceedings, and most such claims are resolved that way.”
As one member wrote us this week, however, this leaves a lot of open questions, especially for group travel folks who have no legal authority to accept arbitration terms on behalf of individual travelers booking tickets. Even apart from the unique problems posed with Amtrak travelers and tickets, the ever-growing practice of diverting consumers away from the courts into binding private arbitration has come in for sharp criticism by consumer-advocacy groups.
The government’s own consumer watchdog, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), in July of 2017 tried to step in to protect consumers who have been increasingly forced to sign away their legal rights to civil remedies in the courts to do everything from buying a cell phone to, well, buying Amtrak tickets. While the rule would only have applied to banks and financial institutions, it would have established the principle that companies can’t use arbitration to force consumers to accept terms that would be unenforceable in a regular contract adjudicated in a real court. In effect, when something goes wrong these agreements mean that consumers must go to a private third-party arbitrator to seek redress instead of taking the company to court. And statistics show that consumers’ odds are worse in arbitration than in a civil court proceeding.
Apparently alarmed at the effort to protect consumers, Congress quickly moved legislation to kill the CFPB’s rule, and four months after the rule was published for comment, President Trump signed a resolution killing it. Federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have largely viewed arbitration challenges in a light more favorable to corporations than to consumers. Congress, for its part, has already acted to de-fang the CFPB. And the President signed a congressional measure to do the same thing.
We shared our concerns about arbitration with Amtrak, but given that arbitration is now de facto standard throughout the U.S. economy and the courts, the Congress and the Executive Branch have all shown an unwillingness to act, there is very little leverage to effect change.
This really leaves only a few options for passengers, none of them particularly attractive. The first is simply to refuse to book the ticket under those terms, which means that you’ll have to travel some other way. Next, if you have a problem and want to bypass the arbitration agreement, you need to go to a federal court to prove that your particular claim or dispute is barred from arbitration by a federal statute. Or you can write your local congressman or Senator to encourage them to take another look at consumer arbitration protections.
The private watchdog group Texas Watch has prepared a good primer for consumers to understand the arbitration controversy better. Although it’s centered on Texas law, much of what it reports is relevant across the country.
Even though Pennsylvania’s growing rail service dodged a bullet in April when a federal judge threw out a trucking group’s lawsuit challenging using Turnpike tolls to pay for trains, a bigger threat still looms three years from now when Turnpike funding is scheduled by law to plummet.
“Amtrak service is in jeopardy, as we know it today,” even without the pending funding crisis, Jennie Granger, PennDOT’s deputy secretary for multimodal transportation, this week told about 110 business and government officials at the Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Westmoreland Country Club in Penn Township.
She was repeating a message she delivered at the Rail Passengers Association’s regional meeting in Harrisburg in February, and it amounts to a call to arms for rail advocates not just in Pennsylvania but throughout the northeast who want to see service grow.
Today rail service gets a boost from tolls collected by the Pennsylvania Turnpike, thanks to a law -- Article 44 -- that compels the Turnpike to set aside $450 million each year for PennDOT to use for public transit. By law that’s set to drop to $50 million in 2022, and that’s setting off alarm bells for Granger and rail advocates throughout Pennsylvania.
The crisis had the potential to blow up even sooner earlier this year, when a trucking trade group sued the Turnpike Commission to challenge using those tolls for public transportation. While the lawsuit was pending, the Turnpike had stopped sending money to PennDOT, and there was the real possibility of layoffs and service cuts coming as soon as this summer if the tap turned off. Pennsylvania Middle District Judge Yvette Kane threw out the lawsuit in April, clearing the way for payments to resume. The Turnpike says it plans to make good on $337.5 million in missed payments to PennDOT by the end of this year.
Congress examined several aspects of the railroad industry during hearings this week, looking at safety, Positive Train Control implementation, workforce size, and precision railroading.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads held a hearing June 20 on the state of the rail workforce, where Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) gave a fiery denunciation of new railroad industry practices that he believes to be driven by pressure from shareholders.
The Chairman and other Representatives took aim at the so-called monster trains (which exceed three miles in length), reduced crew sizes, and “precision railroading” as less safe and less sustainable.
“Wall Street is setting the terms and pressuring executives,” said DeFazio, “and they aren’t concerned about safety. Their monthly or quarterly profits are what is watched by Wall Street. Only if there’s an absolutely catastrophic accident that bankrupts a railroad will they care about it, but short of that, they don’t give a damn.”
Federal Railroad Administrator Ron Batory defended crew size by pointing to the safety record.
“In 1978, we had a minimum of five people on a crew, and in some states we had six or seven,” Batory told committee members, with 408 head-on rail collisions. He then compared it to 2018, which had only 22 such collisions.
Railroad labor representatives disagreed, however.
“If the ongoing grounding of the Boeing Max aircraft has taught us nothing else, FRA and the Department of Transportation should be mindful of the danger of transferring the risk of a human-factors accident from [people] to [a computer] programmer when autonomous technology is implemented,” wrote the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.
While the safety issue is still being debated, it seems clear that “precision railroading” has been bad for passengers. Amtrak trains are increasingly stuck on siding behind super-long freight consists, and network fluidity has suffered overall.
Senators Examine Rail Safety in Reauthorization Hearing
Batory appeared again before a surface transportation reauthorization hearing held by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, where Senators asked a number of questions about how railroads can become even safer.
When asked about ways to improve at-grade crossings for freight rail, Batory suggested Congress could increase access to highway funds to “entice” track-side communities to improve grade crossings infrastructure to prevent pedestrians and cars from moving in front of trains, and supplementing traditional grade-crossing infrastructure with advanced communications technology.
The Administrator also talked about autonomous track inspection to prevent derailment.
“An automatic track inspection can find more defects than you or I can find looking through the windshield of a hi-rail truck,” Batory told Senators. “It is in the best interest in the country and the people the railroad industry serves that we exploit this technology to its greatest potential.
Positive Train Control
Senators also asked about the railroad industry’s progress in installing PTC, with Senator Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CN) suggesting lawmakers may need to enact harsher fines for railroads that fail to meet the final 2020 deadline to implement PTC safety technology.
I spend “25 to 40 percent of my time working with Positive Train Control,” said Batory, emphasizing the importance the FRA places on helping railroads get PTC in place. While Batory believes freight railroads and Amtrak are in a good position to get the technology in place, he has more reservations about certain commuter rail agencies. Commuter railroads, meanwhile have asked Congress for more PTC funding -- not just for installation, but for ongoing maintenance costs as well.
The suburban Washington, DC, Virginia Rail Express (VRE) commuter service is hiking fares again after skipping a fare hike last year, but the move is drawing brickbats from VRE commuters who will be asked to pay higher fares for some of the worst reliability VRE riders have experienced in a decade or more.
Reality is that costs have increased, and VRE needs a mechanism to pass on some of those costs. But timing is everything, as is the care put into the message, and in this instance a Spring filled with spectacular delays (mostly from an unexpectedly painful Positive Train Control rollout) left the railroad with very little consumer goodwill in the reservoir to buffer the bad news.
The problem is compounded by the DC Metro system’s move to take six southern stations completely offline during the summer for capital improvements, diverting 100,000 riders each day into alternate travel modes -- including the already crowded VRE trains.
Rail Passengers Track Update: Where are we and what are we working on? This section will give you updates on what Rail Passengers HQ is up to.
Jim Mathews, President & CEO, taped an appearance on Fox News this week, talking about the potential for restoring service on the U.S. Gulf Coast. While naysayers continue to trot out the same old flawed arguments about whether the train will turn a profit, Jim emphasized a point Rail Passengers has been repeating about Amtrak’s mission since the beginning of the year: “It’s a government-funded enterprise. And it exists to create economic benefits for the communities that it serves.” And if you listen to the radio on your weekend, tune in on Saturday morning to the worldwide syndicated travel show Rudy Maxa’s World, where Jim will talk about the Summer by Rail internship program and the ways it highlights how rail benefits communities across America.
Sean Jeans Gail, Vice President of Policy, met with Congressional staffers to discuss ways to advance passenger rail in the transportation reauthorization, prepared testimony on the policy proposals developed by Rail Passengers policy staff, and organized Rail Passengers members to push back against a veto threat issued by the White House in response to Congressional support for Amtrak and passenger trains.
Carolyn Cokley, Director of Customer Programs, has used this week to prepare for her trip to Newton Kansas on Sunday to present an ACAC Customer Service Award to Newton Station Agent Michelle Cook. Carolyn has also been working on developing communications to reach out to college students and educating them about volunteerism and the benefits of a Rail Passengers membership.
Joseph Aiello, Northeast Field Coordinator, spent time with Governor Dukakis at the North-South Rail Link Working Group meeting on Wednesday, getting ready for a Boston City Council hearing on the proposed project later this summer. Joe also took a trip on the Downeaster to meet with Wayne Davis this week to set the stage for the kick-off of Summer by Rail 2019. Chef Madi will launch her 50-day food tour in Portland starting on June 28th.
Bruce Becker, Vice-President of Operations, on Tuesday joined with the Executive Committee of Rail Passengers Maryland, to discuss ways of promoting membership in the Maryland organization and building better synergy between Maryland advocates and the national Rail Passengers Association.
- Jonsie Stone, Director of Resource Development, spent a majority of the week focused on writing grant letters of interest. Before turning her attention to grants, Jonsie prepared new direct mail campaigns, and worked with Samantha Brown to address the membership card backlog. Membership cards and renewal stickers are in production and will be in mailboxes in the near future.
At a June 6 meeting of the Bent County (CO) Commissioners a request from La Junta City Manager Rick Klein for a matching funding commitment was considered, to support a newly-sought BUILD grant: the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development Transportation Discretionary Grant program.
“We are going for the BUILD grant (TIGER 10) to finish off the original deal that Amtrak came to us to help on in 2011,” said Klein in the request. The acronym TIGER stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery and is a grant program included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Klein also said that Amtrak has informed the Southwest Chief and Front Range Rail Commission that the numbers for a through-train from La Junta to Pueblo is feasible. Klein also said, “We are hoping to have a ballet question for Front Range rail from Cheyenne to Trinidad in 2020.
The County Commissioners had a lot of discussion about whether the grant would help the county. “It would be beneficial for our people to be able to get on a train, even if it was driving to La Junta ... hopping the train and being able to take that to Colorado Springs,” said County Commissioner Kim MacDonnell.
MacDonnell also brought up the point that she wouldn’t want to pay the same amount as the places that had stops. Unfortunately, these issues and the lack of information about the new grant led the commissioners to table the discussion about contributing for the grant to a later date.
The schedule of VIA Rail’s twice-weekly Toronto to Vancouver Canadian was lengthened & revised at the end of April in an attempt to improve on-time performance and to ensure the operation of the train through the scenic Canadian Rockies in daylight, even if it was subjected to hours-long delays by construction and infrastructure improvements being made by host railroad Canadian National.
Trains News Wire reported this week that the revised schedule has met with mixed success, but that the desired daylight mountain passage has generally been maintained (though in one case the westbound train was over 24 hours late, so the run was indeed in daylight; just one day later than planned).
The New Haven, CT to Springfield, MA CTrail line celebrated its first anniversary this week, with the State of Connecticut Department of Transportation announcing that an estimated 634,000 passengers rode the line over the first year; about 51,000 more than was originally projected for the first year of operation.
In prepared remarks Governor Ned Lamont said “We need to dramatically improve our transportation system to compete in a 21st century economy,” “The Hartford LIne is one component of creating a fast, efficient transportation system that works. It’s only been one year and ridership has been higher than expected...” It was noted that the line has spurred $430 million in new development along the rail corridor in the years since the CTrail line was first envisioned.
Bringing South Florida’s Tri-Rail Commuter trains into Virgin Trains USA’s MiamiCentral station in downtown Miami has been delayed due to complications with the installation and certification of the positive train control systems being implemented by the Florida East Coast Railroad (FEC). Service had been slated to begin by the end of this year. Tri-Rail uses a different PTC system than the one FEC uses and Tri-Rail must wait for FEC's system to be completed before their engines and cars are be made compatible.
Tri-Rail is investing $70 million to establish service to the MiamiCentral station, a project involving 9 miles of new infrastructure, which will eventually support 26 trains. Projections are that the service to downtown will draw an extra 1,000 passengers on the first day of service alone. Tri-Rail’s Miami terminal is currently at Miami International Airport, almost 5 miles from MiamiCentral’s downtown location.
Seattle’s Sound Transit introduced the first of its 152 new Siemens light rail vehicles during an event at its Operations and Maintenance facility. The new vehicles are expected to more than triple Sound Transit’s current fleet size of 62 LRVs in service. Each of the new vehicles will provide 74 seats, with larger windows, a wider center-car aisle, more seats with space to stow luggage, and four bicycle hooks, in addition to a dynamic passenger information display system and LED lighting improvements.
Sound Transit ordered 122 LRVs from Siemens in September 2016, adding another order for 30 more LRVs in April 2017. The contract for the two orders totaled $642.5 million. The arrival of the first Siemens vehicle marks the start of regular delivery of between one and three vehicles per month through 2024. The new cars will undergo extensive testing and commissioning before entering revenue service. The first of the new cars is expected to enter service early next year.
The La Crosse (WI) County Board of Supervisors on June 20th was expected to adopt a resolution supporting the expansion of Amtrak services on the Empire Builder route from Chicago-Milwaukee-La Crosse to the Twin Cities and eventually to Seattle. A proposed expansion would add one daily train in each direction to the current single round trip.
County Board Supervisor Tara Johnson said having more trains could boost the economy, it’s all part of finding solutions to transportation issues in the state. “Bulking up the volume of Amtrak travel through the state of Wisconsin is critically important for the economy but it’s also even more so given that we aren’t getting additional road funding,” explained Johnson.
The State Legislature’s budget committee has included $35 million in their transportation budget proposal to expand rail service between Milwaukee and Chicago. The Assembly and Senate are set to take the budget up next week.
Bombardier Transportation announced on June 14 that it is opening a rail car assembly site in Pittsburg, California. Elliot G. (Lee) Sander, President, Americas Division, Bombardier Transportation was joined by federal, state and local California officials and San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) General Manager Grace Crunican at the site for the official announcement.
The first rail equipment off the Pittsburg assembly line will be the “Fleet of the Future” rail cars from Bombardier’s 775-car contract with BART. This work, which is currently taking place at the Bombardier site in upstate New York, will be transferred to its new “sister site” in California over the coming months. The move will serve several purposes including retaining and creating local jobs in Pittsburg and freeing up space at the New York site for new and upcoming East Coast orders.
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. Supply is limited...reserve your room today!
Be sure to check out the RailNation:California event page more information, the current agenda and further details.
With the planning for Saturday’s Advocacy Symposium program now underway, a Call for Speakers is now open. RailNation:California could be your opportunity to present directly to activist passengers and commuters who rely on rail and fight for sustainable rail transportation in the U.S. We’ve designed three conference tracks - Inclusion & Equity, Making Change Happen and What Passengers Want - to look at rail travel’s challenges and opportunities today…and tomorrow. See the linked information for details on these tracks and for a perspective on the types of topics Rail Passengers Association would like to see covered, but we also warmly welcome session proposals that may stretch the essence of the three topics. We want to hear from you! The deadline for proposal submission is June 30!
Nominations are also open for the 2019 Ross Capon Citizen’s Advocates Award to be presented during RailNation:California. The deadline for nomination submissions is August 1, 2019
Great sponsorship opportunities have been developed for RailNation:California. Please send Jonsie Stone contact information for any organizations/individuals you think Rail Passengers Association should contact to discuss supporting the event.
And to make all of this a success, we need volunteers for the event! Check out these volunteer opportunities and let us know if you can help! Event volunteers who complete their agreed upon duties will receive 300 Amtrak Guest Rewards points as our ‘thank you’!
And just announced as a component of RailNation: California, an intensive, ‘Hands-On’ Advocacy Workshop, lead by Rail Passengers’ Vice-President of Policy Sean Jeans-Gail, will be held on Friday, October 18, from 1:00pm to 5:00pm.
This optional session will help advocates answer the question “I’m just one person, what change can I affect”?
Through this hands-on, interactive and engaging Advocacy Workshop attendees will be provided with the tools to advocate and hopefully change their perception of impact. Learning from the best in transportation advocacy at the local, state and national levels, attendees will leave with a tool-kit to help them educate, inform and communicate with others as to their cause.
The Workshop is $20.00 per person and advance registration is required. Space is limited!
Upcoming Regional Rail Passenger & State Association Member Meetings and Other Events:
Saturday, June 22 - Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers Meeting - Sanford, MI
Friday, July 19 - Redlands Passenger Rail Project Groundbreaking - Redlands, CA
Saturday, August 10 - Empire State Passengers Association Meeting & Lunch - Utica, NY
Please contact Bruce Becker to have a state or regional event or meeting added to the Rail Passengers calendar of upcoming events!
PASSENGER SERVICE NOTICES
Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited and Amtrak Michigan Line Service
Schedule Changes Effective June 22 through 24, 2019
Track work being performed by Norfolk Southern will close two of the main tracks and cause delays between Chicago, IL, and Porter, IN. As a result, Amtrak’s Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited, Blue Water, Wolverine and Pere Marquette service may be delayed 30 to 60 minutes between Chicago and Porter. Please check Amtrak.com for the most up to date schedules.
Track Work Affects Downeaster Service
Effective June 25, 2019
Attention Amtrak Customers:
Track work being performed by Pan Am, will affect Downeaster service as described below:
Train 682 will operate normally from Brunswick to Wells. No alternate transportation will be provided from Wells to Boston North.
Train 684 will operate normally from Brunswick to Wells. A bus will depart Wells at 12:40 pm to take passengers to Dover. Train 684 will continue from Dover to Boston North.
Train 686 will be cancelled with no alternate transportation provided.
Train 688 will operate normally from Brunswick to Wells. A bus will depart Wells at 6:55 pm to take passengers to Dover. Train 688 will continue from Dover to Boston North.
Train 681 will operate normally from Boston North to Dover. A bus will depart Dover at 10:35 am to take passengers to Wells. Train 681 will continue from Wells to Brunswick.
Train 683 will be cancelled with no alternate transportation provided.
Train 685 will operate normally from Boston North to Dover. A bus will depart Dover at 6:30 pm to take passengers to Wells. Train 685 will continue from Wells to Brunswick.
Train 687 will be cancelled with no alternate transportation provided.
Train 689 will operate as Train 1689 from Boston North to Dover. A bus will depart Dover at 12:55 am to take passengers to Wells. Train 1689 will continue from Wells to Brunswick.
Capitol Corridor Service Schedule Changes
Effective June 17, 2019
Please be advised that the Capitol Corridor will introduce a new schedule for service effective Monday, June 17.
The schedules of most trains and many buses will be adjusted by anywhere from 1 to 15 minutes. To learn more about this change and view the new train and bus schedules, please visit www.capitolcorridor.org/news.
Fullerton Station Boarding Track Changes June 17 through 21, 2019
Attention Amtrak Passengers:
Pacific Surfliner morning trains will use the opposite track at the Fullerton station, to provide more reliable service for our customers, from June 17 through 21.
Northbound passengers traveling to or from Los Angeles on Trains 561, 565, 569, 763 and 767 will use Track 3.
Southbound passengers traveling to or from San Diego on Trains 562, 564, 566, 572, 768 and 774 will use Track 1.
Lompoc, CA Flower Festival Parade Affects Amtrak Thruway Service
Saturday, June 29, 2019
Attention Amtrak Passengers:
Saturday, June 29, the city of Lompoc is hosting the annual Lompoc Flower Festival Parade. The parade route will impact Amtrak’s Thruway buses accessing the Lompoc stop due to road closures.
Parade is scheduled to operate from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm on the route shown below.
Due to the road closures, Thruway bus 4762 will not stop at Lompoc on June 29. Amtrak Thruway service is still available at Buellton.
Newark International Airport Station Temporarily Closed
Effective June 22 through 23, 2019
Attention Amtrak Passengers:
Due to annual substation maintenance, Newark Liberty International Airport station will be closed, and trains will not be stopping there between 9:30 pm on June 22 through 12:00 pm on June 23.
Passengers traveling to Newark Liberty Airport will need to access shuttle buses at Raymond Plaza West, in the front of Newark Penn Station.
Newark Penn Station waiting room will be open during this time, but no seating will be available.
Buses will “load and go” and will not follow train schedules. New Jersey Transit personnel will check New Jersey Transit and Amtrak tickets as passengers board the bus
Carolinian Train 80 Extra Service between Washington, D.C. and New York
Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays June 6 through Aug. 29, 2019
Attention Amtrak Passengers: Amtrak is providing extra service on the Carolinian Train 80, between Washington, D.C. and New York on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, June 6 through Aug. 29. See detailed schedule below.
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.
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 service to/from Boston during this period.
Travelers’ Tip For The Week
I often get calls and emails inquiring about traveling with medications. I am talking about passengers who need to keep medications refrigerated.
Experienced travelers have learned what to expect and how to overcome delayed trains or long layovers or waits in unstaffed stations. This week’s tip is for those of you who may be taking your first long distance trip this summer and not sure what to expect.
Each passenger must be responsible for their own medication. There are so many liability issues that can occur by making Amtrak store your sensitive medications. So it is up to you to provide the best refrigeration option(s) available and most importantly, you must prepare for possible train delays as well as station layovers. Today’s travel cooler options are better than ever.
An insulated thermos always works well. Your room or coach attendant can replenish you with ice, needed.
An insulated bag can work even better. Using both freezer packs and ice can lengthen cool time and reduce your need for replenished ice. Make sure you pack everything is freezer bags so that one does not touch or contaminated the other.
One of the best options I have seen on the market is a portable insulin cooler that can keep meds cool for up to 40 hours and are TSA approved. Some run on alkaline batteries and some can plug into a car outlet or electrical wall outlet onboard or in a station.
If you make any purchases from Amazon, please remember to log in here to have your purchase include a donate to Rail Passengers Association.
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’.
Your Feedback is Important to Improving American Passenger Trains
As you travel, please help us promote the Travel Review with other rail passengers. As you encounter passengers who want to make their positive and negative opinions known, please direct them to www.railpassengers.org/Travel Review. All participants will remain anonymous. If you encounter any problems with the Travel Review, or have any questions, please send an email to [email protected]
Do You Need More TravelReview Feedback Cards?
Please help us to spread the word. We need your help in engaging other passengers when you travel and let them know that their feedback is welcomed by RailPax. To facilitate this sharing of information the TravelReview Feedback Card is now available for you to download and print for regular usage. The card can be given to fellow passengers to introduce the work that RailPax is doing as well as our desire to have their feedback. The cards can also be left behind in stations as you pass through.
The template is in a .pdf format and will open in Adobe document cloud. First download the file and save it to your desktop for easy access. Then print as needed. The original template is formatted for Avery 5871 or 5371 cardstock which are both 2” x 3½” business card formats. Any brand cardstock should function as long as the dimensions match.
If you experience any problem in accessing the file, please send an email to [email protected]
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!
ADVENTURE AWAITS! GET ACCESS TO HUGE SAVINGS ON TICKETS TO UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT.
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
For the first time ever, join Hagrid™ as you fly deep into the Forbidden Forest, beyond grounds of Hogwarts™ castle, on a twisting roller coaster ride to discover the rarest magical creatures at Universal Orlando Resort™. For discounted tickets visit https://memberdeals.com/railpassengers/pages.php?sub=usf&login=1
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.
"On behalf of Amtrak’s onboard service staff, I want to thank the Rail Passengers Association for honoring their hard work with this award. The past couple years have indeed been difficult for Amtrak onboard service staff – coping with furloughs and job insecurity, adapting to changing protocols and services, not to mention the unfortunate events such as a tragic derailment and a fatal shooting. Nevertheless, our dedicated members at Amtrak have handled these hurdles with the care, attention and diligence for which they’re known. We thank Rail Passengers for their acknowledgement of our members’ hard work and, as always, look forward to seeing you on the rails."
Arthur Maratea, TCU/IAM National President
December 21, 2021, on the Association awarding its 2021 Golden Spike Award to the Frontline Amtrak Employees.