Happening Now

Hotline #1,124

July 3, 2019

Hoosier State Makes Last Runs; Summer By Rail 2019 Kicks Off; Valley Link Feasibility Study Underway; MBTA Fare Increase Results In Protests; New Amtrak Thruway Bus Service In Wisconsin; Heartland Flyer Extension Moves Forward; LaGuardia AirTrain Cost Jumps; Portland, OR Tri-Met System Speeds Trips And How NOT To Advance Corridor Planning

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.

FYI...This is an abbreviated holiday-week Hotline. The next full-edition Hotline will be published on Friday, July 12th.

The July/August 2019 edition of the ‘Passengers Voice’ is now available. Check out the stories on:

Sunday, June 30, marked the last runs of Amtrak’s Chicago to Indianapolis four-day-a week ‘Hoosier State’ service.

In January 2019, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb proposed a budget that did not include funding for the Hoosier State. Holcomb said that the train did not have high enough ridership to justify a subsidy. On April 8, 2019, Amtrak announced that unless state funding was provided, the Hoosier State would end on June 30, 2019. The Indiana Legislature ultimately failed to amend the Governor’s budget, thus dooming the Hoosier State to be first train-off in many years and the first train to end service due the PRIAA requirements.

While ‘Cardinal’ service will continue three-days-a-week, the prospects for the return of daily service are very unclear. The route used is slow (the train trip between Chicago and Indianapolis takes 5 hours vs. roughly 3 hours & 15 minutes by car) and is particularly delay prone in the Chicago area. With no leadership at the state-level to explore other route possibilities or to make meaningful improvements, options are few.

Chef Madi officially kicked off Summer By Rail 2019 in Portland, ME last week with a tour of “America’s Favorite Train,” the Downeaster. Madi was joined by TrainRiders Northeast founder Wayne Davis for her trip from Portland to Freeport. Madi also met with Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority Executive Director Patricia Quinn.

Madi continued on to Boston this week, where she participated in Chowderfest, hosted a NUMTOT meet-up, and toured South Boston eateries.

Madi is in Rhode Island today and she will be attending the country’s oldest Fourth of July parade in Bristol tomorrow as well as watching the fireworks in Providence as a guest of Go Providence.

Then she’s off down the Corridor to New York City and points south.

Keep track of all of Madi’s adventures on the Summer By Rail website; on Instagram & on Twitter @railpassengers

Also subscribe to Rail Passengers Association’s YouTube channel to watch Chef Madi’s journey.

The board of the Tri-Valley – San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority released a feasibility study for Valley Link last week. The Altamont Pass Corridor would connect San Joaquin communities with the Bay Area Rapid Transit’s (BART) and Altamont Corridor Express’ (ACE) rail networks.

More than 82,000 commuters currently travel the Altamont Pass Corridor route on a daily basis along Interstate-580—and this number is expected to increase by up to 75 percent from 2016 to 2040.

The report examines options for alignment of the 41-mile corridor, placement for the seven train stations, equipment technology, and mechanisms for system integration with BART and ACE.

Project construction is expected to cost $1.8 billion, and take five to seven years to complete.

Valley Link Information Video v1 from Valley Link Rail on Vimeo.

Fares on the MBTA system in Boston rose an average of 6% as the controversial fare hike went into effect this past Monday. The price of a single ride on the subway rose to $2.40 and the maximum increase on the commuter rail was 75 cents. There has been major opposition to the hikes since they were first announced months ago, but those voices have grown even louder in the wake of a series of derailments in June. Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu led a citywide public protest on Monday, as well as a #BostonTParty social media push.

Last week, Governor Baker announced that his administration has worked out a deal with the MBTA to inject $50 million into the operating budget to help accelerate the already planned $8 billion in T spending.

Amtrak initiated new Thruway Bus Service between Green Bay, WI and Milwaukee on Monday, serving De Pere, Appleton, Oshkosh and Fond du Lac along the I-41 corridor. It is being provided by Amtrak, in coordination with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT). Two daily round trips are scheduled to connect with Hiawatha Service trains at the downtown Milwaukee Intermodal station and at the Milwaukee Airport.

“This service provides residents in the I-41 corridor with convenience, comfort and connection,” says WisDOT Secretary-designee Craig Thompson. “It expands options for passengers traveling for business or leisure.” The service will allow travelers to make a same-day round trip between the I-41 cities and Chicago, as well as Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport, Sturtevant and Glenview, Illinois.

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, is on a well-deserved vacation this holiday week.

  • Sean Jeans Gail, Vice President of Policy, is working on follow-up questions from last week’s hearing on Amtrak to clarify issues that will arise during this fall’s reauthorization discussion.

  • Carolyn Cokley, Director of Customer Programs, continued working on the Station Volunteer Program in Michigan. Carolyn is coordinating efforts with MARP, Amtrak and Michigan State University to plan an SVP kickoff next month at the East Lansing Station.

  • Joseph Aiello, Northeast Field Coordinator, has been focused on Summer by Rail this week helping Chef Madi get settled in the Northeast to start the trip.

  • Bruce Becker, Vice-President of Operations, worked with Office Manager Samantha Brown this week on membership logistics. Also Bruce was interviewed by WBFO Radio, regarding the new downtown Buffalo Amtrak station now under construction.

  • Jonsie Stone, Director of Resource Development, traveled to Boston to meet up with Chef Madi and participate in the Summer By Rail activities. While in Boston Jonsie also met with a prospective corporate partner.

The Northern Flyer Alliance is reporting that development of the Heartland Flyer Extension is moving forward in Kansas despite the absence of a state transportation bill, crediting decades worth of work by local business and government leaders, passenger advocates, and a boost from Governor Laura Kelly.

“Despite the fact that Kansas missed its 10-year mark for another state-wide transportation bill during the 2019 legislative session, Governor Kelly’s Budget has a line item for Passenger Rail and KDOT is using that funding to move the needle forward,” writes NFA. “This is a first, at least in the memories of the people who support Passenger Rail in Kansas.”

NFA is asking passenger advocates to show up to a series of public input meetings that the Kansas Department of Transportation is planning for August. You can find more at NorthernFlyerAlliance.com.

In 2015, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced ambitious plans for a rail link between Midtown and La Guardia Airport that could get travelers back and forth in just 26 mins. News broke this week that the project, originally planned for a 2022 opening with a $450 million price tag, would now cost upwards of $2 billion according to the Port Authority. Administration officials say that, even with the increase in costs, the project would pay for itself due to the millions of people who travel to New York City - although, because of the route the link would take, there are some who think that it will go unused by the majority of travelers. According to Port Authority data, only 6% of people arrive at the airport via public transit.

The Portland Tribune examined a series of decisions made by TriMet, Portland, Oregon’s transit agency to prioritize trip-time in an effort to grow ridership, and how it’s bringing them into conflict with existing riders who like the service the way it is.

The Tribune article begins with a small decision—the number of stations in the central business district—and how it could predict tensions for larger decisions down the road:

“[TriMet has] endured months of criticism for proposing to close four downtown MAX stations to save riders two minutes on each direction of their round trips through Portland. And much bigger decisions—including whether to build a subway tunnel for light-rail trains under downtown and the Willamette River—are looming.

“The agency's board of directors took one of the proposed station closures off the table at its June 26 meeting. But the controversy over the other three remaining proposed closures will continue until at least the board's July 24 meeting. Most board members agreed that light rail travel times through downtown are too slow, however.

“TriMet has argued the four stations were unwisely built too close to other ones, which riders could easily use instead. Business organizations in Portland and Washington County supported the proposed closures to reduce travel times through downtown, if only slightly.”

TriMet is countering criticism by saying changes are needed to make the light-rail line a viable commuting option for a greater number of city residents.

"Crosstown trips are an important commute pattern," said TriMet General Manager Doug Kelsey. "Communities of color and those who are financially disadvantaged now have longer and less predictable commutes to access job centers. Providing faster travel for people to access those jobs has become critical and will continue to grow in importance over time as these trends continue… We know that to attract riders, our travel times must be competitive with private autos. If we're too slow compared to the auto, those who have a choice on whether to ride will choose not to take transit—no matter how convenient or close the stop may be.”

As reported in the Albany Times-Union last week, the Tier One Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) focused on improvements for New York State’s Empire Corridor is once again delayed, with the Federal Railroad Administration’s latest target date to complete and release the study & final record of decision nnow being May 8, 2020. This EIS process is now in its tenth year, having originally got underway in the summer of 2010.

Read a blog by Rail Passengers’ Vice-President of Operations Bruce Becker, who has been a passenger advocate on the study’s Advisory Committee from the very beginning, detailing the sorry state-of-affairs which have occurred (but mostly not occurred) over the past ten years.

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 still 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 has been extended until July 10!

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:

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


Solvang July 4th Parade Affects Amtrak Thruway Service

Thursday, July 4, 2019

On Thursday, July 4, the annual Solvang 4th of July parade will cause street closures between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm. The parade will travel down Mission Drive from the Old Santa Ines Mission, turn down 4th street, up Copenhagen and down Alisal, ending at the back of the mission. As a result, Amtrak Thruway Buses 4761 and 4762 will not stop at Solvang.

Wolverine Service Train 353

Effective Monday, July 8, 2019

To improve reliability, Amtrak’s Wolverine Service schedule will be adjusted as follows: Monday, July 8 Train 353 will operate 15 minutes earlier from Pontiac to Chicago.


Train 353



9:45 A


9:59 A

Royal Oak

10:07 A


10:30 A


10:48 A

Ann Arbor

11:17 A


11:53 A

Battle Creek

12:52 P


1:16 P


1:49 P

New Buffalo (ET)

2:09 P

Hammond-Whiting (CT)

2:05 P


2:50 P

Claremont July 4th Events Affect Amtrak Thruway Service

Thursday, July 4, 2019

On Thursday, July 4, the city of Claremont will be conducting various celebration events causing street closures and heavy traffic. As a result, Amtrak’s Thruway Buses 5402, 5410, 5412, 5415, 5417 and 5419 will be unable to access the Claremont stop. Buses 5413 and 5416 will continue to stop at Claremont during late night and early morning hours. All Thruway service will run normally at Amtrak’s Ontario station stop, approximately 25 minutes east of Claremont.

Empire Service, Ethan Allen Express, Lake Shore Limited and Maple Leaf Schedule Changes

Effective July 1 – Sept. 28, 2019

Due to ongoing trackwork performed by Metro-North, Empire Service, Ethan Allen Express, Lake Shore Limited and Maple Leaf schedules are affected as outlined below.


  • Trains 48, 64, 238, 244, 250, 252, 254, 256, 260, 280, 284, 290 and 292 will operate 5 to 15 minutes later than originally scheduled.


  • Trains 49, 233, 253 and 259 will operate 10 minutes earlier or 10 minutes later than originally scheduled. For detailed schedule changes, and the most up to date times, please visit Amtrak.com.

Cardinal, Empire and Keystone Service Schedule Changes

Effective July 1 through Aug. 30, 2019

Due to extensive track work schedules are being adjusted to reduce the number of trains operating through NY Penn Station during rush hour periods.


  • Train 640 will operate from Harrisburg to Newark, only. No alternate transportation will be provided from Newark to New York.


  • Train 51 will depart New York 35 minutes earlier than scheduled, at 6:10 am, and will resume normal schedule at Philadelphia.

  • Trains 63 and 69 will run combined from New York to Albany- Rensselaer on weekdays and will run on their separate, regularly scheduled times on weekends and July 4.

  • Train 63 will depart Albany 20 minutes later than scheduled on weekdays and 25 minutes later than scheduled from Niagara Falls.

  • Train 69 will depart at the scheduled time from Albany on weekdays

  • Train 643 will originate in Newark, with no alternate transportation provided from New York.

Lake Shore Limited Trains 448 and 449

Track Work Affects Service Sunday through Thursday

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: 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:

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

Train 449 Boston – Albany Service: 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

Like a lot of Americans, travel is a part of the July 4th holiday experience especially since this year, the 4th falls on a Thursday. Perfect for a long holiday weekend. If you are traveling via Amtrak or any other mode of transportation, here are a few tips to help keep you and your family safe.

The Amtrak Police Department works very hard to ensure the safety of passengers and employees across the rail network. Uniformed Amtrak Police Department officers, special operations units and sniffer dog units regularly carry out random passenger and do carry-on baggage screening, ID checks, checked baggage inspections and on-board security checks.

  • Use common sense and remain aware of your surroundings at all times.

  • Remain vigilant for suspicious activity and unattended packages or luggage at stations and onboard trains. Alert staff or law enforcement officers if you notice any unattended luggage or packages.

  • Keep your luggage in sight at all times and never leave belongings unattended.

  • Only approach uniformed Amtrak Red Caps and employees when you need help or advice. Don't carry luggage for strangers.

  • While traveling on Amtrak trains, place all clearly tagged luggage in overhead racks or in designated storage areas. Keep all valuables with you at all times.

  • Keep phones charged at all times and be leery of public charging stations as they can be used to steal your information.

  • Keep your hard copy ticket safe and keep a copy of your eTicket with you at all times.

Have a safe and happy July 4th!

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!


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.