Happening Now

Hotline #1,133

September 6, 2019

New Orleans Station Improvement Project Kicks-Off; Senator Roger Wicker Applauds Recent Rail Grants For Gulf Coast Service; Renewed Interest In Potential Austin to San Antonio Rail Corridor; 'The Power of Patient Advocacy'; Performance Standards To Advance; Texas Central Receives Positive Ruling From FRA; DC’s Long Bridge Project Advances; Amtrak Wraps Up NY Penn Station Summer Projects; Virgin Trains USA To Start Las Vegas Route Construction; First Track Laid For Maryland’s Purple Line; Hurricane Dorian Still Affecting Amtrak

Hotline #: 1133 - September 6, 2019

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 will 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.

Three prominent speakers will be among the many featured presenters at this October’s RailNation:California Advocacy Symposium in Sacramento.

  • Yvonne Burke - Amtrak Board Member (Keynote Address On Saturday)

  • Chad Edison - Deputy Secretary for Transportation - California State Transportation Agency

  • Jim Allison - Manager of Planning - Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority

Saturday’s Symposium sessions will feature three thematic tracks –

  • ‘Inclusion & Equity’

  • ‘Making Change Happen’

  • ‘What Passengers Want’

Track #2 – ‘ Making Change Happen’ will take a look into what rail travel, as well as the larger transit ecosystem, could or should look like. Presentations in this track will address topics including: have we lost the edge when it comes to rail projects and advancements in the U.S.; creating a transit eco-system & breaking down the silos between modes; interplay between regional transit/rail, conventional intercity rail and high-speed rail; emerging technologies in rail/transit; influencing policymakers at all levels – local, state, federal and tribal – to look past “profit” to invest in future capability and how do we get policymakers excited about a future vision.

You don’t want to miss out on RailNation:California! REGISTER TODAY!

A ceremony Wednesday in New Orleans with Mayor LaToya Cantrell kicked off a $6.643 million project to upgrade the platforms at New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal by 2022. The work will ensure level boarding for the Sunset Limited and City of New Orleans, while improving step heights for the Crescent and addressing ADA concerns. There are also projects to expand the canopy covering the platform, improve the air, water and other systems, and put fences and gates in place to improve security and create facilities to permit trains to be used for evacuation.

Funding for the project includes a $3.7 million federal grant, $2 million in matching funds from the City of New Orleans and the New Orleans Building Commission, and $943,000 in matching funds from Amtrak.

“This terminal was once a gleaming station of yesteryear, and now we are going to bring it back better than it’s been before, and that’s thanks to a strong partnership,” Cantrell said during the event, which included leaders from a variety of state agencies plus Amtrak.

“Thank you, Mayor (Cantrell) for having a vision, because renovating this terminal, if you will, is actually not about tomorrow. It’s not even about next year. It’s about 10 to 15 to 20 years from now,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R). “This allows an economic union between New Orleans, Jefferson Parish, the River Parishes, Baton Rouge and beyond – not only to those communities, but to the benefit of our state.”

Mississippi lawmakers led by Sen. Roger Wicker (R) this week applauded the long-delayed award of Transportation Dept. grants for infrastructure improvements, including a $4.3 million Restoration & Enhancement grant to the Southern Rail Commission targeting initial restoration of passenger service between New Orleans and Mobile.

Wicker has remained steadfast in his support for Gulf Coast service restoration even when it was politically difficult for him. At a Biloxi event this week in which Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao officially announced the grants, Wicker once again underscored that commitment.

“Replacing bridges and restoring Amtrak service along the Gulf Coast are among the most important transportation priorities for Mississippi,” Wicker said. “I appreciate Secretary Chao’s visit to Mississippi and the Department of Transportation for making these funds available. These grants will go a long way in strengthening our state’s transportation network.”

Joining Wicker were Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R), and Reps. Steven Palazzo (R) and Michael Guest (R) to recognize the overall $21 million granted for infrastructure improvements to Mississippi bridges and passenger rail.

Release of the Restoration and Enhancement Grant funds comes on the heels of action two weeks ago by the Federal Railroad Administration to release two year’s worth of capital repair grants supporting 10 passenger and commuter rail projects in 10 states -- $227 million in total. That kickstarted a program that has lagged in recent years, a lag that provoked congressional ire both in the House and the Senate.

Following our legal victory in the U.S. District Courts, Amtrak and FRA are—finally—able to jointly develop the metrics and standards for passenger rail service in the US.

As part of the development process, Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration asked Rail Passengers to sit down with them and provide feedback within the statutory guidelines. At the conclusion of a very good meeting the FRA asked us to produce a series of metrics and reportable figures that we believe will benefit passengers and the public; this input will be used to help inform the metrics and standards that are ultimately set forth.

At a meeting with USDOT and I gave a frank assessment of where we think Amtrak isn’t providing enough transparency—such as fully allocated versus avoidable costs in its route performance statements—and where we think the company has essentially misunderstood what passengers value in its service—such as the necessity of a truly National Network, and the onboard Food & Beverage.

We were also able to come to genuine consensus with Amtrak on a number of key issues, particularly as it relates to On-Time Performance as an essential component of a sustainable National Network. This is critical, because without reliable service, passengers will seek other modes and Amtrak won’t be able to attract new riders.

The USDOT reps mentioned a number of times how impressed they were by the analytics Rail Passengers was able to provide, including the economic benefits figures produced by our IMPLAN-based model.

The positive reaction the USDOT had to our work is a testament to the strategy this association has pursued to upgrade our analytical capabilities. Given the number of meetings this Sec. 207 working group has had with groups hostile to passengers interests, it’s also a testament to the value of keeping a cool head in a crisis—there’s value in having a seat at the table.

You can read the written brief Rail Passengers submitted to the USDOT on our website.

Please help us gather feedback on the rail passenger’s dining experience as the data will help us address concerns amongst our members. We will be accepting responses through September 30th.

Texas Central, developer of the greenfield Houston to Dallas high-speed rail service, announced September 4 that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has approved its petition for a comprehensive set of custom rules—applicable specifically to Texas Central—used to govern the railroad’s system and operations between Houston and Dallas.

“The FRA’s action on the Rule of Particular Applicability (RPA) marks a major milestone in our quest to bring a transformative mobility solution, while minimizing impact on the environment and land use, as opposed to other options” said Carlos F. Aguilar, CEO, Texas Central. “We thank Administrator Batory for his leadership in bringing high speed rail service to the United States. We will meet or exceed all requirements the FRA mandates, to ensure we have the safest high-speed rail system in the world.”

The Rail Passengers Association is unique given that the FRA has never had to issue a rulemaking for a railroad operating above 150 mph. The Houston – Dallas train will Central Japan Railway’s Shinkansen technology, which has transported over 10 billion passengers with zero operational passenger fatalities and zero accidents since it was first deployed in 1964.

A bipartisan group of Congressional Representatives in Texas had supported the petition through a letter to U.S. DOT Secretary Chao, including Representatives Kay Granger, Pete Sessions, Ted Poe, Blake Farenthold, John Carter, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Gene Green, and Sheila Jackson Lee.

“Securing DOT’s commitment to move forward with the Texas High Speed Rail Project is a significant win for all Texans, especially those who live in the Twelfth District, because it will create job opportunities, boost our economy, increase mobility and spur productivity in the Lone Star State,” said Congresswoman Granger (R-TX-12). “I’m pleased DOT recognized the importance of high-speed rail and am encouraged they will be moving forward with the regulatory process required to advance the project.”

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) published key environmental and partnership documents for the $1.9 billion Long Bridge Project, a key chokepoint connecting Virginia’s passenger rail network to the Northeast Corridor.

The Long Bridge replacement project will increase capacity and improve the reliability of railroad service through Amtrak services and the future Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor, and is expected to take five years to complete.

The FRA and DDOT published the three documents yesterday, which includes the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which identifies the project’s preferred alternative, which includes expanding the 1.8-mile Long Bridge Corridor from two to four tracks crossing the Potomac River near Long Bridge Park in Arlington, VA to southwest Washington, DC.

“With this alignment, a new two-track bridge would be constructed upstream of the existing bridge, and the existing bridge would be retained to create a four-track crossing,” said DDOT in a press release. “The Preferred Alternative ties into the DC to Richmond Southeast High Speed Rail (DC2RVA) Project’s four-track alignment at RO Interlocking and VRE’s proposed four-track expansion project at LE Interlocking. The proposed project includes a new bike-pedestrian shared use path that would bridge over the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Potomac River.”

The DEIS is available on the Project website at: www.longbridgeproject.com/deis.

The public may comment on the project through October 28 at www.longbridgeproject.com.

A coalition of 20 Texas state representatives have relaunched an effort to connect Austin and San Antonio through a passenger rail corridor in an attempt to fight back against growing congestion along the Interstate 35 corridor.

A group of 20 reps. from San Antonio and Austin issued a letter on August 16 to the Chair of the Texas State House Committee on Transportation to initiate a rail study head of the 2021 legislative session.

“Improved transportation connectivity is critical for the Austin-San Antonio corridor,” stated the letter. “We must not only look at how to utilize our current assets most effectively, but also find new and creative solutions for this corridor. As members of this region, we believe that it is imperative for the House Transportation Committee to explore new opportunities for our constituents to have frequent, safe, and dependable transportation.”

Supporters are pointing to the economic and quality of life benefits that would come with the investment.

“It provides another transportation option and encourages economic development including job creation, connects rural counties to their neighboring urban cities, and helps reduce roadway congestion in major metropolitan regions,” Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D-San Antonio) said in an email to reporters. “Investments in an alternative transportation solution, like passenger rail trains, will foster real estate development around rail stations.”

[Related: Texas Rail Advocates– Only 1% of Texas state transportation funding is spent on railroads, maritime movements and ports, aviation, bikeway and pathways, rural bus systems, urban and regional transportation systems, with 99% of funding going to roads.]

While the campaign to connect the two cities with rail has had a troubled pass, with many false starts, a rapidly growing population combined with a booming regional economy has legislators betting that the time is right to address the growing congestion.

“I believe that passenger rail between two of our biggest cities in Texas is an issue that the House Transportation Committee should look at this interim,” Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) said in a prepared statement. “As our state continues to experience explosive growth, we must consider all options to get Texans from point ‘A’ to point ‘B.’ That being said, it is absolutely imperative that the state examine multimodal systems for future implementation. Increasingly, Texans are looking for transportation options that do not involve them sitting behind the wheel of a vehicle stuck in traffic.”

The Power of Patient Advocacy

The most effective tactics are often difficult to see.

September 3, 2019

by TJ Girsch, Vice Chair, Rail Passengers Association

In the transportation security field, there’s a term of art: “security theater.” The idea is that the things that you see (for example, at an airport security checkpoint) are largely there for show. The measures that are most effective in making travel secure are things the large majority of the traveling public never actually sees. The same can be said for passenger advocacy: the most effective advocacy work is slow and deliberate. It involves collaborative relationship-building with many players over a long period of time. This sort of ground game is neither splashy nor “sexy,” so despite its effectiveness, it doesn’t get a lot of press. Perhaps that explains why I see so many comments on social media asking why Rail Passengers Association “isn’t doing anything” about issues ranging from equipment to onboard dining service to the future of the long-distance network. Seemingly, because we’re not loudly calling for heads or breaking out the pitchforks and torches, people think we’re not doing anything at all.

Click here to read the rest of TJ’s thoughts.

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, presented privately this week to a group of Amtrak and Federal Railroad Administration officials developing metrics and standards for passenger-rail service. This has been delayed nearly a decade by fights in the courts over whether and how Amtrak can be involved in developing standards for on-time performance. With the court battle now finished, work has picked up quickly -- and your Association spent most of Thursday afternoon supplying detailed proposals for metrics and standards around on-time performance, measuring capacity, analyzing ridership by passenger mile, basing decisions on passengers-per-departure rather than simple raw ridership, measuring Amtrak’s quality of service to passengers and customer-satisfaction metrics.

  • Sean Jeans Gail, Vice President of Policy, helped staff President & CEO Jim Mathews during his meeting with USDOT officials, and prepared policy briefs on a number of statutorily defined areas of interest. He also attempted to dig out from a post-vacation email backlog after a weeklong trip to the Middle East (if you’re waiting on a reply, please forgive the delay and trust that it is forthcoming!).

  • Carolyn Cokley, Director of Customer Programs, has finalized the agenda for the East Lansing station volunteer training which is still looking for a date in late September or early October. Contact has been made and a meeting has been scheduled with a city official in Cleburne, TX to discuss the viability of a station volunteer program at the station.

  • Joseph Aiello, Northeast Field Coordinator, has been focused this week on RailNation: California planning with the rest of the DC staff.

  • Bruce Becker, Vice-President of Operations, on Wednesday evening lead a conference call with volunteers interested in assisting on-site during the upcoming RailNation:California. If you are interested in helping out, please let Bruce know. The next volunteer call is scheduled for Wednesday evening, September 18.

  • Jonsie Stone, Director of Resource Development, spent quite a bit of time on the phone this week talking with and following up with prospective organizational partners.

  • Kim Williams, Membership Manager, focused on member engagement this week by drafting several member communications and speaking directly with members about their experiences with Rail Passengers Association.

The Rail Passengers Association would like to thank Talgo, Inc., our Annual Partner, for their support.

After Amtrak wrapped up their summer renewal work at New York Penn Station, MTA Long Island Rail Road resumed service this week on 14 trains that were affected by the work. These trains were either temporarily rerouted to Atlantic Terminal or outright canceled in order to reduce the number of daily rush hours trains. MTA officials have also said that they are keeping two trains, Ronkonkoma Station to Penn Station and Freeport to Penn Station, that were added during the summer construction due to their popularity.

Virgin Trains USA is heading west as the company announced this week that they are starting construction next year on new tracks connecting Southern California and Las Vegas. A representative from Virgin said that the $4 billion project should have a similar timeline to the 36-month build of the current Orlando expansion in Florida. The non-stop high-speed train will make the 180 mile between trip Victorville, CA and the Vegas Strip in 75-90 minutes - for a $60 one-way ticket. Officials have stated that they would like to extend the service closer to the LA area, but even planning that would be many years away.

The first trains should be in revenue service sometime in 2023 and it is projected that as many as 12 million passengers could use the system annually. Clark County (Nevada) Commissioner James Gibson said that nearly 35% of all visitors to the area drive and that “another 12 million seats” as an alternative method of travel is a great thing.

The first section of track for Maryland’s new Purple Line is being installed reported Washington, DC’s WTOP radio. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan participated in a ceremony in Lanham, MD on Thursday to mark the development. The 16.2-mile Purple Line light rail line will run between the New Carrollton Metro Station in Prince George's County and the Bethesda Metro Station in Montgomery County. 21 stations are planned, including at Silver Spring. The line will connect MARC’s 3 service lines, Metro, Amtrak and local bus service. Revenue service is possible in 2023.

Amtrak to Continue Operating Modified Schedule Due to Hurricane

Due to severe weather continuing to impact the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic areas of the U.S., Amtrak has been operating a modified schedule and cancelling select services from Thursday, September 5, to Saturday, September 7. For customer and employee safety, the following trains are operating on a modified schedule:

Service operating a modified schedule on Friday, September 6 includes:

  • Palmetto 89 (operating between New York – Savannah, Ga.) will operate from New York To Richmond, Va. only. Service is cancelled from Richmond, Va., to Savannah, Ga.

  • Palmetto 90 (operating between Savannah, Ga. – New York) will operate Richmond, Va., to New York only. Service is cancelled from Savannah, Ga., to Richmond, Va.

  • Northeast Regional 66 (operating between Newport News, Va., – Boston) will operate from Washington, D.C., to Boston only. Service is cancelled from Newport News, Va., to Washington, D.C.

  • Northeast Regional 84 (operating between Norfolk, Va., – New York) will operate from Washington, D.C., to New York only. Service is cancelled from Norfolk, Va., to Washington, D.C.

  • Northeast Regional 93 (operating between Boston – Norfolk, Va.) will operate from Boston to Washington, D.C. only. Service is cancelled from Washington, D.C., to Norfolk, Va.

  • Northeast Regional 94 (operating between Norfolk Va., – Boston) will operate from Richmond, Va., to Boston only. Service is cancelled from Norfolk, Va., to Richmond, Va.

  • Northeast Regional 95 (operating between Boston – Norfolk, Va.) will operate from Boston to Richmond, Va. only. Service is cancelled from Richmond, Va., to Norfolk, Va.

  • Northeast Regional 125 (operating between New York – Newport News, Va.) will operate from New York to Richmond, Va. only. Service is cancelled from Richmond, Va., to Newport News, Va.

  • Northeast Regional 174 (operating between Newport News, Va., – Boston) will operate from Richmond, Va., to Boston only. Service is cancelled from Newport News, Va., to Richmond, Va.

Service cancelled on Friday, September 6, includes:

  • Silver Star 92 (operating between Miami – New York)

  • Silver Meteor 98 (operating between Miami – New York)

  • Auto Train 52 & 53 (operating between Lorton, Va., - Sanford, Fla.)

Service operating a modified schedule on Saturday, September 7 includes:

  • Palmetto 90 (operating between Savannah, Ga. – New York) will operate from Washington, D.C., to New York only. Service is cancelled between Savannah, Ga. and Washington, D.C.

  • Northeast Regional 194 (operating between Newport News, Va. – Boston) will operate from Richmond, Va. to Boston only. Service is cancelled between Newport News, Va. and Richmond, Va.

  • Northeast Regional 88 (operating between Norfolk, Va. – Boston) will operate from Washington, D.C. to Boston only. Service is cancelled between Norfolk, Va. and Washington, D.C.

Service to resume scheduled operations on Saturday, September 7, includes:

  • Palmetto 89 will operate from New York – Savannah, Ga.

Bus transportation will not be provided for cancelled trains. Service will be restored pending improved conditions.

Anyone planning to travel should check their train status on Amtrak.com or Amtrak’s smartphone app 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 800-USA-RAIL.

Anyone can subscribe to automated email or text message notifications if Amtrak trains are behind schedule at specific stations. Notifications can be given for up to six trains and stations by either text or email and delivered when you choose - on a single day, every day, or just certain days of the week. You can create a subscription at Amtrak.com/DelayAlerts.

To be notified of service disruptions on the Northeast Corridor (including Acela, Northeast Regional and other corridor services), follow @AmtrakNECAlerts on Twitter. For service information outside the Northeast Corridor, please follow @AmtrakAlerts for updates.

Albuquerque to Host American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners 42nd Annual Convention

Show your support for the Southwest Chief by joining AAPRCO members at the opening session of its 42nd annual convention on Tuesday, September 17th. The keynote address will be delivered by two mayors whose cities are served by the Chief: John Pritchard of Galesburg, Illinois, and Tim Keller of Albuquerque. They will announce the creation of a Southwest Chief Mayors’ Coalition to coordinate advocacy efforts of elected officials and stakeholders from Illinois to California. AAPRCO's $10,000 contribution to the 2018 Southwest Chief federal TIGER grant will be highlighted with presentation of a ceremonial check to the manager of Colfax County (NM), lead applicant for the grant. There also will be a media question and answer session. This event begins at 9:00 a.m. in the Majorca Room of the Hotel Andaluz, 125 Second Street, NW; Albuquerque.

  • Rare Mileage Excursion – Albuquerque - Santa Fe - Lamy: On Wednesday, September 18, board Rail Runner Express in Albuquerque at 9:35 am, ride to Santa Fe, then transfer to the Santa Fe Southern’s vintage equipment for a relaxed, 18-mile journey to Lamy, through New Mexico’s beautiful high desert. In Lamy, enjoy lunch at the historic Legal Tender Saloon. After the return to Santa Fe, pick any Rail Runner departure depending on how long you want to spend exploring historic Santa Fe and its shops and restaurants. Trains leave for Albuquerque at 4:15 pm, 5:04, 5:30, 6:46 and 9:00. The excursion is open to AAPRCO members only, but non-members can join the association and purchase an excursion ticket for the all-inclusive price of $199; this includes AAPRCO Associate Membership through December 2020, round-trip travel on Rail Runner Express and Santa Fe Southern, and luncheon at Legal Tender Saloon. To purchase tickets, contact the AAPRCO office at 706.326.6262.

  • The opportunity to tour several private cars in Albuquerque also Sept. 18—Tours—roughly an hour long—are scheduled every 15 minutes from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Cost is $20 per person. Advance, online ticket purchases are recommended. Tickets sold on-line until day of the tours---advance purchases recommended but open tour slots will be sold at the station on the day of the tours on a cash-only basis – http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=y6b9iulab&oeidk=a07egjq8isz6b093474

To inquire, call AAPRCO Executive Director Julie King at 706.326.6262.

Our Best Fall Event Yet! Make Plans To Attend 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.

Confirmed event speakers for Saturday’s Advocacy Symposium include:

  • Yvonne Burke - Amtrak Board Member
  • Chad Edison - Deputy Secretary for Transportation - California State Transportation Agency

  • Jim Allison - Manager of Planning - Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority

Saturday’s sessions will focus on three thematic ‘tracks – ‘Inclusion & Equity’; ‘Making Change Happen’ & ‘What Passengers Want’.

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

FYI...Discounted Group Rate Room Reservations at the host hotel, the Sheraton Grand Downtown, are now SOLD-OUT! A list of alternative nearby hotels and rates is now available! Please note there are NO special arrangements with any of these alternative hotels.

Be sure to check out the RailNation:California event page for more information, the current agenda and further details.

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 Bruce Becker 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 as an optional component of RailNation: California, an intensive, ‘Hands-On’ Advocacy Workshop, led by Rail Passengers’ Vice-President of Policy Sean Jeans-Gail, will be held on Friday, October 18, from 1:00pm to 5:00pm.

Staff members from Rail Passengers’ federal and state policy team will engage with workshop participants, in a small group setting, on the A to Z of advocacy. We’ll teach you advocacy best practices, help you figure out the best strategy for interacting with elected officials and policymakers, and give you a blueprint for launching a successful campaign to improve service in your town—whether it’s local transit, commuter, or intercity rail and Amtrak.

This workshop will focus on giving advocates the following tools:

  • Define achievable goals: whether it’s launching a new service, a new frequency, or getting an issue on the ballot, you need to determine a workable path to get you where you want to go.

  • Build coalitions: recruit like-minded advocates, national and local advocacy organizations, business partners, and elected officials. We’ll tackle the hard questions about how to maintain partnerships in the face of adversity and competing interests.

  • Guide the narrative: learn how to engage through social media, connect with traditional media outlets and reporters, and find the right message to cut through the noise.

  • Establish a campaign blueprint: create a calendar for sustainable grassroots action, making intelligent use of limited financial resources and volunteer labor.

Workshop participants will leave not only with the knowledge to execute effective advocacy efforts but with a tool-kit of sorts as well. The interactive nature of the workshop will provide materials needed to hit the ground running in their advocacy work.

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!


Piedmont Trains 74, 75, 76, and 77 Track Work Affects Service

September 9 and 10, 2019

Track work being performed by Norfolk Southern will affect Piedmont service on Monday and Tuesday, September 9 and 10.

Piedmont Service

  • Trains 74, 75, 76 and 77 which normally operate between Charlotte and Raleigh, are cancelled. No alternate transportation will be provided.

  • All other Carolinian and Piedmont service trains will operate normally on these dates.

Track Work Affects Missouri River Runner Service Effective September 9, 2019

Track work being performed by Union Pacific Railroad will affect Missouri River Runner service on September 9 as outlined below:

Monday, September 9

  • Southbound Trains 311 and 313 which normally operate between St. Louis and Kansas City, will terminate at Hermann. Alternate transportation will be provided to the missed station stops of Jefferson City, Sedalia, Warrensburg, Lee’s Summit and Independence.

    • Buses 3111 and 3113 will operate from Hermann to Kansas City. Buses may operate later than the train schedule.

  • Northbound Trains 314 and 316 which normally operate between Kansas City and St. Louis, will originate at Hermann. Alternate transportation will be provided to the missed station stops of Independence, Lee’s Summit, Warrensburg, Sedalia and Jefferson City.

    • Buses 3314 and 3116 will operate from Kansas City to Hermann. Buses will depart earlier from Kansas City.

Cal Poly University Move-In Days Affect Amtrak Thruway Service

September 13 through 17, 2019

On Friday, September 13 Cal Poly University will begin their annual Move-In Days. Students moving into the dorms will cause road closures and heavy traffic around the University.

As a result, on September 14, Amtrak’s Thruway Buses 4003, 4010, 4015, 4761, 4762, 4763, 4767, 4768, 4777, 4782, 4785, 4792, 4796, 6232, 6234 and 6237 will be unable to access the San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly) stop or PAC Loop between 6:00 am and 8:00 PM. Expect delays around the University for the rest of the weekend.

Buses 4004 and 4785 will continue to stop at San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly) during late night and early morning hours.

All Thruway service will run normally at Amtrak’s San Luis Obispo station stop.

Pacific Surfliner and Coast Starlight

Friday through Tuesday September 13 through 17, 2019

Track Work in Southern California will affect service between Los Angeles and Chatsworth

Track work being performed from 10:00 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 13 through 4:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 17 will affect Pacific Surfliner and Coast Starlight service on the dates indicated below.

Pacific Surfliner Service, Northbound Trains Sept. 14-16:

  • Train 759 will operate as Bus 4859 from Los Angeles to Chatsworth, as Train 759 from Chatsworth to Goleta. Regular connecting bus service will run north from Santa Barbara.

  • Train 763 will operate as a train from San Diego to Los Angeles, as Bus 4863 from Los Angeles to Chatsworth and as Train 1763 from Chatsworth to San Luis Obispo. Regular connecting bus service will run north from San Luis Obispo.

  • Train 767 will operate as a train from San Diego to Los Angeles, as Bus 4867 from Los Angeles to Chatsworth, Train 3767 from Chatsworth to Goleta. Regular connecting bus service will run north from Santa Barbara.

  • Train 777 will operate as a train from San Diego to Los Angeles, as Bus 4877 from Los Angeles to Chatsworth and as Train 1777 from Chatsworth to San Luis Obispo. Regular connecting bus service will run north from San Luis Obispo.

  • Train 785 will operate as a train from San Diego to Los Angeles, as Bus 4885 Los Angeles to Chatsworth and as Train 1785 from Chatsworth to Goleta. Regular connecting bus service will run north from Santa Barbara.

  • Trains 1761 will operate as a train from San Diego to Los Angeles, as Bus 4861 from Los Angeles to Chatsworth and as Train 3561 from Chatsworth to Goleta. Regular connecting bus service will run north from Santa Barbara.

  • Train 1767 will operate as a train from San Diego to Los Angeles, as Bus 4867 from Los Angeles to Chatsworth and as Train 3767 from Chatsworth to Goleta. Regular connecting bus service will run north from Santa Barbara.

  • No alternate transportation will be provided to missed stations Glendale, Burbank or Van Nuys.

  • Trains beginning with 35 and 37, buses beginning with 48 and 17 series trains north of Chatsworth, will depart all stations later than the normal train schedule.

Pacific Surfliner Service, Southbound Trains Sept. 14-16:

  • Train 768 will operate as a train from Los Angeles to San Diego, as Bus 4868 from Chatsworth to Los Angeles and as Train 1768 from Goleta to Chatsworth. Regular connecting bus service from the north will connect at Santa Barbara.

  • Train 774 will operate as a train from Los Angeles to San Diego, as Bus 4874 from Chatsworth to Los Angeles and as Train 1774 from San Luis Obispo to Chatsworth. Regular connecting bus service from the north will connect at Santa Barbara.

  • Train 782 will operate as a train from Los Angeles to San Diego, as Bus 4882 from Chatsworth to Los Angeles and as Train 1782 from Goleta to Chatsworth. Regular connecting bus service from the north will connect at Santa Barbara.

  • Train 792 will operate as a train from Los Angeles to San Diego, as Bus 4892 from Chatsworth to Los Angeles and as Train 1792 from Goleta to Chatsworth. Regular connecting bus service from the north will connect at Santa Barbara.

  • Train 796 will operate as a train from Los Angeles to San Diego, as Bus 4896 from Chatsworth to Los Angeles and as Train 1796 from San Luis Obispo to Chatsworth. Regular connecting bus service from the north will connect at San Luis Obispo.

  • No alternate transportation will be provided to missed stations Van Nuys, Burbank or Glendale.

  • Trains beginning with 17, as well as buses beginning with 48, will depart all stations later than the normal train schedule.

Coast Starlight Train 11 Sept. 12-15 and Train 14 Sept. 14-16: will detour between Oakland and Los Angeles and will not make stops at San Jose, Salinas, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Oxnard, Simi Valley, Van Nuys and Burbank. Passengers traveling to those destinations can use local travel services.

  • Trains 11 and 14 may incur up to 60-minute delays on the detour route.

    • Bus 4011 will connect with Train 11 and will operate between Oakland and San Luis Obispo, making intermediate station stops at San Jose, Salinas and Paso Robles.

Capitol Corridor Trains 545 and 550 Schedule Change to Accommodate Raiders Game

Monday, September 9, 2019

Exciting news for Raiders fans!

Capitol Corridor Trains 545 and 550 will be adjusted to accommodate fans attending the Oakland Raiders football game on Monday, September 9.

  • Train 545 will be extended to terminate at the Oakland Coliseum station, arriving at 6:48 pm.

  • Train 550 will depart 50 minutes later, at 10:50 pm, instead of 10:00 pm.

Paoli, PA Station Center Platform Opens

Effective September 9, 2019

Beginning Monday, September 9, all passenger boarding and deboarding will commence from the new center platform at Paoli station.


All Amtrak and SEPTA passengers will use the center platform that connects to the elevator and stairs, leading to the pedestrian overpass bridge, which accesses the north and south parking lots.

The temporary platforms on the north and south side will no longer be used, as well as the low-level boarding previously used by SEPTA passengers.

Please allow extra time to access the center platform for boarding.

Whirlpool Bridge Work Affects Maple Leaf Service

Effective Sept. 9 through Nov. 1, 2019

Beginning Monday, September 9, a major infrastructure project will begin on the Whirlpool Bridge, connecting the United States to Canada at Niagara Falls. To accommodate this work, Amtrak’s Maple Leaf Service will be adjusted as follows:

Train 63 Sept. 8 through Nov. 1

  • Train 63 which normally operates between New York Penn Station and Toronto, ON, will terminate at Niagara Falls, NY. Alternate transportation will be provided between Niagara Falls and Toronto, stopping at Niagara Falls, ON.

    • Bus 4498 will operate between Niagara Falls and Toronto with no intermediate stops at St. Catharines, ON, Grimsby, ON, Aldershot, ON and Oakville, ON.

Train 64 Sept. 9 through Nov. 2

  • Train 64 which normally operates between Toronto and New York Penn Station, will originate at Niagara Falls, NY. Alternate transportation will be provided between Toronto and Niagara Falls, stopping at Niagara Falls, ON.

    • Bus 4497 will operate between Toronto and Niagara Falls with no intermediate stops at Oakville, ON, Aldershot, ON, Grimsby, ON or St. Catharines, ON.

Proper documentation is required to cross the U.S./Canadian border.

Empire Service Schedule Changes

Effective Saturday and Sunday Sept.7-8 and 14-15, 2019

Due to track work being performed by Metro-North, all southbound trains will leave Albany 5 minutes earlier and northbound trains will leave New York 5 minutes earlier.

Train 233 will depart New York 22 minutes later and operate on a later schedule through to Albany.

Train 259 will depart New York 25 minutes later and operate on a later schedule through to Albany.

Virginia Service Schedule Changes

Effective Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019

Due to track work being performed by CSX, all trains operating between Washington, D.C. and Alexandria will see schedule adjustments as outlined below.

Train 164 which normally operates between Richmond and Boston, will originate in Washington, D.C. No alternate transportation will be provided between Richmond and Washington, D.C.

Train 195 which normally operates between Boston and Richmond, will terminate in Washington, D.C. No alternate transportation will be provided between Washington, D.C. and Richmond.

All trains operating between Washington, D.C. and Alexandria can expect 30 to 90-minute delays. Please check Amtrak.com for the most up to date schedules.

Service Expanded Between Springfield and Greenfield, MA

Effective August 30, 2019

Amtrak, in cooperation with the state of Massachusetts, is expanding service between Springfield and Greenfield, as outlined below.


  • Trains 478, 488 and 494 will terminate at Greenfield instead of Springfield. • Train 400 will run as a new train between Springfield and Greenfield.


  • Trains 461, 471 and 495 will originate in Greenfield instead of Springfield. • Train 499 will run as a new train between Greenfield and Springfield.

Carbondale Station Construction

Effective September 3, 2019

Please be advised that beginning the week of September 3, Carbondale station will be undergoing plaza and ramp access construction and renovation for approximately 6 weeks.

During the construction, normal access to the station will be limited. The project will be performed in two phases, with access to the station limited during both. One ADA path will remain open to and from station facilities.

Please look for signage and safety cones around the station to guide you to the station and train platform. Please use caution and allow extra time to arrive at the station.

Track Work Affects Downeaster Service

Effective Tuesdays and Thursdays Sept. 10, 12, 2019

Track work being performed by Pan Am, will affect Downeaster service as described below:


  • Train 681 which normally operates between Boston North Station and Brunswick, will originate at Durham. o Bus 3681 will connect with Train 681 at Wells.

  • Train 689 which normally operates between Boston North and Brunswick, will terminate at Portland on August 26, 28 and September 11. No alternate transportation will be provided to the missed station stops of Freeport and Brunswick.

    • Train 1689 will terminate at Portland on September 9.


  • Train 682 which normally operates between Brunswick and Boston North Station, will terminate at Durham.

    • Bus 3682 will connect with Train 682 at Wells and operate nonstop between Wells and Boston North.

Trains 683, 684 and 686 will be cancelled with no alternate transportation provided.

Carolinian Trains 79 and 80

Palmetto Train 89 and 90

Silver Star Train 92/1092

Effective July 21 through September 19, 2019

Due to track work being performed by CSX, the following trains will be impacted.

Sunday through Wednesday, July 21 – September 18

  • Silver Star Train 92 departing Miami on Sundays through Wednesdays will be numbered 1092.

  • Train 92 will operate on a later schedule Miami to New York. o Departs Miami at 1:50 p.m., 2 hours later than the current schedule.

    • Departs Jacksonville at 2:03 a.m., 3 hours later than the current schedule.

    • Departs Savannah at 5:22 a.m., 4 hours later than the current schedule.

  • Train 92 will stop at Wilson, NC.

  • Train 92 will operate normally Thursday through Saturday.

Monday through Thursday, July 22 -September 19

  • Carolinian Trains 79 and 80 will operate between Raleigh and Charlotte, only.

    • Trains are cancelled between New York and Raleigh, with no alternate transportation provided.

    • Trains will operate normally Friday through Sunday.

  • Palmetto Train 89 will operate normally between New York and Richmond. It will depart Richmond at 1:29 PM, 1 hour later than the current schedule.

    • Will operate on a later schedule through to Savannah.

    • Will operate normally Friday through Sunday.

Travelers’ Tip For The Week

Amtrak Offers 35% Discount in Honor of Grandparents Day

Customers can receive a discount on travel throughout the country with a 35% off sale for Grandparents Day. Amtrak invites grandparents to share the experience with friends, family and loved ones.

Starting Sept. 6 through Sept. 9, you can receive a 35% discount for nationwide travel between October 1, 2019 and February 2, 2020. The sale is available at Amtrak.com, and all prices will be automatically discounted from the standard fare price. Special prices available during the sale offer fares as low as:

Pairing Cities


Pairing Cities


Boston – New York (NER)


Boston – New York (Acela)


Boston – Washington, DC (NER)


Boston – Washington, DC (Acela)


Chicago – Denver


Chicago – New York


Chicago – New Orleans


Chicago – St. Louis


Chicago – Kansas City


Jackson – New Orleans


Lorton – Sanford


Memphis – New Orleans


New York – Atlanta


Portland – San Francisco


Sacramento – Bakersfield


Seattle – Los Angeles


Seattle – Eugene


Washington, DC – Chicago


Washington, DC – Miami


Washington, DC – Orlando


Washington, DC – New York (NER)


Washington, DC – New York (Acela)


*Vehicle fare not included; fares will vary by train

The discount is valid for travel across the national network including all long distance routes as well as the Adirondack, Carolinian/Piedmont, Cascades, Downeaster, Eathan Allen Express, Empire Service, Heartland Flyer, Illinois Downstate Services, Maple Leaf, Michigan Services, Missouri River Runner, Northeast Regional, Pennsylvanian, San Joaquins, and the Vermonter.

This offer is valid for sale between September 6 and 9 and valid for travel between October 1, 2019 and February 2, 2020 on all reserved service. The discounted fares are valid for adult coach seats only. Fares are one way (adult) and no additional discounts apply. This offer is valid for coach and Acela Business class seats only; no upgrades allowed. This offer is not combinable with any other discount offer. Once purchased, tickets are non-refundable. Exchanges are permitted within the ticket validity period; a 25% cancellation fee applies.

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 fall vacation including trains (and who wouldn’t want to enjoy the fall colors?), 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!

Fall MemberDeals Announced

MemberDeals is already looking ahead to October as tickets for Halloween Horror Nights are already available for purchase. Summer Concerts Series sale continues with savings over 50% exclusive for Rail Passengers members. Celebrate concert season with the hottest concerts nationwide, from Luke Bryan, Third Eye Blind, Heart and The Who to name a few. Don’t miss out!

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.