January 24, 2020
Rail news for the week ending January 24th
A Note to Our Members
Dear Rail Passengers members:
We are experiencing long wait times for calls and responses to the [email protected] general inbox. We sincerely apologize for any frustration this may have brought you. Please note that 2,000+ members a week have been calling/emailing about our recent postal-service and database issues, and that has skyrocketed the wait times for a response from our tiny six person staff. We understand how frustrating not receiving a response can be, but we all truly appreciate your very persistent efforts to support our work. We’re working through our backlog of emails and voicemails and will reach out to you as soon as we can!
Kim Williams, Membership Manager
$170 Million in Economic Benefits to Gulf Coast Hinge on Mobile City Council Vote
Alabama Should Pursue the Infrastructure Investment Model That Has Produced Dividends Across the U.S.
Washington, D.C. — The Rail Passengers Association urges the city of Mobile, Alabama, to move ahead with the creation of passenger train service between Mobile and New Orleans, which the most conservative estimates predict will add $19 million each year to Alabama’s economy. From a regional perspective, Amtrak service to the corridor would be worth more than $170 million to Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. This is a proven model that has produced hundreds of millions of dollars in return on investment in other states, and our Gulf Coast members are urging the city council to vote “yes” on this critical project.
The states of Mississippi and Louisiana—in partnership with Amtrak—have collectively committed $31 million toward capital improvements to bring back New Orleans - Mobile train service. However, a $3 million commitment from Mobile toward operations across three years is required.
A decision by the City Council to withhold support for funding could endanger the project—not just for Mobile, but for the entire Gulf Coast, since Mississippi and Louisiana have already committed their funds.
Members on the City Council’s finance committee have voiced concerns over the fact that the ticket fares won’t cover the entire cost of train operations. However—just as airports and highways don’t cover the entirety of their capital and operating costs through user fees, but through the economic activity they generate—the Gulf Coast passenger train will more than pay for itself by increasing business opportunities in the region.
The economic impact study, commissioned Southern Rail Commission and Transportation for America, quantified the benefits from new tourists and tourist dollars; new jobs to operate and maintain the trains, stations, and signal systems; and new construction jobs to upgrade track and signals, renovate stations, and construct maintenance bases. Rail Passengers has successfully made this argument in towns across the U.S., where experience has borne it out.
We’ve highlighted three recent examples of where local investment has produced results.
Amtrak Virginia: a decision made by the Commonwealth of Virginia to invest in two new train services and three extensions to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor has paid off handsomely, with $1.4 billion in economic returns to the state, more than 1,400 jobs created or sustained each year, and $390 million in new tourist spending. The decision to invest in additional frequencies has elevated the financial performance of the service, and the service has become operationally profitable (“above the rail”).
Amtrak Downeaster (Maine): after a 35 year hiatus, Maine resumed operations of the Downeaster (Portland - Boston, MA) in 2001. This Amtrak service now carries more than half a million passengers each year. This train provides $6.2 million in wages to directly employ 100 local workers, and supports 155 Maine businesses through the purchase of $5 million in local goods and services. Amtrak’s Downeaster also transports 100,000 annual visitors to Maine, who bring in $29 million in tourism revenue.
Amtrak Hiawatha (Wisconsin): with ridership up 103 percent since 2001, a coalition of Wisconsin businesses operate a series of private shuttles to connect their workforce to this corridor, and are actively working with state leaders to help support an additional 10 daily frequencies (the state currently support seven). The Hiawatha provides $4.8 million in wages to directly employ 62 Wisconsinites, and injects $12.7 million in local businesses through vendor contracts.
Rail Passengers urges the Mobile City Council to embrace an ambitious vision for their city and their state by voting to commit local funds next week.
Take Action: the Southern Rail Commission and Rail Passengers Association Needs Your Help!
On Tuesday, January 28th, the Mobile City Council will decide whether or not to endorse a resolution committing financial support toward the restoration of Amtrak service along the Gulf Coast.
What can you do? The City Council needs to hear from you! Click here to see how you can help
Amtrak and the and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad PR Week
Amtrak had a bit of a head-scratching week from a customer relations perspective, with three high-profile mistakes that put the company in the media spotlight.
Rail Passengers’s Jim Mathews reported earlier this week that Amtrak was forced this past weekend to reconsider its position that a group of five wheelchair-using passengers needed to pay the railroad $25,000 to cover the cost of modifying coaches for a $16 trip from Chicago to Bloomington. Mathews dubbed the railroad’s “measure once, cut twice” management philosophy “Backtraking”:
I told Amtrak executives Friday night and over the weekend, as a taxpayer-supported public agency, Amtrak has a special obligation to do what it can to serve the disabled community. Compared with airline travel, trains are much more suited for wheelchairs, especially large, powered units. And Amtrak has a particularly large share of ridership among those with special travel needs.
In the end, however, it took Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D) -- a combat-wounded Army veteran who relies on a wheelchair -- speaking up for her constituents to bring Amtrak around. She called Amtrak's position on the issue "outrageous," and expressed "disappointment" that Amtrak hasn't yet publicly apologized for the way it handled Access Living. Shortly thereafter, Amtrak worked out a deal with Access Living to take everyone on the same train, if not the same coach.
That same day, Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational fund, tweeted that an Amtrak conductor told her to leave her seat on an Northeast Corridor train that with unassigned seats: “I am colossally disappointed in @Amtrak for both this incident & the way it was handled. But this is emblematic of how companies so often fail in this space. I will submit a more formal complaint & closely monitor the review of this incident & of the conduct of the employees.”
After her tweet went viral, Ifill reported she received a phone call from Amtrak’s chief operating officer, who apologized (Backtraked?). Amtrak is reportedly looking into the incident.
Finally, a Business Insider story that reported on potential changes being considered by Amtrak management to the railroads pricing and fare policies drew a sharp response from Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
The changes would bring Amtrak ticketing policy more closely in line with U.S. air carriers, making saver fares “completely nonrefundable and non-changeable 24 hours after purchase," and subjecting value fares to a 25% cancellation fee or a 15% change fee "within 14 days of departure."
"I am concerned that the proposed changes would increase prices and fees, especially on families and communities with lower incomes who rely on the cheaper fares and whose schedules can be less predictable, and distressed that Amtrak officials have, to date, refused to provide any public information or receive any public input on these proposals," wrote the Democratic presidential candidate in her letter to Amtrak Chief Executive Richard Anderson.
There has been no official indication from Amtrak that these changes will definitely happen. Rail Passengers will work with Senator Warrens’ office to ensure that the interests of passengers are voiced in this decision making process.
Sleeper Service: Let’s Follow Europe’s Lead
by RPA Council Member Al Papp
While North America lacks modern overnight passenger rail service, the updates made amongst european rail companies are bringing an increase in ridership and frequency. Rail operators in the UK, Austria, and Sweden have expanded, and plan to continue expanding their sleeper train routes, this in stark contrast to those largely abandoned services between 2014 and 2017 by the Germans, French and Spanish. Sweden’s national transport authority authorized the reintroduction of overnight trains providing international service funded by a $4.2 million initial outlay. While the only international overnight service running currently is provided by Malmo, a private rail enterprise, there are domestic overnight services with modern comforts on board.
Many credit Greta Thunberg, Europe’s flight-shaming trend and the move to reduce carbon emissions as social variables in the recent increase in rail travel popularity. The accommodations on board serve as a goal for those in the US to aim for in advocating for new rolling stock, improvements to Amtrak service, and the remodelling of our Superliners.
Click here to read Al’s article in its entirety at Railway Age
Amtrak’s Inspector General Warns Acela Replacements At Risk for Delays
The internal watchdog for Amtrak issued a report that warns the railroad may miss its goal to introduce revenue service for the 28 new high-speed Acela 21 trainsets by the scheduled May 2021 launch date.
The report, released by the Office of Inspector General for Amtrak, argued the $2.1 billion program “has already experienced delays that have eliminated any schedule cushion, and multiple indicators point to additional delays beyond the planned service launch.”
While the Amtrak IG was clear that many of the delays laid outside the control of Amtrak’s management, including manufacturer delays in delivering the trainsets, they identified five program critical elements that must now be executed near-flawlessly to meet the scheduled launch date.
Amtrak agreed with the five elements the IG identified -- which include employee training, development of IT services, and modifications to service and inspection facilities -- but argued they had a strong management structure in place to oversee execution and delivery of the project.
“There remains an extraordinary amount of work ahead and Amtrak management is confident that the proper resources are aligned to deliver this ambitious program on scope, schedule and budget,” Amtrak wrote in response.
Congressman Neal Adds Voice for East-West Rail
US Representative Richard Neal (MA-01) plans to sit down with Governor Charlie Baker this week to discuss the need for a rail connection between Boston and Springfield - currently being studied by MassDOT. The Governor will be in Springfield to attend a ceremony celebrating a new platform elevator, the last piece of the $100 million Union Station renovation - a project that Neal championed over the decades as both a city councilor and then Mayor. The only passenger rail connection between the eastern and western parts of the Commonwealth is Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited service, which is only one train in each direction a day. Connecting the two regions stands as one of the most important transportation priorities in Massachusetts.
Representative Neal, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, adds his voice to the growing number of business leaders elected officials from all over the state who have been advocating for more frequent commuter rail service over the years. State Senator Eric Lesser (Longmeadow) has been at the forefront of this fight and played a pivotal role in getting the current study off the ground.
Public Hearings Held for Atlanta-Charlotte High-Speed Rail
Departments of transportation in three different states held a number of public hearings to discuss passenger rail alternatives for the Atlanta to Charlotte corridor. The states of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina each held these forums to gather feedback on the Tier 1 draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) which has been released by the Federal Railroad Administration as part of the overall study of the Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor. Two of the three alternatives listed within the DEIS would be “true” high-speed lines for the 280-mile stretch between the two cities.
NJ Gov. Murphy Promises No Fare Hike in 2020
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced this week that fares will not increase in his next budget proposal, marking the third year of stable fares for NJTransit commuters. After a 25% fare hike in 2010 and 9% hike in 2015, NJ Transit plans on proposing dedicated funding sources for the agency’s operating budget. However, Murphy will have to provide a solution to the estimated $138 million funding gap in NJ Transit’s fiscal year 2021 operating budget. The Governor plans to team up with NJ Transit CEO Kevin Corbett and Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti to develop their strategy. An analysis by Advocates from the NJ Association of Railroad Passengers found NJ Transit rail fares were the highest in the nation for certain trips.
Advocates Await BNSF Study for Heartland Flyer Extension
A number of passenger rail advocates from both Oklahoma and Kansas met with Amtrak and government officials in Topeka this week to discuss the possible extension of the Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City to Newton, KS - 25 miles outside of Wichita. This proposal would allow the Flyer to intersect with the Southwest Chief in Newton. A cost analysis from BNSF was due back in October of last year but the release has been delayed until February. Amtrak government affairs executive Ray Lane did attempt to temper expectations of those at the meeting by talking about the potential costs being “bigger than you could absorb” but did say that Amtrak would seek additional federal funds should this go forward.
NYC Transit expects return of Bombardier subway cars to service this week
Earlier this month, an estimated 300 cars were pulled from New York City Transit service due to safety concerns. NYC Transit agency President Andy Byford made a statement Tuesday greenlighting the return of these Bombardier subway cars to their original routes. Byford said inspections and adjustments of all door systems and software upgrades are now complete for the 298 cars in the R179 fleet.
After the suspected door mechanism issue was identified and remedied, Bombardier representatives stated they stand by the quality and integrity of its door design and its components. Bombardier hopes to reassure customers and passengers that this particular issue does not involve any design or mechanical defects. Despite contract problems in NYC and parts of Europe, Bombardier stock closed up 5.74% on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Tuesday following a Bloomberg report that the company initiated discussions with Alstom to potentially combine their rail businesses.
New Year, New Fights, New Energy!
Now that 2020 has begun, Congress will soon kick into high gear to decide what kind of passenger rail network our country will have in the next five years and beyond. It’s called “Reauthorization,” and it’s a mouthful. But it’s what we’ve all been working for since 2017, and now that 2020 is here, your Rail Passengers Association professional staff is taking the fight for More Trains, Better Trains and Better Infrastructure directly to people who make the decisions. We can’t do that without your voice and without your financial support. As a charitable organization, we rely on the generosity of others so that we can continue being the voice of the passenger. As the only national organization that consistently advances the cause of commuter rail, regional rail, and inter-city rail as well as Amtrak’s national network trains, our concerted efforts have saved national routes from what once seemed to be certain demise and have prevented many of the worst cuts that had been planned to sought-after services such as food offerings and sleeping car accommodations.
We need your help so that we can continue to fight for the country’s 40+ million rail passengers...including YOU! To donate with a credit card, click on the image below. You can also mail in a donation, written out to the Rail Passengers Association at 1200 G Street NW, Suite 240, Washington, DC 20005, ATTN: Jonsie Stone/Hotline. Please include “Hotline Donation” in the check’s memo field. If you live in the DC area, please feel free to drop a donation off at the same address.
Click the image below to donate!
#ICYMI - In Case You Missed It: This Week’s Social Media Highlights
This week we covered the Amtrak seat removal fiasco, new Acela models, lots of updates on commuter rail systems across the country, and the Field Team’s southern field trip.
Do you want to weigh in on the digital conversation? Join us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay in touch and up to date on all things RPA everyday.
Top Comments from our Facebook Page:
“Southern Montana would benefit economically as tourists would come and spend their money in Montana. Missoula. Helena Bozeman and Billings would all benefit” - Ed Niblock
“Yes! Louisiana and Mississippi are 100% ready to go! Come on, Alabama! You're holding back a lot of people who would probably be spending a lot of money in Mobile!” - Jason Niblett
Membership News and Notices
We are discontinuing monthly memberships for new members. Current members with a monthly membership will be unaffected by this change, unless their membership lapses. If you are a monthly member and your membership lapses for more than 30 days, you will have to renew as an annually paying member.
If you have received a renewal letter and have already sent in a payment, please disregard the letter. We will update your account in the order in which it was received.
JOIN OUR FEBRUARY “WEEK ON THE HILL” CAMPAIGN TO PUSH CONGRESS FOR MORE AND BETTER PASSENGER TRAINS!
When? Monday, February 3 through Friday, February 7, 2020.
Where? Washington, DC.
Our Goal? Make more and better passenger train service an important priority for Congress when it reauthorizes the Surface Transportation Authorization in 2020.
Why? Make our “ask” early and often as Congress develops the legislative language. Make more and better passenger train service a “top of mind” issue.
Our Campaign? Visit as many Members of Congress as we can, starting with the members of key committees then expanding our effort to as many other members as we have advocates to make those visits. The more volunteers we have, the more visits we can make, and the greater impact we will have. Sean and Jim are preparing materials for us to use. We already have commitments from several Rail Passengers members. Click here to find out more!
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.
2020 Rail Passengers Council of Representatives Elections Are Underway
Voting is officially underway for the Rail Passengers Council of Representatives! There are contested elections in four states -- Colorado, Kentucky, Maryland and Pennsylvania -- and members living in those states have until FEBRUARY 22, 2020 to choose their representatives.
If You Do Not Have An Email Address
We have mailed a small number of printed ballots and candidate statements to those members who do not have email addresses on file with the Association. Those are the ONLY printed ballots that will be supplied. Watch your mailbox and cast your vote! We will accept returned ballots that are postmarked as late as February 22, 2020. Postmarks after that date will not be counted.
If You Have A Working Email Address
If you have a current, working email address on file with us here at the Association, you should have received an email with all the information you need to cast your electronic ballot. This includes a link to the state election page for your state. That page has links to the candidate statements filed by those running for the open seats, as well as a link to an electronic ballot. Check your email for your voting message, and if you don’t see it, be sure to check your spam filter or spam folder to be sure you’re permitting us to send you messages. If you still have not received your email, please email [email protected] with the subject line “Council Ballot Needed.”
Who Can Vote?
You must have a current, valid Rail Passengers Association member number to vote, and your membership must be up to date so that you are a member in good standing. If you are not current or your member ID is not valid, your vote will not count. If you vote for more candidates than there are slots, your vote also will not count.
Voting Ends On February 22, 2020!
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 today at the Southwestern Rail Conference in Dallas, outlining Rail Passengers’ efforts to push ahead important passenger-rail improvements as part of the upcoming re-authorization of the surface-transportation bill, the FAST Act. Jim also spent some time this week working with our partners in the Gulf Coast and with Amtrak to save the restoration of the first leg of Gulf Coast service between New Orleans and Mobile (see story above).
Sean Jeans Gail, Vice President of Policy, worked with local Gulf Coast organizations to provide economic analysis of the benefits of passenger rail investment ahead of next week’s critical City Council vote in Mobile, Alabama. He also conferenced with Rail Passengers Council Members to develop material for February’s Week on the Hill, and and refire our reauthorization ask.
Carolyn Cokley, Director of Customer Programs, has continued to prepare for training the new station volunteers in Fort Worth. In addition to the volunteer training, Carolyn has also continued working through the TravelReview report and working with Amtrak managers to recognize the employees named by members.
Joseph Aiello, Field Coordinator, spent the week touring the Gulf Coast as part of the field team’s Southern advocacy trip. Joe and Madi Butler met with fellow advocates, local leaders, and elected officials in both Biloxi and Mobile to discuss the potential return of passenger rail to the region. The field team is wrapping up their two-week trip in Birmingham this weekend.
Madi Butler, Grassroots Organizer, is following up on Southern Field Trip press inquiries, and prepping a debrief for all involved in this adventure. Thank you to all the members, advocates, businesses, and officials who have supported this mission.
Jonsie Stone, Director, Resource Development, spent the week working on 2020 fundraising campaigns and talking with partner/members.
Kim Williams, Membership Manager, spent the week working on new member benefits to be announced soon! She also took member inquiries, processed payments, updated mailing lists, and worked on our banking and postal changes.
Mail Payment Changes Ahead In 2020
We are changing mail payment partners from Wells Fargo to BNY Mellon. This means that BNY Mellon will be processing your responses and payments from all direct mail solicitations and membership renewal letters.
Starting on January 1, 2020, our new mail payment lockbox mailing address will be:
National Assn of Railroad Passengers
P.O. Box 392849
Pittsburgh, PA 15251-9849
The response envelopes that are enclosed in our donation and membership renewal appeals will still be processed for a period of time by Wells Fargo, but it is very important that you please use the new business reply envelopes in the 2020 mailings. You can also send your donation or renewal directly to the office.
Gifts from Donor Advised Funds
If you have a donor advised fund, please consider recommending a grant from your fund to be the Rail Passengers Association. It is a great way to maintain flexibility with your support throughout the year. For more information, go to http://myimpact.railpassengers.org/daf. As always, please feel free to contact Jonsie Stone if you have any questions.
The Rail Passengers Association would like to thank our Annual Partners for their support!
We are excited to welcome Alstom as our newest Annual Partner.
Make Plans To Attend RailNation:DC 2020
Washington, DC - Sunday, March 29 through Wednesday, April 1!
The Rail Passengers’ 2020 Annual Advocacy Summit Is Monday, March 30; The ‘Day on The Hill’ & Congressional Reception Is Tuesday, March 31 And The Annual Council Business Meeting Is Wednesday, April 1
Host Hotel - Embassy Suites Alexandria Old Town (At The King Street Metro & Alexandria Amtrak Stations) - Discounted Group Rate Rooms Are Now Available!
Visit The Event Page For Complete Information & Details
Upcoming Regional Rail Passengers Association and State Passengers Association Member Meetings & Events
Thursday & Friday, January 23 & 24 - 16th Annual Southwestern Rail Conference - Dallas, TX
Saturday, March 7 - 2020 New York State Rail Advocates Annual Meeting & Lunch - Schenectady, NY
Saturday, March 21 - 2020 New England Rail Advocates Annual Meeting & Lunch - New London, CT
Please contact Joe Aiello ([email protected]) to have a local, state or regional meeting added to the Rail Passengers calendar (print and on-line) of upcoming events!
Amtrak Passenger Service Notices
Station Elevator Out of Service Rome, NY, Station
The elevator located inside the Rome, NY, station is out of service until further notice.
Passengers requiring an elevator may board at the Utica station, approximately 20 minutes east of Rome.
Allow Extra Time – Don’t Miss Your Train
Customers using the stairs may need to allow extra time to get to the boarding platform.
William H Gray III 30th Street Station
Little Market St. Temporarily Closed
Effective Thursdays Jan. 30, Feb. 6 and 13, 2020
Due to updates being performed on the lower level platforms, the designated ridesharing pick up/drop off lane, Little Market Street, will be temporarily closed on the dates above.
During this time, ridesharing companies may pick up and discharge passengers at the former ridesharing location on the 30th Street side of the station.
Northeast Corridor Service Schedule Changes
Effective Jan. 25 through Mar. 20, 2020
Due to the Mystic River Bridge outage, Northeast Regional and Acela schedules will be adjusted as outlined below.
New York, NY to Boston, MA:
Acela Express and Northeast Regional trains will be operating between 30 minutes earlier and 5 minutes later on the Northeast Corridor.
New Flexible Dining Service Launches on the Silver Star
An Exclusive Benefit for Sleeping Car Customers
Effective May 1, 2020
Starting May 1, Amtrak will debut a new, complementary dining experience exclusively for Sleeping Car customers aboard the Silver Star: flexible dining. This dining service is currently available on six routes: Capitol Limited, Cardinal, City of New Orleans, Crescent, Lake Shore Limited and Silver Meteor. Sleeping Car customers aboard the Silver Star can expect the following enhancements to their trip:
A new dining menu with hot, ready-to-serve choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner
A wide selection of wine, beer and spirits (the first one is on us), plus unlimited soft drinks throughout the journey
Complimentary room service provided by the Sleeping Car attendant
Exclusive onboard lounge space for Sleeping Car customers to dine and socialize 24x7
Flexible dining times without the need for reservations
The new flexible dining menu offers entrees such as:
Lunch & Dinner: Asian Noodle Bowl, Red Wine Braised Beef, Chicken Fettuccini with Broccoli, Creole Shrimp and Andouille. Plus, a children’s menu with Pasta and Meatballs.
Breakfast: Deluxe Continental Breakfast will be served buffet style from a selection of muffins, yogurt, fresh fruit, hard-boiled eggs, cereal, oatmeal, breakfast sandwich.
Dessert: Blondies, Brownies
Café service will also be available for both Sleeping Car and Coach customers, offering meals, snacks and beverages for sale. More information and sample menus can be found at Amtrak.com/flexdining. Information on special dietary requirements, including kosher meal requests, can be found at Amtrak.com/dining.
Amtrak’s traditional dining service will continue to be offered on seven overnight routes: California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle and for sleeping car customers aboard the Auto Train.
In the coming months, customers aboard overnight trains can also expect:
The completion of fully refreshed Amfleet II cars for Coach class along the East Coast, including new seating cushions, carpets, curtains and LED reading lights.
Upgraded bedding, towels and linens for Sleeping Cars-beginning with the Auto Train
The debut of new Viewliner II Sleeping Cars for trains on the East Coast-the first addition to the Amtrak sleeper fleet in over 25 years.
Crescent Trains 19 and 20 Bus Service Provided between Atlanta and New Orleans
Effective through Feb. 20, 2020
Track work being performed by Norfolk Southern Railway will affect Trains 19 and 20 between New Orleans and Atlanta, on the following dates:
Monday through Thursday
January 20 through January 23
January 27 through January 30
February 3 through February 6
February 10 through February 13
February 17 through February 20
Southbound Train 19: Service Operating New York to Atlanta Only
On the dates shown above, Train 19 will terminate in Atlanta. Passengers will be provided bus service from Atlanta to Anniston, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Meridian, Laurel, Hattiesburg, Picayune, Slidell and New Orleans.
On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Train 19 will operate normally, serving all stations on the route.
Northbound Train 20: Service Operating Atlanta to New York Only
On the dates shown above, Train 20 will originate in Atlanta. Passengers will be provided bus service from New Orleans to Slidell, Picayune, Hattiesburg, Laurel, Meridian, Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Anniston and Atlanta.
On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Train 20 will operate normally, serving all stations on the route.
New York Penn Station Waiting Room Improvements
Effective Jan. 6, 2020
Beginning January 6, Amtrak will start a multi-phase project to modernize and refresh the customer waiting area at New York Penn Station.
As a result, the Ticketed Waiting Area will be closed as of January 6. Temporary seating accommodations for ticketed customers will be available on the concourse level between west gates of 9/10 and 13/14, during Phase 1 and in the Rotunda during Phase 2.
The refreshed waiting area will have new furniture, including communal tables equipped with electrical and USB outlets, a dedicated family area including a nursing mothers’ pod and new lighting.
St. Petersburg, FL Thruway Stop Closing
Effective Jan. 2, 2020
The Amtrak Thruway stop in St. Petersburg, FL, will be closed, but Amtrak thruway buses will continue to serve the stop daily. If you are traveling to or from St. Petersburg, please refer to the following:
Waiting Area: Customers will no longer have access to the waiting area and restrooms.
Ticketing Options: Customers can make reservations and obtain eTickets at Amtrak.com, using our free mobile app, or by calling 800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245). These eTickets can be displayed on a smartphone or tablet or printed at home. Payment can be made by bank-issued credit cards, reloadable debit cards carrying a credit card logo or the new Amtrak Gift Cards, which are sold in supermarkets, drug stores, big box stores and Amtrak.com/GiftCards
Baggage Options: Customers will be able to check baggage traveling south to St. Petersburg but will not be able to check baggage from St. Petersburg to another destination.
Other Stations: Customers seeking assistance or other services can use the ticket windows with customer service representatives at the Amtrak station in Tampa, daily from 9:45 am to 6:15 pm.
Pacific Surfliner Weekend Service Changes
Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Feb. 2, 2020
Track work being performed by North County Transit District will affect Pacific Surfliner service, on the dates shown below:
Friday, Jan. 31
Train 590 will be cancelled. Passengers can make reservations aboard other Amtrak trains.
Bus service will be provided from Los Angeles to San Diego, making stops at Oceanside, Solana Beach, Old Town San Diego and San Diego Downtown. No alternate transportation will be provided to Fullerton, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Irvine and San Juan Capistrano.
Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 1-2
Trains 562, 578, 583, 1565, 1566, 1569, 1572, 1573, 1590 and 1591 will be cancelled. Passengers can make reservations aboard other Amtrak trains.
Southbound Train 782 will terminate at Los Angeles. No alternate transportation will be provided between Los Angeles and San Diego. Passengers can make reservations aboard other Pacific Surfliner trains.
Southbound Train 796 will terminate at Los Angeles and bus service will be provided for all missed stops.
Southbound Trains 580, 768, 774, 792, 1564 and 1584 will operate normally to Irvine, where bus service will be provided from Irvine to San Diego. Express buses will run from Irvine to San Juan Capistrano, Oceanside, Solana Beach, Old Town San Diego and downtown San Diego only.
Northbound Trains 579, 593, 595, 763, 777, 785, 1761 and 1767 will originate in Irvine. Bus service will be provided from San Diego to Irvine to connect with the trains listed above, with the exception of Train 1761. Buses will depart downtown San Diego, Solana Beach, Oceanside and San Juan Capistrano earlier than the train schedule to allow time to connect with trains in Irvine. o Buses will not pick up at Old Town San Diego. Passengers can take the trolley to downtown San Diego to board buses to Irvine.
Bus service will not be provided to connect with Train 1761.
Metrolink will honor Amtrak tickets between San Juan Capistrano and Los Angeles.
Please note: There will be no checked baggage or express service south of Santa Ana on the dates shown above. Alternate bus service will not serve San Clemente Pier.
Travel Tip of the Week
Amtrak Makes New Bus Connection in North Carolina
Swansboro, NC is now a stop for the Amtrak Thruway Bus Service, which will provide convenient affordable service to and from the Amtrak Station in Wilson, NC. Tickets are now available for purchase.
In Wilson, customers can board Amtrak’s Palmetto, which operates twice daily servicing 20 stations between New York and Savannah, GA. Amtrak’s Carolinian, which operates twice daily between Charlotte and New York, also serves the Wilson station.
Sunway Charters operates the Thruway Bus connection in vehicles equipped with electrical outlets and comfortable seating. The bus stop is located at the Speedway Gas Station, 809 West Corbett Avenue in Swansboro, NC. Amtrak Thruway services make coordinated connections with trains and enable passengers to use other carriers to connect with the Amtrak national network from cities without rail stations.
Julie White, NCDOT Deputy Secretary for Multimodal Transportation said, “Amtrak’s Thruway connection is a valuable resource for our citizens and military service members in eastern North Carolina. We are pleased to see this route expand and offer more connected transportation options”.
You can browse Amtrak.com for more information and tickets can be purchased using Amtrak eTicketing, at staffed stations or at a Quik-Trak kiosk. You can also book online, call 800-USA-RAIL or use your mobile device.
TravelReview Feedback Card
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 problems in accessing the file, please send an email to [email protected]
Lonely Planet's Amazing Train Journeys
Planning a holiday-season vacation including trains, or looking for a great holiday gift idea, 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!
Looking towards 2020
As the decade comes to a close, we reflect on all of our accomplishments over the past 10 years and consider what the coming years might have in store. As you may know, 2020 will be a critical year in determining the future of passenger rail service nationwide.
Amtrak is quasi-public corporation, with the federal government providing a significant portion of the railroad’s annual operations and capital budget. The current funding authorization expires at the end of FY2020, and in 2020 the Rail Passengers Association will be leading efforts in the courts and on Capitol Hill to ensure that America’s passenger rail service continues to thrive. We will fight to sustain our vision of “A Connected America” where all of us, rich or poor, rural or urban, are linked together.
We’re committed to this work and ready to take action, but we can’t do it alone. As we look towards 2020, please consider donating to support this critical work.
"The Rail Passenger Association's recognition of the essential work done by SMART-TD members aboard Amtrak during this difficult period is appreciated. The Golden Spike Award serves as a testament to the compassion and dedication our conductors, assistant conductors and other workers exhibit constantly through times both ordinary and extraordinary."
Jeremy Ferguson, SMART-TD President
December 21, 2021, on the Association awarding its 2021 Golden Spike Award to the Frontline Amtrak Employees.