Happening Now

Hotline #1,066

May 11, 2018

Former Amtrak President Questions Current Execs' Motives; Rail Passengers Association Issues Letter in Response to Amtrak's SW Chief Announcement; Quiet Zones To Start As Early As Monday For Brightline

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Former Amtrak President Questions Current Execs' Motives

Former Amtrak President Joe Boardman issued a blistering open letter in response to recent moves by current Amtrak management, saying they endanger the sustainability of the national network.

Boardman’s letter came in response to a letter (copied below) that Amtrak sent to elected officials applying strict, additional requirements to its TIGER grant match for the Southwest Chief which was awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation to Colfax County, New Mexico.

“I’ve seen enough. I’ve heard enough,” Boardman told Trains News Wire. “This is beyond common sense… Amtrak took 20 years to address (infrastructure) problems on the (Chief’s) route. They think they’re fooling someone, but there wouldn’t be this kind of arrogance if (management) valued the economic impact a daily passenger train brings to the communities it serves.”

In the light of Boardman’s statements, and other recent worrying moves that erode service on long-distance routes, it is time for Amtrak President Richard Anderson to issue a statement affirming the railroad’s commitment to Amtrak-served communities and a truly National Network. right now.

Help us send this message to Congress! Call your members of Congress today!

You can also help Rail Passengers in our fight for America's trains through your generous contributions!


The full text of Boardman’s open letter to elected officials:

Based on the Communication I've seen being submitted to Hill Staff, I think that Amtrak has begun to do surgical communications in a way that does not provide a transparent discussion of what they are doing, instead the plan seems to be to keep the recommendations and briefings small and isolated from each other, just the opposite of transparent.

I think the CEO and the Board have drawn a line in the sand at the foot of the Raton Pass, believing that they can convince western politicians that providing service on the SWC is ineffective and too costly, making the Southwest Chief as their first major target to cut.

I believe that after the Washington State and Train 91 accidents the CEO decided to make his safety mark by demanding PTC everywhere Amtrak operates by December 31, 2018. However he will use the well respected Safety Management System safety program from the FAA to assess "risk" on each route (more than a dozen) where the FRA decided to exclude PTC requirements on segments as small as "feet" and as large as over "100 miles.”

In and of itself that's both good and responsible, but the threat to declare that there must be an end to service on the December 31, 2018 timeline is not responsible or acceptable. Yes, additional mitigation for those risks which might be ATS (Automatic Train Stop) or perhaps solar powered switch position indicators could be suggested as a part of the "risk" process but it will take time and funding. It has not been made clear by Board Policy or CEO direction that service would be continued while those mitigations are funded and completed.

If it is not made clear within six months of the end of the year, then safety is being "Weaponized" as an attack on the National System and that's not okay. Let it be known that I am strongly in support of both Safety and of the PTC technology but like those at FRA that set up the exclusions, both common sense and the opportunity to mitigate safety improvements over time are critically important. PTC on the NEC started 20 years ago.

For me the Southwest Chief has really become the battleground for the National System. I might be wrong, but I don't think so. City pairs could be fine but a connected National System on the surface of the United States is and should continue to be our national policy. And if it is changed it should be informed by both hearings and explanations to Congress.

I am concerned that the Amtrak Board has begun to set their policy based on what we might call a "Hedge Hog" as opposed to a "Hedge Fund" approach. Meaning that the Board sees an opportunity to "Hog" all the Federal Assistance to complete the Gateway Plan; Procure new city-pair "Train Sets" operating off the NEC to the Southern big cities like Charlotte NC and Atlanta and others; And shortening more routes in order to transfer more cost to the States while abandoning the National purpose of Amtrak.

Worse yet its being done without a "Public Policy" process. Amtrak is not really a "private business", it is a "State Owned Enterprise" and it needs an open and transparent process that only Congress seems to be able to give State and National rail stakeholders under this new " Hedgehog" strategy.

For me it’s: The Raton Pass vs. The Gateway Tunnel you can't have one without the other.

Joe Boardman

Amtrak President and CEO 2008 - 2016

In the light of Boardman’s statements, and other recent worrying moves that erode service on long-distance routes, it is time for Amtrak President Richard Anderson to issue a statement affirming the railroad’s commitment to Amtrak-served communities and a truly National Network. Right now, the silence from management is deafening.

Help us send this message to Congress! Call your members of Congress today!

You can also help Rail Passengers in our fight for America's trains through your generous contributions!

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has responded to a White House proposal to rescind transit funding, arguing that those unobligated funds should instead be instead invested in passenger rail and bus services nationwide. As it stands now, President Trump has proposed rescinding $279 million of prior-year surface transportation funding, including $100 million of public transit and intercity passenger-rail grants. Trump also proposed rescinding $179 million of prior-year Federal Highway Administration funding.

APTA officials said for public transit this includes:

  • $47 million in Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grants that had been provided in federal fiscal-year 2005 and prior years
  • $53 million in the Federal Railroad Administration-issued capital assistance for high-speed rail corridors and intercity passenger-rail service, including $47 million for the Chicago-to-Iowa City intercity passenger-rail project.

Instead, APTA recommended that the Trump administration put the funds towards the current $90 billion in the state-of-good-repair backlog for bus and rail systems, strengthening the country’s transportation infrastructure.

Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) is nearing the end of its work for positive train control (PTC) implementation in New Jersey and New York. The agency plans to begin weekend tunnel and station closures on May 19. The closures will then resume July 7 and run through the end of October. If PATH is able to hold to its planned schedule, the railroad will meet the mandated December 31, 2018 deadline for PTC, which can monitor and automatically slow or stop trains that are speeding.

“We are glad to see that PATH, and some other commuter railroads, are able to meet the Congressionally mandated deadline for PTC installation,” said Rail Passengers President Jim Mathews. “PTC costs time and money that many agencies do not have, and there is concern that a majority of passenger railroads will not be able to meet the 2018 deadline.”

Stations that will be closed during work include the Exchange Place and World Trade Center stations during the weekends of May 19 and July 7. In addition, all New York PATH stations from Hoboken to 33rd Street will be closed starting the weekend of July 14 and running through October 28.

Rail Passengers Association Issues Letter in Response to Amtrak's SW Chief Announcement

The Rail Passengers Association sent a letter to members of the U.S. House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads and the U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure in regards to Amtrak’s office of Government Affairs response to Congressional inquiries about the status of service on the Southwest Chief route.

The letter from Amtrak misrepresents both the value and the cost of this service. As a result, we wanted to provide a broader and more complete context to help members of Congress evaluate the proper next steps to preserve this important transportation service for residents in the 36 communities across eight states that depend on the Southwest Chief.

To read our letter in its entirety, please visit our blog.

Rallies to support the Southwest Chief are being organized for this Saturday. The rallies are spontaneous and loosely organized by Rick Kleine of LuJunta, CO, and Jim Souby of ColoRail.

Individuals are encouraged to take pictures of people with signs, etc., and post to Twitter. When posting, please use the hashtag #SaveTheSWChief to participate. When tweeting images, include a short caption explaining where and why the event is taking place, and be sure to include the @Amtrak handle in all tweets connected to the event. If there are characters left add handles of other users so they can easily retweet or like the tweets, such as @AAPRCO and @Colo_Rail.

Organizers or attendees are also encouraged to stream their event on Facebook Live.

Looking to get your community involved in the fight to preserve a National Network? The Rail Passengers Association, is asking leaders from all Amtrak-served communities to sign on to a petition (available here) with a simple message: while we support the railroad’s efforts to grow passenger rail service, we insist it must happen in addition to National Network service, not at the expense of existing Amtrak communities.

Rail Passengers Association thinks one of the best ways mayors can support the National Network is to join together and demand to be part of the conversation. This is particularly true given how recent grants have spurred local and state investment in train stations and passenger rail infrastructure.

Twenty stations within Washington, D.C.’s Metro system will undergo major renovations starting in 2019. The project is part of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) three-year capital project to renovate and fix structural deficiencies at outdoor platforms. The first phase will begin in 2019 and will be completed in 2021.

The transit agency said that in 2019, Metro riders can expect station platforms at Braddock Road, King Street and Eisenhower Avenue to be under renovation and rail service at six of Metro's 91 stations will be closed between Memorial Day and Labor Day 2019, including: Braddock Road, King Street, Eisenhower Avenue, Huntington, Van Dorn Street, and Franconia-Springfield.

The estimated cost for rebuilding 20 stations is between $300 million and $400 million. The rebuild projects is also the first major construction project to benefit from capital funding recently approved by legislatures in Virginia, Maryland and D.C.

Summer by Rail 2018: Why Baseball?

By Jacob Wallace

If you’re here you already have a question: how are baseball and trains going to mix? To me, the reasons they mix have to do with what baseball and rail can provide us in our lives today in order to replace the feeling of detachment from our communities and our country, which as it has become cliche to point out, is polarized and suffering from a pretty profound identity crisis. I learned early in life that something like baseball can provide a solution to that feeling.

I don’t think I’m alone when I say I first figured out how important fandom could be for those sorts of issues when my team started winning. My dear Texas Rangers, who first came to Arlington in the 70s in the throes of an identity crisis, have only made it to the World Series a couple times, but I was fortunate enough to have been alive and in the impressionable years of my early adolescence when those two trips to the moon occurred.

The world series that sticks most clearly in my memory is the first, in part because it felt so improbable. It was a magical year for Texas Rangers baseball, and it contained the hallmarks of every cultural moment: the three-claw swipe and the antler hands that the base coaches used that year became our dance and were commemorated in ubiquitous t shirts, the heroes (and antiheroes) had their names repeated over and over (Andrus, Beltre, Washington), the Ballpark at Arlington became our temple.

That was how I first understood the beauty of baseball. Complete strangers would complement each other over a Rangers t-shirt or ball cap. It inspired the sort of collectivism and shared cause that turns a group of people into a community. Maybe the biggest benefit of sports is that they give us something larger than ourselves that’s easy to root for – there’s no barrier of entry for becoming a fan, you just have to watch the game or buy a hat. In the past couple of years we’ve seen how a common cause can transform a country.

Everyone was in on the action that year too – I remember going to one of my choir concerts and instead of the usual events announcement on the board in front of my middle school was just the message “GO RANGERS!” In between songs, I remember one kid was streaming one of the World Series games on his phone to try and keep up with the action. He got detention for it the next day, but I know he didn’t regret it because he was the most popular guy at the concert that night as he updated us on the score.

If you remember the world series that year, you already know that despite coming within a single strike of becoming World Champs, the Rangers lost that year. It doesn’t really matter. When I look back on the countless major and minor league games I’ve attended, or the All-Stars I voted for, for me the moment I became a fan is when it finally took on a significance for me beyond just the game.

The history of baseball and railroad are integral aspects of this country. Baseball, like trains, expanded with the country. Baseball, like trains, provides us with a link to 20th century growth, optimism, and communitarian philosophy because it brings us together to celebrate our teams. We need baseball in a similar way that we need trains – an afternoon or evening at the ballpark provides us with a place to connect and commune with people that we might not otherwise share a connection with. Trains, meanwhile, provide us with a physical connection to places that we might not otherwise share a connection with. It’s that ability to connect that made the two so interesting to me in the first place.

Look, obviously there are ulterior motives. I love baseball, I love hot dogs, I love warm summer nights. If I didn’t enjoy the heck out of baseball, there’s no way I’d be bringing myself to 19 games in six weeks. Besides all the other reasons, baseball and trains mix because they’re just so quintessentially American, right up there with apple pie. I hope that you understand on the same level as I do what fundamental services these two things can provide. I’m positive baseball will bring this whole trip together.

This blog post, along with other Summer by Rail updates, is available online at www.summerbyrail.com. You can also find updates on Instagram and Twitter using the handle @RailPassengers.

Rail Passengers President Jim Mathews will be speaking at All Aboard Ohio’s 2018 Spring Meeting tomorrow, May 12. The Spring Meeting is a great opportunity to learn the latest updates on the state of passenger rail in the U.S., the Midwest, and Ohio. Additionally, attendees will learn about the recent developments in public transit in Columbus / Central Ohio.

Additional speakers and topics include:

  • Curtis Stitt, Executive Director, Ohio Public Transit Association (TENTATIVE)
  • Thea Walsh and Dina Lopez, transportation planners at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC): Chicago-Lima-Columbus-Pittsburgh corridor planning update
  • Midwest Regional Rail Plan update
  • Federal passenger rail funding boost in the latest omnibus spending bill
  • Ohio state government/rail/transit matters
  • Public transportation funding issues
  • All Aboard Ohio board of directors election

This event is open to the public, but registration is required. Doors open at 9:00 AM.

If you travel along the Northeast Corridor, you will soon be able to enjoy enhanced Wi-Fi service on Amtrak that will increase the performance of web pages, audio and video content, and more. Amtrak said in a press release that passenger trains will receive upgraded processors and modem cards, as well as new antennas that will improve internet speed.

“These Wi-Fi upgrades are another example of recent steps we have taken to improve the customer experience and why we are the preferred choice for travel on the Northeast Corridor,” said Amtrak Vice President of Marketing Kerry McKelvey in a press release.

Later this summer, customers will also experience a new, simplified Amtrak Wi-Fi landing page. As part of this upgrade, customer preferences will be saved over a period of seven days for both onboard and in-station connections, providing a simplified and convenient experience.

“Patience and Prayer” in Marks, Mississippi

By Betsy Nelson, Rail Passengers Association Southeast Regional Staffer

My husband and I frequented the City of New Orleans between Batesville, MS (20 miles from his home in Oxford) and McComb, MS (my home) while we were dating and first married. In fact, my first Amtrak trip was from McComb to Batesville when I was returning to classes after attending my grandmother’s funeral in March 1989. So, attending Friday’s grand opening of a new Amtrak stop in Marks, MS was exciting for us both – finally bringing Amtrak close to Oxford once again. “Patience and prayer” is what Velma Wilson, Quitman County Administrator said it has taken for over 20 years to make Friday a reality.

Since September 10, 1995, the route of Amtrak’s City of New Orleans has traveled through north Mississippi via the Delta after the Illinois Central abandoned the Grenada District for the flatter Yazoo District. With only two stops between Jackson and Memphis (Yazoo City and Greenwood), north Mississippi was left with few transportation options.

On Friday, May 4, 2018, residents of Marks, Mississippi and Quitman County saw a 20-year long dream become reality. Senator Roger Wicker, along with many state and county officials, arrived in Marks on Train 58 at the new $1.3 million flag stop 70 miles south of Memphis, TN.

Senator Wicker in his remarks said, “we think this stop is going to save lives of young Americans.” Marks is located just 40 miles from the University of Mississippi and officials are touting it as a safe and fun way for students to travel to and from New Orleans for weekends and football games, keeping them off I-55 for the 6-hour drive.

Marks is perfectly situated as an Amtrak stop for tourists visiting the Mississippi Blues Trail. In 2016, the Delta region “travel and tourism expenditures amounted to $850 million supporting 10,150 jobs and contributing $98.9 million in tax collections.” (Delta Business Journal, Jan. 5, 2018) Amtrak can help increase those numbers even more by helping bring jobs and economic development to a region that needs and wants more tourism dollars.

As of May 8, Train 59 (SB) began serving Marks at 8:01am, followed by Train 58 (NB) arriving in Marks at 8:31pm.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) outlined its plans for improving public transit services over the next 10 years in its newly released Metro Vision 2028 plan. The plan provides insight into the agency’s strategy for improving its equipment and infrastructure in an effort to minimize passenger rail and bus service delays, as well as practices it plans to implement to keep service up and running.

“This is our umbrella document that details how we plan to improve the quality of life across Los Angeles County,” said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. “The plan also addresses issues directly related to transportation, including housing, safety and security, fares and job creation. Vision 2028 is the compass that Metro will follow in implementing all its projects, programs and services.”

Metro also said that the plan sets the agency’s strategic direction and serves as the foundation for all other Metro plans, programs and services. Metro will also partner with Metrolink to explore ways to boost the capacity of the regional transportation system.

The Vision 2028 Plan evolved from 17 months of research, discussion and outreach by Metro's Office of Extraordinary Innovation, which was established in 2015 to champion regional mobility improvements.

West Virginia received certification from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for it’s transit-rail state safety oversight (SSO) program. With West Virginia’s certification, 11 states and Washington, D.C. have been approved by the FTA and meet statutory requirements, including establishing an agency that's financially and legally independent from the transit agencies it oversees. In West Virginia, this includes the 3.6-mile Morgantown Personal Rapid Transit, the automated system that carries people between the University of West Virginia's campuses.

"FTA is pleased that West Virginia has developed a safety oversight program that meets federal certification requirements and will strengthen rail transit safety in the state," said FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams in a press release. "With this certification, West Virginia’s transit agencies can continue to receive federal funding."

Thirty states and D.C. are required by the FTA to receive certification for the SSO programs by April 15, 2019. States that fail to meet the certification deadline risk the loss of federal funds.

Make plans to attend Rail Passengers Association’s Fall 2018 Advocacy Summit & Meeting in Miami, FL, Friday, October 19 through Sunday, October 21. The host hotel will be the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami.

Discounted group-rate room reservations will be available starting May 15 via an on-line link. In addition, preliminary agenda, program and event information are now posted on the Fall 2018 Advocacy Summit & Meeting Event Page!

Watch for event updated details as they become available!

Despite Amtrak planning to un-staff dozens of stations across the country, city officials in Cincinnati will continue to staff the Amtrak station at Union Terminal. The city’s potential plans were announced in a memo from acting city manager Patrick Duhaney, who said, “The city administration is glad to assist in these efforts should that be the desire of the mayor and city council.”

Several Amtrak employees currently work at the station and provide services such as ticketing, checking baggage and escorting people through the station for Cardinal service. Come June however, Amtrak’s plan will leave only one station “caretaker” to provide services for passengers.

“While there are other stations on the Cardinal route that are unstaffed, Cincinnati is a popular, multi-level station which makes assistance by Amtrak staff for handicapped and elderly passengers very important,” Duhaney also wrote. “Any loss of service will degrade ridership and jeopardize continued service.”

New York State agencies led by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Department of Transportation (DOT), via the state Attorney General’s office, missed April’s extended deadline to appeal a State Supreme Court's decision that stopped the removal of the historic railroad line between Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake, and Lake Placid. But in an apparent end-round around the Court’s decision, the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) is now proposing an amendment to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan that would change the definition of a travel corridor in order to allow for the removal of the 34 miles of tracks and the development of the proposed $8-million bike and hiking trail. The Travel Corridor definition guides land-use that encompasses all Adirondack Park roadways and the state-owned Remsen-Lake Placid railroad right-of-way. The proposed amendment would allow for either a rail line or a trail on any given segment of the corridor, but not both at the same locations.

Since 1992, the State has issued month-to-month operating permits to the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, which operated excursion service between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake through the 2016 season and which still operates seasonal service between Utica and Big Moose, NY. The state-owned line north of Big Moose to Tupper Lake has been allowed to deteriorate to a point that any through rail movements are no longer safely possible.

The trail proposal was part of Unit Management Plan (UMP) revisions approved by the APA in 2016. Adirondack Scenic Railroad operators challenged the proposal, and Supreme Court Judge Robert G. Main Jr. ruled last September that the DEC and DOT management overstepped several legal boundaries in the state land-use regulations aimed at advancing the proposed trail.

Public hearings on the amendment were held in April and a comment period for public input ended May 7. The next step will be the issuance of a final State Environmental Impact Statement, which may recommend the adoption of the proposed pro-trail corridor use amendment. If this occurs, further legal action by rail supporters is possible.

The Rail Passengers Association continues to support a joint application from the Vermont Agency of Transportation and the Genesee and Wyoming Corp.’s New England Central Railroad (NECR) subsidiary for a $1.6 million grant under the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program.

The project will deploy a variety of safety measures along a small but important freight and passenger corridor which today includes a large proportion of un-signalled, or “dark,” territory.

Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews, in a support letter sent last week to U.S. DOT Secretary Elaine Chao, wrote that “these safety improvements will protect lives and property, mitigate the risk of major service disruption, and improve throughput and efficiency by eliminating the need for speed restrictions in many areas, benefiting freight shippers and rail passengers alike.”

Rail Passengers Association also said that this same corridor hosts the state-supported Amtrak Vermonter passenger rail service, whose daily trains served nearly 100,000 passengers last year, not only between stations in Vermont but as a vital link between rural Vermont communities and New York City and destinations in Massachusetts. Overall the service connects 32 cities in nine states, including many small and rural communities that are underserved by other modes of transportation.

As early as Monday, horns from Brightline trains could be silenced in West Palm Beach, FL. Brightline crews have now finished specific safety upgrades that are required for stopping train horn blasts from both passenger and freight rail at crossings in six of the seven Palm Beach County cities along the route. The seventh crossing in Boynton Beach is still under development.

Kathleen Walter, the Director of Communications in West Palm Beach, said no plans are yet available on when the quiet zone will begin, but she said, “The city hopes to make an announcement soon.”

In addition to West Palm Beach, Lake Worth has already filed paperwork to complete the quiet zone requirements. In Lake Worth, horns are expected to stop sounding on Monday, May 21.

Each city must file a plan to create a quiet zone with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) separately from one another. Lantana, Hypoluxo, Delray and Boca Raton are also eligible to apply for the quiet zone designation from the FRA, which takes 21 days to review a city’s plan and decide whether safety upgrades meet the requirements.

Brightline announced service to and from downtown’s MiamiCentral station will begin next Saturday, May 19.

Brightline Chief Operating Officer and President Patrick Goddard made the announcement during a ribbon-cutting at the new station. The mayors of Miami and Miami-Dade County along with South Florida U.S. Representatives Frederica Wilson, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Carlos Curbelo were also in attendance at the ceremony.

Introductory fares for a one-way Miami-to-West Palm ride will begin at $15 for “Smart” service and cost $25 for the more luxurious “Select” option. Riding between Miami and Fort Lauderdale will run you between $10 and $15.

During introductory service while construction continues along the FEC corridor, Brightline will operate eight northbound and eight southbound trips to and from MiamiCentral. Weekday trains will depart from MiamiCentral beginning at 7:05 a.m., leaving every two hours until 8:05 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and until 11:05 p.m. on Fridays. On weekends, trains will depart every two hours from 9:05 a.m. until 9:05 p.m. and until 11:05 p.m. on Saturdays.

Member Forum Now Open

Rail Passengers Association has opened a new forum for our members on Google Groups. Members can discuss and follow the latest passenger rail-related issues.

Click THIS LINK to sign up. It's free and open to the public, but users must join the group before they are able to post messages.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) appointed Sally Librera as the new chief officer of the agency’s New York City Transit (NYCT) Department of Subways. Librera’s hire makes her the first woman to be the head of the Department of Subways. She was also the first woman to ever helm the MTA Staten Island Railway. In her new role, she will oversee the department that runs the New York subway system, including the development and delivery of a long-term strategy for the system's modernization and success.

The MTA said in a press release that Librera's appointment is part of larger organizational changes being planned by President Andy Byford. Byford is taking steps to implement the Subway Action Plan and reinvigorate the city’s subway system through major improvements to customer service and system modernization.

"This is a critical time for subways and we need to be looking at every aspect of our operation and challenging convention across the board,” Librera said in a press release. “Part of questioning everything we do involves making that conversation as inclusive as possible – involving as many diverse perspectives as possible.”

Byford also appointed Frank Jezycki to the role of Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer at the Department of Subways. Jezycki will run day-to-day operations for Subways, overseeing the Service Delivery, Car Equipment and Maintenance teams.

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

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

Amtrak began an early morning service at 6 a.m. from San Joaquin Valley, CA to Sacramento this week. The new train is part of the Amtrak San Joaquin service that runs from Bakersfield to Stockton, then west to Oakland. With the new 6 a.m. schedule, residents are able to travel to Sacramento before the work day begins. Previously, service only got San Joaquin Valley residents to Sacramento around midday or midnight.

"This is an important day for Modesto — a nice new train service to Sacramento — and we're really excited," said Cecil Russell, executive director of the Modesto Chamber of Commerce.

The Sacramento Morning Express, as it is known, starts at 4:25 a.m. in Fresno and reaches Sacramento at 7:46 a.m. Return trains leave Sacramento at 12:41 and 5:30 p.m.

Amtrak released the schedules for this summer’s detour to & from New York’s Grand Central Terminal this past week. Starting Saturday, May 26 and running through Monday, September 3, all Empire Service, Adirondack, Maple Leaf and Ethan Allen Express trains will operate in & out of the iconic transportation landmark, instead of New York’s Penn Station. The detour is necessitated by an extensive rebuilding of Amtrak’s westside Empire Connection line.

Most schedules have been adjusted to accommodate the Amtrak service into Metro North’s very busy commuter operations at Grand Central. The Lake Shore Limited will not operate through to New York during the detour period; passengers will be required to use a local Empire Service train to & from Albany-Rensselaer to connect to the through Boston to Chicago Lake Shore service. An on-line PDF version of the schedules changes is yet available, but the reservation system has been fully updated with the correct revised train and time information. Amtrak staff will be stationed at Grand Central for passenger assistance and Quik-Tik machines will be available. Passengers will be required to make their own transfers between Grand Central and Penn Station if required.

Openings Available For Rail Passengers Association State Council Representatives

The following vacancies now exist for state representatives on the Rail Passengers Association Council of Representatives: Alabama (1 opening); California (7 openings); Delaware (1 opening); Florida (1 opening); Idaho (1 opening); Illinois (1 opening); Louisiana (1 opening); Massachusetts (1 opening); Minnesota (1 opening); North Dakota (1 opening); Ohio (2 openings); Pennsylvania (1 opening); Vermont (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 Association 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.

The proposed streetcar for the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront in New York City and the proposed Wave streetcar project in downtown Fort Lauderdale both received setbacks this week.

The 16-mile streetcar in New York did not receive any funding in the Economic Development Corp.'s proposed budget despite being a high-profile project under Mayor de Blasio. As it stands now, the administration is almost done with a feasibility study for the streetcar, which has a $2.5-billion estimate. With the project not included in the proposed budget, it is likely that the preliminary planning will not begin for another year.

In Florida, the Broward County Commission voted in line with Fort Lauderdale to not move forward with the Wave streetcar project. The decision is despite 15 years of planning and $135 million in federal and state funding. It was decided to cut the 2.8-mile streetcar due to its rising costs. The lowest bid for development of the streetcar was above the county’s $142.5 million budget. In addition, residents were concerned that the streetcar would not cut down congestion in downtown and only be able to travel with the speed of traffic.