Happening Now

Hotline #1,149

January 10, 2020

Rail news for the week ending January 10th

A Note to Our Members

Dear Rail Passengers members:

We are still experiencing long processing times for renewals and donations sent in through the mail. We sincerely apologize for any confusion this may have brought you. To make sure everyone is kept abreast of these sorts of updates, I’ve added a section in the Hotline called “Membership News and Notices,” starting today. Please be sure to take a look!

As we’ve previously mentioned, two postal issues last year created an error that made it difficult for us to attribute members’ mail payments to their individual accounts. Unfortunately, that means that our six person staff has to manually add those payments back into all the accounts of those affected. That’s underway right now and we’re working as quickly as we can to clear the backlog.

As a reminder, please disregard any renewal notices you receive if you have already sent in a payment and do not send in a second payment. We will update your account in the order in which your membership dues or donations have been received. For questions, please feel free to email me at [email protected]. Please note that numerous members calling about this issue has increased the call volume and wait times for a response through our main office phone line.

We understand how frustrating this is, but we truly appreciate your persistent efforts to support our work to expand and improve passenger rail. Thank you as always for your membership and patience!

Kim Williams, Membership Manager

ACTION ALERT

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. The city is being asked to commit $3.048 million over three years in potential matching funds that will be combined with federal grant monies and similar funding from Mississippi and Louisiana to help pay operational costs of a route that will connect daily train service connecting New Orleans, Pascagoula, Biloxi, Gulfport, Bay St. Louis, and Mobile. via passenger rail.

Why now? On behalf of the proposed train operation which will serve Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, the Southern Rail Commission (SRC) is applying for nearly $8 million in Federal Railroad Administration “Restoration & Enhancement” (RE) funding. The grant application is due on February 6th. The RE program helps offset the first 3 years of operating costs for restored or enhanced passenger rail services. These grant funds are tiered over three years and require a commensurate 3-year commitment from the three states this route will serve to provide for the net remaining operating costs after the federal grant and any passenger generated revenue from tickets, food and beverage sales. The grants will pay for 80% of the states’ cost in year 1, 60% in year 2, and 40% in year 3. This three-year program is designed to help a restored or enhanced service build ridership and revenues. In 2019, the SRC was awarded an FY17 RE grant providing $4.5+ million in operations cost support. The upcoming grant opportunity will provide FY18, FY19, and FY20 RE funds that will be added to the initial grant award and provide nearly $11.8 million in federal funds for the initial 3-year operating term. Mississippi and Louisiana have already pledged their needed match funds.

What can you do? The City Council needs to hear from you!

Click here to see how you can help

U.S. House Says it Will Release Surface Transportation Draft “Early This Year”

U.S. House Transportation & Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio corrected early reporting that suggested his committee would release a draft surface transportation bill in January, saying he hoped to unveil his proposal before summer and that they would “release more specifics in the not-too-distant future.” Lawmakers will have to complete a bill to reauthorize highway, transit, and passenger rail programs before the end of September 2020, when the current law expires.

“This is like the beginning of the beginning of the year,” DeFazio joked with reporters when asked about his December 2020 statement that he would release a draft at the beginning of the year. “We’re talking about the middle of the beginning of the year. That’s earlier than June but later than January.”

In the Senate, meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee is looking at how to pay for increased funding in a draft highway reauthorization, struggling with stagnant revenue for the Highway Trust Fund in the face of increased investment needs The committee will have to find $113 billion in extra subsidies for the highway programs to pay for the bill, which will spend $287 billion on highways in total.

Worryingly, that investment deficit doesn’t even include the increased funding needs for transit or passenger rail. The Senate has yet to move on a proposal for transit or passenger rail, which are expected to be drafted later this year.

You can find out what Rail Passengers is working for in this reauthorization at www.RailPassengers.org/Blueprint.

Stu Nicholson To Lead All Aboard Ohio

Long-time rail advocate and All Aboard Ohio member Stu Nicholson has swapped seats with Ken Prendergast to become the new Executive Director of All Aboard Ohio.

In a press release, the venerable state passenger-rail group reported that Prendergast -- a vetern journalist -- asked to move from Executive Director to assume Nicholson’s former role as Public Affairs Director, while the Board also approved naming Nicholson to Prendergast’s public communications role. Nicholson, too, is a veteran broadcast journalist and public-affairs professional, having spent more than 22 years in TV news as an award-winning reporter.

All Aboard Ohio has enjoyed a string of important wins in recent years, and Nicholson reflected on those wins as he looked forward to 2020 and a “long game” aimed at identifying and securing “a significant and reliable source of funding” to develop and improve passenger rail, public transit, bikeways and walkable communities in the state.

“I’m excited about both the near and long-term future for both passenger rail and public transportation in Ohio,” Nicholson said. “We scored a big victory for public transit funding in Ohio last year in the biennial ODOT budget, when the Ohio General Assembly approved an increase to $70 million dolars to support Ohio’s public transit systems. We helped build a coalition of over 40 advocacy groups around the state to help lift Ohio out of the bottom five among the worst states for funding public transportation.”

Rail Passengers Puts Boots On The Ground To Fight For More And Better Trains In The U.S. Southeast

The Rail Passengers Association field staff heads south January 11th for a thirteen-day trip to kick off 2020’s fight for more service in the region, meeting with local officials, rail groups and economic leaders.

Invited by several officials to return following the Summer by Rail initiative in 2019, Field Coordinator Joe Aiello and Grassroots Organizer Madi Butler in their meetings will promote the economic incentives passenger rail has brought to towns along the City of New Orleans and Crescent routes. They will also address the potential benefits of restoring Gulf Coast passenger rail and other potential services and improvements.

Highlights include meetings with Mississippi Mayors Carolyn McAdams (Greenwood) Percy Bland (Meridian) and Andrew “FoFo” Gillich (Biloxi), returning to the now-open Central Station Hotel in Memphis, and a “Members, Friends and Officials” meetup at Port Orleans Brewing Co. in New Orleans co-hosted by Association Director Andrew Lodriguss. The team hopes during the visit to expand membership, make the case for more and better trains, and promote the work our local chapters and affiliated groups are doing in a region that truly needs more accessible intercity and commuter rail service.

Colorado House Speaker KC Becker “Absolutely Not Supportive” of Front Range Passenger Rail

Colorado Governor Jared Polis pushed the idea of a Front Range passenger rail system as part of his successful 2018 campaign and, as recently as last fall, has cited the need to “plan for growth, reduce traffic and move Colorado’s transportation system into the 21st century.” That potential undertaking took a major hit as House Speaker KC Becker (D-Boulder) told reporters last week that she is “absolutely not supportive” of the passenger train system and that “there’s a whole lot of work that needs to happen before folks explore” the idea. One of the reasons she gave was that transportation technology is evolving so rapidly, we can not predict what will be needed in the future and that what we are using now could be obsolete in ten years. Funding current transportation needs, such as adding a new toll lane to I-70, was also a sticking point.

The Speaker’s stance on this means that it is highly unlikely that anything will be done in the 2020 legislative session where lawmakers were hoping to draft a bill that would create a special tax district to help fund Front Range rail - estimated to cost around $5 billion. The proposed passenger rail system would run along I-25 from Trinidad, CO to the Wyoming border connecting Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Denver, and Fort Collins. The Front Range is the main population corridor for the state and, in a poll taken last October, 85% of voters living within those 13 counties support passenger rail - 61% said that they would be willing to be taxed to pay for it.

Governor Cuomo Unveils New Design for Penn Station Expansion; Transit Advocates Worry About Capacity

The State of New York unveiled its plan for a new main entrance to Penn Station at 33rd Street and 7th Avenue, designed to provide direct access to the Long Island Rail Road Main Concourse and the New York City Subway and ease station congestion. The project will begin construction in June, and is scheduled to be completed by 2020. Gov. Cuomo didn’t provide any estimate for project cost or financing.

"Penn Station was one of the great railroad stations of the world, but now it's not fit for the greatest city in the nation," said Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has made the Penn Station overhaul a signature project for his administration. "That's why we are creating a world class train hall at Moynihan and today we are announcing a new East End Gateway to bring more access, safety and light. Passengers will be able to come in that entrance and avoid the front of Penn Station, there will be less traffic and you'll have access to the subway and the LIRR."

Transit advocates were quick to point out that, while the new entrance could very well make the commuting experience more pleasant for passengers, this project wouldn’t address the biggest capacity constraints facing this part of the rail network. Building new Hudson River Tunnels and replacing the Portal Bridge are the most pressing needs for this critical Northeast Corridor Chokepoint, and must be addressed before the flow of trains and passengers can be increased into and through New York City.

Nevertheless, Cuomo also repeated his commitment to the overall Penn Station redevelopment master plan, which includes additional remodeling of Penn Station and completely renovating the old Farley Post Office building to transform it into the new Moynihan Train Hall.

Senator Schumer Pushes For Move of Alstom’s Next-Gen Train to Colorado

Train manufacturer Alstom has completed construction of the first next-generation set that will become part of the new fleet for Amtrak’s Acela service at it’s Upstate NY facility in Hornell. This week, New York Senator Chuck Schumer sent notice to the Federal Railroad Administration to allow for a one-time permit to move the train to the test track in Colorado. The move is a necessary step in the overall construction process and is needed if the project is to stay on schedule. Once the train goes through critical safety testing at the Pueblo facility, production on the remainder of the new fleet can continue.

“I’m calling on FRA to fast-track Amtrak’s application, get testing underway and do everything possible to put these sorely-needed trains into service. These new trains will be a true win-win that will improve rail safety and maintain good-paying jobs in the Southern Tier,” Schumer said in his statement. He also highlighted the need for better trains in the Northeast due to the revenue and ridership records being set year after year along the corridor. Since Acela service began in 2000, more than 52.5 million passengers have used the route - including over 3.4 million in FY18.

The NY Senator, over the years, has supported growth of the 150 year old facility in Hornell and was instrumental in getting the US Department of Transportation on board with Amtrak’s next-gen efforts which led to the current construction contract which employs over 1,250 people in New York.

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!

y7XdBvYz7cqu5ug5OFd85tYR3xVjdDBs2IlgH4jBDHzv63YLU8H4h6DHQXm8A0WdC-J2ylQgO1kp24tU8pHwiIg034LInhAU2-jNKqq7t5EOmhr4ogRVO1rcAVjfJjnvfiJ3iz14

Consumer Group Sues Amtrak Over Arbitration Clause

The consumer advocacy group Public Citizen announced earlier this week that it will be suing Amtrak over the introduction of a forced arbitration clause included in the purchase of a ticket, arguing the clause is unconstitutional and exceeds the railroad’s Congressional-granted authority.

In its press release announcing the lawsuit, Public Citizen laid out its case:

The lawsuit alleges that Amtrak’s forced arbitration clause violates the Constitution in three ways. First, it forces passengers to either agree to give up their First Amendment right to go to court or find a different mode of transportation. Second, it forces passengers to take claims against a government entity into a private arbitration system that lacks the constitutional protections of a federal court. And third, it threatens the institutional integrity of the judicial branch by creating a wholly separate, private litigation process that lacks meaningful judicial oversight.

The complaint asks the court to declare that Amtrak lacks authority to impose forced arbitration on ticket purchasers and rail passengers, declare that doing so violates the Constitution, bar Amtrak from enforcing its forced arbitration provision and order Amtrak to remove the provision from its terms and conditions.

As Rail Passenger wrote in June 2019 when Amtrak introduced the clause: “this really leaves only a few options for passengers, none of them particularly attractive. The first is simply to refuse to book the ticket under those terms, which means that you’ll have to travel some other way. Next, if you have a problem and want to bypass the arbitration agreement, you need to go to a federal court to prove that your particular claim or dispute is barred from arbitration by a federal statute.”

We shared our concerns about arbitration with Amtrak and will continue to work with Members of Congress to encourage the railroad to take another look at consumer arbitration protections.

#ICMYI - In Case You Missed It: This Week’s Social Media Highlights

This week we covered upgrades to Penn Station waiting area, solutions for ongoing issues with MBTA, Episode 3 of the Rail Results podcast, and changes to SMART / BART service . 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:

“Thank you for all y'all do!! I follow Madi's advocacy for RPA! Just last month my governor announced a landmark agreement to expand reliability and service on Virginia's rail lines, creating a pathway to separate passenger and freight operations along the Richmond to DC corridor! keep up the good work!” - Sarah Baker

“Extend select T Worcester trains to Springfield. Throw in Boston-NY-DC via the Inland route.” - James Thorton

Membership News and Notices

  • If you have received a renewal letter and have already sent in a payment, please disregard the letter. We will update your account as soon as we can.

  • Our office call volume is particularly high right now, so please call us back or leave a message if we cannot get to you! We appreciate your patience during this time.

  • Monthly-paying members will always have their membership dues pulled out on the same date every month, as auto-renewal is required for monthly membership. To cancel your monthly membership, please contact our office at 202-408-8362, ext. 3123.

  • If you’d like to change your membership level and the payment associated with it, please contact our office at 202-408-8362, ext. 3123 instead of contacting your financial institution for a chargeback. We can cancel or refund the payment. By working through your bank, Rail Passengers could be assessed fees. We are happy to assist you with your membership needs.

New Flexible Dining Service Launches on the Silver Star

By Carolyn Cokley

After a nearly 5-year absence, first class dining on Amtrak’s Silver Star is returning on May 1, 2020. The same flexible dining menu that is currently available on the Capitol Limited, Cardinal, City of New Orleans, Crescent, Lake Shore Limited and Silver Meteor will also be served aboard the Silver Star. Love it or hate it, this is Amtrak’s wave of the future.

As with all routes that serve the flexible dining menu, this menu will not be made available to Coach passengers. The Lounge Car continues to be available for both Sleeping Car and Coach passengers, offering meals, snacks and beverages. We continue to petition Amtrak to figure out a way to make dining car meals available to Coach passengers.

I have traveled aboard the Capitol Limited nine times in 2019 and have had the opportunity to sample all entrees from the flexible dining menu. While breakfast continues to be my most important meal of the day, I have grown used to the limited breakfast menu. Breakfast for me while traveling usually consists of oatmeal, yogurt and coffee. While I have become used to it, I still prefer my eggs in the a.m.

Continue reading Carolyn's blog here

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.

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, spent some time this week re-connecting with Amtrak on dining-car changes and late trains. We keep pushing to see what changes can be made in the Flexible Dining program to recover what was lost in the transition on the Eastern long-distance trains. At week’s end at the request of a Council member, Jim turned to somewhat unfamiliar but potentially exciting new territory: Securities and Exchange Commission regulations around shareholder resolutions. Stay tuned!

  • Sean Jeans Gail, Vice President of Policy, continues work on the surface transportation reauthorization, meeting with transportation committees to discuss 2020 plans to move legislation. In addition to helping Maryland advocates work for more rail transit investment in response to Gov. Hogan’s highway-heavy state transportation plan, he’s also started working with Mathews and other DC staff to ramp up planning activities for the Spring Council meeting.

  • Carolyn Cokley, Director of Customer Programs, continues working with communities across the country to establish Station Volunteer Programs. Fort Worth volunteers will participate in a 2-hour training on Saturday, January 25 at the Fort Worth Central Station. Newly trained volunteers will be scheduled for shifts starting February 1. Carolyn is also finalizing plans with the City of Lawrence, KS and Amtrak to host an open house on February 6, 10:30 - noon and February 8, 10:30 - noon at the newly designated National Register of Historic Places, Santa Fe Train Station.

  • Joseph Aiello, Field Coordinator, worked with Southern Rail Commission officials in Alabama on a regional letter-writing campaign ahead of an important Gulf Coast Rail vote at the end of the month by the Mobile City Council. Joe is also preparing to head to Memphis this weekend to kick-off a two-week advocacy tour.

  • Madi Butler, Grassroots Organizer, Madi is en route to Memphis to kickoff the two-week field team trip highlighting Gulf Coast Restoration, City of New Orleans, and Crescent routes. Follow along on our social media pages for full coverage and stay tuned for blog posts to follow.

  • Jonsie Stone, Director, Resource Development, spent the majority of the week sorting through the mail to make sure all the 2019 donations and memberships are attributed to the correct year. We experienced a high volume of contributions and are busy with the data entry. The receipts for your 2019 end of year contributions will be in the mail shortly. Thank you so very much for your support.

  • Kim Williams, Membership Manager, is working to implement fixes for website and mail payment issues, and has created a new section in the Hotline called “Membership News and Notices” - please be sure to look for it above for all of your latest membership information! We thank you all for your patience, particularly if you have been calling the office about your account - we see you and will respond as soon as we can!

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.

The Rail Passengers Association would like to thank our Annual Partners for their support!

We are excited to welcome Texas Rail Advocates as our newest Annual Partner. The Southwestern Rail Conference is hosted by Texas Rail Advocates, the largest grassroots, non-profit organization in Texas promoting smart development of freight and passenger rail throughout the Southwest. To learn more about the Conference, please click the image below.

JNzmuhvlY5er3H2lxldWVgzzyy0RqsvFyIh2cHA5T62xDoh-p-3WoKDT4jFs65h1LeIAp3Z2vSL6ZiDx6CyqQlU8xWw0TrnVcSykUDXLx2EqJ398dn2XvsTCyopFEuNVa_o_dcUP

BA914MgkkLqd2eAYZkj1-ubhwoDHRwyQT_SmUChU3ZVjX73gNKGV6wqmvsFFOBqGlzsaniPzjxI-JTUFSGmiSQ-jq7kP1gly-hAfEm0FWxAJJFgy1HEsaTLZX84ymzQs3N0IRGmB

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!

  • Event Registration Is Now Open!

  • Visit The Event Page For Complete Information & Details

Upcoming Regional Rail Passengers Association and State Passengers Association Member Meetings & Events

Please contact Joe Aiello (jaiel[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

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 Jan. 19 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.

Weekend Track Work Affects Downeaster Service at Woburn

Saturdays and Sundays Jan. 4-5, 11-12 and 18-19, 2020

Due to track work being performed by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), the Downeaster trains shown below will not stop at Woburn on Saturdays and Sundays, Jan. 4 through 19.

Southbound Trains 690, 692, 694, 696 and 698 and northbound Trains 691, 693, 695, 697 and 699/1689 will detour between Boston North Station and Haverhill and will not stop at Woburn.

Alternate transportation will not be provided to or from Woburn.

Pacific Surfliner Weekend Service Changes

Friday, Saturday and Sunday Jan. 11 through Feb. 2, 2020

Track work being performed by North County Transit District will affect Pacific Surfliner service, on the dates shown below:

Fridays, Jan. 10 and 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, Jan. 11-12 and 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.

San Joaquins Service

Effective Jan. 10-11, 17-18, 2020

Track work being performed by BNSF Railway will affect San Joaquins service on Fridays and Saturdays, January 10-11 and 17-18, as described below:

Fridays, January 10 and 17

  • Train 704, which normally operates from Sacramento to Bakersfield, will terminate at Wasco.

    • Amtrak Thruway Bus 5804 will originate at Wasco and provide alternate transportation between Wasco and Bakersfield.

  • Train 718, which normally operates from Oakland (Jack London Square) to Bakersfield, will terminate at Wasco.

    • Amtrak Thruway Bus 5818 will originate at Wasco and provide alternate transportation between Wasco and Bakersfield.

Saturdays, January 11 and 18

  • Train 711, which normally operates from Bakersfield to Oakland (Jack London Square), will originate at Wasco.

    • Amtrak Thruway Bus 5811 will operate through to Wasco, providing alternate transportation between Bakersfield and Wasco. Bus 5811 will depart all station stops from San Diego to Bakersfield 15 minutes earlier than normally scheduled

Kalamazoo, MI Station Ticket Window Closing

Effective Jan. 2, 2020

The Amtrak station in Kalamazoo, MI, will no longer have a staffed ticket window, but Amtrak trains will continue to serve the station daily. If you are traveling to or from Kalamazoo, please refer to the following:

  • Waiting Area: Customers will continue to have access to the station’s waiting area and restrooms.

  • Customer Assistance: Amtrak conductors and attendants aboard our trains will assist customers boarding and detraining.

  • Ticketing Options: Customers can make reservations and obtain eTickets at Amtrak.com, using our free mobile apps, or by calling 800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245). These eTickets can be displayed on a smartphone or tablet, printed at home or on the Amtrak Quik-Trak kiosk at this station. 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. Customers using cash can pay for tickets on the train, but they will be priced at the highest published fare and subject to availability.

  • Other Stations: Customers seeking travel for unaccompanied minors or other services can use the ticket windows with customer service representatives at the Amtrak station in Battle Creek, Sunday through Thursday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Travel Tip of the Week

Your Continued Feedback Is Important to Improving American Passenger Trains

WE HAVE SURPASSED 1,000 TRAVEL REVIEWS SUBMITTED IN 2019

PLEASE SUBMIT YOUR 2019 TRAVEL REVIEW BY JANUARY 15, 2020

WE WILL ANALYZE THE DATA AND ISSUE A REVIEW IN THE NEW YEAR

THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONTINUED PARTICIPATION!!!

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.

Comments