June 12, 2020
Rail news for the week ending June 12th
D.C. Office Remains Closed, Rail Passengers Staff Working Remotely
The June Passengers Voice Newsletter is now available.
If you’re not clicking on our LINKS, you’re missing out!
As you read the Hotline each week, don’t forget to click through the blue links! Whenever you see text in blue that’s underlined, that’s our way of sharing more information with all of you. In stories about the new TRAINS Act, we’re letting you read the actual bill. In our recent stories about Brightline, we’re linking to original news accounts or Miami-Dade government documents about the service. When we try to keep you up to date on the developments in Texas over high-speed rail, we offer links to court documents so you can read in more detail. Just hover your mouse over the blue text, click, and enrich your experience...it’s the best way we have to make sure you get the whole picture!
After Years in Development, Rail Reauthorization Poised to Advance Quickly Through the House
While the surface transportation reauthorization has been years in development in back offices around Washington, last week’s official unveiling of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s draft legislation has shifted proceedings into overdrive, with House leadership targeting next week for a markup and early July for a final floor vote.
Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) has scheduled a markup of the bill in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for June 17, with House Democratic leadership setting aside time for debate and a vote between June 30 and July 2.
“It's going to be probably a three-day bill,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) according to reports from The Hill.
While there are many questions about the extent to which House Democrats will be able to secure bipartisan support, the bill is expected to pass the House. From there, it will face a tougher audience in the GOP-controlled Senate. The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to release its own rail bill later this summer, though there is no official timeline.
Still, House Democrats remain upbeat about the bill’s prospects, citing the bipartisan support for launching an infrastructure program to get America’s struggling economy back on track.
“Anytime you do an infrastructure bill, the title of the infrastructure bill is jobs, jobs, jobs. That's the title. That's the purpose,” Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), a member of the T&I Committee, told The Hill. “That's the kind of economic boom that occurs when Congress seriously implements an infrastructure bill. It results in jobs, jobs, jobs, and that's what we need now, because many of the jobs that were interrupted by the coronavirus will never come back.”
ACT NOW to Support Amtrak Reforms and Investment!
Rail Passengers has launched a campaign to support the rail title in the INVEST in America Act, which would invest more than $58 billion in America’s rail network over the next five years. The bill also includes several key Amtrak reforms: enshrining Amtrak’s duty to run a National Network, improvements to Amtrak food and beverage service, providing protections for on-time service for passengers, and more!
Rail Passengers is working hard to ensure that the bill passes out of committee and, after that, the House of Representatives—with a full vote likely to take place in early July.
We need every American passenger to reach out to their Representative to generate support for this bill. Passing the INVEST in America Act will result in meaningful investments in passenger trains and reforms to Amtrak—along with all those Americans who only wish they had access to fast, frequent train service.
We are happy to announce that this briefing will take place on Wednesday, June 24th at 3pm Eastern/1pm Mountain. We will give an overview of the key victories in the newly released TRAIN Act, discuss current advocacy plans in the region, as well as hear a presentation from Southwest Chief & Front Range Passenger Rail Commission Project Director Randy Grauberger.
Registration closes June 22nd.
Are there any Front Range/Mountain & Plains regional questions you would like to ask our staff? Is there a specific topic you would like to see addressed? Do you have any ideas or comments you would like to share with the Rail Passengers staff? Please email Madi Butler ([email protected]) or Joe Aiello ([email protected]) with your question and the subject “Front Range Questions.”
Just as we did in our last online briefing, questions we can’t get to during the session will be answered in the weekly Hotline.
With only two weeks to go before our webinar, we need your questions by Friday, June 19th so we can prepare to answer them during the event.
Attention Michigan Members
On June 16th & 17th, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will be hosting two statewide telephone town halls to give residents a chance to have their say in the state's long-range transportation plan, known as Michigan Mobility 2045.
You may have already received a phone call from MDOT giving you all the details. If not, you can go to the events section of our website for meeting and registration details.
California High-Speed Rail Reaches Milestone With 4,000 Jobs Created
Officials for the California High Speed Rail Authority (CAHSRA) announced this week that it has created its 4,000th job since the project started, spread across more than 32 different active construction zones. The Authority also stated that over 73% of the workers are local residents of the Central Valley putting a spotlight on the importance of the local workforce and economy. CEO Brain Kelly praised this milestone by saying that “stable work, stable paycheck, stable families and a more stable future for California” is the backbone of the entire program. Robbie Hunter, the President of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, added that these workers are building something that is “absolutely necessary to meet the needs of the growing population of California while protecting the environment.”
The network, when completed, will run from San Francisco to the Los Angeles basin in under three hours at speeds of 200mph. The project will extend north to Sacramento and south to San Diego, totaling 800 miles with up to 24 stations.
But The Funding Fight Continues
In another attempt to defund high-speed rail in the state, members of the California State Assembly this week adopted HR 97 which requests that the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CAHSRA) delay the awarding of several key contracts regarding the completion of the initial 171-mile construction segment currently under construction in the Central Valley. These contracts include the track construction and electrification of the line, the procurement of electric high-speed train sets, and land acquisitions to continue construction into the cities of Merced and Bakersfield, all vital steps toward the completion of the route between San Francisco and Los Angeles. If this money is deferred, it could be the death knell for clean, efficient, true high-speed passenger rail in the state -- and force the route to be run via slower and pollution-causing diesel engines.
Rail Passengers is currently working on an Action Alert for our members in California to contact their representatives in the State Assembly to support high-speed rail.
U.S. DOT Announces Availability of $291 Million in Passenger Rail Capital Funds
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Grant Program, which includes $291.4 million in funding to reduce the state of good repair backlog and make capital upgrades to intercity passenger rail service to improve reliability and performance.
The NOFO includes $198 million in new funding appropriated by Congress for FY2020, and $93.4 million in unobligated FY2019 money that the FRA failed to award last year.
Eligible uses of the funds include “railroad infrastructure, equipment, or facility assets such as track, ballast, switches and interlockings, bridges, communication and signal systems, power systems, highway-rail grade crossings, stations, passenger cars, locomotives, maintenance-of-way equipment, and yards, terminal areas, and maintenance shops.”
Grant applications, which have to be filed by a state or a group of states, a public agency, or Amtrak acting in partnership with a state, are due on July 27.
Amtrak Downeaster Resumes Limited Service June 15
The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) announced yesterday that the Amtrak Downeaster will begin Phase 1 of Service Restoration beginning June 15, 2020. Service will resume with one round trip on weekdays only between Brunswick, ME and Boston, MA: southbound Train 680 and northbound Train 685. Downeaster service has been suspended since April 13, 2020.
A number of protocols and procedures have been implemented to protect the health and safety of passengers and crews.
Highlights of Phase 1 Service Restoration Plan:
Amtrak has implemented new cleaning and disinfecting protocols nationwide, and train equipment used in Downeaster service will undergo enhanced cleaning before and after each trip.
Crews and passengers will be required to wear face covering while boarding and moving about the train
The number of passengers per train will be limited to no more than 50% of available seating capacity so riders are able to adhere to physical distancing guidelines.
Advance reservations are required, and cash sales will not be accepted.
Station facilities will not be open; passengers should go directly to the outdoor platform to wait for their train.
Café service will not be available, however complimentary water will be available upon request.
Stations are being updated with signage and other enhancements to promote public health and physical distancing.
While NNEPRA expects Downeaster increased service throughout the summer months, no date has been set for subsequent phases. The NNEPRA Board of Directors plans to meet later this month to evaluate the potential for adding more daily trips.
Pan Am Railways has expedited a series of track improvement and maintenance projects along the Downeaster corridor to take place this spring to avoid construction-related service interruptions later in the year. The schedule for Train 680 has been modified slightly to adjust for construction-related delays. Passengers travelling on Train 685 to stations north of Haverhill should expect delays of approximately 15 minutes.
Complete information about the steps Amtrak is taking to protect the health and safety of passengers and crews is available at Amtrak.com
For additional Amtrak Downeaster information visit: AmtrakDowneaster.com
Amtrak Wants Metra to Cover More Union Station Costs; Metra Disputes How Costs Were Determined
Amtrak and Chicago’s Metra system are asking the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to resolve a $17 million impasse over renewing Metra’s 36-year-old agreement to use Chicago Union Station, with Amtrak insisting that Metra shoulder more of the costs of its greatly increased operations and Metra disputing how Amtrak calculated those costs.
Right now Metra pays just under $10 million a year to operate at the station, but Amtrak thinks that should be more like $17 million, with another separate set of payments for capital projects that could wind up at about $10 million annually.
Both sides filed heavily redacted public briefs on May 27 to camouflage the underlying figures and some of the formulas used to produce them. The contract expired a year ago, and issues around cost-sharing and calculation – particularly around police costs, station operation and maintenance, ground power and who should pay for capital improvements – have kept Amtrak and the commuter agency from finalizing a deal.
Amtrak told the STB that it used “an objective, verifiable method” to calculate costs it incurs for Metra’s benefit, and it also defended the factors in its equations as “objective, administratively feasible” and which avoid cross-subsidization, which is one of Metra’s primary claims against Amtrak in this dispute.
Amtrak wants the STB to adopt Amtrak’s formulas for determining Metra’s share of capital costs, and also wants the Board to impose certain contract terms such as a 10-year contract period, access to facilities, training for staff and other conditions.
For its part, Metra claims Amtrak’s proposal overstates Metra’s share for the costs to police CUS, disputes elements of Amtrak’s calculation of how much of CUS’s space Metra should pay for, and wants STB to decide what the correct allocation should be.
Metra also argues that it shouldn’t help pay for ground power for idling locomotives since the only reason that power is needed is because the platforms are completely covered to accommodate air rights above the station – air rights from which Amtrak benefits and Metra does not.
And Metra objects strongly to Amtrak’s request that the STB mandate that Metra make specific, annual contributions to cover a portion of Amtrak’s future capital spending at the station, arguing instead for a case-by-case, project-by-project agreement.
BART, VTA Receive Transit-Oriented Development Funding
Bay Area Rapid Transit has been given $2 million and Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority has been given $1.5 million by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to aid in improving access to public transit options. Improvements will be made to Ashby, El Cerrito, North Berkeley, and Richmond stations. Funds were earmarked for endeavors including Phase 2 of the BART to Silicon Valley extension and development planning for Downtown San Jose and Santa Clara as well.
Acting FTA Administrator K Jane Williams, in a press release this week, stated that they were “proud to support our local partners as they plan for transit-oriented development that better connects residents to jobs, education and services.” It continued that “this funding will help improve the quality of life of riders in communities across America.”
Amtrak App Updates
Great news for app-fans, the Amtrak App is launching its updates for July 2020. Improvements to the app include real time boarding and departure information at a number of larger stations, and clear instructions on how to link your bank card or apple wallet to the app. For more information on what stations will be included, and a run down of features in-app, click here to read the full article.
* Membership renewals and donations are not the same.* If you send us a form that asks you to DONATE, we will allocate that as a general donation. Please send in a form asking you to RENEW or a memo on your check stating “Membership Renewal” for faster processing! If you send us a check without specifying that it is for membership renewal, we have to allocate it as a donation.
* We are unable to provide permanent membership cards, print Thank You letters, or membership/benefits information while the Rail Passengers staff is working remotely.* Luckily, you can print a temporary membership card by creating an account at www.railpassengers.org and selecting “My Account” on the homepage. We can send donation or renewal Thank You letters by email. Contact us to add your email address to receive a Thank You email instead!
*Make sure you’ve fully filled out your renewal form before sending it in.* Without all information included, your payment/donation cannot be processed. The information on the form helps us allocate your contribution.
*Save us postage!* If you respond to one of our membership renewal or donation letters, you can save us money on postage if you apply your own stamp to the reply envelope. Every little bit helps!
*The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act includes new tax incentives for charitable giving.* We’ve provided a quick overview here and encourage each of you to seek advice from a financial planner.
Looking for that perfect Father’s Day gift? Shopping through AmazonSmile is an easy way to show your support for the Rail Passengers Association. 0.5% of your eligible purchases will be donated to Rail Passengers. Happy Shopping!
Did you know many companies offer a matching gift program? This is an easy way to increase the impact of your Rail Passengers Association donation/membership dues. Please check with your HR professional to see what options are available to you. Matching gift benefits may even apply to retired employees. If you have any questions, please send Jonsie Stone an email at [email protected]
#ICYMI - In Case You Missed It: This Week’s Social Media Highlights
Chime in and make your voice heard in support of the advancement of passenger rail. Follow along and join the conversation via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and our blog posts on RailPassengers.org
This week we discussed station reopenings, Invest in America Act, and our work to preserve and expand Long-Distance rail service. One big question we asked this week was “What would be your big change to transit in your town?”
Top Comment of the Week: (In response to a question about what would you change about transportation in your city/town)
“My list: Expand RTA Rail Service with Line extensions to serve more areas, add more Amtrak service that is not middle of the night operation - like extending the Pennsylvanian into a New York-Chicago train again, plus adding regional service to Pittsburgh, Columbus and Cincinnati as well. Increase service and spread of RTA bus routes to include more cross country routes not centered in downtown Cleveland”. - Gregg Richard
If you are working with a local organization and have news you would like to share, please reach out and let us know by emailing Madi Butler ([email protected]) with links to your press release, blog, or article.
Are you holding a community meeting, networking opportunity or another kind of rail-advocacy event? We can help spread the word if you send them to us. Email Joseph Aiello ([email protected]) We will include those updates in our coverage and put them on the website here.
Rail Passengers Track Update
Where are we and what are we working on? This section will update you on what Rail Passengers HQ is up to...even when we’re all working online or from home!
Jim Mathews, President & CEO, has been busy following up congressional requests for support of a whole range of rail-positive bills in the House and the Senate.
Sean Jeans Gail, Vice President of Policy, has been coordinating with House offices and other stakeholder groups to advance the rail title of the INVEST in America act, scheduled for a mark up next week. In addition to launching a member-driven campaign, Jeans-Gail is also working with Hill staffers to track amendments - both positive and negative.
Carolyn Cokley, Director, Customer Programs, has continued working on prepping customer programs and readying them to re-engage as the country reopens. This includes both the Station Volunteer Program as well as the Working Focus Group. If you are interested here is more information on what we are planning for RPFocus.
Joseph Aiello, Field Coordinator, worked with the rest of the staff on preparing for our Front Range Regional Briefing webinar coming up on June 24th. Joe has also been working with our membership on a number of fronts, ranging from the potential moving of the Houston train station to defending high-speed rail in California.
Madi Butler, Grassroots Organizer, prepared webinar materials, and continued outreach for upcoming advocacy missions.
Jonsie Stone, Director, Resource Development, spent the week processing membership dues and donations, collaborating with our Accounting team and working on Association administrative activities.
Kim Williams, Membership Manager, spent the week tracking membership revenue and expenses during the ongoing pandemic, processing membership payments, and making improvements to our member database and online member portal.
May 27th marked the beginning of a series of online events for anyone who wants to keep informed, stay involved, and upgrade their personal organizing and advocacy skills. The idea is to give you the knowledge, the background, and the practical tips you’ll need to help us carry on this work from wherever you are. We’ve already started developing a series of programs to cover the following:
Corridor Spotlights: Our field team will coordinate with our Council Members and local groups to provide regional updates on corridor development initiatives, speakers from state rail groups to help provide vital local context, and opportunities to get personally involved at the local level. Our next briefing on June 24th will examine the work being done on the Front Range Corridor.
Online Advocacy 101: Focusing on communications and messaging, our team will provide a walkthrough of best practices for engaging an audience using the new digital tools and social media, gaining the attention of policy makers through online channels, free online platforms for hosting regional meetings and conferences, and more.
Transportation Stakes in the 2020 Elections: The policy staff will walk you through potential outcomes in the 2020 general elections and their projected impact on transportation policy at the federal level, key national- and state-level races to watch, and any state and local transit initiatives on the ballot [Rail Passengers is a 501(c)(3) and is prohibited by law from endorsing any political candidates].
Our team wants to hear from you about any additional topics you’d like us to cover:
Is there a specific corridor or region you’d like us to focus on?
Have an idea for a campaign, but need to see how the policy team would go about creating a communications strategy and ground game?
Do you have questions about how a federal grant program works?
Help us understand what you need to be a more effective voice for passengers in your region! Please reach out to Joe Aiello ([email protected], Subject: Webinar Topics) with topics and questions you’d like addressed in any upcoming Rail Passengers briefings.
We look forward to working together to represent the interests of America’s passengers over the coming months!
Business Insider Report on Amtrak’s Dining Changes Highlights Why Members Should Support The TRAINS Act
By Jim Mathews / President & CEO
In case you needed even more reasons as a rail advocate to support the new TRAINS Act, here you go: some 1,400 more reasons, in fact.
When it comes to Amtrak’s cost-saving Contemporary/Flexible Dining program, Rail Passengers started sharing critiques and recommendations with Amtrak even before it served its very first meal to a paying passenger.
Now Business Insider reports that after it filed a Freedom of Information Act request, it discovered that irate passengers – many of whom are among our members – submitted 125 pages of complaints about the service.
“New documents obtained by Business Insider show just how unpopular these new meals were. From the beginning of 2019, as the meals expanded to more overnight trains east of Chicago, through January 2020, flexible dining racked up more than 1,400 complaints from riders, according to data obtained through a request under the Freedom of Information Act.”
A lot of those complaints mirror the criticism we shared with Amtrak last July and August, and after we worked with the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee members and staff, a lot of responses and reforms based on those criticisms found their way into the TRAINS Act.
Let’s look at Section 9211 of the TRAINS Act, the part of the INVEST In America surface transportation reauthorization (H.R. 7095) which focuses on fixing the food and beverage problem on board our trains.
Privately a lot of Amtrak executives will tell you that the legislative requirement that food and beverage must cover its costs from its own revenues – an amendment from then-Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) inserted many years ago – hamstrings the railroad from balancing the need to offer good food on long trips with the strict prohibition against using appropriated funds to make it happen.
One of the single most important reforms in the TRAINS Act is the elimination of that provision, and you could be forgiven for missing it when you read the bill. On page 800 of the full bill text, you’ll find the following language: “Section 24305(c)(4) of title 49, United States Code, is amended by striking ‘only if revenues from the services each year at least equal the cost of providing the services’.”
Just taking out those 17 words opens the door for better service. But Committee members and staff, pushed hard both by Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), went much further than that.
§ 24321 (a) (1) would write into the law that coach passengers on overnight trains would have to have access to the same dining service as sleeping-car passengers;
§ 24321 (b) (1) blocks Amtrak from outsourcing food and beverage work on board trains;
§ 24321 (c) creates an “Amtrak Food and Beverage Working Group” to tackle the problem, and includes requirements that your Association participates in this group to ensure passengers’ concerns are really heard.
The lawmakers' marching orders for the Working Group deserve to be quoted at length.
“(A) IN GENERAL.—The Working Group shall develop recommendations to increase ridership and improve customer satisfaction by—
(i) promoting collaboration and engagement between Amtrak, Amtrak passengers, and Amtrak employees preparing or providing onboard food and beverage services, prior to Amtrak implementing changes to onboard food and beverage services;
(ii) improving onboard food and beverage services; and
(iii) improving solicitation, reception, and consideration of passenger feedback regarding onboard food and beverage services.
(B) CONSIDERATIONS.—In developing the recommendations under subparagraph (A), the Working Group shall consider—
(i) the healthfulness of onboard food and beverages offered, including the ability of passengers to address dietary restrictions;
(ii) the preparation and delivery of on-board food and beverages;
(iii) the differing needs of passengers traveling on long-distance routes, State-supported routes, and the Northeast Corridor;
(iv) Amtrak passenger survey data about the food and beverages offered on Amtrak trains; and
(v) any other issue the Working Group determines appropriate.”
The Working Group has a year to come up with workable solutions, and then it must submit a formal report to the House, the Senate and the Amtrak Board detailing the plans. Amtrak will then be required 30 days later to submit a separate report justifying itself if it rejects the Working Group’s solutions.
And for those who are worried that Amtrak might in the meantime further degrade on-board food and beverage service, the House authorizers included this provision: “During the period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act and ending 30 days after the date on which Amtrak submits the report required under paragraph (4)(B), Amtrak may not make changes to onboard food and beverage services, except that Amtrak shall reverse any changes to onboard food and beverage service made in response to the COVID–19 pandemic as Amtrak service is restored.”
None of this is new to your professional staff here at Rail Passengers, and we have a lot of ideas on how Amtrak can make the service better while still achieving its goals.
Our very own Escoffier-trained chef Madi Butler, our former Summer by Rail explorer and intern, has a lot of insider thoughts on what can be done, what really can’t be done, and how everyone can work together to make the experience better. Stay tuned for her analysis of the situation, which we’ll be publishing soon.
Meanwhile, if you care about on-board food and beverage, think about joining our campaign to win more congressional support for the TRAINS Act. Click this link to help do your part.
Stuck at Home for Awhile? Grab a Copy of Lonely Planet's ‘Amazing Train Journeys’ and Support Your Association at the Same Time
If you’re spending more time than you used to at home waiting for the “All Clear” to start hitting the rails again, why not order yourself a copy of Lonely Planet’s ‘Amazing Train Journeys’ guidebook to pass the time? It’s not only a gorgeous and fun book, but 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! You win and we win!
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!
Get Your Own ‘Rail Passengers’ Signature Federal Credit Union VISA Card!
We are excited to announce our recent partnership with Signature Federal Credit Union. Rail Passengers members now have access to a full service, nationwide federal credit union with extensive product and service offerings. Signature FCU also becomes the exclusive provider of the Rail Passengers Association-branded Visa credit card with our logo, which supports our work by giving back to our organization, and gives you 1 point for every $1 you spend to redeem for travel and merchandise. The card has no annual fee, no balance transfer fees, no foreign transaction fees, and has a very low interest rate.
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.
go to railpassengers.org/events for more events and information
Due to the current situation with the COVID-19 outbreak, many meetings around the country are being postponed and rescheduled for later dates. Please check our events page for updates and information.
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
Empire Service and Maple Leaf Schedule Changes
Effective June 12 through 19, 2020
Due to trackwork being performed between Niagara Falls and Buffalo-Depew, Empire Service and Maple Leaf schedules are affected as outlined below.
Friday, June 12
Trains 281 and 283 will detour between Niagara Falls and Buffalo-Depew, missing the station stop at Buffalo Exchange.
Saturday through Friday, June 13 through 19
Trains 64, 281, 283 and 284 will detour between Niagara Falls and Buffalo-Depew, missing the station stop at Buffalo Exchange
La Junta, CO, Station Waiting Room Temporarily Unstaffed
Effective June 12, 2020
Effective Friday, June 12, the La Junta, CO, station will be unstaffed.
The waiting room will be open to passengers prior to train departure.
Friends and family picking up arriving passengers are not permitted in the station and are asked to wait in their vehicles.
San Francisco-Emeryville, CA, Thruway Buses Resume Service
Effective June 15, 2020
Amtrak Thruway bus service will resume some service between San Francisco and Emeryville, CA, on a reduced schedule, effective Monday, June 15, as outlined below:
Bus Service Changes:
Buses 5005, 5006, 5011, 5014, 6011 and 6014 will connect with California Zephyr and Coast Starlight trains at Emeryville.
Buses will only stop at the San Francisco Salesforce Plaza and Emeryville stations. Buses will not stop at the Oakland Jack London station.
Sales will be limited to maintain social distancing.
San Joaquins Service Schedule Changes
Effective June 12, 2020
Please be advised that the San Joaquins service will operate on limited schedules until further notice. Additionally, track work performed by BNSF Railway will affect service on June 11 and 12.
Train Service Changes
Trains 701, 702, 703, 704, 714 and 717 and Thruway Bus connections are cancelled.
Thruway buses 3512 and 3519 between Bakersfield and Las Vegas are cancelled.
Please visit https://amtraksanjoaquins.com/amtrak-san-joaquins-covid-19-serviceadjustments/ for the most up to date Thruway schedules.
Café car service is suspended effective March 26. Complimentary snacks and water will be available.
Track Work Affects Service June 11-12
Thursday, June 11, 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.
Friday, June 12, Train 711, which normally operates from Bakersfield to Oakland (Jack London Square), will originate at Wasco.
Amtrak Thruway Bus 5811 will provide alternate transportation between Bakersfield and Wasco. Bus 5811 will depart all station stops from San Diego to Bakersfield 15 minutes earlier than normally scheduled.
Station buildings at Fresno, Hanford, Merced and Modesto are closed, until further notice. Customers boarding at these stations should proceed directly to the train and may purchase tickets onboard from the conductor.
Bakersfield, Stockton, Sacramento, Emeryville, Martinez and Oakland will operate with reduced staff and hours.
Grand Forks, ND, Platform Replacement and Station Renovation
Please be advised that work has started at the Grand Forks station to replace the platform and remodel the restrooms to make them ADA compliant.
The project is estimated to be completed in 6 months. During the construction, there will be fencing around the station and the platform, limiting normal access to the station. The project will be performed in two phases, with access to the station limited during both. Portable restrooms will be available next to the station building.
Please use caution and allow extra time to arrive at the station.
Pacific Surfliner and Amtrak Thruway bus service will resume some service,
on a reduced schedule effective Monday, June 1
Train Service Changes:
Three trains in each direction will operate north of Los Angeles. Two will end in Santa Barbara/Goleta and one will extend up to San Luis Obispo. Thruway bus service will provide supplemental departure options connecting trains in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.
Beginning June 2, Train 774 will operate from San Luis Obispo instead of Los Angeles.
Thruway bus connections will be retimed to improve spacing of departure options and shorten layovers.
Two bus trips will operate between Oakland to San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. One bus trip will operate between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.
Trains 562, 566/1566, 572/1572, 578, 590/1590, 782 and 792 remain canceled.
Train 777 will terminate in San Luis Obispo instead of Goleta.
Train 785 will terminate in Goleta instead of Los Angeles.
Thruway bus connections will be retimed to improve spacing of departure options and shorten layovers.
One bus trip will operate between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara and two bus trips will operate between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo to Oakland.
Trains 561/1761, 565/1565, 569/1569, 573/1573, 583, 591/1591, 595 and 759 remain canceled.
The Coastal Starlight, the long-distance Amtrak train, will continue to operate one trip daily through San Luis Obispo.
Amtrak requires all passengers to wear face coverings at stations and on trains.
Hiawatha Service Resumes Operation Reservations Required
Effective June 1, 2020
Effective June 1, Hiawatha trains will resume service on a modified schedule and reservations will be required.
Hiawatha Trains 332 and 339:
Will restore a round trip between Milwaukee and Chicago in response to anticipated increased demand. Empire Builder Trains 7/27 and 8/28 will continue service at all Hiawatha stops to provide morning and afternoon departures daily.
Disinfecting stations and trains aggressively
Facial coverings are required for all customers in stations and on trains and thruway buses
Temporarily only accepting cashless payments
Reservations are temporarily required to maintain physical distancing, excluding holders of Multi-Ride tickets.
Olympia-Lacey, Station Waiting Room Hours Temporarily Modified
Effective June 1, 2020
Effective June 1, the Olympia-Lacey station waiting room will re-open with modified hours.
Open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
If Coast Starlight Train 14 is late, the station will remain open until its arrival.
Hours may change based on service adjustments.
Keystone Service and Pennsylvanian Operation Resumes
Effective June 1, 2020
Effective June 1, Keystone Service and Pennsylvanian trains will resume service on a modified schedule and reservations will be required.
Keystone Service: Modified service will include nine weekly roundtrips and six roundtrips on weekends, operating temporarily between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, only.
Pennsylvanian: Modified service will include one daily roundtrip operating normally between New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Disinfecting stations and trains aggressively
Facial coverings are required for all customers in stations and on trains and thruway buses
Temporarily only accepting cashless payments
Reservations are temporarily required to maintain physical distancing, excluding holders of Monthly and 10-trip tickets.
Temporary Station Changes Milwaukee Downtown Station
Effective immediately, the Milwaukee Downtown station will reduce ticket office hours and implement various station changes, until further notice.
The ticket office will be open 5:30 am to 8:00 pm.
Station entrances will be reduced to the west end door, only.
The station will be closed between 10:00 pm and 5:15 am, to all non-Amtrak personnel, in order to clean and disinfect for our riders and employees.
Only ticketed passengers, or those wishing to purchase tickets, are permitted inside the station during this time.
Wolverine Trains 351 and 352 Blue Water Trains 364 and 365
Effective April 27, 2020
Due to track work being performed by Amtrak, and Norfolk Southern, Wolverine and Blue Water Service will be affected, as follows:
Blue Water Trains 364 and 365
Train 364 will arrive at Port Huron 28 minutes later at 11:59 pm.
Train 365 will depart Port Huron 28 minutes earlier, at 5:52 am, arriving at Chicago 17 minutes later at 12:02 pm.
Train 351 will depart Pontiac 38 minutes earlier at 5:12 am, arriving in Chicago at the scheduled time of 10:32 am.
Train 352 will depart Chicago 30 minutes earlier at 12:55 pm, arriving at Pontiac 7 minutes later at 8:39 pm.
City of New Orleans Trains 58 and 59 Suspended between McComb and New Orleans
Until Further Notice
Please be advised that Canadian National Railway is prohibiting passenger trains over the Bonnet Carre Spillway due to planned emergency flood control, affecting the City of New Orleans service as outlined below:
Train 59, which normally operates between Chicago and New Orleans, will terminate at McComb, MS. Bus 3259 will operate between McComb and New Orleans, serving the intermediate station stop of Hammond.
Train 58, which normally operates between New Orleans and Chicago, will originate at McComb, MS. Bus 3258 will operate between New Orleans and McComb, serving the intermediate station stop of Hammond. Bus 3258 will depart New Orleans at 1:00 pm, 45 minutes earlier than Train 59’s scheduled departure time.
Please note: Trains 58 and 59 will not stop at Brookhaven and Hazlehurst and no alternate transportation will be provided.
Travel Tip of the Week
Safe Travel and Health Precautions Advised on the Railroad This Summer
June is National Safety Month and Amtrak wants to remind the public of the importance of railroad safety onboard trains, in stations and near tracks this summer. National Safety Month is an annual opportunity to remind the riding public about the importance of rail safety.
For customers planning to travel with Amtrak this summer, here is what to keep in mind:
What Amtrak is doing:
Limiting bookings: Amtrak is limiting ticket sales on reserved services to allow for physical distancing while traveling.
Enhanced cleaning: Amtrak has enhanced cleaning and disinfecting frequency and retrofitted protective barriers where necessary. Commonly used surfaces in stations such as door handles, counter tops, seating areas and Quik-Trak kiosks are frequently cleaned with EPA-registered disinfectants. Amtrak has also amplified cleaning onboard trains by spraying a disinfectant focusing on highly touched surfaces.
Physical distancing: Signage has been displayed at the busiest stations to indicate safe distances in high traffic areas. In addition, clear protective barriers have been installed at customer counters at the busiest stations. For customers placing orders in café cars signage and markers promoting physical distancing leading up to the café counter have been added.
Café service: Café service aboard Amtrak trains that still offer food service will be available as carryout only. Seating in the café will be closed. Customers can bring items back to their seats or private rooms. Dining and lounge seating will remain available on select long distance routes with physical distancing protocols in place. For added protection, protective plastic barriers are being installed at café countertops.
Flexible dining: Amtrak is temporarily offering flexible dining service in the dining or lounge car on all long-distance routes (except Auto Train) and encouraging Sleeping Car customers to select optional room service.
What customers can do:
Facial coverings: Amtrak is requiring all customers and employees to wear facial coverings while in stations and on trains or thruway buses. Facial coverings can be removed when customers are in their private rooms or seated alone.
Preventing overcrowding: Except for the Auto Train, customers are encouraged to arrive only 30 minutes before departure and only 60 minutes if in need of ticketing and/or baggage assistance. To reduce crowds at departure boards, Amtrak app users can now receive gate and track information via push notification at select stations.
Contactless ticketing: Amtrak encourages boarding with eTickets, which conductors scan from the Amtrak app. Amtrak is also accepting cashless payments only.
Handwashing and touchless movement: Available in each car’s restroom, Amtrak strongly encourages washing hands thoroughly with soap and water. To move between cars, customers can use an “automatic door open” button with their foot.
For more information on COVID-19 updates, visit Amtrak.com/coronavirus.
In addition to station and onboard train safety, the general public is urged to be cautious and aware near highway-rail grade crossings and railroad rights-of-way. Amtrak is one of several partners with Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI), a national, nonprofit safety education group working to eliminate deaths and injuries at railroad crossings and along railroad rights-of-way. Motorists and pedestrians can take action to prevent injuries and fatalities from occurring this summer, as a result of high-risk behavior on or near railroad crossings and tracks. For more information on railroad safety, visit stayoffthetracks.org.
Rail Safety Tips & Facts:
Railroad tracks, trestles, yards and equipment are private property and trespassers are subject to arrest and fine. Walking, biking, jogging and photography are prohibited on tracks.
The only safe place to cross is at a designated public crossing with either a crossbuck, flashing red lights or a gate.
A train traveling at 55 miles per hour can take approximately one mile, or the length of about 18 football fields to stop.
Obey all warning signs and signals. Trains can come from either direction on the same track at any time and can be very quiet. Use of headsets, earbuds or cell phones around tracks can prevent a person from hearing an approaching train and hooded clothing impacts peripheral vision.
Remember to always stop at railroad crossings and never drive around lowered gates — it’s illegal and deadly. In addition, there are substantial fines for attempting to go around the crossing arms.
Report suspicious items, persons, or activity immediately to the Amtrak Police Department by approaching a uniformed officer, calling (800) 331-0008, sending a text to APD11 (27311), or by calling 911. For emergencies, a toll-free number is posted on every grade crossing for the public to contact a railroad to report problems.
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]
Looking Beyond Pandemic: The Work Continues
Even before the coronavirus outbreak, 2020 was shaping up as a critical year for the future of American passenger rail. With Amtrak ridership down more than 90% and rescue packages taking shape for intercity passenger rail, private operators, mass transit and airlines, there is a risk that when the crisis is over critically needed investment capital will be cut off -- and the legislative gains we have spent five years setting in motion could be squandered.
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 gear up to fight for passenger rail’s present and future, please consider donating to support this critical work.
"Saving the Pennsylvanian (New York-Pittsburgh train) was a local effort but it was tremendously useful to have a national organization [NARP] to call upon for information and support. It was the combination of the local and national groups that made this happen."
Michael Alexander, NARP Council Member
April 6, 2013, at the Harrisburg PA membership meeting of NARP