Hotline #1,030: Penn Station To Resume Regular Service; SEPTA Train Crash Injures 33; STB Pressures CSX; SMART Begins Service; Purple Line Set to Break Ground
August 25, 2017
Check Out Our Newest Hotline! NARP thanks those members who have sent in industry-related news stories, op-eds, editorials, or letters to the editor from your communities. We include them in our social media efforts, along with the weekly Hotline. Please send your news items to Bob Brady, firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will continue to share it with the membership. We also ask members to send events that we can put on the website here. And please follow NARP on Facebook and Twitter.
The Surface Transportation Board (STB) is increasing pressure on CSX to improve its new system for freight trains to allow Amtrak to get passengers to their destinations on time. The federal agency now requires CSX to provide hard numbers, as opposed to anecdotal evidence, showing improvement in services due to operational changes recently implemented. As a result of these changes, Amtrak's Hoosier State and Cardinal trains, which run on CSX tracks between Indianapolis and Dyer, have seen significant declines in on-time performance (OTP). The Hoosier State train fell from a 61.8 percent OTP in June to 54.3 percent in July. The Cardinal was on time for only 23.1 percent of its trips.
“The reality is that appropriate pressure about being a good corporate citizen is coming to bear on CSX for them to honor the agreement they have with Amtrak to provide reasonable service to a company that requires on-time performance," said Arvid Olson, transportation chair of the Quality of Life Council of Greater Lafayette Commerce.
Due to the recent CSX network service problems and recovery efforts, the Surface Transportation Board will hold a public listening session on Tuesday, September 12. The listening session will start at 9:30 AM in the Board’s Hearing Room at the agency’s headquarters located at 395 E Street, S.W., in Washington, D.C. NARP is encouraging all passengers in the DMV region to attend and talk about how surging delays are affecting them!
Speakers must file a notice of intent, identifying the party and the proposed speaker, by September 7, 2017. The session will be open for public observation.
An email from CSX supervisor to dispatchers showed Amtrak trains being intentionally delayed. CSX officials denied the claims after the emails were first obtained by the Journal & Courier in Lafayette, IN.
The email correspondence included the following direction, “Give high priority to (freight trains) Q031/Q032. If we are meeting with Amtrak make the delay on Amtrak first. If Amtrak is running down one of these trains go ahead and get to the point Amtrak is seeing the (end of the freight train) before we get them around."
“This is not right of CSX, as it poses numerous problems for Amtrak and its passengers,” said NARP President Jim Mathews. “It’s clear there are persons within CSX who think they are above federal regulations and can prioritize freight over passenger trains, but the issue is not coming to a head and the STB is putting its foot down.”
Some of the issues arising from the numerous delays, in addition to OTP, is how much money Amtrak has lost due to CSX. This includes compensation for displaced passengers, the cost of getting passengers to other train stations to make connections, and additional crew costs.
Amtrak co-CEO Wick Moorman said service at Penn Station in New York will resume its regular schedule on Tuesday, September 5. The “Summer of Renewal” project spanned 44 days, and many feared repairs would cause significant delays to commuters on Amtrak, LIRR and NJ Transit. Despite the concerns raised by riders to politicians like Governor Andrew Cuomo, the work has run smoothly with little to no issue.
"We thank customers for their patience while we renew the infrastructure at New York Penn Station. We also appreciate the collaboration and support of our commuter partners, NJ Transit and the Long Island Rail Road," said Amtrak co-CEO Wick Moorman, in a statement. "Our engineering forces are making great progress and we look forward to resuming scheduled operations Sept. 5."
The summer project involved closing three tracks at a time as workers conducted total track and switch replacement at “A Interlocking,” a sorting area for incoming and outgoing trains at Penn Station.
“We have been keeping a close eye on the work at Penn Station, and it has been occurring without any significant issues,” said NARP President Jim Mathews. “Penn Station is a vital link for the NEC, and though passengers may have experienced some delays this summer due to track closures, their commutes in the future will be safer and more reliable as a result.”
After 59 years, passenger rail service returned to the North Bay in California with the commencement of service from the Sonoma-Marin Area Transit (SMART). Agency officials, along with other elected officials in the area including U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San), state Sen. Mike McGuire and California’s secretary of transportation, Brian P. Kelly., gathered this morning at Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square station to celebrate the opening day of service with a ribbon cutting and speeches to a large crowd that was excited for SMART service to begin. Service officially began at 12:49pm, with free rides for all passengers.
Starting Saturday, and continuing through Sept. 4, all fares will receive a 50 percent discount. Fares will return to normal on Tuesday, September 5 and will range from $3.50 to $11.50, depending on distance traveled.
“This is a great day for passenger rail service in the North Bay,” said NARP’s Mathews. “The commencement of service was fraught with several delays and some may have questioned if service would ever begin. It’s finally here and people are excited to take a ride on SMART.”
SMART will run 34 trips each weekday, and 10 trips on weekends. Riders will be able to board trains at 10 stations from Santa Rosa to downtown San Rafael, a 43-mile route along old Northwestern Pacific Railroad tracks. Full schedules can be viewed online at www.sonomamarintrain.org/schedules-fares.
Stories From Passengers: Jack and Karin Traylor; Dayton, OH
My wife and I dreamed of traveling across America to see our wonderful nation, once we retired and had the time to do so. That day has arrived, and we've made three wonderful trips on Amtrak in the last fifteen months to get our journeys underway.
I don't fly for medical reasons and my wife does not like to fly. Plus, as senior citizens, we find that long auto trips are just not practical anymore. So, train travel, on Amtrak, has been perfect.
We first made a coast to coast trip from Atlanta, to New Orleans, then Los Angeles, to Chicago, then Washington, D.C., and back to Atlanta. Next we made a similar trip, but went to Seattle and returned. Finally, we wanted to visit the French culture in southern Louisiana, so we rode Amtrak from Atlanta to Lafayette, LA, and returned, with stopovers each way in New Orleans.
Whenever we do stopovers, as we did in New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Chicago, on the first trip, and in Chicago and Seattle on the second, we boost the local economy by spending money on hotels, restaurants, and attractions. We hope to be able to continue our long-distance Amtrak trips as there is much of America still to see. The Amtrak travel and service always has been first-rate.
A big thanks goes to the Jack and Karin for sharing their story! NARP is looking for more stories like this about the National Network to help us fight the White House's proposed budget for FY 2018. Facts and figures alone can’t communicate how vital these trains are to the communities that depend on them. NARP needs to hear from YOU about your town, and your train. We’ve heard from hundreds of you so far and we’re making sure they get seen in Washington...but we still need more!
If you haven’t yet taken part in this effort, please take just a minute or two to write out a few paragraphs telling us why passenger rail is important to you, and email it to email@example.com.
We’re looking for stories from individual passengers about how train service benefits their lives, and how their lives would be hurt by the loss of train service. We’re especially interested in stories that describe how trains:
- Connect you to vital services, such as medical care or vital government services.
- Provide access to educational opportunities, whether it’s traveling across the state to university or commuting to an internship.
- Allow you to maintain mobility while managing a disability or medical condition.
- Help you and your business, and its role in helping you connect with customers and clients.
A new report from the University of California-Berkeley and released by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) revealed that passenger and freight rail will be essential to helping the state, its economy and environment as its population grows by 21 million people by 2050. The report, "Rail and California Economy," presents case studies and analysis of freight- and passenger-rail transportation on land use, freeway congestion and the movement of commodities, and how they can affect state's economy.
In terms of passenger rail, the LOSSAN passenger corridor, which is under Amtrak and runs from San Luis Obispo to San Diego, stimulates growth in residential, industrial and commercial development. Additionally, Caltrain, which runs along a 77-mile corridor from San Francisco through Silicon Valley to San Jose, accommodates 4,500 passengers per hour. That is the equivalent of adding an additional freeway with two lanes in each direction. The report also found that Caltrain helps save more than 50,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, which equates to removing 10,000 vehicles from the roads.
Regarding freight rail, the report highlights that more than $400 billion worth of U.S. imports moved through California in 2015, which represented 18 percent of the national total. About 75 percent of containerized goods leaving the nation were transported by rail. Without rail service to and from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, container flows through the ports would be reduced by 39 percent, while port truck traffic would increase by 44 percent.
A new Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) study that lowered cost estimates for the MBTA’s North-South station has increased the support for the project. The study showed minimum bid cost estimates as low as $3.8 billion to maximum bids of nearly $6 billion. That’s far lower than the original analysis that predicted $9 billion would be needed. As a result, there is new support with more people and organizations are rallying behind the decades old idea.
The Salem News editorial board, for example, wrote that the city could learn from the long-delayed and overcost Big Dig, and linking the two stations “could transform not only Boston but the communities ringing the city. That includes those of us here on the North Shore and Cape Ann.”
“Boston has 16 commuter rail and Amtrak lines that terminate at either North Station or South Station,” the report from HKS said. “Today, rail commuters cannot travel continuously through the city because these two stations are not directly connected by track. The short stretch between North Station and South Station is the lone missing link in the MBTA commuter rail system and in Amtrak service lines from Virginia to Maine.
The editorial board also supports the project due to the link’s potential to connect 327,000 projected commuter rail trips each weekday, while providing economic development throughout the area.
Governor Baker commissioned a $1.5 million study on linking the two stations. The study is expected to be completed next spring.
Upcoming Regional NARP and State Passengers Association Member Meetings & Events
Saturday, September 16 - 12:00n - 4:00pm - All Aboard Washington - Annual Eastern Washington Meeting - Pasco, WA - TRAC Center
Please contact Bruce Becker to have a local, state or regional meeting added to the NARP calendar of upcoming events!
It was confirmed this week that several members of the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) under President Trump have resigned their positions. The exodus from NIAC on Monday follows recent patterns of others who have quit their positions on advisory Presidential councils since the violent clashes between protesters in Charlottesville, VA.
The council is still moving forward, despite members leaving. The NIAC still held its quarterly business meeting Tuesday with a majority of its members still in attendance. Its members were appointed under the Obama administration, but the council was created under George W. Bush. The council was convened to advise the president and the Department of Homeland Security on the security of critical U.S. infrastructure and information systems.
Simultaneously, the White House announced it will not be moving forward with the creation of the President’s Infrastructure Advisory Council in the face of resignations. The PIAC was intended to be a council of 15 to 20 business leaders who would provide advice and consultation as President Trump’s administration drafted an infrastructure proposal. Despite being a key campaign promise, the White House has not made any progress on drafting an infrastructure proposal.
#Rally4Trains Marches On
As the September 30 deadline for the current fiscal year is one month away, Congress is running out of time to pass a spending bill. There are signs they will defer to a Continuing Resolution that will keep funding levels static. Thanks to the dedicated efforts and enthusiasm of all those that came out to support the “Rally4Trains,” Congress heard our voices, though the work is not yet done.
Even if the Congressional Resolution is applied, we need YOU to continue to engage on social media using the #Rally4Trains! A CR is only a step toward achieving our goal, and our collective voice needs to be continuously heard by Congress.
As of now, more than 210,000 people have signed a petition to save long-distance passenger rail in America, have you? Help us get to 225,000! A second petition has more than 6,000 signatures. If you haven’t yet had the chance, please add your name to the lists. Show Congress that we are still united for trains!
Keeping this issue front-and-center is important. Sharing pictures of rallies at your station or in your town on Facebook or Instagram, or just sharing your frustration over the short-sighted budget request, is an easy and free way to pitch in. At the end of your Facebook post, insert #Rally4Trains, just as you see it spelled here. That ensures that everyone’s messages and pictures are gathered in one place for everyone to see online!
As always, call Congress at: 202-224-2131, and tell them you support funding rail in America. That number will allow you to connect with the people you elected to represent you in Washington. Or, email them by visiting the www.townswithouttrains.com website, and clicking the “Contact Congress” button. And, share the #Rally4Trains hashtag on your social media accounts.
[The Towns Without Trains and #Rally4Trains project has been made possible through generous bequests from the estates of George McCallum, Edmund Fritz, and Lewis Hoppe, as well as financial contributions from NARP members all across America who make our work possible.]
Following the SEPTA accident on Tuesday morning in Upper Darby, PA, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) indicated that its investigation could take up to a year. The investigation to determine the cause will includes identifying any safety issues and alert SEPTA officials. What is known, so far, is that 33 passengers were hurt when a train carrying riders did not stop and hit the back of an unoccupied train. For Congressman Bob Brady and Upper Darby Mayor Tom Micozzie, a year is not fast enough. Both officials have said they want to expedite the process to let passengers know that SEPTA trains are safe and “get confidence back in these riders.”
“We want to express concern for all those injured and affected in the accident,” said NARP President and CEO Jim Mathews. “Any time an incident like this occurs we must investigate rigorously to determine the causes and ensure it can never happen again. We have to take a hard look at safety measures in place and strengthen our efforts.”
To encourage a speedier process in review of the accident, Congressman Brady is working with ranking members of the transportation committee to look into a congressional hearing.
Summer by Rail Concludes in Washington, D.C. Tomorrow
After 27 days of travel by Amtrak, bike and other public transit services, NARP interns Cate Boyle and Victoria Principato will celebrate the conclusion of Summer by Rail when they arrive at D.C.’s Union Station tomorrow. The pair is scheduled to arrive at 10:05 a.m., and then will take one last bike ride using Capital Bikeshare along the National Mall.
When all's said and done, Victoria, a rising senior at Catholic University, and Cate, a recent graduate of Catholic, will have spent their summer visiting 22 cities in 10 states. This incredible trip totaled more than 10,000 miles along the way. Destinations the two interns visited include major urban areas like New York, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, and Los Angeles, as well as smaller cities like Kalamazoo, MI; Jefferson City, MO; and Hattiesburg, MS.
The goal of the trip was to highlight how well connected the U.S. is, and how people in different communities utilize public transportation for day-to-day purposes. Along the way, the students were able to see unique sites and attractions in each city.
You can check out their trip by visiting www.summerbyrail.com, where numerous blogs and photos are hosted. A recent blog by Victoria, regarding their visit in St. Louis, is included below.
by Victoria Principato
What a day! After breakfast, Cate and I made our way down to the Jefferson City station, got on our train, and soon enough, we had arrived in St. Louis. After a quick tour around the station, we wanted to make sure we saw everything the city has to offer in the short time we would be spending in St. Louis, so we made use of the city’s metro system. It was super simple, and really similar to the metro system in Washington, D.C.! We bought day passes, which were only $7.50, and hopped on the metro that arrived directly at the Civic Center Station.
A few short stops later, we were blocks away from the city’s most famous structure, the Gateway Arch building! Standing at 630 foot tall, this monument is the world’s largest arch. The steel monument is every architect’s (and engineer’s!) dream come true. Although I found the building beautiful and inspiring, Cate’s level of excitement was on a whole other level!
After checking out the Arch, we made our way to “The Loop,” which is the arts district of St. Louis. With plenty of shops to stop by, it was the perfect way to get a flavor of all that the city has to offer. However, after some time outside, we definitely needed a break from the scorching southern sun. Luckily for us, we wandered into Fitz’s! Famous for their root beer floats and ice cream sundaes, Fitz’s is a St. Louis favorite, and serves its soda all across town. It was definitely the best way to cool off after a St. Louis summer day!
After our time in the arts district, we had to head back to the station to catch our next train. Although our time in St. Louis was short, we had a great time getting to experience some of what the city has to offer. Next time we come back, we’ll definitely be buying passes to ride up into the Arch to experience the full effect! And we’ll surely stop by Fitz’s for another root beer float. Thanks for the southern hospitality, St. Louis! Up next: Texas!
A new study from DePaul University found that lower gasoline prices in the U.S. have hampered Amtrak and bus companies that want to provide service to people traveling less than 400 miles at a time. According to the study, travelers prefer planes for trips longer than 400 miles and cars for trips under 100, but now Amtrak and bus companies are losing out on being able to provide service for in-between distances.
Part of the issue, the report reveals, is that Amtrak and buses are not able to compete with cheap gas prices. The study found nine metropolitan areas in the U.S. with populations above 700,000 that have no Amtrak service or express bus service. In addition, since 2014, eight of the 50 most heavily-traveled routes between cities 120 to 400 miles apart have lost express coach service. The report found that ridership and revenue on Amtrak and bus services--such as Megabus and BoltBus--has declined since 2015, roughly tracking a decline in U.S. gasoline prices.
“There has been, and may always be, a comparison between driving and taking the train, especially when fuel prices are so low,” said NARP President Jim Mathews. “But what people often don’t factor in when making their choice between driving, taking the bus, or flying, versus taking the train, is freedom. Freedom to get up and walk around, to sit back and read or eat a meal with plenty of leg and elbow room. Driving a car or sitting on crowded buses and planes do not allow for this.”
Registration is NOW Open For NARP’s 2017 RAIL NATION CHICAGO Passenger Rail EXPO And 50th Anniversary Celebration - Chicago, IL
Thursday, November 2 to Sunday, November 5, 2017
Don’t Miss Out...Four days packed with an exciting array of presentations, speakers, panels, exhibits, tours, excursions and events highlighting the future of passenger rail in the United States and celebrating NARP’s 50th Anniversary.
Fabulous Anniversary Celebration Gala Dinner on Saturday Evening, November 4
Host Hotel: Millennium Knickerbocker - E. Walton Place at N. Michigan Ave.
Visit the Event Webpage for complete information, agenda & details; to register and to reserve a room. Or call the NARP Office 202-408-8362 for assistance. Don’t Delay...Discounted hotel reservations must be made by October 3rd!
Confirmed And Invited Speakers:
- Richard Anderson - President/CEO - Amtrak
- Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts
- Hon. John Robert Smith - Board Chair - Transportation for America
- Joseph Szabo - Executive Director - Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning
- Daniel Elliott III - Vice-Chair - Surface Transportation Board
- Jim Wrinn - Editor - Trains Magagzine
- Ian Jefferies - Senior Vice-President Government Affairs - Association of American Railroads
- Henry Posner III - Chairman - Railroad Development Corporation
- William O'Leary - President/CEO - Alaska Railroad
- Yves Desjardins-Sicilano - President/CEO - VIA Rail Canada
- Bob Johnston - Passenger Rail Columnist - Trains Magazine
- Don Phillips - Rail Industry Columnist - Trains Magazine
- Karen Hedlund - Director Public-Private Partnerships - Parsons Brinckerhoff
- Richard Harnish - Executve Director - Mid-West High Speed Rail Association
- Prof. Anthony Perl - Simon Fraser University
- Represenatives From:
- Texas Central
- California High Speed Rail
- Southern Rail Commission
- American Public Transportation Association
- Federal Railroad Administration
Travel by Train to NARP’s 2017 Passenger Rail EXPO And 50th Anniversary Celebration
Don’t miss out! There’s still time to book your seat on the PV Dearing following our 50th Anniversary Celebration and November Passenger Rail EXPO in Chicago. Space is available from Huntington, West Virginia to Chicago on the Cardinal and from Chicago to Washington after the meeting on the Capitol Ltd. The Cardinal will arrive in Chicago on November 2nd. If you have any questions about pricing and accommodations please reach out to Betsy Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amtrak announced that it hired William Heinrich as the transit agency’s new chief information security officer. Heinrich will begin September 5, the same day regular service will resume at New York’s Penn Station. Heinrich, who will replace Ron Baklarz, was previously at BNSF Railway for 24 years. In his new role, Amtrak said Heinrich will be responsible for “the advancement of information security awareness, governance and processes across the company.”
Following discussions between Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Maryland’s Purple Line has been granted $900 million in federal funding. It was unclear if the state would be able to receive the funds, but state representatives said the agreement is expected to be signed next week.
The agreement drew support from Maryland Democrats who worried Governor Hogan would not fully support it. According to report, the Purple Line was spared partly because the project was so far along in development, with crews ready to begin construction. In addition, the Trump administration was eager to promote it as a model for financing and operating major infrastructure projects by using public-private partnerships.
As a result of the deal, the governor is moving quickly on starting construction for the 16-mile light rail line that will link Montgomery and Prince George's counties. Gov. Hogan’s office has scheduled a groundbreaking for 10 a.m. on Monday in the Hyattsville area in Prince George’s.
There are openings for state representatives on the NARP Council of Representatives, including one each in Alabama; Arizona; Hawaii; Idaho; Indiana; Missouri; North Dakota; Ohio; Virginia and Wyoming.
If you want to become more active in NARP’s leadership and work, this is your opportunity to become involved. If you are interested in being considered for an appointment to an open state seat by the Board of Directors please visit review these position responsibilities and required qualifications and complete the corresponding Candidate Information Statement. There is no deadline to apply...submissions are considered on a rolling basis as they are received.