Happening Now

Hotline #1,086

September 28, 2018

House Passes Continuing Resolution to Fund Transportation, New Proposal Arises Against HSR in CA; Rail Safety Week Concludes Tomorrow; CTrail Hartford Line Opens Second Track; Study to be Conducted for Altoona to Pittsburgh Passenger Rail; Phoenix Approves Light-Rail Expansion

We Need Your ‘Nose For News’! When you see rail-related news stories, op-eds, editorials, or letters to the editor in your communities, send them along to us! We include them in our social media efforts, along with the weekly Hotline. Send your news items to Bob Brady, [email protected], 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 Association on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on all things passenger rail.


The House adjourned today after passing a Continuing Resolution that will govern Amtrak funding though December 7th, 2018. The Resolution will give the House more time to address the pending transportation bill, HR 6147. Rail Passengers Association has made ongoing calls to actions focused on passing HR 6147 several times in the past months as it was passed in the Senate and moved to the House: for it is the direct result of our work.

Thanks to your hard-fought efforts, the bill the House has to work with is excellent. As passed in the Senate, HR 6147 provides $2.5 billion for passenger rail, reaffirms congressional commitment to a national network of passenger trains, and ensures the Southwest Chief continues along its established route, turning back an Amtrak proposal to fragment the service with a bus-bridge. Most resoundingly, for the first time in recent memory, there were no anti-rail amendments added to the transportation bill. Your phone calls, letters, and congressional office visits hit hard.

The House adjourned today, opting instead to pass a Continuing Resolution, which will continue FY18 funding through December 7th, 2018. This means that we’ll need to continue our efforts on the ground through the Midterm Elections in November at the State level to reach the House. The momentum to ask the House to pass HR 6147 must be maintained, as the bill still needs to be passed by the House unaltered, so it can be sent to the President’s desk to become law.

A new effort has come forward against high-speed passenger rail service in California, and it would effectively kill the project by 2020, as well as eliminate jobs, reduce connectivity and hinder the state’s ability to reduce traffic congestion. Proponents of Proposition 6, a measure to be voted on in November that would repeal the state’s gas tax increase, issued a new ballot measure for November 2020 that would prevent California lawmakers from spending gas tax funds on mass public transit projects like high-speed rail.

“High-speed passenger service in California has the ability to connect communities and people in ways like never before. Yet, here we are with another proposed measure to end the project before it can even provide any benefits to the state,” said Rail Passengers President Jim Mathews. “When we look at where our needs are now and the needs of future of transportation, it is in services like high-speed rail. Allowing the state to continue development of HSR also allows for job growth and a stronger economy for the state and local communities along the route.”

The measure would require that all gas tax revenue go to roads, and it would also see that the state’s sales tax on cars go to transportation infrastructure including public transit, require annual audits on road projects and give city and county governments authority over projects as opposed to state lawmakers.

The new proposal was filed by Carl DeMaio, a former San Diego City Council representative. A recently issued poll from August found that 48 percent of voters surveyed were against the measure to repeal the state’s gas tax. However, 14 percent of those polled were undecided.

DeMaio’s newest proposal is still a ways away from being a reality, and it still has to qualify for being placed on the November 2020 ballot.


Advocacy Efforts Critical Through Mid-Term Elections

Bill HR 6147 would fund rail transportation projects and operations across the U.S., with $1.29 billion for Amtrak’s National Network and $650 million for the Northeast Corridor. It also includes policy language that would require Amtrak to preserve the National Network in its entirety--including the Southwest Chief.

Unfortunately, while negotiators from the House and Senate have reportedly reached an agreement over funding levels, several non-transportation policy provisions are preventing a final agreement. The question has been punted until December 7, after the midterm elections.

That will leave little time for Congress to bind Amtrak’s management on the Southwest Chief through legislation.

You can act now to help move the bill forward so it includes appropriate language to support the National Network.

Call your Representative today and ask them to retain the Senate Moran/Udall language protecting the Southwest Chief and pass the HR 6147 bill into law with the funding levels and provisions agreed to by the House and Senate transportation committees.


Passenger rail service between Altoona and Pittsburgh, which has been in high demand for several years, will undergo a feasibility study by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). The agency will also gather information about the existing right of way, as well as current and projected freight-rail activity by Norfolk Southern Railway on the proposed passenger rail line.

“This study will help answer some important unresolved questions about a way forward with this added service for western Pennsylvania,” Pennsylvania Governor Wolf said in an announcement of the study. “Offering transportation options aligns with my promise to all Pennsylvanians that my administration would deliver a government that works for a better quality of life.”

After PennDOT teams have reviewed the past research, it will also develop an estimated cost of the project. PennDOT will also create three potential service plans, speed restrictions, need for repairs on the tracks, a travel-demand marketing assessment and ridership estimates.

“This study is very important to the future of passenger rail in Western Pennsylvania,” said Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews. “It’s well-known that studies have been conducted in the past and nothing materialized from them, but recent demand has shown that there is a desire to bring rail service between Altoona and Pittsburgh.”

The study is expected to be completed in the spring of 2019.

Ride MARC Commuter Trains from Washington To Philadelphia for half the price of Amtrak? It’s now possible given a new bus connection-- The Maryland Chapter of Rail Passengers Association takes a closer look.


Rail Passengers Launching Station Volunteer Program

Ever since Amtrak de-staffed more train stations this year, there has been an enormous outcry and opposition to the decision and Rail Passengers Association is stepping up to fill the void.

Rail Passengers is launching a Station Volunteer Program in five states. Through the pilot program, that will begin rolling out this Fall, Rail Passengers Association will help concerned members like you and the communities you live in to organize and continue providing that special connection that Amtrak passengers want and need. A knowledgeable and informed volunteer can answer travelers’ questions about Amtrak trains and services, promote rail advocacy, highlight local attractions, foster a spirit of hospitality and promote an inviting atmosphere at the station.

We are piloting in Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Michigan and Texas. Subsequent rollouts are being planned for Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota and North Carolina. A station volunteer program may be coordinated at the city level, or have a broader state- or route -wide scope that addresses the needs of multiple communities along an Amtrak route.

If you would like to be trained and serve as a station volunteer, please send an email with your interest to [email protected] Please stay tuned for additional information.


This week marked the first joint Rail Safety Week between Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI) and Operation Lifesaver Canada. The rail-safety public-awareness campaign, known as #STOPTrackTragedies, launched on September 23 and will run through tomorrow, September 29. Canada has held an annual Rail Safety Week in April for more than 15 years, while the U.S. only held its first Rail Safety Week in September 2017. Officials with both organizations hope that combining efforts will allow for a more coordinated campaign that reaches and influences more people throughout North American.

“The new #STOPTrackTragedies campaign is intended to underscore the importance of the Rail Safety Week message – raising awareness across North America of the need for rail safety education to empower people to keep themselves safe near highway-rail grade crossings and railroad rights-of-way, and when using rail transit systems,” OLI Interim President Wende Corcoran said in a press release. “We are proud to work with our rail safety partners at Operation Lifesaver Canada to save lives through this important initiative.”

#STOPTrackTragedies features seven videos, each sharing the personal stories of people affected by rail crossing or trespassing incidents — including victims, friends and family members, locomotive engineers, and first responders. OLI said in a press release that about 2,000 people are killed or injured in grade crossing and trespassing incidents across the U.S each year.

The week-long effort also included several activities each day. For example, September 25 focused on Law Enforcement Partnerships. During the day, Amtrak police and Operation OLI partnered for the second annual "Operation Clear Track" event, the largest rail-safety law enforcement operation in the U.S. It includes more than 500 police or sheriff's departments across 48 states.

Tomorrow, September 29, will celebrate “Community Connections” with safety blitzes, sidewalk chalk events and other awareness activities in communities throughout the U.S.


Make plans to attend Rail Passengers Association’s RailNation Miami 2018 Advocacy Symposium & Meeting in Miami, FL, Friday, October 19 through Sunday, October 21 at the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Miami.

RailNation Miami Registration Is Open! Early registration rates are available through October 5th. Higher rates will apply starting October 6th and at the door! Space is filling fast, so register today!

This is your opportunity to gather with rail advocates from across the country to learn how you can best make an active difference in your local community. You will hear from an impressive lineup of rail advocacy and industry experts, including:

  • Friday, October 19 - 6:30pm - 8:00pm

    • A Fireside Chat with former Amtrak Presidents Joe Boardman (in person) and David Gunn (via video), who will be joined by Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis (via video) and Trains Magazine Columnist Fred Frailey (via video). Jim Mathews will moderate this session, which will explore the future of Amtrak and U.S. passenger rail from the perspective of the panelists. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear their unique perspectives on the future of Amtrak. Can’t make the entire RailNation event? Individual tickets are NOW available for this special Friday evening session!

  • Saturday, October 20

  • Former Federal Railroad Administration Administrator and Amtrak President Joe Boardman will kick-off the day’s program at 8:30am with a look at railroad safety; past, present and tomorrow. With the year-end deadline for PTC installation approaching, Joe’s comments are sure to be informative and timely.

  • Other Saturday sessions include:

    • ‘Why The Swiss Can Build Big Projects Cheap And We Can’t…’, (9:50am - 11:20am) moderated by Rail Passengers Association’s Sean Jeans-Gail with panelists Gene Skoropowski, noted U.S. passenger rail project authority; Marie Corado, Amtrak’s Senior Director for the Gateway Project and Ken Sislak, AECOM’s VP - Manager Transit and Rail Planning. Panelists will discuss why major infrastructure projects cost so much in the U.S. and will delve into possible ways to overcome these mind-numbing estimates.

    • ‘How To Pay For Infrastructure; Unlocking The Value Of Real Estate’ (9:50am - 11:20am) moderated by Rail Passengers Association’s James Zumwalt with panelists Albert Hernandez, Assistant Director of Planning and Development for Miami-Dade Transit and Jose Gonzalez, Senior VP of Business Development for Florida East Coast Industries. The panel will look at the often untapped potential of increased real estate values surrounding planned transit hubs as a means of leveraging project funding.

    • ‘RPA’s Envisioning Of The Future Of The U.S. Rail Network’ (9:50am - 11:20am) led by Jim Mathews, will explore what current and future travelers need and desire in a truly ‘Connected America’ transportation network. The session will look at the potential for new routes and other services between the growing regions of the country.

    • ‘Passenger on Freight - How To Address The Challenge’ (11:30am - 12:20pm) moderated by Rail Passengers Association Chairman Peter LeCody, with panelists Patrick Goddard, President/CEO Brightline; Gene Skoropowski of Brightline and Jay Westbrook (invited), General Manager - Florida Dispatch Company. The session will discuss passenger trains running on freight tracks and how both can work together to provide reliable and safe service.

    • ‘The Next Opportunity & Challenge; Amtrak's Upcoming Re-Authorization’ (2:00pm - 3:30pm) moderated by Rail Passengers Association’s Sean Jeans-Gail with panelists Art Guzzetti, Vice-President Policy at the American Public Transportation Association and Rick Harnish, Executive Director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association. The panel will examine the opportunities to codify Amtrak’s National Network into law as part of the upcoming reauthorization.

    • ‘Introducing Rail Passengers Association's Station Host Volunteer Program’ (2:00pm - 3:30pm) moderated by Rail Passengers Association’s Carolyn Cokley with panelists Patrick Kidd of Amtrak’s Corporate Communications Department and Bryan Swyer (invited), Amtrak’s Southeast Region District Station Manager. With Amtrak’s continued reduction in staffed stations, Rail Passengers Association is stepping up to the plate to coordinate Station Host Volunteer Programs across the country. Learn how you can get involved in your local area.

    • ‘South Florida’s First Mile/Last Challenge’ (2:00pm - 3:25pm) panel moderated by Rail Passengers Association’s Joe Aiello will explore how new innovative services and technologies can bridge the gap in the public transit network.

    • ‘SmartCohort’ Pre-Transportation Camp’ (3:35pm - 5:00pm) will be a warm-up session for January 2019’s all-day Transportation Camp conference.

  • Of special note is The Jim Hamre Scholarship Fund Benefit Reception on Saturday evening (6:30pm - 8:30pm) at the MiamiCentral Station complex.

  • Sunday, October 22

    • Rail Passengers Association Council Business Meeting (8:30am - 9:45am)

    • ‘Take Me Out To The Ballpark with Rail Passengers Association’s Summer By Rail 2018’ (10:00am - 11:30am) session moderated by Rail Passengers Association’s Mark Colucci will introduce you to Jacob Wallace, our SBR intern who traveled to 19 major & minor league games across the country, all by rail! Jacob will describe his great experiences spreading the word on the importance of a national rail network.

    • ‘The Passenger Experience’ (10:00am - 11:30am) led by Board Vice-Chair David Randall, will a highly interactive session looking at what services, amenities, facilities and equipment are important to passengers. Come prepared to share your views!

Don’t miss out on the optional chartered Brightline Round Trip from Miami to West Palm Beach on Friday afternoon. Tours of the Brightline MiamiCentral Station will start at 1:15pm, followed by boarding the train at 2:00pm. Brightline representatives will be on board to describe the service and the Siemens-built train sets. Lite snacks and beverages will be served on route. The trip returns to MiamiCentral at 5:15pm. Advance reservations are absolutely required!

Detailed agenda, programming and speaker information is now available and it is being updated regularly as additional details are confirmed! Discounted $179.00 per night group-rate room reservations at the Hyatt may still be available via this link. Discounted room supply is very limited and may be closed-off at anytime.


In an effort to improve service and avoid potential delays, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) has opened a second track on the CTrail Hartford Line between Hartford and Windsor. The opening of the four miles of track will allow trains north of Hartford to pass each other quickly and efficiently, CTDOT officials said.

"This is another milestone for the NHHS Rail Program and the Hartford Line service," CTDOT Commissioner James Redeker said in a press release. "It also represents another step closer toward the 2030 vision of expanded rail passenger service in New England."

Although the new track is open, additional follow-up construction activity will occur through mid-November. Future construction phases will include another second track between Windsor and Enfield. That track, which currently being designed, would connect with the existing double track between Enfield and Springfield, Massachusetts.

“Since opening in June, the CTrail Hartford Line has been met with growing success and demand from passengers traveling through Connecticut,” said Rail Passengers Association’s Abe Zumwalt. “The growth of the line can be measured in more than just passenger ridership; local communities have already seen over $500 Million in developments along the line.”

The CTDOT also said that it is designing new stations in North Haven, Newington, West Hartford, Windsor, Windsor Locks and Enfield, although construction funding hasn't been secured.


Share Your Photos, Win Amtrak Guest Reward Points© and Rail Passengers Association Giveaways

We are asking members, friends and family, and the general train-riding public to share their #ViewsFromATrain on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Prizes include Amtrak Guest Rewards Points© and Rail Passengers Association giveaways.

Just use the hashtag #RailPassengers or #ViewsFromATrain and tag @RailPassengers to show us what you see outside your window.

The pictures should be your own, and should depict what you see outside your train window, whether it’s a photo of countryside, oceans, forests or cities. People who submit photos will have an opportunity to win a variety of great prizes, including 10,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards® Points.

So, if have taken a train this summer and captured some great photos, or maybe you plan to this Fall, we would love to see them, share and give you an amazing prize.


The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has requested an extension for installing positive train control (PTC) technology from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). If approved, the MBTA would received a two-year extension beyond the current PTC implementation deadline of December 31, 2018.

“As the highest priority capital project for the MBTA, Positive Train Control represents one of the most significant safety upgrades for our rail system in recent memory,” MBTA General Manager Luis Manuel Ramírez said in a press release. “I want to thank our partners at the FRA for their collaborative efforts as we continued to make progress in PTC deployment and I also want to acknowledge our project management team and vendors as we worked to turn this project around and get it back on track.”

In order to apply for the extension, MBTA crews had to show a certain level of work have been completed on PTC implementation. This included installing all wayside and on-board equipment - 194 interface units, 181 radios, 181 antennas, 3,097 transponders and 223 miles of fiber optic cable. The agency also had to perform field qualification testing on the Stoughton Pilot Line, train Keolis Commuter Services workers on PTC and configure its PTC management system.

With the extension, the new deadline will be December 2020 for MBTA to install PTC. However, the agency expects to begin revenue service demonstrations along the Stoughton Line in late November 2018, with the Lowell and Fairmount lines after that. The MBTA also expects commissioning the remaining lines by late August 2020.

Rail Passengers Association Members’ Online Forum Now Open!

Rail Passengers Association has opened a new forum for members on Google Groups. Members can share their gripes and their applause, and trade information on the latest passenger rail-related issues.

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

Member Benefit: Newsletter Archives Complete

A new feature for Members: every monthly Newsletter this organization has produced since the beginning of publication in 1969, can be accessed by logging in here. If you have trouble logging in, or cannot reset your password, please contact membership services.

The tunnel being built under Arliss Street in Silver Spring, MD is now halfway completed. The tunnel is part of the planned Purple Line light-rail system that will run 16 miles between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Overall, crews are about 500 feet through the 1,020-foot long tunnel, which is set to be completed by 2020.

In addition, Purple Line officials will host two open houses next week in Montgomery and Prince George’s. The meetings will allow officials to provide construction updates to the interested public.

The first meeting will be held Monday at the Silver Spring Civic Building at 1 Veterans Place in downtown Silver Spring. The second will be Thursday at the University of Maryland’s Stamp Student Union at 3972 Campus Drive in College Park. Both will be from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Officials also said that the project is on schedule despite starting nearly a year late. The light-rail line is expected to open in 2022.

Join Rail Passengers Association as an Organization

The Rail Passengers Association has created new Organizational Membership categories to allow Businesses & Corporations, Professionals, Public Agencies, Non-Government Entities, Foundations, Educational Institutions, and Government & Policy representatives the opportunity to participate in and support Rail Passengers Association communications and educational activities.

“A Connected America" - Membership Supports the Work That We Do.

Organizational Member Benefits Include:

  • Membership status for multiple staff members

  • Access to Rail Passengers Association's extensive policy document library and professional analysis

  • Consultations with Rail Passengers Association's professional staff on transportation policy issues

  • Access to Rail Passengers Association's extensive policy analysis capabilities and research expertise

  • Marketing, Sponsorship and Underwriting opportunities

For additional information on standard or custom memberships contact: Mark Colucci, VP Resource Development, [email protected]

If you have contact with an organization that would benefit from supporting Rail Passengers Association through membership please contact us to discuss.

The Phoenix City Council has approved the expansion of light-rail service by 5.5 miles. The council approved the extension in a 6-2 vote after reviewing information collected during a three-month outreach campaign. The outreach effort collected public views on the current light-rail plan, which calls for the elimination of two of four lanes on the Central Avenue thoroughfare in a predominantly working class Latino and African-American community.

To collect public input, bilingual staff members visited more than 5,000 homes, businesses and organizations and held six community meetings that drew hundreds of people.

Councilwoman Vania Guevara said in a statement that the “vote was not just about building the South Central Light Rail Extension Project. Today's vote was about building the Phoenix our residents deserve: The Phoenix of the future. I will continue to work proactively with my colleagues and my constituents to make Phoenix the connected, sustainable city we need."

Construction is expected to be completed in 2023.

A public-private partnership (P3) has been approved by the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit (HART) as the agency looks to complete the final segment of the Honolulu rail line and the planned Pearl Highlands Transit Center. The P3 is sorely needed by HART as the transit agency first estimated the cost of the project to $5.26 billion, and to be completed in 2020. However, construction and financing of the project is now expected to reach $9 billion, and it won’t be opened for service until late 2025.

With approval for the P3, HART can now solicit proposals from developers who will finance, design and build the new facilities as well as operate and maintain the entire rail system from Kapolei to Ala Moana for 30 years. The cost of the final segment and transit center is estimated at $1.4 billion.

Prior to the P3 approval, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) had committed $1.55 billion to help HART build the rail line. However, the federal agency withheld $744 million of that money while HART struggled to manage rail cost overruns and schedule delays.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the hope is that under the P3 plan, developers will offer to build the last four miles of the rail line at a reasonable price with an aim to secure the contract to operate the rail line for decades to come.

Join Us for Our RailNation “Beer & Transit” Kick-Off

When: October 18th from 6:30 to 8:30pm

Where: Fado Irish Pub at Mary Brickell Village in Miami

What: "Beer & Transit" is a great networking event for young professionals and public transportation advocates to come share their ideas and interests in the industry. Since it will be held prior to RailNation in Miami, it will see people from all over the country who have a vested interest in advancing passenger rail in the U.S.

In addition, you will have an opportunity to listen to and speak with our guest speaker, David Capelli, Miami-Dade Millennial Policy Commissioner and Co-Founder of #SmartCohort.

Who: Hosted by the Rail Passengers Association

The event is being underwritten by Uber. Additional information and tickets are available at www.eventbrite.com/e/rail-nation-miami-tickets-50499623734

The Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) board unanimously approved a nonbinding resolution that supports the proposed 12-mile light-rail route from downtown Portland to Bridgeport Village.

The current plan is estimated to cost between $2.6 and $2.9 billion, and the board’s support will help advance the proposal towards a 2020 transportation bond. The light-rail route will include 13 stations, as well as seven park and rides along the way.

If the plan is eventually approved, TriMet officials estimate that the route will carry 43,000 passengers a day. The Metro Council is expected to vote to adopt the locally preferred alternative route for the Southwest Corridor in early November. The first trains likely wouldn't run until 2027.

Unable to raise matching funds, transportation officials in Louisiana will not apply for federal grants for the proposed Baton Rouge to New Orleans passenger service.. Service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is expected to cost $260 million, and officials said that waiting a year to apply for funding will allow state officials to identify additional funding sources. However, it is most likely that the majority of funding will have to come from federal dollars if the project moves forward. One potential source of government funding is through the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program, but it is not certain that funds will be available in 2019.

“The question is will CRISI applications be granted again next year? Who’s to know?” says Louisiana DOTD Multimodal Commerce Commissioner Tommy Clark.

In addition to funding challenges, there are also operational issues. Louisiana does not own the existing railroads on which the passenger service would run. Should the plan move forward, state officials have to negotiate with railroad companies—mainly Kansas City Southern, which owns the majority of the line.

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

Please contact Bruce Becker at [email protected] to have a state or regional event or meeting added to the Rail Passengers Association calendar of upcoming events!


The proposed streetcar for Orange County, CA now has a contractor in place to build the 4.1-mile system. The board of the Orange County Transportation Authority's (OCTA) approved the $220.5 million contract with Walsh Construction Co. to begin construction later this year. Testing and operations for the streetcar are to begin in 2021.

“This is an important milestone that puts us one step closer to breaking ground on the OC Streetcar,” OCTA Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett, also the county’s Fifth District Supervisor, said in a press release.

Once open, the OC Streetcar will run between Metrolink's commuter-rail service at the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center and Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove, CA. It’s expected that the streetcar will carry more than 7,300 passengers each day within its first year.

The streetcar project is currently estimated at $407 million, with funding coming from federal and state sources and from Measure M, which is Orange County's half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements. In addition, the Federal Transit Administration is considering a full funding grant agreement that would cover about half of the project's cost.

Missouri has obtained federal certification from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for the state’s transit-rail state safety oversight (SSO) program. With the certification, the MoDOT has been designated to provide safety oversight of the Kansas City Streetcar system and the Loop Trolley Transportation Development District in St. Louis. In addition, the MoDOT and the Illinois Department of Transportation are jointly responsible for providing safety oversight of the Bi-State Development Agency's MetroLink light-rail system in St. Louis.

With Missouri, 23 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have obtained their SSO programs certifications. By law, states with transit-rail systems are required to achieve federal certification of their SSO programs by April 15, 2019.


Passenger Rail Service Notices

Current and upcoming service notifications that could affect affect upcoming train travel include:

Amtrak is preparing to accommodate a surge in travelers for Thanksgiving.

Amtrak is prepared to operate every available passenger railcar in its fleet. This means Amtrak is adding extra trains for more seating on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) and Midwest routes, and is adding extra cars to existing trains along the West Coast.

  • On the NEC, Amtrak Acela Express and Northeast Regional trains will operate full and extended schedules with additional frequencies and added capacity during the Thanksgiving week.

  • Additional NEC trains, including the Keystone (New York – Harrisburg), will require reservations in advance of travel.

  • Hiawatha trains will also require reservations between Nov. 20 and Nov. 25.

  • Additional capacity will be added to the Capitol Corridor, San Joaquins and Pacific Surfliner routes.

  • During the holiday period, the Pacific Surfliner service will also require reservations between Nov. 21 and Nov. 25.

  • The San Joaquins train will require reservations between Nov. 18 and Nov. 26.

Track Work Affects Downeaster Service

For select dates through Oct. 5, 2018, track work being performed by Pan Am will affect Downeaster service as described below:

  • Friday, Sept. 21

    • Trains 682, 685 and 688, which normally operate between Brunswick and Boston North, will operate between Boston North and Dover, only. Alternate transportation will be provided, via Buses 1982, 1985 and 1988, to the missed stations of Brunswick, Freeport, Portland and Wells.

      • No alternate transportation will be provided to Orchard Beach and Saco.

    • Trains 681 and 686, which normally operate between Boston North and Portland, will operate between Boston North and Dover, only. Alternate transportation will be provided, via Buses 1981 and 1986, with an extension to Brunswick, making intermediate stops at Freeport, Portland and Wells.

    • Train 680, which normally operates between Portland and Boston North, will originate at Dover. No alternate transportation will be provided to the missed stations of Portland, Saco or Wells.

    • Trains 683 and 684 will be cancelled with no alternate transportation provided.

    • Trains 687 and 689 will operate normally between Boston North and Portland, with 10 minutes added to their schedules between Dover and Wells. Trains will depart all stations north of Wells later than the normal schedule.

    • Train 687 is cancelled between Portland and Brunswick with no alternate transportation to Freeport and Brunswick.

  • Weekdays, Sept. 24 through Friday, Oct. 5

    • Train 682, 685 and 688, which normally operate between Brunswick and Boston North, will operate between Dover and Boston North. Alternate transportation will be provided between Wells and Brunswick, via Buses 1982, 1985 and 1988. Busses will connect to Trains 1982, 1985 and 1988 which will operate between Brunswick and Wells.

    • Trains 681 and 686, which normally operate between Boston North and Portland will operate between Dover and Boston North. Alternate transportation will be provided between Wells and Dover, via Buses 1981 and 1986. Busses will connect to Trains 1981 and 1986 which will operate with an extension to Brunswick, making intermediate stops at Freeport, Portland, Old Orchard Beach, Saco and Wells.

    • Train 680, which normally operates between Portland and Boston North, will originate at Dover. No alternate transportation will be provided to the missed stations of Portland, Saco or Wells.

    • Train 683, which normally operates between Boston North and Brunswick, will originate at Wells. No alternate transportation will be provided between Boston North and Dover.

    • Train 684 will be cancelled with no alternate transportation provided.

    • Trains 687 and 689 will operate normally with 10 minutes added to their schedule between Dover and Wells. Trains will depart all stations north of Wells later than the normal schedule.

  • Weekends, Saturday, Sept. 22 through Sunday, Sept. 30

    • All trains will operate normally with 10 minutes added to schedules between Wells and Dover.

    • Southbound trains will depart Brunswick, Freeport, Portland, Orchard Beach, Saco and Wells earlier than normal.

    • Northbound trains will depart Dover, Wells, Saco, Orchard Beach, Portland, Freeport and Brunswick later than normal.

    • Trains will be scheduled to depart all stations between Boston North and Dover at normal times.


Under a proposed plan that will be voted on next week, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) will build a light-rail line thought the Atlanta area. The $2.7 billion plan, known as “More MARTA”, calls for:

  • Building a light-line rail along the Atlanta Beltline;

  • A light-rail line that runs along the Clifton Corridor to Emory University and along Campbellton Road in southwest Atlanta;

  • And extending the city’s streetcar line west to the Atlanta University Center area and east to the Beltline.

Although a significant amount of funding has been allotted for the projects, it does not cover the full cost the the light-rail lines. MARTA officials said they want to secure private funding for both the Beltline project and the Clifton Corridor. It will also seek federal funding to help pay half the construction cost for most of the plan’s projects.

“More MARTA” will be voted on by the transit agency’s Board of Directors on October 4.

Los Angeles Union Station’s Long Defunct Harvey House Restaurant is Opening Again as a brewery and cocktail lounge, with great fanfare. The Imperial Great Western Brewery has taken great care to showcase the historic location while restoring it for a new generation of rail passengers, with an outdoor terrace, and “Streamliner” cocktail bar. Check out the pictures for yourself; it’ll be worth the trip!

Florida’s Brightline service is now offering food and wine events for passengers traveling to its MiamiCentral station. The Tasting Train series is a normally scheduled train, but for a little extra money, passengers can enjoy pairings of select food and wines based on the theme of the night.

The next Tasting Train will run on Friday, October 5 with the theme of Tuscany. Although the train won’t provide the same window views, it will feature wines of famed Italian producer Antinori. The train departs West Palm Beach at 7pm, and Fort Lauderdale at 7:39pm After the train arrives in Miami at 8:14pm, passengers will spend the next 89 minutes at the station’s Select Lounge for food, wine stations and live music. The train returns north at 9:43pm, arriving in Fort Lauderdale at 10:11pm, and West Palm Beach at 10:57pm.

The Tasting Train debuted in September and might become a monthly feature. Tickets cost between $150 and $200 and are available at Eventbrite.com.


Openings Available For Rail Passengers Association State Council Representatives

The following vacancies now exist for state representatives on the Rail Passengers Association Council of Representatives: Alabama (1 opening); California (6 openings); Idaho (1 opening); Illinois (1 opening); Louisiana (1 opening); Massachusetts (1 opening); Minnesota (1 opening); North Dakota (1 opening); Ohio (2 openings); Pennsylvania (1 opening); Washington State (1 opening); Wyoming (1 opening)

If you are interested in becoming more involved in passenger rail advocacy and serving in a Rail Passengers Association leadership role, this is your opportunity to be considered for an appointment by the Board of Directors to an open state representative seat. There is no deadline to apply and submissions will be considered on a rolling basis as they are received.

Please review the position responsibilities & required qualifications and complete & submit a Candidate Information Statement if you would like to seek a position.