Happening Now

Hotline #1,110

March 29, 2019

RailNation DC starts March 31, Support Brightline on April 5th, Bipartisan support emerges for Gateway in House, Representatives take withheld funding issues up with DOT, PTC is active on Cascades Corridor, J.P. Morgan sets precedent for transit funding

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 Joe Aiello at jaiello[at]narprail.org, and we will share it with members. Are you holding a rally, a community meeting, or another kind of rail-advocacy event? We can help spread the word if you send them to us. We can put them on the website, here. Please follow Rail Passengers on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on all things passenger rail.

Rail Passengers Association members and Council of Representatives are gathering in D.C. on April 1st and 2nd to advocate for better transit, better intercity rail, a better Amtrak -- a better transportation network for all Americans.

It’s not too late to attend! Today is the last day to advance register on-line - higher rates will apply for at-the-door registrations.

But even if you can't be there, you can still lend your voice to the chorus of passengers calling for more and better trains in the U.S.

With 31.7 million Amtrak passengers carried in Fiscal 2018 and multi-year increases in rail transit ridership, Rail Passengers Association is asking Congress to continue funding rail transportation at or above the levels provided in the Fiscal Year 2019 Appropriations Bill.

Over a hundred of our members are traveling to D.C. to make just this ask -- and you can help support them!

Act Now for more and better trains in America!

The Rail Passengers Association proudly presents a Beer+Transit networking event on Monday, April 1st as part of our 2019 #RailNationDC Spring Advocacy Conference. The event will give fellow advocates, young professionals, local officials, and Association members a chance to talk about local and national transportation issues in a casual setting. We are happy to have Joe McAndrew, the Director of Transportation Policy at the Greater Washington Partnership, as our guest speaker. The event is sponsored locally by Uber. Click here for tickets.

And on also Monday Evening in Washington, noted Rail Tour Operator Carl Fowler will present an engaging optional travel program entitled ‘Switzerland, Scenic Railway Paradise’. Carl’s presentation will benefit the ‘The Jim Hamre Memorial Scholarship Fund’. Tickets for this special program are now available!

Florida Action Alert: Support Next-Gen Trains to Orlando, Tampa
Attend a meeting in Orlando on Friday, April 5th to support Brightline

In last week’s Hotline, we covered a story on Virgin Trains USA (formerly Brightline) returning to the municipal-bond market with a $1.5 billion sale to help finance their future northern expansion plans to Tampa and Orlando. We are now asking our members in Florida to attend the Florida Development Finance Corporation (FDFC) Board of Directors meeting in Orlando on Friday April 5th to support this effort.

The meeting will start with public comments, with no opening statements, followed by a Board discussion and vote. A small but vocal group of opponents from Indian River County - the last holdouts along the route - is expected to show up again and continue their efforts to stop Brightline/Virgin Trains from connecting to Orlando.

Passengers who want to see world class train service in the U.S.: please attend this meeting and show support for the Virgin/Brightline request! This is a make-or-break decision process for the Virgin/Brightline extension to Orlando and to Tampa. Americans should be applauding a private business spending its own money to expand the national rail network, not trying to kill the project. If you live in Central Florida, please show your support!

The meeting will be held at the Hyatt Regency at the Orlando International Airport (9300 Jeff Fuqua Blvd, Orlando Airport) at 3:00pm on Friday, April 5th in the combined Orly through Mirabel rooms.

Rail Passengers CEO Jim Mathews on Wednesday helped present findings of the National Advisory Committee on Travel and Tourism Infrastructure (NACTTI) to senior Dept. of Transportation leaders in Washington, wrapping up a two-year study process aimed at uncovering the most critical travel-related infrastructure and any barriers to improvement or growth.

NACTTI this week proposed a suite of reforms to regulatory processes as well as urging the U.S. to develop a comprehensive travel and tourism strategic plan to ensure dedicated funding to bring U.S. infrastructure back to acceptable standards. The NACTTI also included several important rail-related projects among the highlights of critical U.S. travel assets, including the Hudson River tunnels, the North-South Rail Link, and Amtrak’s vital -- and often unappreciated -- role in ensuring mobility in rural and tribal America.

Co-chairs Rosemarie Andolino (Chair of the Manchester Airports Group USA) and Dave Harvey (VP of Southwest Airlines) joined Mathews in presenting the Committee’s findings to Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy Derek Kan and Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs Joel Szabat. Kan was also a member of the Amtrak Board before assuming his role at DOT.

Noting that travel and tourism accounts for one out of every nine jobs in the U.S. and contributes more than $2.6 trillion to annual GDP, NACTTI members warned DOT that this impressive economic engine is at risk.

“Aging infrastructure, increased demand, growing congestion, poor or no multimodal

connectivity, and a multitude of other challenges are putting extraordinary strain” on the nation’s travel infrastructure, the Committee members told DOT on Wednesday. “This is already causing economic harm to America's travel and tourism industry, by significantly reducing mobility to and within the U.S., dampening demand for travel and cutting productivity….Without specific focus and significant action at all levels of government to maintain and modernize” America’s transportation assets, 15.6 million American jobs, $216 billion in U.S. exports, and $2.6 trillion in annual GDP “are in jeopardy.”

Created by the FAST Act, the NACTTI brings together leaders from across all modes of travel in order to provide advice and guidance to the Secretary of Transportation on travel and tourism infrastructure challenges. Former DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx initially nominated Mathews for the post in 2016, and Secretary Elaine Chao recently re-nominated Mathews for a second two-year term.

Mathews is the sole representative of rail on the NACTTI, and apart from voicing rail interests during the panel’s deliberations, Mathews served as the principal author of the Committee’s proposed final report to DOT.

NACTTI’s report is in final coordination and awaiting DOT and public comments. However, DOT leaders told NACTTI members on Wednesday that the Department wants the Committee to remain engaged and to participate in developing a National Transportation Strategic Plan.

Advocates continue to chew on Amtrak’s newly published annual legislative report and grant request for 2020, as well as the beginnings of a five-year fleet plan, both of which boldly called for significant increases in investment in long-distance equipment, new short-distance equipment for state-supported corridors, and even a right-of-way acquisition program to support new routes and frequencies.

As reported in last week’s Hotline, here were many encouraging ideas in both documents, and they deserve our support as advocates. While many folks have seized on the phrase “where appropriate” in some of these documents as evidence of bad faith, it’s important for all of us to recognize that we the voters -- acting through and on our elected representatives -- get to decide what is and is not appropriate! And so far our congressional coalition is strong and buoyant.

Specifically on long-distance matters, Amtrak indicates in the 2020 grant request that during reauthorization it intends to ask for more money to get more equipment for the long-distance trains. Moreover, Amtrak proposes to start spending -- right away -- about $450 million on refurbishing Superliners as a stopgap measure while waiting to get congressional approval for a $1.5 billion five-year Superliner replacement program to kick off in 2022. The document does not talk about train-offs or selective reductions in service.

Here is the quoted language from the transmittal:

Amtrak is requesting “Public policy that supports growth, expansion, and modernization of the national rail network, which is basically the same now as it was when Amtrak was created in 1971. While much remains the same, Amtrak state-supported ridership has grown nearly 70% in the last 15 years. We need to modernize and expand to increase ridership and serve more customers, including underserved communities and major city pairs between 400 miles or less, and increase frequencies and/or improve schedules for existing routes.”

Amtrak also wants Congress to “Authorize dedicated, sustainable federal funding for capital improvements, for both the NEC and National Network. This will help Amtrak improve its ability to plan, especially for major projects that require multiple years’ worth of funding.”

“Amend programs and funding levels to address the imminent need to renew much of Amtrak’s rolling stock. Major diesel fleets are 20 years old or older, and Amtrak’s major Amfleet I and II and Superliner I fleets are approximately 40 years old, with some equipment even older. Safety standards and passenger expectations have changed a great deal over the decades, and no amount of refreshing and rebuilding can address structural and maintenance issues with these fleets.”

Rail Passengers Track Update: Where are we and what’re we working on? This section will give you updates on what Rail Passengers HQ is up to.

Jim Mathews, Rail Passengers President and CEO, spent much of the week preparing for the upcoming Advocacy Summit (hope to see you there!), but also helped bring the initial work phase of National Advisory Committee on Travel and Tourism Infrastructure (NACTTI) to a close, finalizing recommendations and a draft report with NACTTI colleagues and presenting those results -- along with co-chairs Rosemarie Andolino (Chair of the Manchester Airports Group USA) and Dave Harvey (VP of Southwest Airlines) -- to senior DOT leadership. (See story above.)

Sean Jeans-Gail, Rail Passengers Vice President of Government Affairs, attended a series of hearings on infrastructure funding for FY2020, and finalized preparations for next week’s Day on the Hill.

Rail Passengers Director of Policy Research, Abe Zumwalt, assisted Jonsie Stone with the fundraising campaign for the Jim Hamre Memorial Scholarship Fund, and has been tying up loose ends for RailNation DC.

Carolyn Cokley, Rail Passengers Director of Customer Programs has continued working with the almost 400 Travel Reviews that have been submitted, to date, by you and other interested rail passengers. Carolyn will be sharing some initial data at the Passenger Experience Committee presentation next Wednesday.

Thank you for continuing to promote the Rail Passengers Travel Review.

Rail Passengers Northeast Field Coordinator, Joseph Aiello, spent time in DC this week helping Jim with the final NACTTI presentation that was given by the committee to Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy Derek Kan and Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs Joel Szabat. It was a fantastic experience and Joe is looking forward to further helping the Committee as they continue with their final report.

Joe will be back with the rest of the staff in DC this weekend as we kick off #RailNationDC on Sunday night.

Bruce Becker, Rail Passengers Vice-President of Operations, represented the Association on Monday at a Amtrak-led ceremony in Rochester, NY, where the city’s new Amtrak station was named in honor of the late Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. Slaughter, a longtime rail supported, was instrumental in obtaining the funding for the station project. She was awarded the Association’s Golden Spike Award in 2011. Speakers at the event included US Senator Chuck Schumer, NY Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren. In his remarks, Amtrak’s Government Affairs Senior Manager Bill Hollister thanked Bruce for his many years of support and advocacy which helped make the station possible.

Jonsie Stone, Director of Resource Development, kicked off the fundraising campaign to benefit The Jim Hamre Memorial Scholarship Fund on Monday, March 25th.

With the gracious support of Jim Hamre’s family, the Rail Passengers Association has established The Jim Hamre Memorial Scholarship Fund. The scholarship will benefit engineering graduate students interested in rail and transit. Preparing the next generation of rail transit professionals is a necessity to the viability of rail travel and the Rail Passengers Association can’t think of a better way to honor Jim’s memory than looking to the future. As we approach Jim’s birthday, which is March 30th, we ask you to help us celebrate his life by donating to the Rail Passengers Association to benefit The Jim Hamre Memorial Scholarship Fund.

During hearings for the next year’s transportation budget, Congress directly grappled with the scary prospect of having to transport 200,000 people into New York City every day without the new rail tunnels underneath the Hudson River. The impossibility of this task helped forge bipartisan support in the face of the Trump Administration’s efforts to block federal funding for the project.

“Replacement of the portal bridge is shovel ready. The only roadblock is a political one,” said Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) referencing funds that USDOT Secretary Elaine Chao has not released. Countering the White House’s contention that New York and New Jersey have not offered enough local support for the massive project, Rep. Malinowski highlighted New Jersey’s $600 Billion bond commitment as the state doing just that.

Rep. Mario Diaz Balart (R-FL) responded that “There is no light between the [democratic] chairman and I on the importance of those projects and what has to happen. And so we’ll continue to work with you.”

A bill mandating the Department of Transportation draft a “doomsday” plan should one of the Hudson tunnels fail was introduced this week. Rep. Peter King (R-NJ) co-sponsored the measure, saying that “the time is really over to have people in Washington – and basically in the [presidential] administration—just sort of standing back and being critical or ignoring the reality.”

After having been flooded by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the tunnels require daily repairs, patching concrete and shoring up power lines as the salt water continues to eat away at the tunnel casings. Amtrak estimates at least a partial outage of the tunnel in the next decade. Meanwhile the tunnels operate at capacity.

The DOT’s Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program is normally a key funding tool for just these kinds of rail transit projects across the country. However, many states are finding it to get funding from Chao’s DOT, effectively stalling projects from coast to coast. In a hearing this week, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) brought up concerns about important projects for BART and the LA Metro relying on funding from CIG grants that hasn’t been forthcoming.

The department’s recommended funding levels for the CIG program are “woefully inadequate” according to Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), who was further bewildered by recent low ratings by the DOT for key projects relating to the Gateway project.

“We feel like we have been targeted by this administration and the president for specific cuts in infrastructure funding” said Murphy.

Yeah, Your Commute is Bad - But What's it Worth to You?

By Sean Jeans Gail

Chances are good that, if you commute by car, your commute has gotten significantly worse over the past decade. But how bad, exactly? And what would you be willing to trade to make it less painful?

Brightline, South Florida’s new modern intercity train service, asked just that question - and the answers may surprise you:

Five hundred commuters who took part in a recent Brightline survey about traffic congestion were quizzed about trading some of their favorite things — alcohol, watching Netflix and, um, sex — to avoid sitting in mind-numbing traffic.

The survey reported that 48 percent of passengers would ditch alcohol, 29 percent would abandon Netflix and 22 percent would go celibate “if it meant never having to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic again.”

Brightline, the express passenger train service that began operating in South Florida early last year, also found that 7 in 10 commuters said they’d consider packing up and moving to make their daily commute easier.

To see more stats from the survey, continue here.

Passenger Contact
It's Always Good Riding The Rails

By Carolyn Cokley, Director, Customer Programs

It is always good to get out and ride the rails. And I could not be happier to work a position that allows me to get out of the office, every now and then and take a trip.

On Saturday, February 23, I boarded Train #19 in Washington, DC headed to New Orleans. Riding the Crescent was new for me. I have always heard about what a great ride it was and was really looking forward to the trip. I was also looking forward to eating in the dining car and meeting a couple of new people. I must have one of those faces because it never fails that I am often asked a question or two, “Do you know why we are running late?” “Is this your first Amtrak trip?” So I find myself drawing from both my previous Amtrak life experiences as well as my current RailPax life to engage other passengers in discussion on the need to maintain the Amtrak National Network and how they can lend their support.

Click here to continue reading about Carolyn’s trip.

The Rail Passengers Spring Advocacy Summit in Washington, DC, Sunday, March 31st through Wednesday, April 3rd, is for ALL Rail Passengers...including YOU! There is still time to register! This year’s theme is: ‘Blueprint 2020: Be The Architect’

Rail Passengers gatherings aren’t just for Association Council and Board Members...they’re for anybody who wants our country to invest in More Trains, Better Trains and a Commitment to Infrastructure. Whether you’ve been a member for decades or you’re brand-new to Rail Passengers...or even if you aren’t a member at all...you should come to Washington to make sure YOUR congressional representatives hear directly from YOU about rail and transportation!

The event agenda includes:

  • Sunday, March 31 - Afternoon Late Board Meeting open to all attendees
  • Monday, April 1 - Advocacy Summit Speakers, Presentations & Day on The Hill Prep
    • Confirmed sessions & speakers include:
      • Opening Addresses by Amtrak’s Chris Zappi - Director Host Railroads and Roger Harris - Vice-President Long Distance
      • ‘Investments, Not Subsidies: How American Long Distance Trains Make Money’
      • No Schedules: Regional Rail and the Future of American Passenger Trains’
      • ‘The View from the Hill: Infrastructure and the 116th Congress’
      • ‘How to Sell Trains to Your Congressman’
      • ‘What Can Passengers Do?: Advocacy Strategies That Really Work’
    • Monday’s lunch Keynote Address will be given by Kenneth Hylander, Amtrak’s Executive Vice President & Chief Safety Officer
  • On Monday Evening noted Rail Tour Operator Carl Fowler will present an engaging optional travel program entitled ‘Switzerland, Scenic Railway Paradise’. Carl’s presentation will benefit the ‘Jim Hamre Memorial Scholarship Fund’. Tickets for this special program are now available!
  • Tuesday, April 2 - Day on The Hill Visiting Congressional Offices & The Rail Passengers Annual Congressional Reception (To Be Held This Year In Room 106 Of The Dirksen Senate Office Building).
  • Wednesday, April 3 - Rail Passengers Council Annual Business Meeting & Elections (Concluding By Noon)

Monday and Wednesday events will be held at the Westin City Center at Thomas Circle (3 1/2 blocks from the Metro). Group rate rooms at the Westin are SOLD-OUT. Regular public rate rooms are currently available online at the nearby Washington Plaza Hotel. However, there Is NO Group Rate or other special arrangement at the Washington Plaza!

Advance Event Registration is available through TODAY, March 29 – Higher rates will apply at the door!

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

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

On Monday, the Washington State Department of Transportation announced that Positive Train Control was fully active for the Amtrak Cascades corridor.

The announcement highlighted the Point Defiance Bypass, the site of Cascades Train 501’s derailment in December of 2017, which would have been prevented had PTC been installed.

Trains will not return to the Point Defiance Bypass until after the release of the final report from the National Transportation Safety Board, expected in mid-May.

The opening of the bypass in 2017 was to bring with it two additional Amtrak Cascades train frequencies – and for this, WSDOT has no official timeline. The 501 Derailment, plus another minor mishap affecting another Cascades trainset north of the Canadian border on its way to Vancouver BC has left the region with a capital deficiency. Currently, Amtrak Cascades service runs with borrowed Amtrak Superliner equipment routinely just to meet the current schedule.

Fighting with NIMBYs who hope to block the Texas high-speed rail project by challenging whether the the Surface Transportation Board (STB) has jurisdiction, Texas Central now wants the STB in Washington, D.C., to hold an open hearing for oral arguments in the case.

“The question presented in this matter -- namely, how the Board will interpret its jurisdiction over the emerging high-speed passenger rail sector -- will establish a significant precedent moving forward, as more high-speed passenger rail projects are developed in the United States,” Texas Central said in a brief filed with the STB earlier this month.

Texas Central and its allies, which include this Association, hope an oral argument phase will help cut through the blizzard of briefs and counter-briefs by permitting STB members to examine the arguments and claims in back-and-forth questioning.

Your Association filed a brief in support last summer, in which we highlight the truly national effect of a proposed through-ticketing agreement inked by Texas Central and Amtrak. STB telegraphed that if Texas Central made such an agreement, it could reconsider a previous decision to decline jurisdiction.

The through-ticketing arrangement using the direct link between Houston and Dallas would grant TCR passengers access to some 13,958 Amtrak route miles and create the opportunity for any one of 12,256 journeys combining TCR and Amtrak travel on a single ticket.

Passengers originating in Houston will be able to use TCR to connect to the Eagle or the Heartland Flyer via the Eagle. Dallas passengers could use it to connect to the Sunset or to the City or Crescent via the Sunset. That's 4,753 city-pair combinations for Houston passengers and 7,503 for Dallas passengers.

For many destinations it would also eliminate the need to go all the way to Chicago from points South or West just to return to a southern or western destination.

This kind of connectivity is crucial for illustrating the degree to which the project would represent a genuine extension of the interstate rail system, over which the STB has jurisdiction.

Thanks to the the reconstruction project of their headquarters at 270 Park Ave in Midtown Manhattan, JPMorgan Chase & Co have been asked to step up to fund transit in NYC. The development replaces a 52-story building with 70-floors and approximately 12,000 additional employees and falls under New York City’s 2017 rezoning of Midtown East. Parameters of the zoning changes allow for taller buildings in exchange for financial support for public improvement efforts. To date, $40 million has been contributed by JPMorgan to fund public-space upgrade but transit upgrades weren’t stipulated by New York City at the time because the project is outside of the zone which required transit support. Through negotiations with New York City, the financial giant decided to indeed invest in the transportation needs of their Midtown East community.

JPMorgan Chase & Co has agreed to fund transportation infrastructure enhancements at New York City’s Grand Central Station, including upgrades to the train shed, which is situated below the JPMorgan construction site. A new 48th Street entrance for the iconic station is also part of the rehabilitative efforts. Additionally, if construction impacts Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s budget and schedule, JPMorgan has agreed to cover the additional costs.

"Throughout this process, JPMorgan has made it a priority to engage and collaborate to find ways to deliver on our desire to create a world-class building that meets the needs of our company, the neighborhood and the city,” said Andrew Gray, a JPMorgan spokesman.

Passenger Rail Service Notices
Current and upcoming service notifications that could affect upcoming train travel include:

Pacific Surfliner Service Schedule Changes
Effective April 8, 2019

Please be advised that adjustments have been made to Pacific Surfliner schedules, effective Apr. 8. See outlined schedule below.

Train 572 will depart Los Angeles 14 minutes earlier than scheduled at 10:40 am. Train 573 will depart San Diego 30 minutes later than scheduled at 11:15 am.

Train 572

Monday - Friday

Los Angeles 10:40 am

Fullerton 11:11 am

Anaheim 11:19 am

Santa Ana 11:28 am

Irvine 11:41 am

San Juan Capistrano 12:01 pm

San Clemente Pier - Oceanside 12:38 pm

Solana Beach 12:54 pm

San Diego (Old Town) 1:26 pm

San Diego 1:38 pm

Train 573

Monday - Friday

San Diego 11:15 am

San Diego (Old Town) 11:22 am

Solana Beach 11:52 am

Oceanside 12:16 pm

San Clemente Pier - San Juan Capistrano 12:53 pm

Irvine 1:07 pm

Santa Ana 1:18 pm

Anaheim 1:28 pm

Fullerton 1:38 pm

Los Angeles 2:15 pm

Pacific Surfliner Weekend Service Changes Friday, Saturday and Sunday April 12 through 14, 2019

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

Friday, April 12

  • Train 590 will be cancelled. Passengers can make reservations aboard other Amtrak trains.
  • Bus service will be provided from Los Angeles to San Diego, making stops at Oceanside, Solana Beach, Old Town San Diego and San Diego Downtown. No alternate transportation will be provided to Fullerton, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Irvine and San Juan Capistrano.

Saturday and Sunday, April 13 and 14

  • Trains 562, 583, 1565, 1566, 1569, 1572, 1573 and 1590 will be cancelled. Passengers can make reservations aboard other Amtrak trains.
  • Southbound Train 782 will terminate at Los Angeles. No alternate transportation will be provided between Los Angeles and San Diego. Passengers can make reservations aboard other Pacific Surfliner trains.
  • Southbound Train 796 will terminate at Los Angeles and bus service will be provided for all missed stops.
  • Southbound Trains 580, 768, 774, 792, 1564 and 1584 will operate normally to Irvine, where bus service will be provided from Irvine to San Diego. Express buses will run from Irvine to San Juan Capistrano, Oceanside, Solana Beach, Old Town San Diego and downtown San Diego only.
  • Northbound Trains 591, 595, 763, 777, 785, 1579, 1761 and 1767 will originate in Irvine. Bus service will be provided from San Diego to Irvine to connect with the trains listed above, with the exception of Train 1761. Buses will depart downtown San Diego, Solana Beach, Oceanside and San Juan Capistrano earlier than the train schedule to allow time to connect with trains in Irvine.
    • Buses will not pick up at Old Town San Diego. Passengers can take the trolley to downtown San Diego to board buses to Irvine.
    • Bus service will not be provided to connect with Train 1761.
    • Metrolink will honor Amtrak tickets between Irvine and Los Angeles.

Please note: There will be no checked baggage or express service south of Santa Ana on the dates shown above. Alternate bus service will not serve San Clemente Pier.

Palmetto Train 89 and 90
Effective Mon. through Thurs. Apr. 1 through May 2, 2019

Due to track work being performed by CSX, Palmetto trains 89 and 90 will be impacted as described below.

April 1-4, 8-11, 15-18, 22-25 and 29-May 2:

  • Palmetto Trains 89 and 90 which normally operate between New York and Savannah will operate between New York and Washington, only.
  • Trains are cancelled between Washington and Savannah, with no alternate transportation provided.
  • Thruway Buses 6089, 6090, 6189 and 6190 are cancelled.

Northeast Regional Trains 66 and 67 Track Work Affects Service
Monday through Thursday, March. 25 - April. 11

Due to track work being performed by CSX, Northeast Regional Trains 66 and 67 will be impacted as outlined below.

March. 25-28, April. 1-4 and 8-11

  • Train 66, which normally operates between Newport News and Boston, will originate in Richmond Staples Mill with no alternate transportation between Newport News and Richmond Staples Mill.
  • Train 67, which normally operates between Boston and Newport News, will terminate at Richmond Staples Mill with no alternate transportation between Richmond Staples Mill and Newport News.

Please note Thruway Buses 6066 and 6067 are cancelled during these dates.

Weekend Track Work Affects Downeaster Service at Woburn
Saturdays and Sundays March 23 through June 23, 2019

Attention Amtrak Customers: Due to track work being performed by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), the Downeaster trains shown below will not stop at Woburn on Saturdays and Sundays, beginning Mar. 23.

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

May 4 and 5: All Downeaster trains will be represented by bus service between Haverhill and Boston North. Buses will operate with normal train numbers and schedules and will not stop at Woburn.

Elizabethtown Station Temporarily Closed
Effective Immediately

The Elizabethtown station is temporarily closed until further notice. Trains will continue to stop at the station and passengers will have access to platforms.

Passengers will not have access to the inside of the station or the elevator during this time. Passengers requiring an elevator, ticketing or a staffed station may board at the Harrisburg station, approximately 30 minutes northwest or Lancaster station, approximately 30 minutes southeast of Elizabethtown.

Van Nuys Station Temporarily Closed
April 13, 2019

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner and Coast Starlight trains will not stop at Van Nuys station on Saturday, April 13 due to scheduled track work preventing boarding and leaving trains at this stop.

Customers who use Van Nuys station for travel may use these nearby stations for their traveling needs:

  • Los Angeles: A staffed station three stops south of Van Nuys
  • Hollywood Burbank Airport: Unstaffed station one stop south of Van Nuys
  • Chatsworth: Unstaffed station one stop north of Van Nuys

Minimal delays are expected during this time.

Keystone Service and Pennsylvanian Trains 42 and 43
Reservations Required During the Easter Holiday Period Thursday through Tuesday, April 18 through 23, 2019

To better accommodate the increased number of passengers traveling during the Easter holiday period, reservations will be required on all Pennsylvanian and Keystone Service trains from Thursday, April 18 through Tuesday, April 23.

Note: Monthly and ten-ride tickets will be accepted on these dates.

Easter Holiday Travel Reminders:

  • To avoid ticket counter lines, passengers are encouraged to utilize eTicketing.
  • Allow ample time to arrive at the station and board the train.
  • Make sure your baggage is tagged with your name and address.

Station Elevator Out of Service Marshall, TX Station
Effective immediately, the elevator located inside the Marshall, TX Station is out of service until further notice.

Elevator Options

  • Passengers requiring an elevator may board at the Longview, TX Station, approximately thirty minutes west of Marshall.

Allow Extra Time–Don’t Miss Your Train

  • Customers using the stairs may need to allow extra time to get to the boarding platform.

City of New Orleans Trains 58 and 59 Busing Between Jackson and New Orleans

Please be advised that CN railway closed the route used by Amtrak City of New Orleans due to flooding until further notice. Amtrak-chartered buses are being provided between Jackson and New Orleans as substitute transportation for Trains 58 and 59.

Normal train service will resume as soon as possible. Passengers will be provided bus service in both directions between Jackson, Hazlehurst, Brookhaven, McComb, Hammond and New Orleans. Passengers traveling north from New Orleans are asked to arrive at Union Passenger Terminal by 12:15 to board the buses.

Your Feedback is Important to Improving Amtrak

The Rail Passenger Travel Review is now up and live on our website. For those who have taken recent Amtrak trips and want to provide their feedback, it can be accessed directly at RailPassengers.org/TravelReview.

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]

Planning a summer vacation including trains (and who wouldn’t be?), then you need a copy of Lonely Planet’s ‘Amazing Train Journeys’ guidebook! And with every purchase Lonely Planet will donate 15% of the proceeds to your Association, to help us keep working for More Trains, Better Trains and a commitment to better infrastructure.

Through this beautiful book, you’ll experience 60 of the world’s greatest and most unforgettable train journeys, from classic long-distance trips like Western Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer and Darwin to Adelaide’s The Ghan, to little-known gems on regular commuting lines. It’s the culmination of asking more than 200 travel writers for their absolute favorites.

Some are epic international adventures, others are short suburban routes along stunning coastline. There are incredible feats of engineering, trains that snake their way through mountain peaks, and even those which have achieved Unesco World Heritage status.

More than just a collection, each profile will give you the practical information you need to experience one or more of these epic journeys yourself -- including ticket options, timetables and stops, plus inspiring photos and illustrated maps. It’s all here!

Amazing Train Journeys is available as a book, e-Book or in both formats at a low combination price. And your purchase helps supports your Association’s mission too! Remember, Lonely Planet is contributing 15% of all Amazing Train Journeys sales to Rail Passengers! You can order copies by clicking here!


Rail Passengers’ partnership with MemberDeals will give members access to exclusive savings on movie tickets, theme parks, hotels, rental cars, tours, Broadway and Vegas shows and more through the members only area of the Rail Passengers website. Be sure to check back often as new products and discounts are constantly being added!

Whether you are from Bakersfield, Bismarck or Boston, Rail Passengers and MemberDeals have you covered! Our MemberDeals partnership covers venues, services and attractions throughout the country...take a look to see where there might be savings on fun outings near you!

Remember, if you want to use these great internet-only discounts, you must be a member in good standing AND be logged in to the Rail Passengers website. If you need help accessing these discounts email us at [email protected], or call the office at 202-408-8362.

Seamless Transitions
How Can Technology Help Us Get Around?

by Joe Aiello | Northeast Field Coordinator

I spent a lot of time with Rail Passengers CEO & President (and my boss) Jim Mathews this week working on a final presentation for the National Advisory Committee on Travel and Tourism Infrastructure (NACTTI) at USDOT - I have been staffing Jim on this committee for nearly the last year. The idea of new and “seamless” technologies came up in conversation quite often, especially from those involved with other modes of transportation (airlines, car rental, cruise lines, etc).

An article in today’s Boston Globe on this very subject really got me thinking…. while various companies are looking for ways where security and personal technology can help get people seamlessly between (for example) hotels/resorts and cruise ships, how could us in the world of passenger rail try to harness these same ideas?

Continue reading here to see what was on Joe’s mind

Openings Available For Rail Passengers State Council Representatives

The following vacancies now exist for state representatives on the Rail Passengers 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); Texas (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 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.

FYI - the Friday, April 5th Hotline will be an abbreviated edition!

Full coverage will resume the following Friday.