Happening Now

Hotline #1,170

June 5, 2020

Rail news for the week ending June 5th

D.C. Office Closed, Rail Passengers Staff Working Remotely.

Click here for more information on how this affects your membership.


The June Passengers Voice Newsletter is now available.

Click here to read the digital version.

House Unveils Transformation Rail Legislation, Includes Momentous Victories for Passenger Advocates

Earlier this week, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure released the text of the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act, which includes a rail title that invests $60 billion over five years. The larger bill also provides $66 billion in capital authority for mass transit over the same period. Based on our initial review, the INVEST in America Act takes a transformational approach to rail investment, offering a number of innovative solutions to the problems highlighted by Rail Passengers and our members.

“The Rail Passengers Association has been working for more and better train service for over 50 years. Over that entire period, we’ve fought the notion that passenger rail is reserved for big cities on the coast, arguing that trains are an essential service for connecting the nation, valuable because they connect Wall Street to Main Street. The TRAIN Act definitively answers the question of whether all Americans deserve to have access to a modern transportation network. The answer it gives is a resounding ‘YES,’” said Jim Mathews, President and CEO of the Rail Passengers Association. “The TRAIN Act allows us to fully focus on improving and expanding train service and provides a meaningful blueprint to finally build a 21st century rail system in the U.S. The 40 million Americans who ride trains every year owe Chairman DeFazio, Subcommittee Chair Lipinski, and the entire Committee a debt of gratitude for their work on developing this important legislative proposal.”

Titled the Transforming Rail by Accelerating Investment Nationwide (TRAIN) Act, the rail title provides $16.2 billion for the National Network and $13.1 billion for the Northeast Corridor in five years. The TRAIN Act also creates a new dedicated passenger rail grant program funded at $19 billion and makes several critical reforms to Amtrak that Rail Passengers has been fighting for.

“[This bill makes] transformational investments in Amtrak in order to create a robust, reliable rail system and to address long-neglected maintenance needs in the Northeast Corridor and throughout the country while also enhancing rail worker and passenger safety and helping communities address grade crossing issues,” wrote the House T&I Committee in its public release of the bill.

Millions ($)






Total - By Program

Amtrak - Northeast Corridor







Amtrak - National Network







PRIME Grants







CRISI Grants







RRIF Financing - CRC







Restoration and Enhancement Grants







Grade Crossing Separation Grants







Total - By Year







Over the next few weeks, we’ll dig deeper into this 864-page bill. However, many of the ideas our Association has advanced found their way into the INVEST In America Act and we’ve provided a full examination of these important policy victories, which include key Amtrak reforms to the railroads mission and goals, for-profit status, food and beverage service, board, and much more. Read the full piece here.

Transportation Committee Advances, House Republicans Voice Concerns

The Transportation Committee is already laying out plans to advance the bill, with a mark-up scheduled for June 17. If the bill is endorsed by the committee, transportation leaders would like to have the full House consider the bill in early July.

“We are in multiple crises at the moment and I acknowledge that,” Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) told reporters. “But we have to move forward with our very important reauthorization of surface transportation.”

House Republicans are indicating that they won’t support the bill and were given little opportunity to shape the draft proposal.

“We stood at the ready to work all year, since releasing our six infrastructure principles in January: ensuring state flexibility, focusing on core programs, streamlining the review process, addressing rural infrastructure needs, incorporating new technologies, and fixing the Highway Trust Fund for the long-term,” said Transportation Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO). “However, we were not given the opportunity to address any of our priorities in this legislation. For example, today’s partisan bill lacks critical flexibility for the states, its outsized funding increases for urban areas will leave rural America even further behind, and numerous new green mandates and extreme progressive goals are woven throughout the fabric of new and existing core programs.”

Chairman DeFazio told reporters that while Rep. Graves was open to incorporating climate resiliency to infrastructure investment, he was reluctant to target lower carbon emissions, an issue that “is absolutely key for my side of the aisle.” He did express cautious optimism that he would be able to bring Republicans to the table during the two weeks he’s set aside for negotiation.

“This should be much less contentious, with a lot more time for discussion in the interim period,” DeFazio concluded.

Watch Our Discussion on High-Speed Rail With Rep. Moulton

Rail Passengers held a national policy briefing webinar last month that was attended by hundreds of your fellow members and likeminded advocates. In that briefing we covered topics such as the first four phases of coronavirus legislation, what it will take to get passengers safely traveling again, and a roundtable discussion between Rail Passengers President & CEO Jim Mathews and Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachusetts that centered around the Representative's ambitious plan for high-speed rail in the United States.

If you weren’t able to attend, you can watch Jim’s discussion with the Congressman in the embedded video below.

At the end of that webinar, we teased that our next virtual event would be coming up in June and focus on the work being done for passenger rail along the Front Range.

We are happy to announce that this briefing will take place on Wednesday, June 24th at 3pm eastern/1pm mountain. We will give an overview of the key victories in the newly released TRAIN Act, discuss current advocacy plans in the region, as well as hear a presentation from Southwest Chief & Front Range Passenger Rail Commission Project Director Randy Grauberger.


You can register for the event here

Registration will run until June 22nd.

First-Pass Environmental Impact Statement for Washington Union Station Now Available

The Federal Railroad Administration on Thursday released a long-awaited draft environmental impact statement assessing an ambitious plan from the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation and Amtrak to expand and modernize Amtrak’s Washington Union Station complex just steps from the U.S. Capitol.

The Redevelopment Corporation has a long term lease with FRA to rehabilitate, redevelop, manage and operate the Station, while Amtrak controls the tracks and the platforms.

The 53-acre project would combine expansion and modernization with preserving the historic and recently restored main train hall. Plans include reconstructing and realigning the tracks and platforms; developing a train hall and new concourse facilities; enhancing accessibility to the station, both in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and to make more street entrances and transit entrances available; improving multimodal transportation services and connectivity; and improving and expanding infrastructure and other supporting facilities.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to publish a Notice of Availability (NOA) of the draft in the Federal Register on June 12, and the public will have until July 27 to offer comments on the plan.

Despite Sticker-Shock, Miami-Dade Commissioners Direct Mayor to Press On in Commuter Talks With Brightline

Despite criticism from Miami-Dade’s Mayor and the Tri-Rail commuter operation over potential costs, Miami-Dade County Commissioners directed Miami-Dade to try to work out a deal with Brightline operator Virgin Trains USA to run coastal commuter service between Miami and Aventura.

"Maybe this isn't going to work at the end. They have to present a case to us," Commissioner Rebeca Sosa said, according to the Miami Herald newspaper. "Go. Work. Sit down. Bring us a plan."

Apparently side-stepping the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, Miami-Dade and Virgin are talking about an arrangement that would be an alternative to long-stalled plans that would have seen Tri-Rail operate that service on what is now Brightline’s right of way. If it went through, Miami-Dade would get new rail service with stops in Wynwood, the Design District, El Portal, North Miami and the Biscayne Bay campus of Florida International University before reaching Aventura.

The Herald reported that even local supporters of Brightline called Virgin’s proposed subsidies too expensive to consider. Virgin outlined a plan to spend $75 million building platforms for the service if the county spends $350 million to build the stations. Virgin also wants the county to pay $2 million a year to lease trainsets, $29 million a year to lease the right-of-way, and anywhere from $30 million to $50 million to cover annual operating costs.

Federal Transit Administration Awards $400 Million for Rail Transit

The Federal Transit Administration announced $891 million in funding this week for 12 transit projects across the U.S. this week. The awards including $400 million for transit rail projects in Los Angeles, CA; Phoenix, AZ; Lake County, IN; and Portland, OR.

“Supporting rail and bus rapid transit projects across the nation will help communities improve transit service as they address the impacts of COVID-19 and recover from this public health emergency,” said FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams.

We’ve highlighted the transit rail projects below, which include critical extensions of the heavy rail network in L.A. and a light-rail corridor in Phoenix.

Transit Rail Projects


This project is a 2.6-mile extension of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (LACMTA) heavy rail system to the Westwood/Veterans Hospital area, and includes two stations. FTA has allocated $200 million in FY 2018 and FY 2019 funds to this project and awarded a Full Funding Grant Agreement in March 2020. FTA is allocating an additional $100 million in FY 2020 funds.


This project is a 5.5-mile extension of Valley Metro’s light rail system from downtown Phoenix to the South Mountain Village Core, and includes nine stations. FTA has allocated $100 million in FY 2019 funds and is allocating $100 million in FY 2020 funds to the project.


This project is a 7.8-mile southern extension of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District’s (NICTD) existing South Shore Line commuter rail service between Dyer and Hammond in Indiana, and includes four new stations. FTA is allocating $100 million in FY 2020 funds to the project.


This project is a 7.8-mile extension of the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon’s (TriMet) MAX Red Line from Beaverton Transit Center to Downtown Hillsboro. The project also will increase the reliability of the MAX light rail system between Portland International Airport and Beaverton Transit Center. FTA is allocating $99.99 million in FY 2019 CIG funds to the project, to complete the CIG funding request.

Milwaukee-Chicago Amtrak Hiawatha Service Returns June 1

Amtrak and partner state transportation departments announced they are restoring a Hiawatha Service round-trip between Milwaukee and Chicago.

In a sign that demand for intercity travel is returning, Amtrak’s will return Hiawatha Trains 332 & 339 to service. This, combined with the Empire Builder Trains 7/27 & 8/28 will combine to offer morning and afternoon departures daily at all Hiawatha stops.

Reservations will be required, and additional PPE and safety initiatives are in effect to protect customers and employees. You can read the full update here.

Power Outages Temporarily Close Amtrak’s Philadelphia Call Center

Due to weather-related power outages on the East Coast, the Amtrak Mid-Atlantic Reservation Sales Call Center is temporarily closed. For reservations, train status and changes to any reservations, please use Amtrak.com or the mobile app.

Amtrak will issue an update when the issue has been resolved.

Re-Opening Public Transportation is a Delicate Balance

By Jim Mathews, President & CEO

While everyone wants to resume travel of all kinds as COVID-19-related restrictions begin to ease, transportation providers have been wrestling with how to do it safely -- and how to prove to the traveling public that they’ve done a good enough job that they should feel comfortable getting back on the rails.

Even those closest to the action aren’t sure. New York City Mayor Bill di Blasio complained in a recent Bloomberg news article that “We’re still not getting the answers we need from the MTA,” referring to the state Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which controls subway and bus operator New York Transit. “We’ve got to make sure there’s maximum service levels; we’ve got to make sure there’s social distancing and limits on how many people can be in each subway car and in each bus.”

In that same article, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo offered assurances that trains are getting extra cleaning in ways they never have before. This is much like Amtrak, which took steps ahead of much of the industry to ensure deep cleaning of rail cars, extra sanitation on surfaces, and extensive use of personal protective equipment, or PPE, by employees.

The newest scientific and medical assessments, however, suggest that focusing on surfaces -- cleaning seats, hand grips, and so forth -- overlooks the most important feature in ensuring passenger and crew safety in the age of coronavirus: cleaning the air.

I was honored this week to help pull together an informal briefing on this issue under the auspices of the Federal Railroad Administration. The objective was to open a channel of communication between industry and regulators trying to navigate compliance and safety and medical and public-health professionals who now believe that cleaning the air that passengers and crews share is the key to keeping the transportation network safe enough not only to re-open but at a level of safety that gives the traveling public the confidence to return.

An interdisciplinary group of medical and public-health engineering professionals from Texas A&M University, Auburn University, Purdue University and the U.S. Air Force’s Air University explained the clean-air strategy to some 60 attendees from the Federal Railroad Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, the Dept. of Transportation, Amtrak, the American Public Transportation Association and more than a dozen commuter railroads from around the country.

The interdisciplinary group strongly supports traditional steps such as social distancing, contact-tracing, aggressive testing, isolation, surface disinfection and expanded use of PPE. But they also told the regulators and operators that by themselves this is not enough, especially given that the latest science suggests that COVID-19 transmission is primarily airborne rather than through surface contamination.

The group’s recommendations include increasing air turnover with fresh outdoor air, increasing air turnover with fresh air from existing ventilation systems, installing physical barriers between people where they share air, providing directional air flow as a virtual barrier between passengers and others, mitigating air flow hazards in public indoor spaces like bathrooms and elevators, stepping up filtering of shared indoor air with virus/bacteria/mold-killing technologies using ultraviolet light, ceramic filtration, or both.

Another novel recommendation was to install pathogen-scavenging technology that provides a continuous level of protection using ionized compounds (vaporized low-level Hydrogen Peroxide, Hypochlorous Acid, etc.), repurposed to target aerosolized or vaporized COVID-19, as well as other pathogens that may be encountered in the future.

Key to all of this, we believe, is to adopt a “wartime” footing and approach to deploying the technology. Waiting for the ideal solution or a magic bullet is fruitless and dangerous. Deploying a multi-layered defense with technologies that are, perhaps, 80% effective in combination can drive total effectiveness beyond 99%.

Rail Passengers is working hard with other groups to increase the sense of urgency around deploying these technologies, using best-available data. There are publications and other documents being developed, and there’s more cooperative work ahead. I hope to be able to share more of this with all of you in the next few weeks.

Demonstrations Have Impact On Mass Transit

As protests continue across the country, a number of major cities have needed to either detour transit routes or shut down parts of their system completely in order to avoid potential safety issues. Minneapolis, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and others all made the decision to close down bus and train routes due to the influx of people who were attending these demonstrations. In nearly every case, the agencies had cited the need to protect their employees and a concern for the safety of the general public.

These closures have not been without controversy as a number of transportation advocates have called out the agencies for making the situation worse by not giving people a way to leave areas where protests are happening. TransitMatters, an advocacy group based in Boston, released a statement saying that the “power to shut down or block access to transit has been used as a weapon” and that with curfews in place “the [MBTA] needs to operate to get people home”. Similar backlash was seen in Chicago after a number of residents were stranded in the city due to closures.

Crash On Montana’s Hi-Line

A collision between a westbound Empire Builder and a John Deere tractor turned deadly last week as the driver of the tractor was killed at an ungated crossing near Bainville, Montana -- about 5 miles from the Montana/North Dakota border. Ten of the train’s cars derailed due to the crash and Roosevelt County Sheriff Jason Fredericks stated that, while most were minor, all 64 passengers on-board had some type of injury. Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said that three employees and one passenger were treated at a local hospital and were released on Friday night.

Investigators with Amtrak and Burlington Northern Santa Fe were en route to the site Friday. The Montana Highway Patrol is also investigating the crash.

VRE Announces Updated On-Board Distancing Measures

Virginia Railway Express has updated social distancing protocol to include decals onboard indicating where passengers should sit. Marking window seats in every other row, about one third of total seats will be occupied. As the region begins to reopen, additional information signs and safety guides will be placed in stations accordingly. Hand Sanitizer stations will also be available to riders. Masks are still required on board and passengers are being asked to use the app to purchase tickets if possible. Trains may be lengthened as demand for service returns while the reduced schedule is still in effect.

Amtrak IG Begins Look At Amtrak’s CARES Act Funding

Amtrak’s Office of Inspector General has started an “engagement” to assess how well Amtrak is complying with the terms and conditions Congress set for using coronavirus-rescue funds appropriated in the CARES Act.

Amtrak already briefed the IG’s office on April 15th about its plans, and the IG says it will consider that meeting to be the beginning of the engagement.

Rail Passengers will keep an eye on developments related to this engagement to ensure that Congress’ intent is not misstated or misunderstood.

Member & Donor Notices

  • We are unable to provide permanent membership cards or membership/benefits information while the Rail Passengers staff is working remotely. Luckily, you can find information about your Rail Passengers membership (like your member number and membership level), update your personal information, and print a temporary membership card by creating an account at www.railpassengers.org and selecting “My Account” on the homepage. Additional member benefits information can be found on our website.

  • Make sure you’ve marked the amount of your donation/membership, the card’s expiration date and your card’s CVV number on your renewal form. Without that information your payment/donation cannot be processed. The information on the form helps us allocate your contribution.

  • Save us postage! If you respond to one of our membership renewal or donation letters, you can save us money on postage if you apply your own stamp to the reply envelope. Every little bit helps!

  • Mailed copies of ‘thank you’ letters are a challenge while the Rail Passengers staff is working remotely. We are currently working with our Neon membership database to use email distribution as an alternative; let us know at [email protected] if you would like us to add your email address to your account. Even though the thank you letters are delayed, please know that your membership and donations are immensely appreciated. Thank You!

  • In addition to including funding for passenger trains and transit agencies, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act also included new tax incentives for charitable giving. We’ve provided a quick overview here and encourage each of you to seek advice from a financial planner.


Do you like to shop on Amazon? Shopping through AmazonSmile is an easy way to show your support for the Rail Passengers Association. 0.5% of your eligible purchases will be donated to Rail Passengers. Happy Shopping!


Did you know many companies offer a matching gift program? This is an easy way to increase the impact of your Rail Passengers Association donation/membership dues. Please check with your HR professional to see what options are available to you. Matching gift benefits may even apply to retired employees. If you have any questions, please send Jonsie Stone an email at [email protected]

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

Another week of wins and challenges discussed on social media this week. The huge news surrounding the Transforming Rail by Accelerating Investment Nationwide (TRAIN) Act, stations reopening, changes to onboard protocol for commuter services, and FRA grant funds released were all hot topics of conversation amongst our members. Chime in and make your voice heard in support of the advancement of passenger rail. Follow along and join the conversation via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and our blog posts on RailPassengers.org

Top Comment of the Week:

“We have had an excellent demonstration that we cannot rely on the airlines during a national crisis. We need a complete network of trains, fast and slow, long distance and intrastate.” - Gerald Davidson


If you are working with a local organization and have news you would like to share, please reach out and let us know by emailing Madi Butler ([email protected]) with links to your press release, blog, or article.

Are you holding a community meeting, networking opportunity or another kind of rail-advocacy event? We can help spread the word if you send them to us. Email Joseph Aiello ([email protected]) We will include those updates in our coverage and put them on the website here.

Rail Passengers Track Update

Where are we and what are we working on? This section will update you on what Rail Passengers HQ is up to...even when we’re all working online or from home!

  • Jim Mathews, President & CEO, worked alongside Policy VP Sean Jeans Gail to help give the House’s TRAIN Act provisions in the surface transportation reauthorization the strongest launch possible. On Thursday Jim hosted a meeting to bring together the Federal Railroad Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, the Dept. of Transportation, Amtrak, more than a dozen commuter railroads and our allies at the American Public Transportation Association to hear a briefing on the latest science and medical guidance to open transportation networks safely.

  • Sean Jeans Gail, Vice President of Policy, worked with House offices to coordinate the release of the INVEST in America Act, with a focus on the rail provisions in the TRAIN Act. He also coordinated with industry partners to coordinate support for the bill among interested stakeholder groups.

  • Carolyn Cokley, Director, Customer Programs, has been looking at possible July and August dates to reconnect with station volunteers in certain locations in the country

  • Joseph Aiello, Field Coordinator, continues the field team’s efforts to work with our members to advocate for protecting Amtrak’s workers and the continuation of daily service. Joe also has been busy with fellow staff as we prepare to continue the Rail Passengers webinar series as well as the initial public outreach for the TRAIN Act.

  • Madi Butler, Grassroots Organizer, continued development of the webinar series. They discussed regional projects with council members and advocates looking to participate in upcoming briefings and online events.

  • Jonsie Stone, Director, Resource Development, spent the week collaborating with members on a future outreach campaign, reaching out to prospective Foundation partners, processing membership dues and donations, and addressing Association administrative activities.

  • Kim Williams, Membership Manager, met with the Membership Subcommittee, responded to member inquiries, processed payments, and assisted with our Board and Council elections.

May 27th marked the beginning of a series of online events for anyone who wants to keep informed, stay involved, and upgrade their personal organizing and advocacy skills. The idea is to give you the knowledge, the background, and the practical tips you’ll need to help us carry on this work from wherever you are. We’ve already started developing a series of programs to cover the following:

  • Corridor Spotlights: Our field team will coordinate with our Council Members and local groups to provide regional updates on corridor development initiatives, speakers from state rail groups to help provide vital local context, and opportunities to get personally involved at the local level. Our next briefing on June 24th will examine the work being done on the Front Range Corridor.

  • Online Advocacy 101: Focusing on communications and messaging, our team will provide a walkthrough of best practices for engaging an audience using the new digital tools and social media, gaining the attention of policy makers through online channels, free online platforms for hosting regional meetings and conferences, and more.

  • Transportation Stakes in the 2020 Elections: The policy staff will walk you through potential outcomes in the 2020 general elections and their projected impact on transportation policy at the federal level, key national- and state-level races to watch, and any state and local transit initiatives on the ballot [Rail Passengers is a 501(c)(3) and is prohibited by law from endorsing any political candidates].

Our team wants to hear from you about any additional topics you’d like us to cover:

  • Is there a specific corridor or region you’d like us to focus on?

  • Have an idea for a campaign, but need to see how the policy team would go about creating a communications strategy and ground game?

  • Do you have questions about how a federal grant program works?

Help us understand what you need to be a more effective voice for passengers in your region! Please reach out to Joe Aiello ([email protected], Subject: Webinar Topics) with topics and questions you’d like addressed in any upcoming Rail Passengers briefings.

We look forward to working together to represent the interests of America’s passengers over the coming months!

Stuck at Home for Awhile? Grab a Copy of Lonely Planet's ‘Amazing Train Journeys’ and Support Your Association at the Same Time

If you’re spending more time than you used to at home waiting for the “All Clear” to start hitting the rails again, why not order yourself a copy of Lonely Planet’s ‘Amazing Train Journeys’ guidebook to pass the time? It’s not only a gorgeous and fun book, but with every purchase Lonely Planet will donate 15% of the proceeds to your Association, to help us keep working for More Trains, Better Trains and a commitment to better infrastructure! You win and we win!

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

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

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

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

Get Your Own ‘Rail Passengers’ Signature Federal Credit Union VISA Card!

We are excited to announce our recent partnership with Signature Federal Credit Union. Rail Passengers members now have access to a full service, nationwide federal credit union with extensive product and service offerings. Signature FCU also becomes the exclusive provider of the Rail Passengers Association-branded Visa credit card with our logo, which supports our work by giving back to our organization, and gives you 1 point for every $1 you spend to redeem for travel and merchandise. The card has no annual fee, no balance transfer fees, no foreign transaction fees, and has a very low interest rate.

Gifts from Donor Advised Funds


If you have a donor advised fund, please consider recommending a grant from your fund to be the Rail Passengers Association. It is a great way to maintain flexibility with your support throughout the year. For more information, go to http://myimpact.railpassengers.org/daf. As always, please feel free to contact Jonsie Stone if you have any questions.

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


Upcoming Events

go to railpassengers.org/events for more events and information

Due to the current situation with the COVID-19 outbreak, many meetings around the country are being postponed and rescheduled for later dates. Please check our events page for updates and information.

Please contact Joe Aiello ([email protected]) to have a local, state or regional meeting added to the Rail Passengers calendar (print and on-line) of upcoming events!

Amtrak Passenger Service Notices

San Joaquins Service Schedule Changes

Effective June 11 and 12, 2020

Please be advised that the San Joaquins service will operate on limited schedules until further notice. Additionally, track work performed by BNSF Railway will affect service on June 11 and 12.

Train Service Changes

  • Trains 701, 702, 703, 704, 714 and 717 and Thruway Bus connections are cancelled.

  • Thruway buses 3512 and 3519 between Bakersfield and Las Vegas are cancelled.

  • Please visit https://amtraksanjoaquins.com/amtrak-san-joaquins-covid-19-serviceadjustments/ for the most up to date Thruway schedules.

  • Café car service is suspended effective March 26. Complimentary snacks and water will be available.

Track Work Affects Service June 11-12

  • Thursday, June 11, Train 718, which normally operates from Oakland (Jack London Square) to Bakersfield, will terminate at Wasco.

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

  • Friday, June 12, Train 711, which normally operates from Bakersfield to Oakland (Jack London Square), will originate at Wasco.

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

Station Changes

  • Station buildings at Fresno, Hanford, Merced and Modesto are closed, until further notice. Customers boarding at these stations should proceed directly to the train and may purchase tickets onboard from the conductor.

  • Bakersfield, Stockton, Sacramento, Emeryville, Martinez and Oakland will operate with reduced staff and hours.

Grand Forks, ND, Platform Replacement and Station Renovation

Effective Immediately

Please be advised that work has started at the Grand Forks station to replace the platform and remodel the restrooms to make them ADA compliant.

The project is estimated to be completed in 6 months. During the construction, there will be fencing around the station and the platform, limiting normal access to the station. The project will be performed in two phases, with access to the station limited during both. Portable restrooms will be available next to the station building.

Please use caution and allow extra time to arrive at the station.

Pacific Surfliner and Amtrak Thruway bus service will resume some service,

on a reduced schedule effective Monday, June 1

Train Service Changes:

Three trains in each direction will operate north of Los Angeles. Two will end in Santa Barbara/Goleta and one will extend up to San Luis Obispo. Thruway bus service will provide supplemental departure options connecting trains in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.


  • Beginning June 2, Train 774 will operate from San Luis Obispo instead of Los Angeles.

  • Thruway bus connections will be retimed to improve spacing of departure options and shorten layovers.

    • Two bus trips will operate between Oakland to San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. One bus trip will operate between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.

  • Trains 562, 566/1566, 572/1572, 578, 590/1590, 782 and 792 remain canceled.


  • Train 777 will terminate in San Luis Obispo instead of Goleta.

  • Train 785 will terminate in Goleta instead of Los Angeles.

  • Thruway bus connections will be retimed to improve spacing of departure options and shorten layovers.

    • One bus trip will operate between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara and two bus trips will operate between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo to Oakland.

  • Trains 561/1761, 565/1565, 569/1569, 573/1573, 583, 591/1591, 595 and 759 remain canceled.

The Coastal Starlight, the long-distance Amtrak train, will continue to operate one trip daily through San Luis Obispo.

Amtrak requires all passengers to wear face coverings at stations and on trains.

Hiawatha Service Resumes Operation Reservations Required

Effective June 1, 2020

Effective June 1, Hiawatha trains will resume service on a modified schedule and reservations will be required.

Hiawatha Trains 332 and 339:

Will restore a round trip between Milwaukee and Chicago in response to anticipated increased demand. Empire Builder Trains 7/27 and 8/28 will continue service at all Hiawatha stops to provide morning and afternoon departures daily.

Safety Precautions:

  • Disinfecting stations and trains aggressively

  • Facial coverings are required for all customers in stations and on trains and thruway buses

  • Temporarily only accepting cashless payments

  • Reservations are temporarily required to maintain physical distancing, excluding holders of Multi-Ride tickets.

Olympia-Lacey, Station Waiting Room Hours Temporarily Modified

Effective June 1, 2020

Effective June 1, the Olympia-Lacey station waiting room will re-open with modified hours.

Station Changes:

  • Open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

  • If Coast Starlight Train 14 is late, the station will remain open until its arrival.

  • Hours may change based on service adjustments.

Keystone Service and Pennsylvanian Operation Resumes

Reservations Required

Effective June 1, 2020

Effective June 1, Keystone Service and Pennsylvanian trains will resume service on a modified schedule and reservations will be required.

Keystone Service: Modified service will include nine weekly roundtrips and six roundtrips on weekends, operating temporarily between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, only.

Pennsylvanian: Modified service will include one daily roundtrip operating normally between New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Safety Precautions:

  • Disinfecting stations and trains aggressively

  • Facial coverings are required for all customers in stations and on trains and thruway buses

  • Temporarily only accepting cashless payments

  • Reservations are temporarily required to maintain physical distancing, excluding holders of Monthly and 10-trip tickets.

Washington, D.C., Union Station Boarding Changes

Effective May 4, 2020

For the safety of our customers and employees, and to promote physical distancing, Washington, D.C., Union Station will implement several boarding changes effective May 4.

Boarding Changes:

  • Priority boarding will be discontinued, and boarding times will be adjusted, to avoid lines and waiting in the station.

  • Passengers without checked baggage are advised to be at the station no more than 30 minutes prior to departure and passengers with checked baggage, no more than 60 minutes prior to departure.

  • Amtrak is limiting reservations to 50% of the available seats to ensure plenty of available seats.

  • Amtrak employees in stations and on board are required to wear facial coverings and customers are strongly encouraged to wear masks when using Amtrak services at this time.

  • Boarding will begin approximately 20 minutes prior to departure.

Temporary Station Changes Milwaukee Downtown Station

Effective Immediately

Effective immediately, the Milwaukee Downtown station will reduce ticket office hours and implement various station changes, until further notice.

Station Changes:

  • The ticket office will be open 5:30 am to 8:00 pm.

  • Station entrances will be reduced to the west end door, only.

  • The station will be closed between 10:00 pm and 5:15 am, to all non-Amtrak personnel, in order to clean and disinfect for our riders and employees.

  • Only ticketed passengers, or those wishing to purchase tickets, are permitted inside the station during this time.

Wolverine Trains 351 and 352 Blue Water Trains 364 and 365

Effective April 27, 2020

Due to track work being performed by Amtrak, and Norfolk Southern, Wolverine and Blue Water Service will be affected, as follows:

Blue Water Trains 364 and 365

  • Train 364 will arrive at Port Huron 28 minutes later at 11:59 pm.

  • Train 365 will depart Port Huron 28 minutes earlier, at 5:52 am, arriving at Chicago 17 minutes later at 12:02 pm.

Wolverine Service

  • Train 351 will depart Pontiac 38 minutes earlier at 5:12 am, arriving in Chicago at the scheduled time of 10:32 am.

  • Train 352 will depart Chicago 30 minutes earlier at 12:55 pm, arriving at Pontiac 7 minutes later at 8:39 pm.

City of New Orleans Trains 58 and 59 Suspended between McComb and New Orleans

Until Further Notice

Please be advised that Canadian National Railway is prohibiting passenger trains over the Bonnet Carre Spillway due to planned emergency flood control, affecting the City of New Orleans service as outlined below:

Train 59, which normally operates between Chicago and New Orleans, will terminate at McComb, MS. Bus 3259 will operate between McComb and New Orleans, serving intermediate station stop of Hammond.

Train 58, which normally operates between New Orleans and Chicago, will originate at McComb, MS. Bus 3258 will operate between New Orleans and McComb, serving intermediate station stop of Hammond. Bus 3258 will depart New Orleans at 1:00 pm, 45 minutes earlier than Train 59’s scheduled departure time.

Please note: Trains 58 and 59 will not stop at Brookhaven and Hazlehurst and no alternate transportation will be provided.

TravelReview Numbers as of May 31, 2020 - 1,189

Travel Tip of the Week

At this time, various states are undertaking specific safety precautions at stations for customers arriving from out of state. Check with each state for specific guidance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to refrain from non-essential travel for 14 days.

Amtrak service continues to operate on the Northeast Corridor, providing essential services during this challenging time. While Amtrak continues to operate, we have temporarily suspended the following services due to reduced demand.

Operating on a reduced schedule:

  • Acela (Boston – Washington, DC)

  • Adirondack (New York – Montreal): No service north of Albany

  • Amtrak Hartford Line (New Haven, Conn. – Springfield, Mass.)

  • Amtrak Thruway Bus routes

  • Capitol Corridor (San Jose – Sacramento)

  • Cascades (Eugene – Vancouver, B.C.): No service north of Seattle

  • Empire Service (New York – Niagara Falls)

  • Ethan Allen Express (New York – Rutland, Vermont): No service north of Albany

  • Hiawatha (Chicago – Milwaukee): Replaced by Amtrak Thruway Buses, April 24-May 31.

  • Illini/Saluki (Chicago – Carbondale)

  • Illinois Zephyr/Carl Sandburg (Chicago – Quincy)

  • Keystone Service (Harrisburg – New York)

  • Lincoln Service (Chicago – St. Louis)

  • Maple Leaf (New York – Toronto): No service west of Niagara Falls, New York

  • Missouri River Runner (St. Louis – Kansas City)

  • Northeast Regional (Boston – New York – Washington, DC – Virginia)

  • Pacific Surfliner (San Luis Obispo – San Diego)

  • Pennsylvanian (New York – Pittsburgh)

  • Piedmont (Charlotte – Raleigh)

  • San Joaquins (Bakersfield – Oakland and Sacramento)

  • Silver Meteor/Silver Star (New York and Miami) returning June 3

  • Valley Flyer (New Haven, Conn. – Greenfield, Mass.)

  • Vermonter (Washington – St. Albans): No service north of New Haven (Monday – Saturday) and no service on Sundays

  • Wolverine (Chicago – Pontiac)

Suspended services:

  • Carolinian (Charlotte – New York)

  • Downeaster (Boston – Brunswick, Maine)

  • Pere Marquette (Chicago – Grand Rapids)

What to Expect

Due to service reductions, some stations may not be staffed. If the station is closed, customers should proceed directly to the platform to board their train. Café service will also be suspended on select trains. Other services may be impacted as circumstances change.

Travel Changes

Customers with reservations on trains that are being modified will be contacted and accommodated on trains with similar departure times or on another day.

Ticket Changes and/or Cancellations

Amtrak is waiving change fees for reservations made before August 31, 2020. To modify a reservation, customers can log in to their account, go to ‘Modify Trip’ on Amtrak.com, or find their reservation from their account on the home screen in the Amtrak app. A fare difference may apply to a new itinerary. If customers want to cancel their reservation with no fee, they must call 800-USA-RAIL and speak with an agent (not available via Amtrak.com or the app).

TravelReview Feedback Card

As you travel, please help us promote the Travel Review with other rail passengers. As you encounter passengers who want to make their positive and negative opinions known, please direct them to www.railpassengers.org/Travel Review. All participants will remain anonymous. If you encounter any problems with the Travel Review, or have any questions, please send an email to [email protected]

Do You Need More TravelReview Feedback Cards?

Please help us to spread the word. We need your help in engaging other passengers when you travel and let them know that their feedback is welcomed by RailPax. To facilitate this sharing of information the TravelReview Feedback Card is now available for you to download and print for regular usage. The card can be given to fellow passengers to introduce the work that RailPax is doing as well as our desire to have their feedback. The cards can also be left behind in stations as you pass through.

The template is in a .pdf format and will open in Adobe document cloud. First download the file and save it to your desktop for easy access. Then print as needed. The original template is formatted for Avery 5871 or 5371 cardstock which are both 2” x 3½” business card formats. Any brand cardstock should function as long as the dimensions match.

If you experience any problems in accessing the file, please send an email to [email protected]

Looking Beyond Pandemic: The Work Continues

Even before the coronavirus outbreak, 2020 was shaping up as a critical year for the future of American passenger rail. With Amtrak ridership down more than 90% and rescue packages taking shape for intercity passenger rail, private operators, mass transit and airlines, there is a risk that when the crisis is over critically needed investment capital will be cut off -- and the legislative gains we have spent five years setting in motion could be squandered.

Amtrak is quasi-public corporation, with the federal government providing a significant portion of the railroad’s annual operations and capital budget. The current funding authorization expires at the end of FY2020, and in 2020 the Rail Passengers Association will be leading efforts in the courts and on Capitol Hill to ensure that America’s passenger rail service continues to thrive. We will fight to sustain our vision of “A Connected America” where all of us, rich or poor, rural or urban, are linked together.

We’re committed to this work and ready to take action, but we can’t do it alone. As we gear up to fight for passenger rail’s present and future, please consider donating to support this critical work.