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Amtrak

The Leonard Lopate Show

The "Embarrassment" of Amtrak

Monday, April 27, 2015

In the forty-five years since its inception, Amtrak has become a national embarrassment for America's transportation infrastructure, argues Simon van Zuylen-Wood.

Comments [18]

The Leonard Lopate Show

Mistakes, Missteps, and Mediocrity

Monday, April 27, 2015

Judith Miller on her mistakes. The filmmaker "Wild Bill" Wellman. Maria Bello on life's unexpected twists. Why Amtrak remains a model of mediocrity.

Transportation Nation

NJ Transit Rail Commuters Face Challenges Above and Below Ground

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Commuters are starting to worry about a future of tunnel closures. But a precarious, 104-year-old rail bridge could also cause problems.
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Transportation Nation

New Hudson Tunnel: Show Me the Money

Friday, October 03, 2014

We've all had a few days to digest the news the region may need to immediately begin work on plans to build a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel. Now comes the fun part: paying for it.
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Comments [3]

Transportation Nation

Your Upcoming Delays Were Avoidable

Friday, October 03, 2014

WNYC
News Analysis: It has come to this: tunnels under the Hudson were compromised by Sandy, and Amtrak's hoping a brand new tunnel gets built by 2024. But it didn't have to be so. 
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Comments [6]

Transportation Nation

Repairing Sandy Damaged Rail Tunnels Could Snarl Commute for Years

Thursday, October 02, 2014

WNYC
Four of the six tunnels that carry Amtrak, NJ Transit and LIRR trains in and out of Manhattan need serious repair work, which would cause major commuting disruption.
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Comments [6]

The Takeaway

The Iron Road: Riding & Writing Across America

Friday, September 26, 2014

Trains are a magical place for creative thought. And now 24 writers have been selected to be part of Amtrak's Residency program, winning them a roundtrip ticket anywhere in the country.

Comments [14]

Transportation Nation

Amtrak Picks Winners of Writer's Residency Program

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Twenty-four writers will be boarding long distance trains and pounding their laptops — when they're not distracted by scenery or the dining car.
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Transportation Nation

Animals on Amtrak: It's Happening. (Sort of.)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Got a cat or (smallish) dog? Want to take that four-footed companion on a trip within Illinois? All aboard!

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On The Media

Amtrak is Offering Free Tickets to Writers

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Amtrak is offering "residencies" to some writers who tweet at them -- essentially, they're given free train tickets so that they can ride the rails and work on their writing in quiet isolation. (In return, they ask the writers to mention Amtrak on social media.)

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Comments [4]

Transportation Nation

Troubled Silver Spring Transit Center Could Open Next Year

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

WAMU

The Silver Spring Transit Center, years behind schedule and about $15 million over budget, finally may be ready to open to the public next year after additional repair work, Montgomery County, Md. officials announced on Tuesday.

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Transportation Nation

Amtrak Ridership and Revenues Both Up, Despite Sandy Damage

Monday, October 14, 2013

Americans are riding the train more than ever before. And Amtrak is earning more money off every passenger, even as the most-profitable line, the Northeast Corridor, saw a small decrease in ridership in the past year. 

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Comments [1]

Transportation Nation

Amtrak Made a Smart Call to Let Tunnels Flood During Sandy

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

WNYC

Amtrak might have been able to avoid the flooding in at least one of its Hudson River tunnels during Sandy, but it is probably best that it didn't.

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Comments [4]

Transportation Nation

Amtrak : We Just Had Our Best June Ever

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Amtrak says 2013 was the agency's best June on record -- and its second-best month ever. But the railroad continues to be a politically charged topic in Congress.

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Comments [2]

Transportation Nation

Amtrak's Hiring Strategy: Veterans, Lots of Them

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

WNYC

Amtrak wants a quarter of all new hires to be military veterans by 2015. The national rail network says it's not only a public service -- but also because veterans have the specialized skills is needs.

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Comments [2]

Transportation Nation

Senator Frank Lautenberg to Take Amtrak One Last Time

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

It's a fitting tribute to a man who fought ferociously for passenger rail: Frank Lautenberg's body will be transported to Washington, D.C. by Amtrak.

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Transportation Nation

Second Trans-Hudson Tunnel Gets Some Real Money

Thursday, May 30, 2013

WNYC
The Gateway project is getting $185 million cash infusion from post-Sandy aid.
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Comments [3]

Transportation Nation

Feds Give Amtrak $30 Million for Northeast Corridor Sandy Rebuilding

Friday, May 03, 2013

WNYC

Amtrak is getting reimbursed for the $20 million it spent pumping water out of flooded train tunnels during Sandy and additional money to fix infrastructure damaged in the storm. The federal government will give $30 million to the publicly subsidized company, which has said it suffered $60 million in damages from Sandy and needs $250 million to adequately prepare for the next storm

For comparison, the NY MTA, which runs the NYC subway and commuter rail lines was much harder hit in its miles of electrified underground tunnels. The MTA estimates $5 billion in losses with several billion more needed to prepare for future storms. That agency has received $2 billion in federal relief funds with another $6 billion on the way. 

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Transportation Nation

Amtrak Ridership Continues to Set Records -- Despite Sandy Damage

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Rail ridership continues to grow in America.

March was the best single month ever in the history of Amtrak, and October, December and January each set records for their respective months, according to a company spokesperson. (UPDATE: Full release here.)

All of that is despite the damage and closures caused by Sandy.

It's also because Amtrak has been setting ridership records for just about every year for the past dozen years (chart), so any growth -- whatever size -- is also a new record. Amtrak set 11 consecutive monthly records last year. (PDF)

Amtrak reports ridership numbers by fiscal year. For the first six months of FY2013 (October 2012 to March 2013), Amtrak grew about one percent over the previous six months, putting the rail network on pace to break the 2012 yearly ridership record, despite Sandy. The damage from that storm shut down much of the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak's busiest route, for days.

Amtrak will release line-by-line ridership numbers later this morning. A statement from the company says 26 of 45 routes posted ridership increases and suggested its growth is evidence for more sustained capital funding for a passenger rail network.

Why passenger rail is on the rise

A recent Brookings Institution report found that on shorter trips, passengers are shifting to rail. That's partly because airlines are scaling back on short haul flights, which aren't as profitable for carriers.

All of that means Amtrak has been slowly but steadily gaining travelers who used to fly, especially on the Northeast corridor.

Consider this chart from an Amtrak presentation showing how, over time, passengers traveling between Washington, D.C. and New York City have shifted to rails from planes. Of the people who flew or rode a train between the two cities in 2000, 37 percent of them took Amtrak; but by 2012, 76 percent were riding Amtrak.

Chart courtesy of Amtrak

Amtrak's D.C-N.Y. route is beating the airlines. The chart excludes cars and buses, which themselves are increasing dramatically despite a crackdown on so-called Chinatown buses, and longer-route planes certainly carry more passengers, but it's the trend that is telling, and confirmed in the Brookings report.

Beyond the Northeast, Amtrak is doing better as well, with some local clamor for more service on state-subsidized routes, even where it has little chance of breaking even financially. We'll see how ridership is doing on those routes later this morning when Amtrak releases its full passenger counts.

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Transportation Nation

Feds Posit Ambitious Plan for Northeast High Speed Rail

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The shoot-for-the-moon, Level D plan: a second Northeast Corridor "spine," Long Island-to-New England service, and 220-mph rail (image via NEC FUTURE)

Over a dozen plans for improving rail in the Northeast Corridor are under consideration by the federal government, ranging from minor improvements to a future with 220-mile-per-hour bullet trains between Washington and Boston -- not to mention new service between Long Island and New England.

These various options are detailed in a new report released Tuesday by the Federal Railroad Administration. NEC FUTURE sketches out 15 alternatives representing different levels of investment through the year 2040 in the 457-mile corridor.

Related: Amtrak Updates High-Speed Rail Vision, What’s Changed

The options, in turn, have been grouped into four separate categories which grow progressively more ambitious: while those in Level A focus on achieving a state of good repair, Level D would build a separate high-speed rail line between Boston and D.C. and bring new service in the region, primarily in Long Island, New England and the Delmarva peninsula.

The report aims to jump-start public debate about how rail capacity should be shaped in the region. "It is intended to be the foundation for future investments in the Northeast Corridor, a 150 year-old alignment that has guided the growth of what is now one of the most densely populated transportation corridors in the world,” said Rebecca Reyes-Alicea, NEC FUTURE program manager for the Federal Railroad Administration.  “(It) will further the dialogue about the rail network in the Northeast and how it can best serve us over for the years ahead.”

Over the next year, these 15 options will be winnowed down. The federal government wants to have a single alternative in place by 2015.

Because it's conceptual, no cost estimates are included in the report. But existing documents provide a baseline. In 2010, Amtrak identified $9 billion alone in state of good repair projects for the NEC, with an additional $43 billion in investment just to meet projected 2030 ridership levels for the current system. Meanwhile, another Amtrak report estimated the cost of bringing high-speed rail to the NEC at $151 billion.

Related: Amtrak’s 220mph Vision for the Future

Dan Schned, a senior transportation planner at the Regional Plan Association, said "what’s possible and what Congress has the stomach to spend are two different things."

But he said that funding need not come solely from Congress. "Successful high-speed rail projects around the world have private sector participation," Schned pointed out, adding that "the arrangement of public and private financing and project delivery issues will be the most challenging" aspects of overhauling the NEC.

The Federal Railroad Administration is holding workshops in New Haven, Newark and Washington D.C. next week to present the plan to the public. For more information, go here.  Read the full report below.

NEC Future: A Rail Investment Plan for the Northeast Corridor

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