Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Keystone Line’

Keystone Service Slashed With Little Notice

January 6, 2021

With little advance notice Amtrak on Monday slashed Keystone Service in Pennsylvania, citing low patronage.

The state-funded service between New York and Harrisburg via Philadelphia was cut to seven weekday roundtrips with six on weekends.

Three of the roundtrips will operate between New York and Harrisburg while other trains will operate between Harrisburg and Philadelphia.

The new schedule boosts Harrisburg-New York service by one roundtrip.

Six roundtrips plus one additional westbound train have been suspended on weekdays. On weekends, three trains have been suspended.

An Amtrak announcement said the cuts were made “in order to adapt to changing demand.”

It was not the first change to Keystone Service since the COVID-19 pandemic intensified last March.

The service had been cut last spring when the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian also was suspended. The Keystone Service cuts and the Pennsylvanian were restored last June

Weekday trains will now depart Harrisburg for Philadelphia at 5, 6:40 and 8:59 a.m. and 12:05, 3:05, 4:30 and 8:35 p.m.

The 5, 8:59 and 3:05 trains continue to New York Penn Station, which Amtrak is now referring to as the Moynihan Train Hall.

Trains leave Philadelphia for Harrisburg at 5:20, 6:20, and 8:45 a.m. and 1:35, 3:45, 5:35 and 6:42 p.m. Trains leave New York for Harrisburg at 7:17 a.m. and 4:03 and 5:10 p.m.

The schedules and services of the Pennsylvanian are unchanged.

The weekend schedule has trains leaving Harrisburg for Philadelphia at 7:20, 9:30, and 11:35 a.m. and 2:05, 5:05 and 7:05 p.m. The 7:20, 9:30 and 2:05 trains run through to New York.

From Philadelphia to Harrisburg, trains leave at 7:25, 8:30 and 10:50 a.m. and 2:45, 4:55 and 6:55 p.m. rains leave New York for Harrisburg at 9:09 a.m. and 1:05 and 5:17 p.m.

News reports from Pennsylvania media quoted Amtrak spokeswoman Beth Toll as saying Amtrak is experiencing ridership that is 20 percent of what it was before the pandemic.

Railway Age reported that neither Amtrak nor the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation issued a news release in advance of the service cuts to announce the new schedules.

Instead, the intercity passenger carrier and PennDOT cooperated in issuing a service advisory on the morning that the cuts became effective.

The Railway Age report said it remains unclear whether PennDOT or Amtrak decided to made the service cut and when the decision was made.

Amtrak Keystone Line Signals Getting Upgrade

November 18, 2020

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority is working with Amtrak and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to upgrade signaling and train control systems between Paoli and Overbrook on the Keystone Line

The line extends from Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station to Harrisburg, and hosts Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian and Keystone Service trains.

Between Philadelphia and Thorndale, the line also hosts SEPTA’s Paoli-Thorndale regional rail services.

In a news release, Amtrak said the new equipment will “enable greater operational flexibility and higher operating speeds, as well as help reduce delays.

SEPTA obtained a $15.9 million federal grant last month that will make the signaling work possible.

Federal Grant Awarded to Improve Keystone Line

October 29, 2020

Amtrak and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation have received a $15.9 million federal State of Good Repair grant that will be used on the Keystone Line.

The project involves signal upgrades on the Amtrak-owned line that is used by the intercity passenger carrier’s Keystone Service and Pennsylvanian trains.

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority trains also use the line.

The work will occur between Paoli and Overbrook and allow for bidirectional train movement on all tracks and higher operating speeds.

The line is owned by Amtrak.

Bill Would Give PennDOT Rail Line Ownership

October 17, 2020

A Pennsylvanian congressman has introduced a bill that would require Amtrak to to transfer ownership of the Keystone East Line between Harrisburg and Philadelphia to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

In a statement Rep. Lloyd Smucker said he introduced the bill, which calls for PennDOT to manage the line and certain stations, because of his disappointment with Amtrak’s management of the line.

The statement claimed that renovation and repair projects have been consistently delayed and over budget. 

“By granting Pennsylvania ownership of the Keystone Line, we can provide greater local control, accountability and expand ridership opportunities,”  Smucker said. 

The line also hosts Southeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority’s Paoli-Thorndale commuter-rail service.

SEPTA in a statement expressed support for the bill, saying it would create opportunities to improve service on the route, which is SEPTA’s highest ridership regional rail line.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives earlier unanimously adopted a resolution urging the U.S. Department of Transportation to transfer the line’s ownership to PennDOT. 

The line hosts two PennDOT-supported Amtrak services, the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian and Keystone Service between Harrisburg and New York via Philadelphia.

The state spends $100 million annually to support those services.

Amtrak Keystone Corridor Schedules to Change

February 22, 2020

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the changes are due to construction at the station in Middletown, Pennsylvania.

Train 620 will operate five minutes later from Harrisburg to Elizabethtown, will now stop at Mt. Joy, and will operate six minutes later from Lancaster to Philadelphia.

Train 622 will now stop at Mt. Joy and will operate one minute later from Lancaster to Philadelphia.

Train 646 will operate one minute earlier from Harrisburg to Elizabethtown, will now stop at Mt. Joy, and will operate on the current schedule from Lancaster to Philadelphia.

Trains 652 and 654 will operate 10 minutes earlier from Harrisburg to Philadelphia.

Train 605 and 607 will operate 10 minutes later from Philadelphia to Harrisburg.

Train 607 will operate 10 minutes earlier from Philadelphia to Harrisburg.

Train 645 will operate 10 minutes later from Lancaster to Harrisburg.

Train 669 will operate 5 minutes later from Elizabethtown to Harrisburg on weekends.

Levin Wants Pennsylvania to Divorce Amtrak

December 22, 2019

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives Transportation Committee held a hearing last week that drew one witness and he suggested the state take over from Amtrak operation of the passenger service in the Keystone Corridor.

Bennett Levin, who oversees the short line Juniata Terminal in Philadelphia and is the owner of private railroad cars, suggested the Philadelphia commuter operator SEPTA operate Amtrak’s Keystone Service between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

He contended that this would lower the state’s costs of providing the service, which is now 13 weekday Keystone Service trains and the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian.

Some Keystone Service trains operate between New York and Harrisburg.

Levin also contended that state operation would lead to increased train service between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.

The 103-mile Harrisburg-Philadelphia line is owned by the federal government and it would have to agree to transfer ownership of it to the state.

“SEPTA is one of the best managed commuter rail operators in the nation and there is no reason why their franchise cannot be modified to allow them to run west of Thorndale to Harrisburg,” Levin said. “Therefore the initial step in crafting a solution in the Pittsburgh region is to divorce Amtrak by having the U.S. Department of Transportation gift the Harrisburg Line to Pennsylvania and let SEPTA provide the existing Keystone Service.

SEPTA has 81 weekday trains on the Harrisburg Line that carry 20,000 passengers.

Amtrak’s  26 weekday Keystone trains carry 4,130 people, and the Pennsylvanian carries more than 560 passengers a day.

Levin said his plan would remove Amtrak as a middleman. “We have already paid for the Harrisburg Line; we should own it,” he said.

Levin noted that the state and SEPTA collectively pay Amtrak $1 million a week to operate intercity and commuter rail service on the Harrisburg line.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and SEPTA have paid more than $250 million for infrastructure improvements to the route including new or renovated stations at Paoli, Exton, Downingtown, Mount Joy, Elizabethtown, and Middletown.

Levin acknowledged that under his plan passengers traveling from within Pennsylvania to New York would have to change trains in Philadelphia at 30th Street Station.

“Those folks going to New York, let them walk downstairs,” he said in reference to the upper level and lower level platforms.

Levin was critical of the schedule of the westbound Pennsylvanian, which he said is oriented to passengers connecting to Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited to Chicago in Pittsburgh.

But fewer than 10 percent of Pennsylvanian passengers are connecting to Amtrak train No. 29.

With an earlier schedule westbound, the equipment used on the Pennsylvanian could be turned at Pittsburgh to create a new Pittsburgh-Johnstown commuter train.

PennDOT, Amtrak and Norfolk Southern have discussed expanding service between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh but thus far those talks have not produced any agreements.

Levin told Trains magazine that all of the parties seem to be talking past each others. “It’s my belief that Norfolk Southern is a perfectly rational partner, once you get Amtrak out of the picture,” Levin said.

Track Work Affects Keystone Corridor Trains

August 28, 2018

Track work on Sept. 8 and 9 will result in minor schedule changes to Keystone Service trains in Pennsylvania.

In a service advisory Amtrak said all trains will operate 25 minutes earlier from Harrisburg to Coatesville, 15 minutes earlier at Downingtown and back to current schedule at Exton.

Station Work to Result in Sked Changes

June 28, 2018

Station construction at Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, will result in schedule changes for Amtrak’s Keystone Service on June 30.

Train 661 will operate five minutes earlier from Philadelphia to Lancaster, six minutes earlier from Lancaster to Middletown and five minutes earlier into Harrisburg.

Train 662 will operate 10 minutes later from Harrisburg to Philadelphia while Train 664 will operate five minutes later from Harrisburg to Philadelphia.

Harrisburg Station Renovation Planned

March 16, 2018

Plans are in the works to renovate the Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Transportation Center, but no timeline for the project has been set.

Officials with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said work inside the station can begin soon, but other work will not proceed until a flooding alleviation project is completed.

PennDOT said it is creating a master plan for the station, which is the western terminus of Amtrak’s Keystone Service from New York and Philadelphia and an intermediate stop for the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian.

Officials said 90 percent of the design of the $15 million station renovation is complete and PennDOT is working with Amtrak on a construction schedule.

A public hearing has been set for March 22 at 4 p.m. at the station to discuss the proposed project.

PennDOT and the Harrisburg Redevelopment Authority want to transform the transportation center and adjacent area into a new transit-oriented, mixed-use development that they say could help revitalize the city.

The plans call for improvements to Market and Cameron streets and a direct connection between the station and parking areas east of it.

However, flooding issues involving Paxton Creek need to be addressed first, including how to fund them.

By one estimate, the flood control work will cost between $60 million to $90 million with the source of that funding yet to be decided.

Some suggested sources have included the state’s Multimodal Fund and the departments of Community and Economic Development and Conservation and Natural Resources.

Once funding is secured the flood control project will require at least four or five years to complete.

Among the plans for the Harrisburg station  development project are an open-space cafe in the main lobby, new seating in the concourse area, removal of trees on Aberdeen Street to open sightlines and increase safety, a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating at the station, and a new entry plaza from the lower-level Market Street entrance.

Also being planned are new office space in the upper floors and removal of offices in the lobby, a pedestrian bridge over the tracks to the station, streetscaping and improvements, and relocating the intercity bus facility.

PennDOT Seeking TOD Proposals for Keystone Corridor

July 19, 2017

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will seek proposals for transit-oriented development at one or more Amtrak stations on the carrier’s Keystone Corridor between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Locations to be considered include Harrisburg, Elizabethtown, Mount Joy, Lancaster, Parkesburg and Downingtown

A PennDOT news release said that transit-oriented development opportunities could involve soliciting a private partner to provide operation and maintenance services; allowing a private partner to provide parking upgrades either through surface lot expansion or with the construction of a parking garage; and if deemed feasible, the ability to provide both residential or commercial development.

One project has already been approved by the state for the station in Middletown.

PennDOT will review proposals to consider market soundness to determine whether to proceed on an individual station basis or whether to bundle more than one station into an agreement.