Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

Appeals Court Sides With AAR in Amtrak Case

May 3, 2016

A federal appeals court ruled last week that a 2008 law unconstitutionally gave Amtrak regulatory power over its contract railroads.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia sided with the Association of American Railroads in saying that the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 gave Amtrak too much power when it comes to writing regulations pertaining to on-time performance metrics.

It was the second time that the appeals court has ruled in favor of the AAR.

Amtrak logoAn earlier decision was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court which sent the case back to the appeals court for further review.

AAR had brought suit against the U.S. Department of Transportation in an effort to invalidate Section 207 of the 2008 PRII law.

In its latest ruling, the appeals court said the law’s giving Amtrak the authority to write regulations that affect its host railroads is in violation of the Constitution’s Due Process clause.

The court also knocked down the clause that gives the Surface Transportation Board the authority to appoint a mediator to arbitrate disputes between Amtrak and a host railroad over on-time performance.

The case has a long history that began with a federal district court siding with the U.S. DOT in favor of the law.

AAR appealed that decision to the appeals court, which said in July 2013 that Amtrak is a private company.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in March 2015 that Amtrak must be considered a governmental entity but instructed the appeals court to decide the question of the propriety of a government entity that is a participant in a private marketplace being able to regulate that marketplace.

However, concurring opinions by justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas noted that the situation might violate a host railroad’s right to due process.

Those opinions said that regulators must be “disinterested” government bodies rather than competitors in the business.

In its latest ruling, the appeals court cited the Alito and Thomas’s opinions, but conceded that Amtrak and its contract railroads are not competing for the same customers.

They are, however, the court said, competing for the same scarce railroad route capacity and therefore must be considered economic competitors.

As for the STB’s authority under the 2008 law to appoint an arbitrator, the appeals court said that an independent arbitrator appointed by the STB cannot make final regulations because he or she is not a duly appointed or sworn Officer of the United States, as the Constitution requires.

The AAR originally filed suit acted after the U.S. DOT began to promulgate regulations under Section 207 if the PRII with the railroad trade group arguing that the law was an unconstitutional delegation of rule-making to a private company.

In briefs to the court, the AAR relied on the congressional proclamation of the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970 creating the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) not be treated as a government entity but instead be operated as a for-profit business.

Although the appeals court last week struck down Section 207, it left the rest of the 2008 PRII intact and did not disturb Amtrak’s statutory rights to access of freight railroad tracks on an incremental cost basis.

Nor did the appeals court set aside laws that give Amtrak trains “preference over freight transportation.”

Congress could revise the 2008 law to grant the U.S. DOT the sole power to write on-time performance metrics and standards, in consultation with Amtrak and other others.

In doing so, Congress could give the authority to mediate between Amtrak and a contract railroad to the STB, whose members are duly sworn Officers of the United States, appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate.

The court did not say that it was improper for the federal government to promulgate on-time performance regulations.

3 Hours Late on Amtrak Anniversary Day

May 2, 2016

IMG_5265

IMG_5264

IMG_5263

For Amtrak’s 45th birthday I submit these photos of Amtrak No. 48, the eastbound Lake Shore Limited at Willowick Ohio.

I wanted to do something for Amtrak’s anniversary but didn’t think of taking night photos. Amtrak cooperated by running No. 48 almost three hours late.

I had heard it was running with only one engine and thought perhaps it had trouble. It didn’t and came through Willowick at track speed and a healthy 11-car train.

It still has a heritage dining car of Chicago, Burlington & Quincy vintage – at least I think it was, but I didn’t get the number – and six Amfleet cars, five of them coaches, brought up the rear. Other than a new baggage car it looks pretty much like it always has the last couple decades.

Article and photographs by Todd Dillon

Amtrak Display Train, NS 9-1-1 to Headline 9th Toledo National Train Day Celebration on May 7

May 2, 2016

National Train Day

A display of Amtrak equipment will join the Norfolk Southern first responders’ tribute locomotive at the National Train Day event in Toledo on Saturday, May 7.

Amtrak has agreed to send a P42 locomotive, a new CAF Baggage Car, a Viewliner sleeper, a dining car and an Amfleet II coach.

Also on display will be NS SD60E No. 9-1-1 and a Watco GP38-2 painted in Ann Arbor heritage colors .

The free event will be held at Toledo Central Union Terminal, now known as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaza, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The plaza is located at 415 Emerald Ave. Free parking will be available at the Port Lawrence garage next to Huntington Center. A shuttle will take event attendees to and from the train station.

An opening ceremony is set for 9:30 a.m. in Children’s Park, which is across the street from the entrance to the station.

It will be the ninth National Train Day in Toledo. Other attractions will include model train layouts, handcars and speeders, a train trip drawing, displays, vendors, food, music, an Operation Lifesaver kids rail safety event, a Chuggington play area and a kids zone featuring a Children’s train ride

On Friday (May 6), the Friday Night by the Tracks event will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. on the third floor of the grand lobby of the station.

The event will feature a tour of the NS 9-1-1 locomotive and the Amtrak display train along with hors d’oeuvres, soft drinks, a cash bar and live entertainment by The Villains

Dress is business casual and attendees must be at least age 21. Ticket are $30 per person or $50 per couple.

All proceeds will go to the Northwest Ohio Passenger Rail Association and the Toledo Design Center.

For information visit: www.facebook.com/NationalTrainDayToledo

Happy 45th Anniversary, Amtrak

May 1, 2016

45 year Amtrak TT

Amtrak 1st day loco

Today (May 1) marks the 45th anniversary since the startup of Amtrak. Shown at top is a comparison of the passenger carrier’s first timetable and, as turns out, what will be the last system timetable that it plans to print.

A lot of changed in 45 years and not just the front covers of the system timetables. In 1971, Amtrak was mostly just a name. It had a handful of employees and relied on its contract railroads to perform nearly every task involved in getting the trains over the road as well as serviced and re-stocked.

For a first day ceremony, Amtrak had Penn Central E8A No. 4316 painted in a one-of-a-kind livery. The Pennsylvania Railroad locomotive continued to work in Amtrak service in this livery for several months and sometimes passed through Northeast Ohio on the Broadway Limited.

In the bottom photograph above, it is shown in Chicago. It would later become Amtrak No. 322 and, in 1977, Amtrak No. 461, the second locomotive to wear that number. It was retired from the Amtrak roster in July 1981.

N.F. Seeks Retail for New Amtrak Station

April 29, 2016

Niagara Falls is seeking retail tenants to open shop in the New York state city’s Amtrak station that will open this summer.

The two-story facility now under construction has 4,650 square feet of space available for one or more retailers.

Amtrak 4Retail activities must complement the building and the gorge waterfront location.

City officials say their objective is to establish a food service and retail destination for travelers, tourists and local residents.

If possible, the city wants to promote local food and beverage producers.

The available space has access to interior and exterior public areas, and a full range of utilities. Economic development incentives may be available.

The depot’s first floor will have a public lobby/atrium, and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Interpretive Center.

The Amtrak ticket office and U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection facilities will be housed on the second floor.

Those interested should contact Anthony Vilardo, the city’s director of business development, at 286-4480 oranthony.vilardo@niagarafallny.gov

Niagara Falls is served by the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf and is the termination and origination point for two Empire Service roundtrips operating to and from New York City.

LSL Operating With 1 Locomotive

April 28, 2016

Reports on a railfan chat list indicate that the Lake Shore Limited is now operating with one locomotive between Chicago and Albany-Rensselaer, New York.

The change was reported to have begun on Tuesday and field reports indicated that that Nos. 48 and 49 each has one locomotive rather than two on that date.

Amtrak Lake Shore LimitedA dual-mode locomotive will pull the Lake Shore Limited between New York and Albany-Rensselaer where one unit has been the practice.

In past years, the motive power between Chicago and Albany-Rensselaer operated through to Boston on Nos. 448 and 449. But the latter trains have operated only between Boston and Albany-Rensselaer for the past year with through passengers having to switch trains in Albany-Rensselaer.

Amtrak has said that construction at the Albany-Rensselaer station has been the reason for operating No. 448/449 as a shuttle train rather than as a through operation to and from Chicago.

Another online report indicated that the Chicago-Boston through cars will not return until early October.

Operating with one locomotive is not an unusual practice at Amtrak, particularly on routes that are relatively flat. Among the trains that have routinely operated with one unit are the City of New Orleans and Texas Eagle.

However, the Chicago-New York Cardinal operates through mountainous West Virginia and it regularly has one locomotive. The Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited also operates with one locomotive during the winter when its consist is reduced.

Recent photographs posted on line show that single-unit running is also taking place on the Silver Star and Silver Meteor between Washington and Miami.

Pets to be Welcome on 5 Midwest Routes

April 28, 2016

Fido and Fluffy will have more trains to ride when Amtrak expands on May 2 its pets on board program to state-supported routes in Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin,

Amtrak logoSmall dogs and cats may be taken aboard in carriers with passengers riding the Blue Water, Wolverine Service, Pere Marquette, Missouri River Runners and Hiawatha Service trains.

Owners must pay a $25 fee to reserve space for their pet on the train and the animals must meet the following requirements:

  • The maximum weight of a pet including the carrier is limited to 20 pounds.
  • Owners can reserve a space for their pet for a $25 fee with a limit of one pet per passenger.
  • For the safety and comfort of all passengers, pets must remain in a carrier at all times and carriers must remain under the seat of that passenger.
  • All five pet reservations are allotted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Amtrak began a pilot program in Illinois in 2014 of carrying pets with their owners. The passenger carrier said that more than 6,300 pets have traveled aboard Amtrak since then.

The pets aboard trains program was expanded to Northeast Corridor routes last October and to many long-distance trains earlier this year.

Wolverine Schedules Changed For Track Work

April 27, 2016

Amtrak’s Wolverine Service schedules have been modified to accommodate summer track and signal work as part of the Michigan Accelerated Rail Program.

Amtrak logoThe program, which seeks to create a smoother ride as well as prepare for an expansion of 110-mph service, is being overseen by the Michigan Department of Transportation, which owns much of the route used by the Wolverines between Detroit and Battle Creek.

The temporary schedules will be in effect between April 25 and Sept. 23.

The most significant change will affect train 352 which will operate only from Chicago to Battle Creek, Michigan, on Monday through Saturday.

The train, which is scheduled to depart Chicago at 7:10 a.m., will resume its Chicago-Pontiac, Michigan, route on Sundays.

To pick up the slack, Amtrak has scheduled an extra train from Chicago to Pontiac that will operate Monday through Saturday.

No. 358 will depart Chicago at 4:30 p.m. and arrive in Pontiac at 12:11 a.m.

The equipment making up train 352 will turn at Battle Creek Monday through Saturday to become train 357, departing at 12:25 p.m. and arriving in Chicago at 2:30 p.m.

Other Wolverine Service trains will operate on slightly different schedules.

The schedules of the Chicago-Port Huron Blue Water and Chicago-Grand Rapids Pere Marquette will not be affected.

Another Railroad Tradition Bites the Dust

April 25, 2016

Perhaps it was inevitable. Airlines haven’t issued timetables for years so it was a matter of time before Amtrak followed suit because there was money to be saved.

Last week Amtrak said it would no longer print its system timetable. It will continue to create a system timetable as a PDF file that you can download from the rail passenger carrier’s website.

It also will continue to print route-specific folders that will be available at some stations and aboard trains.

You could summarize the reason for ending printing of the national timetable in two words: changing times.

But what, exactly, changed?

On TransportationIn a statement Amtrak said it was its patrons. “Surveys have revealed that few customers want or use the printed System Timetable and expressed a preference to access information on-line,” Amtrak said in a statement.

It also said that “schedules, policies, and programs are ever-changing, and it’s impossible to keep the printed document up-to-date.”

The latter assertion is blowing smoke. Routes rarely change and the vast majority of schedule changes are temporary adjustments made when a host railroad is undergoing major track work.

Amtrak also cited being “environmentally friendly,” which has become a catch-all excuse used by every company in America when it is trying to cut and/or shift the costs of printing to its customers.

Saving itself some money is, I suspect, a primary reason for ending the printed system timetable. Amtrak of late has seen its patronage drop and has been looking for ways to cut expenses.

Ending the printing of the system timetable will save some money, although it probably won’t be a substantial amount.

But it will be one more thing that Amtrak can put on a list when it goes before Congress to show that it has been fiscally responsible.

If the surveys – the results of which we will likely never see – really do reveal that few passengers want or use the national timetable, it is not difficult to understand why.

Aside from the trend toward using smart phones as a primary way of accessing the Internet, the system timetable is bulky and inconvenient to use on the go.

It won’t easily fit in a pocket and the typical traveler probably doesn’t care about schedules for any route other than the one he or she is traveling.

Much of the time if you wanted a system timetable you had to ask for it because they seldom were placed in a rack for distribution.

The system timetable hasn’t always been as large or even as attractive as it has been in recent years.

Although Amtrak timetables have always had a color cover, the interiors were often bare bones offerings of page after page of schedules printed on newsprint paper.

Today’s Amtrak system timetable features color printing and photographs along with numerous display advertisements.

I had always presumed that the revenue from those advertisements paid for the expense of printing the timetable. If so, they didn’t pay for it enough, apparently.

I’ve always been a fan of timetables and I have a near complete collection of Amtrak system timetables dating to the first one issued on May 1, 1971.

I enjoy leafing through the timetable as a way of vicariously traveling by train to countless places in America.

I could still do that, but it won’t be as convenient. I would have to collect all of the route folders and that won’t be easy to do.

In my experience, Amtrak tends to distribute route folders by region, so the Cleveland Amtrak station is not likely to have folders for routes on the West Coast.

Ending the printed system timetable might draw a few letters or emails of protest, but that isn’t likely to have any effect. In the end, Amtrak is probably correct that few passengers care or use the system timetable.

And so another railroad tradition falls by the wayside and I’m going to miss it.

Amtrak to Stop Printing National Timetables

April 24, 2016

Amtrak said last week that it will no longer print a national timetable although it will continue to assemble one and make it available as a downloadable PDF file at its website.

“Surveys have revealed that few customers want or use the printed System Timetable and expressed a preference to access information on-line,” Amtrak said in a statement.

Amtrak logoIndividual route folders will continue to be printed and made available. The passenger carrier also conceded that dropping the printing of the national timetable was also done as a cost-cutting move.

Amtrak is among the last transportation providers to publish a system timetable. Most airlines ceased doing it years ago.

The most recent Amtrak national timetable was released on Jan. 11 and had a press run of 300,000 copies.

At one time, the press run for the national timetable was 500,000 copies.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 83 other followers