Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

Changing of the Motive Power Liveries

October 20, 2017

It is August 2001 and Amtrak’s eastbound Pennsylvanian is rolling through Berea just after 1 p.m.

It is an era when there was a daytime passenger train through Berea that wasn’t running several hours off schedule.

The Pennsylvanian carried a lot of head-end cars, which carried mail and express shipments that were supposed to enable it to pay for itself.

But on this day my attention is on the motive power consist. The Phase V look of power blue and gray with a red stripe was introduced in 1999 on AEM-7 electric motors.

But in time it migrated to the P42DC fleet that began showing up fall 1996.

Powering the Pennsylvanian is P42DC No. 180 wearing the then new to me Phase V look. Trailing it is P42DC No. 54 modeling the modified Phase III appearance.

The P42 fleet featured a deeper shade of red than that applied to previous locomotive wearing the Phase III scheme. It also has a deeper shade of blue with both seeking to more closely mimic the colors of the American flag.

Soon all of the P42 fleet would be wearing Phase V colors. You have to wonder when Amtrak will again gives its motive power fleet a new look.

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Ann Arbor Park Commission Favors Putting New Amtrak Station, Parking Garage in Fuller Park

October 19, 2017

An advisory committee has accepted an environmental study favoring building a new Amtrak station in a park in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Despite some opposition, the Park Advisory Commission voted 6-2 in favor of agreeing that the use of Fuller Park for the station would result in a minimal impact on the park.

The environmental assessment was conducted by the Federal Railroad Administration and favors putting the station in Fuller Park rather than building along Depot Street.

The commission serves as an advisory body to the Ann Arbor City Council.

The FRA had made a preliminary determination that there would be minimal effect on the park from building a new Amtrak station elevated above the railroad tracks and an adjacent parking garage.

The station site would be in the footprint of an existing parking lot in the park along the south side of Fuller Road in front of the University of Michigan hospital.

The city council must now concur that building the station would have a minimal effect on the park.

City officials have said that 3.2 acres (5.4 percent) of Fuller Park would experience permanent impacts from construction associated with the station.

Several members of a grassroots citizens group called Protect A2 Parks argued against the minimal effect designation and in favor of locating the new station along Depot Street, where the current Amtrak station is located.

Protect A2 Parks member Rita Mitchell said a Depot Street site would be more likely to favor improved transit and train travel.

Mitchell also contended that a parking garage in the park would be unsightly.

Citing the parks master plan, Mitchell said there are just 4.53 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents in the central area of the city compared to a rate of 18.52 citywide.

Nancy Shiffler and James D’Amour of the Huron Valley Group of the Sierra Club said using park property for a transportation facility sets a bad precedent.

“Fuller Park is an essential river-valley park providing some of the remaining open viewshed to the valley. There is no way to replace this value,” Shiffler said.

D’Amour, a former city planning commissioner, expressed fear that there could be more proposals to repurpose city parkland. He called for protection of parkland for future generations.

Vince Caruso, another member of Protect A2 Parks, said a station in Fuller Park would be too far away from Ann Arbor’s activity centers.

He said a Depot Street location would be more walkable to downtown. He also said placing the station in Fuller Park would restrict economic development around the station.

“So if we wanted shops — coffee shops, stores, small shops in the vicinity of the station like you normally would see — Fuller doesn’t really allow that,” he said.

Parks Commission member Alan Jackson, who voted in favor of the resolution, said he suspects if the portion of Fuller Park in question was ranked using the city’s parkland acquisition criteria “it would rank exceedingly low and we wouldn’t want to acquire it.”

Commission member David Santacroce, who also favored the resolution, expressed hesitation about second guessing the work of experts who decided that Fuller Park is the best location for the station. He also said the site of the station would still be needed for parking for the park.

Ruth Kraut, who voted against the resolution, retorted she’s not sure it would always have to be a parking lot, saying some have argued the site has been a parking lot for too long and should be transformed into green space.

“I feel there are other alternatives. I’m not convinced this is the best alternative, even if it weren’t parkland,” she said.

Port Huron Wants New or Improved Amtrak Station

October 19, 2017

Port Huron wants a new or renovated Amtrak station and has received a grant to study that prospect.

The Blue Water Area Transportation Commission received the $125,000 that will fund a station site study. Public hearings will be held on Oct. 19 and 26.

It is not clear at this point if a new station would be built at the existing site on 16th Street or elsewhere.

“We’re reaching out to the public to do a couple of things. One, let them know this study is occurring, and two, get their input or feelings on the existing Amtrak station or any potential sites they can think of,” said Dave McElroy, BWAT assistant manager and finance director.

“I think it’s been talked about in the community for a long time. It’s been highlighted in a few community long-range plans. It’s one of the few Amtrak stations that hasn’t been updated in the state.”

Most of the grant funds came from the federal government with the remainder channeled from the Michigan Department of Transportation. The study is expected to be completed next spring.

The primary objective of the study is to identify potential site options and determine what requirements may exist for a new or rehabilitated station.

“There is no predetermined location and it has not been predetermined that an existing station will be replaced,” McElroy said.

Among the complaints that passengers have expressed about the current Port Huron station are parking and security issues, as well as access for those with disabilities.

“I’m not talking about the neighborhood. I’m talking about the lighting, the parking, blind spots, things that make people feel unsafe,” McElroy said. “It’s just the lighting and layout that exists there. If parking’s (an issue) now, and they project ridership to increase, it’s going to be a problem then. But we’ll see when the study comes back.”

Port Huron is the eastern terminus of Amtrak’s Blue Water, which originates in Chicago.

Rochester Station Cost 49% More Than Expected

October 19, 2017

The newly opened Amtrak station in Rochester, New York, has received high marks, but it also wound up costing 49 percent more than projected.

The station replaced a modular facility that Amtrak built in the 1970s.

When the project was announced in 2014, the projected cost was put at $29.8 million.

Even that figure was an increase over projections of a few years earlier. Officials said that design changes and delays has increased the sticker price.

But when the station opened more than a week ago, officials said that the station had cost $44.3 million.

In a news release, the New York Department of Transportation said that $20.4 million of the expenses were covered by the federal government, $500,000 by the City of Rochester and $23.4 million by the state.

NYDOT said a number of things led to the increased cost. Those included unexpected costs related to skylights, bridges, soil removal and drainage work.

This included unforeseen problems once workers reached the basement of the former New York Central Railroad station that stood at the site.

Those increased design and construction expenses cost from $29.5 million to $34.3 million.

Much of the remaining $10 million in added costs came from track work performed by CSX. This included moving two mainline tracks and building two new tracks for Amtrak’s use.

An open government group said that CSX was paid $8 million for that work.

Rochester is served by four Amtrak Empire Service trains, the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf and the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited.

Buffalo Station Makes Endangered List

October 19, 2017

Buffalo’s Central Terminal has made a list of dubious distinction. It has been added to the 2018 World Monuments Watch, a group of international cultural heritage sites facing “daunting threats.”

The former New York Central depot that was used by Amtrak between 1975 and 1979 and for a time in 1971, is No. 22 on the list.

Closed in 1979, the station has undergone some renovation in recent years. However, it was bypassed when Amtrak recently sought a site for a new Buffalo station.

Amtrak has two stations in the  Buffalo region. These include a small and antiquated station at Exchange Street in the city and a station in suburban Depew.

Amtrak Adding Extra Thanksgiving Trains

October 18, 2017

Amtrak will add eight extra trains in Illinois and 10 in Michigan to handle Thanksgiving travelers.

In a news release, the carrier said it will operate every available passenger car during the holiday period.

On the Wolverine Service route, Extra No. 356 will depart Chicago on Nov. 22, 25 and 26 at 9:30 a.m., stopping in Michigan at New Buffalo, Niles, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Jackson before arriving in Ann Arbor at 3:10 p.m.

Extra No. 359 will depart Ann Arbor on the same dates at 4:05 p.m. and make the same stops, en route to Chicago, arriving at 7:46 p.m.

On the Pere Marquette route, extra No. 372 will leave Chicago at 10 a.m. and make all stops en route to Holland, arriving at 2:11 p.m. It will depart Holland at 3:10 p.m. and make all scheduled stop en route to a 5:27 p.m. arrival in Chicago.

These schedules are in effect on Nov. 22 and 26.

Amtrak said that in 2016 it carried 760,755 passengers throughout its national network during the Thanksgiving travel period and it expects similar patronage this year.

Amtrak Names Griffin to Marketing Post

October 17, 2017

Amtrak has reached into the airline industry for another executive hire.

Griffin

It has named J. Timothy “Tim” Griffin as executive vice president and chief marketing officer, responsible for marketing, passenger experience, Northeast Corridor business development, state supported services business development, long distance services business development, and product support and management.

Griffin held marketing positions at Continental and Northwest Airlines, rising to the post of executive vice president of marketing at Northwest Airlines in 1999.

He has also directed client services at Brierley and Partners, providing loyalty marketing for Hilton, Neiman Marcus, and United Airlines.

Griffin started in the airline industry in 1977 with American Airlines, where he led post-deregulation route and pricing strategies.

He most recently managed a private investment company, consulting in the travel, transportation, and distribution industries.

“Tim brings a deep level of transportation marketing expertise to Amtrak,” said Amtrak co-CEO Richard Anderson in a statement. “Throughout his career, he has repeatedly shown that he knows how to build strong corporate brands that accelerate a company’s growth. At Amtrak, we are looking for Tim to help us identify and win new customers, while continuing to maintain our loyal base of current customers. We are delighted to have him join the company.”

Amtrak’s Broadway Limited in Canton

October 13, 2017

Amtrak’s westbound Broadway Limited is in Canton on the morning of June 12, 1982. I am at the station looking west. I only took night photos there two or three times, but with today’s technology, they look better now than the original projected slide. Paul, if you were there with me that night, leave a comment.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

New Rochester Amtrak Station Opens

October 10, 2017

The new Amtrak station in Rochester, New York, opened last Friday at the same location as the previous Amtrak-built modular facility.

The new station is fully ADA-compliant and has a new high-level platform serving two dedicated boarding tracks.

Attending a ribbon cutting ceremony were Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. During the ceremony, the eastbound and westbound Maple Leaf’s met at the new station.

Aside from the Maple Leaf, Rochester is served by the Lake Shore Limited and four Empire Service trains between New York and Niagara Falls, New York.

Ex-Congressman Who Twice Voted Against Amtrak Funding Nominated to Carrier’s Board of Directors

October 7, 2017

A former congressman who twice voted to end Amtrak funding has been nominated by President Donald J. Trump to the passenger carrier’s board of directors.

Leon Acton “Lynn” Westmoreland of Georgia, 67, would fill a five-year term.

Westmoreland voted in favor of a 2009 amendment to the American Recovery and Investment Act that would have ended all funding for Amtrak. The amendment was defeated by a vote of  116-320. In 2015, Westmoreland again voted against Amtrak funding.

He served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 12 years after serving 12 years in the Georgia House of Representatives.

Westmoreland sat on the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for six years. He also served on the Financial Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Westmoreland started a construction business in 1982 and did residential and light commercial construction until his election to Congress in 2004. He currently serves as principal of Westmoreland Strategies, a consulting firm.