Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Cardinal’

More Opposition to Cincinnati Ticket Office Closing

June 9, 2018

The Hamilton County transportation improvement board has passed a resolution urging that Amtrak keep its ticket office at Cincinnati Union Terminal.

However, the office closed on June 5. Cincinnati is served by Amtrak’s tri-weekly Chicago-Washington Cardinal. It handles about 11,000 passengers a year in Cincinnati.

Amtrak has hired a caretaker to open and close the waiting room and assist passengers with their luggage and boarding.

Because of construction at CUT, Amtrak is using a temporary facility adjacent to the iconic station.

The Cardinal stops in Cincinnati in both directions in the dead of night. The city will be one of the largest Amtrak cities in the county to lack a station ticket office.

Amtrak now has ticket offices in Ohio in Cleveland and Toledo.

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Manchin Trying to Force Amtrak to Return Agents

June 9, 2018

A West Virginia senator wants federal law to require that every state served by Amtrak have at least one station agent.

Joe Manchin of West Virginia amended a pending fiscal year 2019 transportation appropriations bill to include the requirement after his state lost its last Amtrak ticket agent.

Amtrak closed the ticket office in Charleston, West Virginia, on June 7.

Manchin’s amendment also requires Amtrak to justify its decision to increase prices for special and charter trains, and to stop accepting private railroad cars in Huntington, West Virginia.

In a statement, Manchin said removing the agent at the Charleston station will make it harder for Amtrak to attract new customers and retain the ones it already has.

“Amtrak has told me that most of their sales are now online, but West Virginians buy far more tickets at the Charleston station than most places around the country. That’s not surprising, as nearly 30 percent of West Virginia is without internet access, and mobile broadband access is also difficult in my state’s rugged, mountainous terrain, making online ticket sales difficult,” he said.

Charleston is served by Amtrak’s tri-weekly Chicago-Washington Cardinal.

Senators Protest Cincinnati Ticket Office Closing

June 2, 2018

Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman have written to Amtrak seeking to get it to reconsider its decision to close its ticket office in Cincinnati on June 5.

“We believe that destaffing Union Terminal now would be pennywise and pound-foolish, as the decision to cut services now would likely need to be reversed once the terminal is fully renovated and ridership increases,” the senators wrote in their joint letter.

The letter expressed concern that removing ticket agents would leave passengers, especially the elderly and those with disabilities, without appropriate levels of service for baggage check, ticket purchasing, and general passenger assistance.

Amtrak serves Cincinnati with its tri-weekly Chicago-Washington Cardinal.

Manchin Pleads for Charleston Ticket Agent

May 22, 2018

A West Virginia senator is seeking to get Amtrak to delay plans to close a ticket offices his state.

Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) wrote to the passenger carrier to express “serious concerns” about the criteria Amtrak used to determine which ticket offices to close.

In a letter to Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson, Manchin said removing the ticket agent from Charleston on June 6 “will not only deprive the state of West Virginia of its last Amtrak ticket agent, but will also compromise safety and upkeep of the facility, and make access more difficult for potential customers.”

Manchin said that Charleston handled 9,749 passengers in federal fiscal year 2017, which works out to more than 62 passengers per day for each day that the tri-weekly Cardinal operates there.

He said Amtrak’s decision to calculate ridership on a weekly basis ignores the fact that the Cardinal does not operate daily. “The policy penalizes Charleston’s station for part-time service without allowing it to be a full-time station.”

Manchin also said 30 percent of West Virginia lacks Internet access and that mobile broadband access is limited in many parts of the state.

Cincinnati Fighting to Keep Ticket Agents

May 7, 2018

Cincinnati officials are eyeing providing assistance in an effort to keep open the Amtrak ticket office at Union Terminal.

The action came after Amtrak said it would remove its two ticket agents from Cincinnati on June 5.

“The city administration is glad to assist in these efforts should that be the desire of the mayor and City Council,” acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney wrote in a memo to the Cincinnati City Council, which must approve any expenditures.

Duhaney responded after being contacted by passenger rail advocacy groups Friends of the Cardinal and All Aboard Ohio, which asked elected officials and city administrators to help keep the ticket office open.

Cincinnati is served by the tri-weekly Chicago-Washington Cardinal. No. 50 arrives in the Queen City on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday while No. 51 stops on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Both trains arrive in the middle of the night.

“While there are other stations on the Cardinal route that are unstaffed, Cincinnati is a popular, multi-level station which makes assistance by Amtrak staff for handicapped and elderly passengers very important,” Duhaney said in his memo.

He said that any loss of station services will degrade ridership and jeopardize continued service.

Aside from selling tickets, Amtrak’s two agents in Cincinnati assist with boarding and checked baggage.

Amtrak plans to hire a caretaker to open and close the waiting room before and after trains arrive.

The situation in Cincinnati is complicated by the fact that renovations at Union Terminal have forced Amtrak to temporarily locate to an adjacent, station facility on Kenner Street behind the Terminal.

The renovations at CUT are slated to be finished this fall.

Amtrak has cited an overwhelming preference by passengers to buy tickets online rather than at ticket offices as well as a desire to cut costs as motivating the closings of 15 ticket offices between mid May and late June.

“This is in no way a reflection on them,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said in reference to the performance of the agents in Cincinnati.

He said that the agents might be able to transfer to a different position within Amtrak.

After the Cincinnati ticket office closes the nearest Amtrak station with a ticket window will be Indianapolis. Amtrak also has ticket offices in Ohio in Cleveland and Toledo.

Magliari said the caretaker the passenger carrier plans to hire in Cincinnati will do more than open and close the waiting room.

He said that person will also assist passengers and receive training in how to operate the station.

The 15 stations set to close reportedly handle 40 or fewer passengers per day, yet rail passenger advocates content that Cincinnati should not be measured by that criteria due to the limited service and ongoing renovations of Union Terminal.

“Cincinnati is an outlier,” said Derek Bauman, the southwest Ohio vice chair for All Aboard Ohio.

“If you look at the other places where this has happened, [these are] basically smaller burgs,” he said. “I think that if it had not been for Union Terminal being under construction for the past year, that we would probably not have been in a position to lose our two people.”

Bauman expressed optimism that once the construction if completed at Union Terminal that Amtrak ridership in Cincinnati will increase.

“If anything, especially during this time of Union Terminal being rehabbed and the location and security and difficulty for (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance, we need the assistance of the full-time Amtrak employees,” he said.

Amtrak, W.Va. Officials to Talk about New River Train

April 17, 2018

Amtrak executives will meet today with public officials from West Virginia to discuss the future of the New River Train, which operates annually in the fall between Huntington and Hinton.

The train, which has operated for the past 51 years, is in danger of being canceled after Amtrak said last month that it would no longer operate specials and charters.

The passenger carrier also has been restricting the use of its trains by privately-owned rail cars although a formal policy in that regard has yet to be announced.

Last week some West Virginia officials indicated that Amtrak had said it might make an exception to its policy to enable the New River Train to continue operating.

There has been discussion that Amtrak might be amendable to allow select specials to run on routes over which it operates scheduled trains.

The New River Train uses the part of the route of the tri-weekly Chicago-Washington Cardinal.

The train, sponsored by the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, has been touted for its economic impact, which has been put at $5 million.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin asked Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson for a meeting to discuss the future of the New River Train.

“I will continue doing everything I can to fix this problem,” Manchin said in a news release.

Amtrak Acknowledges Changes Coming for Cardinal, Empire Service Due to Penn Station Construction

March 13, 2018

An Amtrak official has confirmed that the carrier plans to divert Empire Service trains this year to New York Grand Central Terminal during a construction project at New York Penn Station.

In a related development, Amtrak has also acknowledged it plans to temporarily cease operating the Cardinal between New York and Washington starting March 29.

The Empire Service diversion was discussed by Amtrak’s Empire District general superintendent, Kevin Chittenden, during a meeting of the Empire State Passengers Association.

Although he didn’t say when the diversion would take place, Chittenden said it would last for three months during the summer. During that time, the connecting track that Amtrak uses to move between Penn Station and Metro North tracks will be closed for maintenance.

Chittenden also indicated that Amtrak is considering used FL-9 locomotives as cab cars for trains going to and from Grand Central. However, Amtrak may also use cab cars in push-pull mode.

Amtrak diverted several Empire Service trains into Grand Central last summer, but continued to operate the Lake Shore Limited into Penn Station.

News reports have surfaced that Amtrak plans to temporarily drop the New York section of the Lake Shore while work is being done on the connection track to Penn Station.

As for the Cardinal, Amtrak said it is being terminated in Washington to relieve congestion at Penn Station.

The first eastbound train to terminate in Washington rather than run through to New York will leave Chicago on March 29. The first train to originate in Washington will depart on April 1.

Amtrak did not say how long Nos. 50 and 51 will continue to operate only between Chicago and Washington.

The Rail Passenger Association said that the advocacy group Friends of the Cardinal is preparing to enter into talks with the West Virginia Tourism Commission on support for making the Cardinal a daily service.

It currently operates tri-weekly, originating in New York on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, and originating in Chicago on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Hoosier State OT Performance Improving

October 24, 2017

The on-time performance of two Amtrak trains in Indiana has shown some improvement of late.

From a 37.1 percent rating in August the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State improved to 56 percent in September.

The Chicago-New York Cardinal, which uses the same route, had an on-time performance of 58 percent during the month

Brittany White, stakeholder and marketing manager for the Indiana Department of Transportation, said the on-time performance for the Hoosier State for the month of October thus far has been close to 80 percent.

Amtrak has said most of the delays to the trains have occurred on CSX tracks between Indianapolis and Dyer, Indiana.

These run the gamut between malfunctioning signals to freight train interference.

CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle said the delays have resulted from issues stemming from implementation of a new operating model known as precision scheduled railroading.

He said changes in how freight cars are sorted at the railroad’s Avon Yard west of Indianapolis resulted in unanticipated congestion that contributed to service issues for Amtrak.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the passenger carrier has seen a slow but steady increase in on-time performance.

INDOT has hired a consultant to identify areas for improvement in Amtrak, CSX and INDOT operations. That report is expected to be completed in early 2018.

CSX Denies Deliberately Delaying Amtrak Trains

August 26, 2017

CSX is denying that it has been short-changing Amtrak trains in favor of its own freight trains.

In a statement, a CSX spokesman said that the railroad “recognizes the important benefits that passenger rail service can provide to the public.”

Spokesman Rob Doolittle said that CSX has a long history of supporting passenger service across its network and that it provides Amtrak preference in accordance with federal law.

But the Lafayette (Indiana) Journal & Courier reported that those comments are at odds with a directive given by a CSX supervisor to dispatchers.

“Give high priority to [freight trains] Q031/Q032,” the supervisor  wrote in an email obtained by the newspaper. “If we are meeting with Amtrak make the delay on Amtrak first. If Amtrak is running down one of these trains go ahead and get to the point [where] Amtrak is seeing the [end of the freight train] before we get them around.”

The Journal & Courier said that Amtrak’s own on-time performance statistics show that delays have become frequent while on CSX.

“We are one of the customers who have been disappointed by CSX’s performance on this and other routes around the country,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said, making a specific reference to the Chicago-Indianapolis corridor used by Amtrak’s Hoosier State and Cardinal.

“CSX has made a series of operational decisions and dispatching decisions that have not given these trains the priority to which we’re entitled and the reliability that we  expect.”

Magliari said Amtrak has begun tracking how much money it has lost across its network due to CSX’s problems. That includes compensation for displaced passengers, the cost of getting passengers to other train stations to make connections, and additional crew costs.

“There has not been improvement in August thus far [in on-time performance], and there’s only a few days left,” Magliari said.

Amtrak crews will communicate to passengers why delays are occurring. “The proof of the pudding is in the tasting, and we are very transparent about how sweet or sour this pudding is,” Magliari said.

Hoosier State Struggled to Run on Time in June

August 4, 2017

Amtrak trains are struggling to operate on time in the Chicago to Indianapolis corridor and the passenger carrier says its contract railroads are to blame.

Just one in three trains bound for Indianapolis arrived on time during June. On the other hand, the on-time performance of trains running from Indy to Chicago was nearly 90 percent during the month.

Combined, that represents an on-time rate of 62 percent, which is down from the 80 percent rates that the route had been posting.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said almost all the delays have been caused by freight-train interference and dispatchers giving priority to freight trains over Amtrak trains.

“We made it clear to them that we’d like June to be an outlier performance,” Magliari said.

Since taking over the quad-weekly Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State from Iowa Pacific Holdings earlier this year, Amtrak has launched business class, food and beverage services, free Wi-Fi and the ability to make reservations for carry-on items in an effort to match the level of service that IP provided.

The Indiana Department of Transportation is working with an engineering firm to study the ways to shorten the travel time, including the possibility of using a different route.

The Hoosier State operates on days that the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate.  Both trains serve intermediate stations in Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer.