Posts Tagged ‘National Association of Railroad Passengers’

Amtrak Ends AAA, Student Discounts

March 1, 2018

Two popular Amtrak discount fares were eliminated quietly last month.

The passenger carrier removed its American Automobile Association and student discounts, both of which offered 10 percent off on Amtrak fares.

When asked to comment about the changes, Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said that passengers seeking discounts should book at least 14 days in advance of travel or look for Amtrak’s Saver Fares.

The student fares had been scaled back, being limited to travel aboard state-sponsored trains.

Earlier, Amtrak had ended its Student Advantage and International Student Identity Card programs, both of which offered 10 percent discounts.

Since early this year, Amtrak has overhauled its fare structure, including increasing the penalties for cash refunds on certain types of reservations.

Amtrak also offers 50 percent off for children ages 2 to 15 (one per accompanying adult) and 10 percent discounts for seniors (ages 65 and older), active-duty military personnel with military ID, passengers with disabilities, and members of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (now the Rail Passengers Association) and of Veterans Advantage.

For the most part, these discounts require reservations to be made at least three days in advance of travel and cannot be applied to Saver fares

They also are unavailable on some trains, including weekday Acela Express trains and 7000 and 8000-series Thruway buses, as well as travel between Toronto and Niagara Falls, Ontario, on the segment of the Maple Leaf operated by VIA Rail.

The remaining discounts apply only to the “rail fare” portion of tickets and cannot be used for accommodation charge for sleeping cars, business class or Acela first class.

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NARP Rebrands Itself With New Name, New Look

December 1, 2017

As part of its efforts to rebrand itself, the National Association of Railroad passengers has rolled out a new name and new looks for its website and monthly newsletter.

Now known as the Rail Passengers Association, the group has adopted a logo featuring a stylized passenger car window.

For now the new website can be reached at the old address of www.narprail.org but it can also accessed at www.railpassengers.org

The new name and look were first revealed to the group’s members at its 50th anniversary celebration event held in Chicago in early November.

In a news release, the RPA said its new look will herald “a new age for advocacy for rail passengers in North America.”

RPA also has moved to a larger headquarters office in Washington.

The RPA logo is a landscape-oriented rectangle with two slanted lines in its lower left corner.

RPA said the image “allows the organization to highlight scenes riders would see from their train seat by adding different pictures and photos inside the window.”

RPA head Jim Matthews said the design also allows the group “to show a mix of cityscapes and landscapes inside the rectangle of the logo to create a view out of the imagined window.

“We can even use animation and movement to take advantage of the social media and web-based platforms where we advocate for rail riders. And, we can highlight regional differences and issues that we care about.”

Founded in 1967 as a non-profit organization, the official name of the group remains National Association of Railroad Passengers.

Amtrak President Sees 3 Challenges

November 6, 2017

Amtrak faces three challenges and two of them are financial, its co-CEO said in an appearance before the National Association of Railroad Passengers last week.

Richard Anderson

Richard Anderson identified two of those as losing its federal funding and getting by with under funding. The third challenge is delays to trains caused by host railroads.

He said Amtrak has been able to get by by generating operating efficiencies that have helped to reduce its “capital deficit.”

Anderson said that has enabled Amtrak to deflect criticism from political forces that seek to dismantle its national network.

As for delays, Anderson said 75 percent of delays to long-distance and state-supported trains are caused by the freight railroads that host Amtrak trains. He said one Class I railroad executive has described Amtrak trains as “an annoyance.”

Anderson noted that he experienced this first-hand when he arrived in Chicago to speak to the NARP convention one hour and 25 minutes late aboard the Capitol Limited. Most of that delay occurred on Norfolk Southern tracks west of Cleveland.

“In 1971 they cut a deal. And I have a rule in life: always keep your deals,” Anderson said. “That’s the policy decision our Congress and President made long ago and have kept in place.”

He was referring to the 1970 law that created Amtrak and how it enabled railroads to discontinue or turn over to the national passenger carrier their intercity passenger trains.

Anderson said Amtrak, “plays a critical role in the national urban infrastructure, and I hope our long-term policy makers figure that out, as they’re doing now in the states.”

Observers Give Their Take on New Amtrak CEO

June 29, 2017

So who is this former airline executive that Amtrak has chosen to take over as its CEO later this year when Charles “Wick” Moorman retires?

Richard Anderson

Richard Anderson was the head of Delta Air Lines, but he also at one time served as a prosecutor and the vice president of an insurance company, United Health.

His father, Hale, worked for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe in Texas and the family moved multiple times as the elder Anderson held office jobs at posts from Galveston to Dallas and Amarillo.

When he was in college, the younger Anderson’s parents died of cancer and he subsequently had to raise his two younger sisters as he worked to earn college tuition money.

After earning his law degree, Anderson worked in Texas for nearly a decade as a prosecutor.

His entry into the airline industry began in the legal department of Houston-based Continental Airlines.

He would later join Northwest Airlines and became its CEO three years later. As Delta Air Lines was emerging from bankruptcy in 2007, its board of directors asked Anderson to become its CEO, which meant that he succeeded Gerald Grinstein, a former CEO of the Burlington Northern Railroad.

“Richard has a hands-on, roll-up-your-sleeves, let-me-see-how-this-thing-really-works kind of approach,” John Dasburg, Northwest’s former president, told USA Today in 2008.

During his time at Delta, Anderson sometimes sought unconventional solutions to solve problems.

For example, in an effort to cut fuel costs, Delta purchased an oil refinery near Philadelphia in 2012.

Industry reaction to Anderson being named co-CEO of Amtrak – Moorman won’t be retiring until late December – has been mostly positive.

He received unqualified endorsements from Linda Bauer Darr, president of the American Short Line and Regional Rail Road Association, and from Ed Hamberger, the president of the Association of American Railroads.

Jim Mathews, head of the National Association of Railroad Passengers lauded Anderson’s transportation experience.

“NARP is very pleased Amtrak is making the sensible move of bringing in an executive with strong management experience in a customer-service oriented transportation company,” Mathews said.

Former NARP executive director Ross Capon said the fact that Moorman will be Amtrak’s co-CEO through December shows the two men will likely have a good working relationship and that Anderson will be able to learn from Moorman.

Not all advocacy groups were enthusiastic about Anderson’s appointment.

Charles Leocha, chairman of Travelers United and an airline consumer advocate, said in an interview with Trains magazine that Anderson is “a real charger” who “has not been a friend of consumers, but ran an efficient airline as consolidation was completed . . .”

Richard Rudolph, the president of the Rail Users Network, said Amtrak needs someone who knows railroads, knows how to run a company and can stand up against Congress and President Donald Trump.

Also expressing skepticism was former Amtrak President and CEO David Gunn.

“If he can’t coax people at Amtrak who know how to run a railroad out of their fox holes, he’s doomed,” Gunn said in an interview with Trains. “And you have to convince them you have a plan that makes sense operationally and is not driven by politics.”

Gunn said the best hope is that Anderson has some knowledge of railroad operations.”

Jackson McQuigg, a railroad historian and passenger advocate based in Atlanta, told Trains that he sees in Anderson a man with a demeanor similar to that of W. Graham Claytor Jr. between 1982 and 1993.

“He had a stellar reputation in Atlanta and cared about the city and its history,” McQuigg told Trains.

While at Delta and Northwest, McQuigg noted, Anderson had a reputation for being a tough guy who wasn’t afraid to mix it up with the airline unions.

“Maybe that bunch in the White House will listen to him,” McQuigg said of Anderson. “It will be interesting to see if that happens or if Anderson presides over dismemberment instead. All I know is that the long-distance trains had better be preserved or the whole thing will go up in political flames.”

NARP Planning Rallies for Amtrak Trains

June 9, 2017

The National Association of Railroad Passengers is planning a series of rallies across the country on June 23 to drum up political support for saving funding for Amtrak’s long-distance trains.

The Trump administration has proposed ending funding of long-distance service in the fiscal year 2018 federal budget, which NARP says would end intercity rail passenger service at 220 communities in 23 states.

“If Congress enacts this budget, our national passenger rail network will largely cease to exist,” NARP President and CEO Jim Mathews says. “Communities and rail passengers need to clearly and loudly tell Congress that our communities and citizens rely on trains as important travel options.”

More information about the rallies is available at www.townswithouttrains.com.

Will Driver-less Cars Hurt Passenger Rail?

October 26, 2016

A study projects that self-driving cars could have an adverse effect on rail passenger ridership, reducing it by 40 percent.

Amtrak 4The study by the Boston Consulting Group, titled “Will Autonomous Vehicles Derail Trains?” suggests that in some communities trains could be replaced by self-driving motor vehicles.

“The advent of autonomous vehicles could well affect passenger rail travel as profoundly as did the automobile 125 years ago,” the report states.

It remains to be seen when self-driving vehicles will appear on roads and streets on a large scale.

A number of pilot programs are underway by such companies as Tesla, Uber and Google.

Uber recently began a test program of driverless cars in Pittsburgh and the U.S. Department of Department of Transportation has written new regulations for the cars.

The Boston group report cited a survey of 5,500 people in 10 countries that found that 50 percent of them would ride in a driverless-car.

The Boston group said an advantage of self-driving vehicles is that they can deliver passengers right to the doorstep of where they want to do.

The study also said that the technology to regulate autonomous vehicles would cost less than a passenger rail system.

Passenger rail carriers could take advantage of self-driving vehicles, the study said, by having a fleet of such vehicles at the ready to take passenger the last few miles of their journey once they step off a train.

Not all rail passenger advocates agree with the conclusions of the study.

Andy Kunz, president and CEO of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association, told Trains magazine that the idea driverless cars would replace passenger trains is “absurd.”

“They want to spend a trillion dollars to try to make cars operate closely spaced as a ‘platoon’ with no proof whatsoever it will ever work, when we already have trains that rapidly move people closely spaced together, and have been proven and successful for 150 years,” Kunz said. “There is no way this driverless car system will ever come close to moving the high numbers of people across a region that high speed rail can do now.”

Kunz cautioned that driverless cars could become the target of hackers, citing how Chinese security researchers figured out how to control a Tesla car remotely.

“They think people are going to get into their driverless car, program in a destination, and then sit back and read the newspaper while the vehicle does the navigating, when we already have taxis, Uber and trains that do this now without having to invent anything new,” Kunz said.

Also critical of the report was the National Association of Railroad Passengers, which said the report ignores new trends in resettlement patterns that have seen young and educated professionals moving to cities and walkable communities.

“That has led to steady growth in passenger rail service, with cities and states looking to develop new rail lines and multi-modal stations,” NARP said. “In addition, rail transit is technology that that readily available for the development of passenger rail networks, and it is a mode of transportation that people are familiar with, and can rely on.”

Challenges of Establishing New Amtrak Station in Buffalo Addressed During Public Hearing

October 22, 2016

Building a new Amtrak station in Buffalo, New York, will take some time and it won’t come cheap.

But those pushing for a new station are optimistic that it will be built.

Amtrak 4That was the consensus at a recent public meeting to discuss what needs to be done to get a depot to replace the current Exchange Street station.

That facility closed last month after its ceiling caved in following heavy rains.

Amtrak’s Empire Service and Maple Leaf continue to stop at Exchange Street.

For now, the only open station building in Buffalo is in suburban Depew, which is also served by the Lake Shore Limited.

Among the options for a new station are building in Canalside or restoring Buffalo Central Terminal, which has not hosted scheduled passenger trains since 1979.

Speakers at the hearing said that before a station can be built, the region needs to undertake a study, obtain funding and gain the support of political officials.

Bruce Becker, vice president of operations for the National Association of Railroad Passengers, said it remains to be seen if if the city or the state should guide the process.

“The key is finding the right agency or government organization to take the lead,” Becker said. “The City of Buffalo would be a natural to do that because it’s in the City of Buffalo, and would benefit the City of Buffalo. But somebody has to say, ‘I’m going to step up because this is important.’ ”

An advantage of using Central Terminal is that it would be able to serve all Amtrak trains passing through Buffalo.

Niagara Falls Senior Planner Tom DeSantis said his city spent nearly two decades planning and constructing a new station that Amtrak still has not agreed to use.

“You’re in a much better place. The state is in a much better place. And I think your experience with this is going to be a lot quicker,” he said. “It won’t probably be any less contentious, but it should go a lot quicker, arriving at kind of A-OK, we’ve gone over all of the options. We’ve weighed all of the alternatives. We think we know what we want.”

The Niagara Falls station cost $43 million.

Becker said rehabilitating Central Terminal would be a more complex project than was constructing the station in Niagara Falls.

“We all know the topic of Buffalo Central Terminal is on the table and needs to be fully explored, but certainly I think realists would agree that that means in conjunction with redevelopment of that landmark,” Becker said. “A new train station cannot be that sole redevelopment. It needs an overall project because that’s a huge undertaking.”

The challenge of renovating the existing Exchange Street Station is that it is in a less than ideal location and is not handicapped accessible. The station, the platform and the tracks have different ownership.

Former Ohio Congressman LaTourette Dies at 62; Supported Passenger Rail, Public Transportation

August 6, 2016

Former Ohio Congressman Steve LaTourette died this pst week at age 62 of pancreatic cancer.

Mr. LaTourette was known for his support of passenger rail and investing in the nation’s infrastructure.

Steve LaTourette

Steve LaTourette

Representing the 19th District for 18 years, Mr. LaTourette stepped down in 2013, citing what he termed an increasingly corrosive atmosphere of partisanship in Washington.

“You get some who just take this attitude that, ‘If I don’t get 100 percent of what I want, I’m going to take my ball and go home,’” Mr. LaTourette told WKSU-FM in a recent interview. “And that’s not the way the country was set up. That isn’t the way life is.”

Mr. LaTourette, a Republican, represented Ohio’s 19th District in Congress for 18 years.

The American Public Transportation Association and the Association of American Railroads both hailed Mr. LaTourette for his work on public transit and freight rail.

“As a senior member of the Republican leadership and a strong believer in the Mass Transit Account, [Mr. LaTourette] successfully fought with APTA against the ill-conceived effort to eliminate dedicated federal transit funding in 2012,” said APTA Chair Valarie McCall and Acting President and Chief Executive Officer Richard White in a statement.

They described Mr. LaTourette as “a voice of reason and an exemplary example of what it means to be a selfless public servant.”

AAR President and CEO Edward Hamberger in a statement described Mr. LaTourette as a leader for many years on transportation, saying that the railroad industry is deeply saddened by his passing.

“The AAR had the honor of working with Rep. LaTourette during his time on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, including during his service as chairman of the panel’s Subcommittee on Railroads, and always found him to be fair: gathering facts from all sides and at the end of the day, exercising good judgment,” Hamberger said.

The National Association of Railroad Passengers described Mr. LaTourette as a leading Republican voice for bipartisan investment in infrastructure and passenger rail.

Mr. LaTourette is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and his six children: Sarah, Amy, Clare, Sam, Emerson and Henry.

STB Passenger Rulings Panned, Applauded

August 1, 2016

Rail passenger advocates were pleased but the Association of American Railroads was disappointed with rulings issued last week by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board pertaining to Amtrak’s on-time performance.

STBIn one decision, the STB said it would not institute a proposed policy statement that would have given Amtrak’s contract railroads more freedom to determine dispatching preferences.

Instead, the STB said it would consider on a case-by-case basis Amtrak complaints about its trains not being given preferential treatment as required by federal law.

In the second case, the STB said it would consider arrivals and departures at intermediate stations in investigations of on-time performance.

The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 mandates an average 80 percent on-time requirement for Amtrak trains.

The STB is authorized to investigate instances in which a host railroad is not dispatching Amtrak trains in a way as to reach that standard.

“It is a disappointment the [board] has decided to add mid-point on-time performance measures, which could result in negative impacts for freight rail customers and consumers,” the AAR said in a statement. “But the freight rail industry will continue to work with Amtrak to provide dependable passenger service in the country. In the meantime, we will review the two decisions and evaluate our further legal options.”

On the other hand, Jim Mathews, president of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, said in a statement, “NARP congratulates the STB for coming to the correct decision in these important rulemakings. The STB plays a crucial role in ensuring that the national rail system operates both fairly and efficiently, and in ensuring that Congressional mandates are respected and enforced.”

Rumors Flying About LSL Reroute via Michigan

July 25, 2016

The National Association of Railroad Passengers is reporting that rumors have been flying that Amtrak is considering re-routing the Lake Shore Limited through Michigan.

Amtrak Lake Shore LimitedNARP said some reports have the train being rerouted via Detroit, Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo as early as this October and that the reroute would be experimental.

Amtrak has acknowledged that such a routing is being studied as part of a “very high level analysis of options for the future,” NARP said on its website.

In the NARP hotline feature posted last week, the rail passenger advocacy group said it has heard the Lake Shore rerouting rumors from sources inside and side of Amtrak.

The group noted that the Michigan Department of Transportation has expressed interest in seeing a long distance train between Chicago and the East rerouted through Michigan.

Amtrak for several years ran its Chicago-Toledo Lake Cities via Detroit. Scheduled to connect in Toledo with the Lake Shore Limited, the Lake Cities was discontinued between Toledo and Detroit in April 1995 as part of a route-restructuring.

If the Lake Shore Limited is sent via Michigan, its route would remain unchanged east of Toledo.