Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Palo Alto is “suspicious” of California HSR

(EDITOR’S NOTE: the “comments” section contains some excellent information and local insight. THANKS TO OUR READERS!)

The Almanac Online reports Palo Alto officials have some concerns about the proposed California HSR splitting the community in tow and taking private property to expand the existing right-of-way.

The draft memorandum of understanding between the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board and the California High-Speed Rail Authority lays out the framework for cooperation between the two agencies. But the document also indicates that the two agencies already have a fairly clear idea of what the Caltrain corridor would look like when the high-speed rail is built.

“Ultimate configuration of the Caltrain corridor will be a four-track, grade-separated high speed rail system, with mixed traffic from Caltrain commuter rail and the high speed train service capable of operation on all four tracks to enable Caltrain to achieve service levels of no less than eight trains per hour in each direction,” the agreement between the two agencies reads. “In some places, the corridor may consist of more than four tracks.”

The statement appears to contradict earlier assertions by rail-authority officials that all design options — including running the high-speed rail through an underground tunnel — are still on the table. Palo Alto officials and residents have strongly argued that running the line underground would be in the best interests of the city.

So the question arises, are they living in some sort of alternate universe? The very idea of building this tunnel brings up ugly visions of Boston’s “big dig.” The price tax makes a tax-and-spend liberal like me wince.

Pesky details like the original agreements for the right-of-way may drasticly change the situation. Who knows? Otherwise, there’s always politics. How can the local needs be accommodated in the bigger picture?

This is not an easy situation. In Little Rock, for example, a freeway cut through the central city neighborhoods 25 years ago. What emerged is a   vast sector of substandard housing and crime. This is in place of middle income  neat neighborhoods. If the railroad must be expanded, as much of the streets and local amenities must remain.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, United States High Speed Rail boosts rail passenger service

Without making this all about me, I must admit to having quite a way with words. This is a tendency I plan to curb for a while.

But let the grumpy publisher and founder of Trains for America uncork one little rant on a pet peeve, and it gets splashed all over the internet. I even have reason to believe that there has been discussion on Trainorders, but I cannot penatrate the curtain of secrecy Todd has erected around one of the best rail discussion groups around

And I think Todd Clark is a greag guy, a wonderful advocate and an amazing businessman. He has turned his passion into a profession. So, Todd, if you ever read this, what exactly was said? Did they really come after me? Should I move to Mexico?

But this isn’t about me.

Sarah Goodyear has a tremendous item about her journey on the Crescent beginning in Meredian, Miss. That’s a town which is deprived of transportation alternatives and Amtrak serves a strong purpose in the region.

I wish to be very careful not to implicate Sarah Goodyear in my unfortunate outburst, for which I have already apologized profusely. Her comments deal only with the general  rail advocacy put forward by TFA and not my lapse into lunacy. She mentions a forthcoming story that we should all be anticipating.

I’ll be writing in a future post about how the small city of Meridian has leveraged its railroad infrastructure into a powerful tool for economic redevelopment precisely because its mayor recognizes that passenger trains provide efficient and pleasurable transportation. Rail needs more advocates like him, and like the folks at Trains for America.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail

MEMO: to San Jose Mercury News

RE: Your headline, “Train buffs can take advantage of Amtrak discounts”

(deep breath)

So do ticket agnets ask prospective travelers to prove they are “train buffs?”

To be more specific. Your headline wrongly suggests that the only travelers that might be attracted to train travel are those who have already acquired a special taste. Some attach negative socioeconomic meanings to the term “train buffs.” Please desist.

I think I will not pick at this wound any more except to say that a better headline might have been “Amtrak offers attractive discounts.”

Some of us (gulp) find the “train buff” thing a bit offensive.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

Auto Train Florida station to get $10.5 million upgrade

Well, for goodness sake, they sometiems use a tent! That’s what the story ways. The new station will reportedly have a waiting room for 600. The Orlando Sentinel has the complete story and a useful Auto tTrain FAQ.

In May, Sanford’s Amtrak Auto Train station is set to start on a $10.5 million face-lift, one that officials hope will draw more riders and improve the image of the car-toting train service.

Currently, the station serves passengers with a cramped waiting room and a tent to handle the overflow.

Filed under: Amtrak, Regional USA Passenger Rail

Amtrak: Lake Shore Limited gets thru Boston sleeper

… and an improved Chicago departure time.

March 27, 2009

Eastbound Lake Shore Limited to Depart Chicago an Hour Earlier; Ridership for the Route is Up 1.9% Since October 2008
BOSTON and CHICAGO – The Amtrak Lake Shore Limited will offer sleeping car service between Chicago and Boston to better suit our passengers needs, starting with the eastbound departure of Trains 48/448 on April 2 from Chicago and the westbound departure of Trains 49/449 from New York and Boston on April 4. The eastbound Train 48/448 will depart Chicago an hour earlier than the existing schedule, also effective on April 4.

The restoration of sleeping car service provides a higher level of comfort than can be provided in coach for passengers riding to and from Boston (South Station) and the Massachusetts stops of Framingham, Worchester, Springfield and Pittsfield. Until now, Bay State passengers were required to change trains in Albany-Rensselaer, N.Y., to ride to and from points in Western N.Y., Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, including Buffalo, Erie, Cleveland, South Bend and Chicago.

“Our Lake Shore Limited service continues to post ridership gains and these changes are aimed to better serve our passengers needs by further improving their travel experience to and from Boston,” said Carol Gambrel, Director, Product Management.

The Lake Shore Limited is one of six trains that are getting an intense focus to improve revenue, ridership, and to drive customer service improvements across the Amtrak system.

“We continue to rely on customer and employee feedback to enhance service on routes across the Amtrak system, and the Lake Shore Limited is a prime example of what can be achieved by listening to and acting upon suggestions from both groups,” said Emmett Fremaux, Vice President of Marketing & Product Management, who heads the Route Performance Improvement program.

Schedule Changes

As part of this change, the eastbound Train 48/448 will depart Chicago at 9:00 p.m., local time, and most timing will change across the route, effective April 4. Use the Fare Finder on to determine exact schedule departure and arrival times. Amtrak will continue to open the Dining Car for a pre-departure Welcome Aboard reception for sleeping car passengers.

There is a also a slight change to the schedule of Train 49, the westbound Lake Shore Limited, as it arrives in Albany-Rensselaer, due to track work on the Metro North Commuter Railroad, north of New York City.


In figures for the five months ending Feb. 28, 2009, 130,352 passengers rode on the Lake Shore Limited, an increase of 1.9 percent from the same period a year earlier. Ticket revenue is up by more than $844,000 and is in excess of $9.1 million for the five months that begin the current Amtrak fiscal year.

Amtrak ridership for overnight trains is also up for the Oct. 2008-Feb. 2009 period. The total of 1,628,631 passengers is an increase of seven percent from the year-ago figure and includes double-digit increases for several routes on the national network.

About Amtrak

Amtrak has posted six consecutive years of growth in ridership and revenue, carrying more than 28.7 million passengers in the last fiscal year. Amtrak provides intercity passenger rail service to more than 500 destinations in 46 states on a 21,000-mile route system. For schedules, fares and information, passengers may call 800-USA-RAIL or visit

Filed under: Amtrak, Regional USA Passenger Rail

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March 2009