Amtrak Tracking for My Commute Between New York City and Philadelphia

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Amtrak Northeast Corridor Acela Plan now 160 mph, was 220 mph in early 2013

Amtrak issued a draft specifications for new trains to replace existing Acela's calling for 160 mph, not  220 mph Amtrak had said prior in January 2013.

Amtrak and the California High-Speed Rail Authority in Jan announced they were jointly seeking proposals for trains that could run at 220 miles an hour on the West Coast and the East Coast. California still wants 220-m.p.h. trains for its planned high-speed line between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The Acela travels up to 150 mph over a short stretch, but the top speed between NY and DC is 135 mph. The train's avg speed is much lower; over the approximately 300 mile trip between Philadelphia and Boston, the Acela averages 64 mph.

Improving Amtrak train performance will be incremental. The service I hope will get better and faster over time. This seems to be the case so movement in the right direction, even smallish improvements, is good and must be encouraged.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

New York City bound Amtrak train ends up in Philadelphia suburbs

An Amtrak train headed to New York City ended up in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Train #644 missed a signal after leaving Philadelphia's 30th Street station

Monday, July 29, 2013

"Amtrak Boarding Madness" from The Economist

A story from The Economist about why Amtrak does not allow people to stand on the platform at Penn Station before trains pull-in. The reasons provided by Amtrak as noted in the story are quite tepid. You can stand on the platform at 30th Street Station and at any subway stop in any city you stand on the platform waiting for the train, so why not at Penn Station for Amtrak. The Amtrak Blog implies it is "illegal" to stand on the platform but did not note a specific law. 

My guess is that probably for Penn Station Amtrak just wants to make sure everybody has a ticket before they get on the train. This was never too big a deal for me. As a commuter I knew where to board with minimal lines and how to avoid those tourists with huge bags who were always slow, so I never had an issue getting on sufficiently quick. 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

"Former Amtrak President David Gunn Still Hates Moynihan Station"

A New York Observer article by Stephen Jacob Smith notes how "Former Amtrak President David Gunn Still Hates Moynihan Station".

I like the plan to convert the Post Office/Farley Building to be Moynihan Station and replace Penn Station. David Gunn has some important points though about the drawbacks to the plan that the Observer clearly notes:

"From a transportation point of view it makes no sense." For passengers coming from the 1/2/3 trains, "what the Farley Building [Moynihan Station] does, is make you walk from Seventh Avenue all the way across Eighth Avenue. You'll have to go under the Eighth Avenue subway, then climb up to the [new] head house, which is to the west of Eighth Avenue, over towards Ninth Avenue."

Mr. Gunn noted that New Jersey Transit built a concourse that empties out on Seventh Avenue, reflecting its closer proximity to Manhattan's center of gravity and most of its north-south subway lines. One way to accommodate a head house at the old Farley Post Office would be to simply continue to allow passengers to board at the current station. "But [the real estate concerns] didn't want us to let people on at the old Penn Station, because I think the real estate developers had shops they wanted people to patronize at the [new] Farley [Moynihan Station] head house [that will replace Penn Station]"

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Amtrak's annual losses at lowest level since 1975

Courier Post Online story about Amtrak finances for 2012, highlights:

Amtrak's fiscal 2012 $361 million operating loss (year ending Sept. 30) was down 19 percent from 2011 and the lowest total since 1975. Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman said this is a sign of progress.

Boardman laid out an agenda for 2013 that includes delivery of the first of 70 new electric locomotives and 130 long-distance passenger cars, expansion of the Acela service in the Northeast with an additional New York-Washington round trip, and beginning the work necessary to acquire new high-speed trains.  The new locomotives will be easier to maintain and more energy efficient, using regenerative braking to feed energy back into the power grid.

Amtrak trains carried 31.2 million passengers in the 2012 fiscal year , the highest annual ridership since in 1971.

Amtrak showing improved finances and ridership are great signs, they need to invest to make the system more efficient and expand the service as the economy improves.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

More Amtrak Conductors Are High or Drunk on the Job Than Ever Before

New York Magazine story by Andre Tartar titled "More Amtrak Conductors Are High or Drunk on the Job Than Ever Before", relevant paragraph:

"A new report out by the Amtrak inspector general (Ted Alves) shows higher rates of conductors, mechanics, and engineers testing positive for drugs and alcohol than at any time in the past six years."


Friday, September 28, 2012

"Schumer vows to jump-start tunnel project"

Crains article today by Andrew J. Hawkins titled "Schumer vows to jump-start tunnel project" discussed how New York senator Schumer declared that ground could be broken on Amtrak's proposed tunnel under the Hudson River as soon as next year.

Some relevant points from the article:

Amtrak's Gateway Tunnel project to link New York and New Jersey plan to construct a third rail line under the Hudson River could break ground as early as the end of 2013 according to Schumer.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie killed the Access to the Region's Core (ARC) project, which was to include a train tunnel under the Hudson. The Gateway project was unveiled in February 2011Christie axed ARC.  Congress approved an initial $15 million for Gateway in November 2011 and Mr. Schumer said an additional $20 million was close to being secured. The total project is expected to cost $13-$15 billion and will not be completed before 2020.

The two rail tunnels that connect New Jersey and New York and both are more than 100 years old.

A new urgency has been brought to the project, Mr. Schumer said, since Amtrak's engineers determined that the best place to construct Gateway was directly under the Hudson Yards development on Manhattan's West Side. The Related Companies is expected to break ground on the massive, mixed-use project late this year potentially complicating Gateway if it does not start soon.

The Gateway project would expand capacity from two to four rail lines between New Jersey and midtown NYC, build new tracks and platforms at Penn Station and improve electrical connections. The new rail lines would relieve what is considered the worst transit bottleneck in the country, boosting commuter capacity on New Jersey Transit by 75%. Gateway would also allow Amtrak to expand its high-speed Acela service, which is necessary for the development of state-supported high speed rail in New York.

Rail service needs to expand along the NEC and this new tunnel needs to get done to ensure continued economic growth. I'm hoping work picks up as Schumer describes.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Amtrak to run test trains at 165 mph in Northeast

Amtrak announced Monday it will operate test trains overnight at 165 mph in four stretches from Maryland to Massachusetts.

Two test locations (Perryville MD, to Wilmington DE, and from Trenton to New Brunswick, NJ) currently have a speed limit of 135 mph. The two others (Rhode Island from Westerly to Cranston and in Massachusetts from South Attleboro to Readville) have 150 mph limits.

As part of a $450 million project funded by the federal high-speed rail program train tracks, electric power, signals, and other systems are to be upgraded over the next several years to improve reliability and to permit regular train operations at faster speeds.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New rail stations, tunnel to airport eyed for Philadelphia article: "Amtrak and city officials envision a new high-speed rail station on Market Street east of City Hall, linked by a 10-mile tunnel to Philadelphia International Airport, where a second new station would be built.  30th Street Station would become a hub for slower intercity trains and commuter service. Amtrak says a new high-speed rail alignment beneath Center City would allow bullet trains to avoid speed-killing curves and space limits near 30th Street Station, helping meet a goal of 37-minute train trips between Philadelphia and New York by 2040."

Mmmm. I love 30th Street Station and it is one of the most impressive train stations in the US. When I commuted to NYC from Philly 30th St Station was grand, spacious and comfortable which helped in dealing with a long daily commute (for the exact opposite feeling see NYC Penn Station). But a 37-minute train ride to get to NYC is worth some sacrifices so to make this happen I would be OK with 30th Station being relegated to a local hub.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"Hassles of Air Travel Push Passengers to Amtrak"

New York Times story by Ron Nixon about the continued growth of Amtrak, some highlights and some ticket cost comparisons:

Between New York and Washington, Amtrak said, 75 percent of travelers go by train; a share that has been building steadily since the Acela was introduced in 2000. Before that, Amtrak had about a third of the business between New York City and Washington. In the same period its market share between NYC and Boston grew to 54 percent from 20 percent.

Nationally, Amtrak ridership is at a record 30 million people. The Northeast accounts for more than a third of this.

Given the current trends Amtrak said traffic in the NEC could reach 43.5 million passengers by 2040, almost four times the level today.

Acela trains average about 80 percent full and earned an operating profit of more than $200 million last year on nearly $500 million in revenue. Acela tickets are costly - fares between New York and Washington range from an average of $145 for regular business class to $351 for first class; New York to Boston, $104 to $251; and Boston to Washington, $163 to $393. Non-Acela train fares between New York and Washington average $49 to $153 for coach and $120 to $193 for business class; New York to Boston, $49 to $133 for coach and $104 to $168 for business; and Boston to Washington, $70 to $185 coach and $144 to $233 for business class. By comparison the lowest one-way coach rate between Washington and New York was $236 on US Air before taxes and fees on Aug 15, 2012. Between New York and Boston, $229-$314, and Washington-Boston, $62-$369.  Due to demand Amtrak wants to add cars to the 20 Acela trains increasing Acela capacity 40 percent. Amtrak plans to add the new cars by 2015 and by 2020 increase the frequency of the trains between NYC and Washington.

The article notes that BoltBus and MegaBus have increased ridership since they began operating in 2008. The buses generally make the New York-to-Washington run in four and a half hours; tickets range from $1 to $40, a bargain compared to Amtrak and the airlines.

Amtrak is growing and it needs to be supported by Federal funds to ensure continued economic expansion along the NEC. The buses are nice but people will pay a premium for train service due to better convenience and comfort.