Amtrak Tracking for My Commute Between New York City and Philadelphia

Saturday, November 29, 2008

CBS: "Al Qaeda's Goal: Cripple Amtrak's Northeast Corridor"

The Mumbai terror attacks included hitting the main train station in the city, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Railway Station, where 10 people were shot and killed and many others wounded. Any terror attack anywhere in the world would most certainly include main transportation hubs. Philly and NY are the third and first busiest train stations in the US respectively. They are targets, no question.

The CBS story from November 26th states
"Uniformed officers, including this NYPD Counter Terrorism Squad members and Amtrak cops with M-16s, flooded Penn Station Wednesday after the FBI said it had received a 'plausible but unsubstantiated' report that Al Qaeda operatives discussed a plan two months ago to bomb New York City's mass transit system"

This is scary but Philly and NY have the police resources with the equipment and experience to respond and prevent terror attacks before they arise. I take the NYC subway everyday and I generally feel OK and safe doing so. I'd feel the same on Amtrak as well if I was still a regular commuter.  "See Something, Say Something":  this is all over the place in the NYC subway system; it's applicable for Amtrak commuters as well.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Philadelphia 30th Street Station had third most passengers in 2007; New York Penn Station first; Union Station Washington DC second

In a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer about Kummant's resignation is a one liner about passenger traffic:

"In 2007, Philadelphia's 30th Street Station was the third-busiest Amtrak station, behind New York and Washington."

This is probably common knowledge and likely will be the same for 2008.

Amtrak CEO Alex Kummant Resigns

Tom Acitelli of The New York Observer reports that Amtrak CEO Alex Kummant Resigns citing an AP article from the NY Times. This story in the New York Times states that Kummant and Amtrak's board ''had differences in strategic direction and management philosophy.''

Things were pretty good under his two year tenure with record ridership and revenue for Amtrak so I don't know what to make of the timing. His resignation is effective immediately. President-elect Barack Obama has expressed a willingness to expand Amtrak. Not sure why Kummant would bolt when a new administration was around the corner that has signaled it will fund Amtrak. My guess is he probably got a job offer that was better for him over the long term. The lifespan of an Amtrak CEO has been short so you might as well go when you're on top.

Hunter Biden, VP elect Joe Biden's son, is vice chairman of Amtrak's board. Not that this influenced things but I just did not know this.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Amtrak's Northeast Ridership Falls as Business Travel Declines" - Bloomberg

A Bloomberg story by Chris Dolmetsch "Amtrak's Northeast Ridership Falls as Business Travel Declines" notes that ridership on Amtrak's trains between Boston and Washington, including Acela, fell 5 percent in October from a year ago as business travel declined.

This is the first time I have ever seen a story stating there was a decline in NEC ridership of any sort since I started this blog.

The article goes on to state:

"The number of trips taken last month on the Acela declined 6.3 percent to 304,577 from October 2007, while trips taken on Northeast Regional trains dropped 4.5 percent to 621,694."

"Overall, Amtrak ridership rose 4.4 percent in October from a year earlier, and there were more travelers on almost all of the railroad's routes outside of the Northeast."

So ridership is up overall at Amtrak but down in the NEC. I think it's reasonable to say that business travel along the NEC will decline along with the economy. I'd say Amtrak NEC ridership in 2009 will be slightly less than 2008 due to the economy.  A few more empty seats for commuters?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

California voters approve $10B bond for bullet trains

AP report about Californians approving a plan to have high speed trains connect major metro areas in California. From the article:

"California voters are green-lighting the nation's most ambitious high-speed rail system, approving a nearly $10 billion bond to put speeding bullet trains capable of topping 200 mph between the state's major metropolitan areas."

"Backers sold the proposal as an innovative alternative to soaring airfares and gas prices. In the closing weeks of the campaign, they touted estimates that it would create nearly 160,000 construction-related jobs and 450,000 permanent jobs."

Amtrak NEC speed tops out at 125 MPH, but outside of the Philly-NYC range. With the Federal funding boost for Amtrak perhaps we'll see increased speeds all along the NEC. Good for commuters and travelers alike.

Monday, November 03, 2008

New York Times AP Article: "A Renewed Focus on Passenger Trains"

An AP article in the NY Times titled "A Renewed Focus on Passenger Trains" notes that passenger trains are returning to prominence.

Highlights from the story:
  • "The high cost of fuel, along with traffic and airport congestion, is drawing travelers back to trains for commuting and for travel between cities as much as 500 miles apart."
  • "Californians are considering selling billions of dollars worth of bonds to start on an 800-mile system of bullet trains that could travel at 200 miles per hour, linking San Francisco and San Diego and the cities in between."
  • "Rail travel is gaining greater favor in Congress, which provides subsidies to keep Amtrak rolling. Lawmakers are trying to find ways to deal with high energy prices, congested and aging infrastructure, and an air traffic control system that relies largely on World War II-era technology."
Rail travel for business or commuting is a viable option for many people. Even a fairly minimal investment compared to highway, airline, or Wall Street bail out subsidies in our rail infrastructure will make it the most compelling option instead of just viable.