Amtrak Tracking for My Commute Between New York City and Philadelphia

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Obama boosts Amtrak funding

The Boston Globe ran a story about the Obama administrations announcement the other day that the fed is pumping $1.3 billion into Amtrak, half of it directed to the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington. I'm happy to see the federal stimulus money is coming to Amtrak and into the NEC. Hope we can see some tangible improvements in the Amtrak over the next couple years.

Some points from the article with finance numbers and specific projects:

"Amtrak has been left out - in my opinion, much too long," said Joe Biden, who estimated that he has taken 7,000 trips on the rail line.

The $1.3 billion grant will double the size of the system's capital investment budget over the next two years, and will be used for capital improvements as well as safety upgrades, resulting in faster and more frequent train travel, lawmakers and transportation officials said. Amtrak's total annual budget is $3.2 billion, with $1.49 billion coming from federal subsidies.

The rail system plans to use $82 million to refurbish 68 passenger rail cars, returning them to service and increasing capacity on trains. Another $105 million is slated for replacement of the moveable bridge over the Niantic River near East Lyme, Conn. Without the bridge replacement, passengers between Boston and New York face delays or travel disruptions because the 102-year-old bridge cannot handle fast-moving trains, the White House said. Another $60 million will be used to install Positive Train Control, a technology that helps prevent collisions. The work will be done on the New York to Washington corridor and on the Porter, Ind., to Kalamazoo, Mich., route. Budget constraints have prevented Amtrak from making basic repairs in recent years and passengers have paid for it with overbooked trains, lower capacity, and slower speeds. The upgrades will make trains run faster, and added passenger capacity will save gasoline and commuter hours by encouraging more people to favor Amtrak over car travel.

The increased funding for Amtrak is "going to make America more productive," senator John Kerry said.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009 Amtrak May Cut Ticket Prices Again as Ridership Drops

Story in Bloomberg today by Chris Dolmetsch titled "Amtrak May Cut Ticket Prices Again as Ridership Drops", some points:

The article states that passengers are switching to slower, cheaper regional trains from the Acela. Amtrak had set an annual ridership record for the sixth straight year in the 12 months ending September 30. Amtrak states that passenger loads began falling in November 2008 as the economy worsened and gas prices dropped. Projections show passenger loads were down 1.6 percent through February for the fiscal year to date, including an 8.4 percent decline on the Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak says it isn't seeing a similar drop on its long- distance trains. Projections show passenger loads on those routes are up 6.1 percent for the fiscal year to date, with a 3.5 percent increase in February. Projections show February ridership fell 6.9 percent compared with the same month in 2008, with a 13 percent decrease on the Northeast Corridor.

To keep load factors steady Amtrak is examining whether to reduce fares on all of its routes.

I think this is not unexpected news. A bad economy means people travel less and when they do travel they'll take the cheaper options. Looks like Amtrak will take the proper pricing steps it needs to so as to remain competitive and keep their ridership numbers up.

Some comments on this same Bloomberg article in Trains for America blog...

Senator wants to jumpstart Moynihan with stimulus

A Crain's New York article on Schumer's ideas to fund development of the new Moynihan Station (the NY Penn Station replacement). Some points from the article:
  • Senator Charles Schumer of New York says $100 million in federal money, plus some of the billions marked for train projects, could get the stalled station project rolling.
  • Schumer said $100 million should be tapped from the pot of funding for shovel-ready projects in the federal stimulus package, and that additional funds should be secured from the $8 billion in stimulus money set aside for high-speed rail and $1.2 billion for Amtrak.
Penn Station in NYC needs to go, it's a rat hole. I do hope some federal stimulus money goes to Moynihan Station to get this project going. A new station will make commuting along the NEC, and in to/out of NYC specifically, more efficient. If a new station gets done with federal dollars I'd feel like I would actually be gaining some benefit from all tha federal stimulus money as I use Penn Station fairly often. I don't have an AIG or a BofA account so I'm not feeling any of that federal stimulus scratch.