Amtrak Tracking for My Commute Between New York City and Philadelphia

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Train Speed on the NEC - comments from the Quod Ero Spero Blog

The Quod Ero Spero Blog has a couple posts about higher speed trains along the NEC, wanted to put the links here:
FYI, I believe Quod Ero Spero translates to "I look forward to what I shall  become"

Amtrak ridership falls below expectations in fiscal 1Q 2009

Amtrak in a statement Wednesday posted on the site said it carried fewer passengers than expected in fiscal 1Q 2009 as businesses cut back on travel and more Americans returned to the roads as fuel prices declined from summer highs. October through December 2009 is the first quarter of fiscal year 2009 for Amtrak.

Some points from the statement:

"Amtrak carried 7.05 million passengers from October through December, the first quarter of fiscal year 2009. That's just slightly fewer riders than the same period last year, but nearly 5 percent below what the company expected for the quarter.

Revenue for the quarter was 7 percent below expectations for the government-owned corporation, which has posted six years of ridership and revenue growth.

The northeast corridor between Washington and Boston, particularly the higher-speed Acela service, led Amtrak's decline in ridership and revenue for the quarter.

Acela trains, which are popular with business travelers, carried about 806,000 passengers from October through December, about 9 percent fewer trips than a year ago and 12 percent below what Amtrak expected for the quarter."

A drop in ridership on the NEC was expected as I posted prior. I think Amtrak should be able to figure out that business travel composes a large part of the NEC traffic and since we're in a recession they should've anticipated a loss in ridership along the NEC and lowered revenue projections accordingly.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

2nd Hudson Rail Tunnel Clears Key Federal Hurdle

The New York Times is reporting that the prospects for a second rail tunnel under the Hudson River to Penn Station received a major boost when federal authorities approved an environmental assessment for a $9 billion tunnel planned by New Jersey Transit and the Port Authority. President-elect Barack Obama has said he is committed to spending billions of dollars on large infrastructure projects to revive the economy.

The tunnel proposed in the ARC project (Access to the Region's Core) would more than double the number of trains that can travel under the Hudson between New York and New Jersey to 48 per hour (at 23 now). The main ARC construction projects include a new two-track Trans-Hudson Express (THE) Tunnel and a deep, six-track terminal 175 feet below 34th Street as an annex to Penn Station. ARC would also allow more New Jersey Transit riders to reach New York without having to change trains in Newark or Secaucus. The project's six new tracks in Manhattan, which would terminate beneath 34th Street, would also allow commuters to connect underground to the subways and PATH trains at the Avenue of the Americas (6th Ave). This second tunnel would also relieve pressure on the century-old tunnel that New Jersey Transit shares with Amtrak allowing more Amtrak trains to be scheduled to enter/exit NYC, a benefit to commuters who use Amtrak.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A five point plan to fix the nation's transportation problems

The USA Today has an article today by David Grossman titled "A five point plan to fix the nation's transportation problems". Among other things it advocates expanding rail:

"Like many cities in Europe, we need high-speed rail networks connecting large metropolitan areas less than 500 miles apart. California voters recently approved a measure to construct a high-speed rail link that will connect San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than three hours. Amtrak's Northeast Corridor service continues to set ridership records, and while the Acela is speedy by U.S. standards, it falls far short of the fast trains in Europe and Japan."

I think Amtrak service will be expanded and improved over the next several years as part of a Federal economic stimulus package. Ironic I guess that it takes a tanking economy to get money to improve transit. Any NEC improvements will be a benefit for commuters so I am for it.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Amtrak Monthly Pass / Amtrak Commuter Pass

[UPDATE: See my post on 2011 Monthly Amtrak Pass costs for the PHL-NYC commuter]

A monthly Amtrak Pass, or as Amtrak calls it a "Multi-Ride Ticket", can be purchased at
  • One Monthly Ticket, valid for unlimited travel for an entire calendar month, between Philadelphia 30th Street Station (PHL) and New York Penn Station (NYP) as of January 2009 is $1,152.00.
  • One Ten-Ride Ticket, valid for ten rides within a 45-day period (same station pair/effective date as above), is $512.00.
At the start of month I gauged how much I needed to commute and bought the monthly or 10 trip accordingly. I bought them at the Amtrak ticket kiosks; Amtrak only recently offered to buy these on their site. Which one I purchased varied but I often bought the monthly. The monthly is the cheapest option if you commute regularly, by regularly I mean 10+ round trips (so 20+ one way trips) in one month (not that either price is hugely economical mind you). Plus you can get on any Regional train with either ticket type without a reservation so they do offer this huge convenience.

There is no monthly or multi-ride option for the Acela. Acela tickets are full price and must be purchased for each individual leg of your trip. Neither of the above ticket types can be used on the Acela, and they'll kick you off if you try and claim ignorance. The Acela is the Amtrak money maker and the conductors enforce that you have a valid Acela ticket.

So the monthly and 10 trip is what Amtrak offers for regular riders. There is no "commuter pass" or any other viable low cost option for regular Amtrak riders. Amtrak seems to discourage commuters with its pricing in my opinion, but that's the way it is and since Amtrak had record revenue and ridership in 2008 I don't think this will change in the near term.

I get this question often and wanted to post this information as it is kind of buried on the site.

"N.J., N.Y. governors look to Obama for Hudson tunnel cash"; Courier Post Online

Article on the about Federal funding for a new tunnel under the Hudson river into NYC. I'd say this will get funded by the Fed for sure in light of Obama's stated economic stimulus plan. This is good, the current tunnel is old, one stuck train hoses everyone, and the traffic it can handle is at maximum. A new tunnel is needed to handle the long term growth of commuting traffic into and out of NYC (though I bet it'll drop over the next couple years). This will benefit the economy along the NEC I feel as well as all commuters coming from the South into NYC, both via Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Amtrak Photo Contestant Arrested By Amtrak Police At New York Penn Station

Duane Kerzic was on the public platform in New York's Penn Station taking pictures of trains in hopes of winning the annual photo contest run by Amtrak. Amtrak police arrested him for refusing to delete the photos. We need security at our transportation hubs but security agents may go too far in some circumstances. Hopefully this will be dismissed and will be treated as just an unfortunate misunderstanding, it seems that no one was hurt. I never had a problem with Amtrak security or security in general at Penn Station. The security presence is high at this station, it's needed.