Items tagged with 'Amtrak'
It kind of sums up the week.
Earlier this year Andrew Cuomo floated the latest plan for building a new train station in New York City to replace the outdated and much-unloved Penn Station. The broad outline of the project included the long-planned conversion of the huge post office building across the street from Penn Station.
Now there are more specific details: On Tuesday Andrew Cuomo revealed a timeline for the project, showed more renderings, and said the project will build a "world class" train station.
Andrew Cuomo's Tour of Major Infrastructure Project Renderings leading up to next week's State of the State power point address yesterday laid out his admin's plan for redeveloping Penn Station. And that's of interest here because NYP is the destination for so many train rides out of Albany-Rensselaer.
Cuomo is proposing a two-part plan for the Penn Station redevelopment: moving the train station portion of the facility across 8th Ave to a new station at the current post office building there, and then redeveloping the current Penn Station space as a subway hub. And there would be a new name for the two-part complex: Empire State Station.
Here are a few more bits and some renderings...
Over at National Journal there's an interesting article looking at why the state of passenger rail service in the US is often underwhelming. Here's a clip that reminded us of a lot of discussions regarding public infrastructure here in the Capital Region:
The Gulf situation is a miniature version of the chicken-and-egg question that bedevils Amtrak as a whole: Is it a waste of money because there isn't sufficient demand for trains? Or is there insufficient demand for trains because we haven't spent the money to create a great rail system? Outside of the Northeast Corridor, the tracks Amtrak uses are almost all owned by freight railroads. CSX, Union Pacific, and a handful of other behemoths naturally hog them, which contributes to Amtrak's chronic tardiness, which in turn dissuades passengers from taking Amtrak. As a result, Congress cites Amtrak's low-ridership numbers as a reason not to grant it larger subsidies, which of course are exactly what Amtrak would need in order to purchase its own train tracks. Commenting on the vicious cycle, [former Amtrak chairman] John Robert Smith says: "You can't disinvest in something and then beat it to death because it doesn't perform."
There's already relatively strong demand for train service in the Northeast, and Albany-Rensselaer is one of the busiest stations in the whole system. But if you could hop a high-speed train from here and reliably arrive at New York-Penn in, say, an hour and a half -- what might that do for ridership?
And the same goes for other sorts of transportation systems. What if the Capital Region had a bus rapid transit system that was truly rapid and worked more like a subway system than a bus? What if people felt good about the state of local taxis? How would that affect demand for those modes?
Anyway, that National Journal article includes some interesting bits about funding for Amtrak, some floated proposals for private high-speed rail in other parts of the country, and how political support for trains is maybe a bit more nuanced than you might expect.
Earlier on AOA: Thinking about high-speed rail in New York
Back in the day you could day trip to the edges of what we now call the Capital Region and never use a car. You could hop a trolley or a train, or take a boat along the Hudson. That sort of trip sounds fun to us -- and it inspired this year's AOA summer tour.
This July we've lined up an AOA day trip to Hudson -- a train ride down, a sunset cruise on the Dutch Apple for the return -- with a lot of fun and surprises along the way. We'd love for you to come along.
Because these tours have been so popular in the past, we're giving you the early heads up now so that you'll be ready when tickets go sale on later this week.
Here are the details...
High speed rail in this country is one of those things that always seems to be happening just over the horizon. And for the Northeast -- and the Capital Region specifically -- this somewhere-out-there future holds all sorts of potential. Imagine what it would be like to hop a train at Albany-Rensselaer -- the 9th busiest station in the nation -- and be in NYC in a little more than an hour.
The thing is, for all the talk, we never seem to get closer to actually arriving at high speed rail. But that might be changing. Slowly.
The state Department of Transportation is currently working to sort out plans for higher speed rail service through New York. And there was a public information session Tuesday at the NanoCollege about the options, the first of series of sessions around the state.
We stopped by, checked out the presentations, and talked with one of the people involved in the planning. Here's a breakdown of the state's current route toward high-speed rail.
The trains will keep running
The state Department of Transportation announced today that it's worked out a new cost-sharing agreement with Amtrak for passenger rail service in the state. So what? Well, now the trains won't stop running later this month, as was possible if DOT and Amtrak couldn't work out a deal. (A major public institution stopping service because two sides couldn't work a deal, who ever heard of such a thing? Oh, wait...) [NYS DOT] [TU]
DOT says it costs Amtrak $100 million a year to operate the Empire, Adirondack, Maple Leaf, and Ethan Allen lines -- and the state will be picking up $22 million of that. The Empire Service -- between Albany and NYC -- is among the most-traveled Amtrak routes in the nation, but it's revenues didn't cover its expenses as recently as 2011.
The new train location tracking system, available at Amtrak.com, provides near real-time train status of more than 300 daily trains, estimates of arrival times and station information - all in the context of the Amtrak national system map. Checking on train status is the second most popular action on Amtrak.com, just after purchasing tickets.
In addition to helping passengers plan travel, this new travel resource is an excellent tool for those planning the arrival or departure of family and friends. Users can search for information by train number or name, city name and station name or code.
That's a screengrab above of the Empire Service from this afternoon.
Amtrak announced this week that it set a one-month ridership record in July with 2.9 million passenger boardings, the most ever in the system's history.
Ridership on the Empire Service -- which runs between Albany/Rensselaer and NY Penn was 99,801 in July, up more than 7 percent during the same month last year. That made the Empire Service the 5th most-traveled short distance corridor in the nation during July. (And it ranks the line 7th for the whole system when you include the Northeast Corridor and Acela.)
Fiscal-year-to-date ridership on the Empire Service through July was 894,616 -- up 1.2 percent compared the same period the year before. That also ranked #5 for most-traveled short distance corridor.
After the jump, ridership numbers by line for July and year to date, sorted by ridership levels.
The bill that authorizes federal funding for Amtrak is up this fall -- and there's expected to be a fight over it in Congress. [The Hill via @RachelBarnhart]
A new Brookings report on Amtrak makes an important distinction on passenger rail service: distance matters. From the report:
The 26 routes traveling less than 400 miles make up the operationally efficient portion of the network. It includes the two most popular Northeast Corridor routes, the Acela and Northeast Regional, which operate between Boston and Washington D.C., including spurs into Virginia and western Massachusetts. The positive operating balance from these two routes--which currently do not receive direct state operating subsidies--were enough to offset the net operating costs of the other 24 short- distance routes. Those other sub-400 mile routes typically enjoy direct state support (even before the federal PRIIA legislation) and always serve at least one large metropolitan area. In total, these 26 corridors carried 83 percent of all system riders in 2012.
In fact, when taken all together Amtrak routes of 400 miles or less actually had a positive operating balance in 2011. The over-400 mile routes were in the red.
That said, some of the short distance routes don't do too well financially. And the Empire Service -- which runs between Albany and NYC -- is one of them. That line -- which doesn't get state support (it will starting later this year) -- had a negative operating balance of $31 million in 2011, almost half the cost of the service. But the Empire Service was the 7th most popular line in terms of ridership in fiscal year 2012, at 1.06 million riders. [TU] [AOA]
The Brookings report also includes ridership numbers by metro area, not just by station. And it reports riders in Albany-Schenectady-Troy metro area to 862,737 in 2012 -- up 39 percent from 1997.
Amtrak had 31.2 million passengers in fiscal year 2012. The Brookings report notes the rail service is the fastest-growing domestic transportation mode over the last 15 years.
Earlier on AOA: An updated vision for high-speed rail
Amtrak says it carried 31.2 million passengers during the fiscal year that ended with September -- a new record for the train org (Amtrak started in 1971). That's up 3.5 percent compared to the year before.
Ridership on Amtrak's Empire Service -- the line between Albany and New York City -- was up 3.8 percent in fiscal year 2012 compared to the previous year. There were 1.06 million riders on the line.
If you count the Northeast Regional service (Boston to DC) and Acela Express (Boston to DC) with the other short distance corridors, the Empire Service was the 7th most popular short distance corridor in the nation in fiscal year 2012.
Amtrak says the Northeast Corridor service (Northeast Regional and Acela combined) -- which runs between Boston and DC -- had its best year ever, with 11.4 million passengers.
A table with the figures for all the short distance corridor totals is after the jump -- we've highlighted all the routes that include a stop at Albany-Rensselaer.
Earlier on AOA: An updated vision for high-speed rail
Amtrak has released an updated version of its aspirations for high-speed rail along the Northeast Corridor. The short story: the new set of goals streamlines the plan, it's still expensive ($151 billion), and high-speed rail is still decades away. Transportation nation has a digest of the report.
The Empire Corridor doesn't figure into this plan. And despite whatever strong potential there might be for high-speed rail in the Hudson Valley, seeing Amtrak peg a target date for high-speed service along the Boston-NYC-DC corridor somewhere in the 2030-2040 range puts the chances of Albany-NYC service in perspective.
That said, it doesn't have to be 220 mph or nothing. There are a lot of improvements that could potentially speed up, and smooth out, Empire Corridor service (examples: reducing bottlenecks, upgrading crossings). Higher-speed rail (say, 110 mph) should be a reasonable expectation. And people would ride it -- the Albany-Rensselaer station was the 9th busiest Amtrak station in the country last year. Getting faster service along the Hudson Valley, plus high-speed service along the Northeast Corridor, could make rail travel from here to places like Philadelphia and DC a lot more attractive.
Amtrak announced today that there's now free wi-fi service on its Empire Service route, which travels from Buffalo to Albany to NYC.
The Empire Service is one of 12 routes to get wi-fi today. A few other locally-connected routes are also getting the service, though it will be limited to select cars: Ethan Allen Express (New York City - Rutland, Vermont), Adirondack (New York City - Montreal), and Maple Leaf (New York City - Toronto). Look for the wifi sticker (right) in the cars.
Amtrak already had wi-fi on Acela routes. Has anyone used it? (Update: Benita says she used it yesterday and "it worked just fine.") We're hoping it's better than the often dodgy service on the MegaBus. Amtrak says it makes use of mobile data networks to provide the service, and there's limited bandwidth among many of its routes.
Full press release with more details after the jump.
Earlier on AOA: The best way to get from Albany to NYC?
Amtrak announced this week that ridership was up 5.7 percent during the fiscal year that just ended compared to the year before. The rail org had a record 28,716,857 passengers.
Here are how some of the routes that pass through the Capital Region fared (rimshot):
The Empire Service gets a lot of traffic -- not just for here, but overall. In fact, it's the fifth most traveled non-Northeast Corridor route in Amtrak's system.
We're big fans of riding the train regionally -- it's our favorite way to get to NYC from Albany. Amtrak says it has a 65 percent share of the air-rail market between Washington and New York and a 52 percent share for air-rail travel between New York and Boston. The Northeast Corridor line had more than 7.1 million passengers last fiscal year.
By the way: Amtrak reports ridership is up 37 percent since FY2000.
Sometimes we have this transit fantasy in which the Capital Region is connected to other cities via high-speed rail. Headed for New York City? One hour. Boston? A one-magazine trip. Buffalo? Why? (We kid. Sort of.) It could have a profound effect on this region.
But the more this issue develops (or, you know, doesn't), we're thinking we might be traveling via jet pack before we get high-speed rail here.
Average speed: 140 mph
Washington to Boston: 3 hours
New York to Washington: a little more than 1.5 hours
Cost: $117 billion ($42 billion if it's all plunked down now)
Funding in place: no
Projected completion date: 2040
Yep, 30 years from now. And high-speed rail makes a lot sense along this corridor -- it's jammed with people and a lot of them already ride trains. Even so, the cost, planning and politics make the project a long shot. [The Transport Politic]
And despite all the talk about New York State hopping on board with high-speed rail, that's not looking likely, either.
Of course, things change. The political situation could shift. The economy could (somehow) get a lot better. The price of oil could way up.
Or not. So... where do we get fitted for a jet pack?
One of Amtrak's "weekly specials" right now is Albany-Rensselaer to/from New York Penn during parts of July.
When we checked Amtrak's website this morning, it quoted us a $27.75 fare for:
+ afternoon trips (leave 3:05 pm) Monday-Thursday starting July 12
+ morning trips (leave 7:05 am) Saturdays starting July 10
That's about $10 cheaper than the usual lowest price (make sure you go through the weekly specials section). And, of course, you'll probably need to get back -- the return fare is $37 and up.
By the way: The weekly specials page includes routes in other states -- and they have much cooler names than "Empire Service." Michigan has a "Wolverine" line, Florida a "Silver Meteor" and California a "California Zephyr."
(Thanks, Jessica R!)
Earlier on AOA: The best way to get from Albany to NYC?
Not that anyone ever really needs an excuse to go to Montréal, but here are two additional reasons to think about hopping a train north this fall.
Human skull fragments in Saratoga County, flu hitting some schools, school board hears Whalen appeal, Rensselaer stations Amtrak's 10th busiest
State police say fragments of a human skull were found in a wooded area in Greenfield (map). They say it appears the skull belonged to a child 10-12 years old. The state police lab will be testing the fragments for DNA. [TU] [Fox23] [Saratogian] [CapNews9]
A spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration says judges are leaving the bench because "they can't make ends meet" on their $136,700 salary. The state's judiciary has been pushing for a pay raise for years. [TU]
Albany police say four men, armed with guns, invaded a house on Washington Ave yesterday (map). Police say the it appears the house was targeted. They say the robbers used zip-ties to tie up seven people in the house. [Fox23] [CapNews9] [TU]
Some Capital Region schools are reporting higher than usual rates of absenteeism because of the flu. Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons cancelled classes yesterday because so many students were sick. [TU] [WTEN]
More budget reaction, power almost completely restored, Kennedy goes upstate, Pine Hills residents upset about crime, police say penis guy wasn't wearing shirt or shoes
A Siena poll reports that 78 percent of people polled support raising taxes on people making $1 million a year or more as a way to help cover the state's budget gap. The Paterson budget plan currently doesn't include such a tax. [SRI]
There's some question as to whether the Luther Forest chip fab would still qualify for all its tax breaks under the Paterson budget plan's proposed adjustment to the Empire Zone program. Yesterday the state approve the transfer of $650 million in incentives from AMD to the spin-off company that will be building the fab. [TU] [Daily Gazette]
Proposed cuts to state subsidies for Amtrak could halt service between Albany and Montreal. The line that runs between Rutland and Albany could also be in jeopardy, which -- when combined with the possible cut of the Montreal route -- would mean the station in Saratoga Springs would be left with no trains. [TU]
Liquor store owners are upset by David Paterson's proposal to let supermarkets sell wine. They say rules prohibiting them from owning more than one location and from staying open late will hurt their ability to compete with the supermarket chains. [TU]
Caroline Kennedy made stops in Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo yesterday as part of her non-campaign campaign for Hillary Clinton's Senate seat. She also may -- or may not -- have said she'd be running for the seat in 2010 if she's not appointed. [NYT] [AP/TU]
OK, you're heading to New York for a show, a game or a meeting, but you don't want to deal with traffic and parking so you opt for Amtrak. Riding the rails from the A-Town to The Big Apple is scenic and more relaxing than driving, but will you get there on time? The trip should take about 2 hours and 25 minutes. Anyone whose taken the train knows you're sort of at the mercy of the rail gods, though. But now there's amtrakdelays.com, aims to give us a little more control (or at least the illusion of control) over when we arrive. The site keeps delay records for Amtrak lines and calculates the the average delay for each train.
So, we did a search for a bunch of trains that run from Albany to New York City. Here's what we found...
Hard billing legislators, McCain pretty popular here, new security for Amtrak, phone trouble for Saratoga cops, Corning Estate for sale, Saints lose
Congratulations Assemblywoman Earlene Hooper (D-Long Island), you're the winner of this year's "Who among legislators can log the most in per diem expenses" contest! This year's winning total: $36,452. [NYT]
A Siena poll reports that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are leading John McCain in New York -- but not by as much as you might have thought. [Troy Record]
Warren Redlich, one-time Congressional candidate and current Guilderland town board member, stirred the pot recently after he called two candidate's for the town's police chief job "political flunkies" in a comment on a TU blog. It turns his comments may be a violation of state law. [TU]
Amtrak will start randomly searching passenger bags this week. Also coming to train platforms this week: officers with automatic weapons and bomb-sniffing dogs. [AP]
Apparently the phones at police headquarters in Saratoga Springs have a problem: they sometimes just don't work. At all. [Saratogian]
The Corning Estate is up for sale. It can be yours for $2.2 million. [TU]
The Siena men's hoops team lost on the road to Manhattan 73-72. A win would have put the Saints in first place in the MAAC. [TU]