All posts by Alexander Ivanoff

The Adirondack Scenic Railroad Decision and What It Means

 

The September 26th ruling from New York State Supreme Court Judge Robert Main, Jr was not only a welcoming for supporters of passenger rail across New York State, but also an act of common sense. I applaud Judge Main’s ruling and the efforts that Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi and others have done to ensure the rails stay in place. Rail advocates have long disagreed with Governor Andrew Cuomo and many others on the plan to remove 34 miles of rail line from Lake Placid to Tupper Lake, as it would destroy a vital transportation artery.

For years I have been part of the argument that the rails should be restored to allow trains to travel the full length of the line from Lake Placid to Utica to connect with buses and Amtrak service. While I understand that the state is under fiscal stress right now, such a dream should stay alive. The railroad brings campers into the Adirondack Park. The railroad has been used in the past to fight fires and even to install and maintain power lines. While the long-term goal to rehabilitate the line would cost millions of dollars, I still think it is a cause worth pursuing, and so does the state, as NYSDOT has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Adirondack Scenic for vital improvements. While the need for trails is an important issue to the Adirondacks (and one I can appreciate), tearing up a perfectly good railroad is an inappropriate way to do so.

In his current frustration,  Adirondack Rail Trail Advocates (ARTA) board member Lee Keet took to the Adirondack Almanack to voice his disappointment, claiming that Judge Main might have been bias in his ruling. Unfortunately, I expect the ruling to be appealed, as the region, the DEC, the DOT and the governor’s office are extremely eager to see the line come to fruition.

I have to disagree. While New York State law is mind-boggling to say the least, Judge Main has been known to uphold the law. Had Main ruled in favor of the APA, DEC, DOT and ARTA, I view it as having opened up a Pandora’s box which could have threatened many tourist railroads operating across the country.

ARTA’s site claims that:

The seasonal tourist train between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake was provided for in the 1995 Unit Management Plan as an experiment that had to prove itself through market development for the benefit of the local economies.  In addition, the operator was committed to upgrading the entire line from Lake Placid to Old Forge to Class III service (60 MPH max) at its expense. This experiment has failed: ridership has never exceeded 14,000 per annum and the New York Department of Transportation continues to expend massive amounts to keep the corridor open and the limited train service running. 

The Adirondack Scenic Railroad operates on a revolving 30-day agreement between the State and the railroad. It is near impossible to get funding and support when the state could tell you at a moment’s that your operating rights are not being renewed. While the state owns the tracks, ARPS (the Adirondack Rail Preservation Society, the Adirondack Scenic Railroad’s parent organization) if I recall correctly owns the equipment to operate. In recent years the organization has gone through an adolescence, paying off debts, bringing in a young and dynamic executive director. Far from an organization without aim, the ASRR has become a far better operation.

As someone who finished high school and college outside of the Adirondacks, the line is dear to my heart. The father of a friend of mine from college has been a longtime volunteer for the railroad. When I came back to the region last fall to ride the train, I had a very delicious lunch at the Downhill Grill. The train made that in part possible.

While I know that many of us will not change the opinions of Keet and others on the railroad, I hope that they can appreciate that there are many of us who believe that preserving the railroad (and a vital part of the region’s past) is the right thing to do, and that a rail-with-trail is perfectly sensible (and also benefits the rail riders as well!). I understand why so many people in the Tri-Lakes support the idea for a trail linking the three villages, and I am strongly in favor of economic development for the Adirondacks and the North Country as a whole. My disagreement stems from the method to achieve that economic development and the trail to drive it. Tearing out a perfectly good rail line, even if it is need of rehabilitation, makes little sense.

What bothers me and other rail advocates is the groupthink in the Adirondacks, that the railroad is a significant nuisance, dishonest entity that does nothing but inconvenience the people it serves. That being said, the Adirondack Scenic Railroad should make a public relations campaign to highlight the benefits the railroad brings to the Tri-Lakes to quell the negative opinion people have of the railroad.

What the new Siemens Chargers mean for riders

From Railway Age:

The first two Siemens SC-44 Charger diesel passenger locomotives have arrived in Colorado for the start of testing at TTCI’s Pueblo, Colo., facility.

Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) awarded Siemens a $228 million contract in 2014 to supply 32 of the 125-mph diesel-electric locomotives for use on Amtrak services in the states of Illinois, California, Michigan, Missouri and Washington. The locomotives are being assembled at the Siemens plant in Sacramento, Calif., and the first units are due to be accepted by IDOT in December.

The first options for additional units were exercised in November 2015, when the states of California, Illinois and Maryland ordered a total of 34 locomotives.

In September 2014, Florida East Coast Industries subsidiary All Aboard Florida ordered 10 Charger locomotives to operate its Brightline higher-speed passenger service from Miami to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, which is due to be launched next year. Assembly of these locomotives is now under way at Sacramento.

The four-axle, AC-traction Charger is the first locomotive to be equipped with the Cummins QSK95 prime-mover. The 95-litre, 16 cylinder engine is rated at 4,400 hp (3.28 MW) and is equipped with Cummins’ Modular Common Rail Fuel System (MCRS) with quad-turbocharging. The QSK95 is also equipped with Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) exhaust aftertreatment, enabling it to meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tier 4 emissions standards.

For the last few years, Amtrak’s diesel fleet has been pretty static, excluding the rebuilt stimulus P40DC locomotives. However, weather extremes have not been kind to the fleet, and on numerous occasions a host railroad’s locomotive is leading an Amtrak train. I can only imagine the frustration a host railroad has when an Amtrak locomotive has failed on a section of their track, no less the passengers.

The new SC-44’s, as the Chargers are being called, will free up in the Midwest upwards of about 20 locomotives that Amtrak should have overhauled immediately. When Amtrak’s fleet is at peak performance, passenger satisfaction improves. Coming home from the 2014 NARP Spring Council of Representatives meeting, the locomotive I was on (all but certain it was an AEM-7) experienced technical issues a little north of the Metropark station. Eventually the issue was fixed enough so that we could continue on our way, but we were an hour late into New York City.  I have read that the ACS-64 have very good reliability.

Furthermore, as locomotives are being retired, Amtrak should encourage transit agencies across the country to purchase them and even save them in the interim should a state out of the blue decide to start an intercity service or a commuter rail service. Equipment should see as much re-purposing as possible.

Hopefully in the next few years we will see much more reliable and comfortable equipment coming for Amtrak. But that means all of us in the public bring to light that Amtrak and all passenger rail operators in the United States need proper funding and regulation that allows for innovation and growth.

 

Kids can ride the train for just $5 this summer

From the Ashboro (NC) Courier-Tribune:

RALEIGH — Kids out of school for the summer?

North Carolina’s Amtrak is offering the perfect low-cost weekday family getaway. In June, July and August, children, ages 2-12, can ride the train for just $5 each way in North Carolina.

With six trains daily to Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte and nine other North Carolina cities on the Piedmont and Carolinian, there’s no shortage of fun destinations along the rail corridor. Take a day trip to have lunch and meander around a nearby historic downtown, or make it an overnight adventure with a hotel stay. Book your tickets at ncbytrain.org.

Up to two kids can ride for $5 with a regular full-fare adult on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays within North Carolina. Offer is valid for travel June 3-Aug. 28. Use fare code V812 when buying your ticket. Seating is limited. Advance reservations are required.

For more information, contact Julia Casadonte at (919) 707-2660 or email to jccasadonte@ncdot.gov.

– See more at: http://courier-tribune.com/get/do/kids-can-ride-train-just-5-summer#sthash.x5WsGSH8.dpuf

RALEIGH — Kids out of school for the summer?
North Carolina’s Amtrak is offering the perfect low-cost weekday family getaway. In June, July and August, children, ages 2-12, can ride the train for just $5 each way in North Carolina.
With six trains daily to Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte and nine other North Carolina cities on the Piedmont and Carolinian, there’s no shortage of fun destinations along the rail corridor. Take a day trip to have lunch and meander around a nearby historic downtown, or make it an overnight adventure with a hotel stay. Book your tickets at ncbytrain.org.
Up to two kids can ride for $5 with a regular full-fare adult on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays within North Carolina. Offer is valid for travel June 3-Aug. 28. Use fare code V812 when buying your ticket. Seating is limited. Advance reservations are required.
For more information, contact Julia Casadonte at (919) 707-2660 or email to jccasadonte@ncdot.gov.

A great way to introduce kids to the wonders of train travel, and to avoid the congestion at the airport.

RALEIGH — Kids out of school for the summer?

North Carolina’s Amtrak is offering the perfect low-cost weekday family getaway. In June, July and August, children, ages 2-12, can ride the train for just $5 each way in North Carolina.

With six trains daily to Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte and nine other North Carolina cities on the Piedmont and Carolinian, there’s no shortage of fun destinations along the rail corridor. Take a day trip to have lunch and meander around a nearby historic downtown, or make it an overnight adventure with a hotel stay. Book your tickets at ncbytrain.org.

Up to two kids can ride for $5 with a regular full-fare adult on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays within North Carolina. Offer is valid for travel June 3-Aug. 28. Use fare code V812 when buying your ticket. Seating is limited. Advance reservations are required.

For more information, contact Julia Casadonte at (919) 707-2660 or email to jccasadonte@ncdot.gov.

– See more at: http://courier-tribune.com/get/do/kids-can-ride-train-just-5-summer#sthash.x5WsGSH8.dpuf

RALEIGH — Kids out of school for the summer?

North Carolina’s Amtrak is offering the perfect low-cost weekday family getaway. In June, July and August, children, ages 2-12, can ride the train for just $5 each way in North Carolina.

With six trains daily to Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte and nine other North Carolina cities on the Piedmont and Carolinian, there’s no shortage of fun destinations along the rail corridor. Take a day trip to have lunch and meander around a nearby historic downtown, or make it an overnight adventure with a hotel stay. Book your tickets at ncbytrain.org.

Up to two kids can ride for $5 with a regular full-fare adult on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays within North Carolina. Offer is valid for travel June 3-Aug. 28. Use fare code V812 when buying your ticket. Seating is limited. Advance reservations are required.

For more information, contact Julia Casadonte at (919) 707-2660 or email to jccasadonte@ncdot.gov.

– See more at: http://courier-tribune.com/get/do/kids-can-ride-train-just-5-summer#sthash.x5WsGSH8.dpuf

“Ride with Pride to Washington D.C.’s Capital Pride on Amtrak”

From Passport Magazine (Blogs), by Joseph Pedro :

Skip that nauseating BoltBus and head down to D.C. next weekend on comfortable, energy-efficient Amtrak as they are also, for the fourth straight year, sponsor of Washington D.C.’s Capital Pride Festival’s Green Village, where festival attendees experience and learn about energy-efficient travel and sustainability efforts at America’s RailroadThe Capital Pride Festival will take place on Sunday, June 8, on Pennsylvania Avenue from noon to 7 P.M.. As presenting sponsor, Amtrak will showcase the company’s commitment to protecting the environment. Visitors stopping by the Amtrak booth will enjoy family activities and games, learn more about Amtrak service to more than 500 destinations, and have the opportunity to win free roundtrip travel vouchers to experience Amtrak travel on the Northeast Corridor.

Of course, check out Amtrak’s LGBT dedicated website to find some special deals to get yourself down to Washington next weekend.