Category Archives: Amtrak

25 Tips When Traveling by Train for Business

Smal Biz Trends from California Rail News

Research the Available Routes

Amtrak has more than 30 train routes that go to and from various locations in the U.S. And in some cases, there may be more than one way for you to get to a particular location, though some are more direct than others. So take a look at the schedule and routes well before you need to actually travel so you can make the best decision.

Look for Deals Online

You can also purchase tickets directly online, as well as by phone and at Amtrak stations. But if you buy online, you can sometimes get access to better deals than you would otherwise. So try to plan ahead and compare prices online.

Buy Separate Tickets for Stop-Offs

Depending on your plans, you might want to take a train to one location, stop for a day or so, then take a train to another location from there. This is absolutely possible. But you do need to buy separate tickets so you can be sure your entire trip is covered.

Use Business Class Lounges

Some train stations offer business class lounges where priority customers can relax and access wifi and comfortable working space. So if you arrive for your trip a bit early, take advantage of those spaces to get some work done while you wait.

Anticipate Delays

While traveling by train can be comfortable and cost effective, it’s not the quickest mode of transportation. And even the scheduled arrival times don’t always come to pass. So don’t schedule a trip if it leaves you arriving just an hour before a bit meeting. It’s best to arrive a little earlier just to be safe.

Get a Rail Pass for Frequent Travel

Amtrak offers a rail pass that can help you save money if you travel frequently. So if you plan on taking trains for business trips multiple times per year, it’s worth looking into as a cost saving measure.

Use Points to Purchase Tickets

You can also sign up for Amtrak’s Guest Rewards program that can help you earn points that you can redeem for future travels. So if you travel by train regularly, it can be worth it to sign up for an account and then use your points for future purchases.

Save Time With Mobile Ticketing

Amtrak also offers mobile apps for Apple, Android and Amazon devices. So you can download the app and use it to purchase and show your tickets. This can help you streamline the entire booking and boarding process.

Be Flexible With Seating Assignments

When you book a trip, you can get your confirmation right away. But Amtrak normally assigns seats once each train is booked before assigning seats. So if you plan on traveling by train, it’s best to be a little flexible about where you sit.

Book Together if Traveling With Colleagues

If you are traveling with others, that means you should book your tickets together so you can ensure you actually get seated together.

Reserve Coach for Economical Travel

There are a few different options when traveling by train. Coach is the most popular and economical option. If you’re taking a relatively short trip and want to save money, this is probably the best option.

Upgrade to Business Class for Meetings, Working Space

However, there is also a business class option. If you want a bit more room and want to be sure you get access to a full desktop and outlets, you can opt for a business class seat instead.

Consider Roomettes When Traveling Overnight

If you’re taking a lengthier trip where you’ll be traveling overnight, you can certainly stick with a coach seat. But if you’re looking for something a little more roomy, you can opt for a roomette. However, most roomettes are made for two. So it’s mainly an option for those traveling with their significant others.

Get a Bedroom for More Comfort

Or you could opt for a private bedroom for even more space and privacy. This option is best if you’re looking for a really comfortable experience when traveling across the country.

Take Advantage of Onboard Wifi

Most trains to offer complimentary wifi on board. So if you’re just looking to browse the internet or send emails when you travel, you can take advantage of that feature.

Use a Hotspot for High Bandwidth Functions

However, the onboard wifi doesn’t include high bandwidth functions like music streaming. So if you need to do anything that requires a stronger connection, it could be worth investing in a personal hotspot.

Remember Your Chargers

Most seats, especially those in business class, also have access to electrical outlets. And there are some in common areas as well. So remember to bring chargers for all your devices so you can stay powered up while you travel.

Check Large Bags

If you’re taking a long trip, you’ll probably bring a decent sized bag, which you can check so that it won’t take up all the space in your seating area.

Keep Essentials With You

However, you can bring a small bag with your most important items like your laptop and any important documents you might need to reference if you’re working while you travel.

Book a Table for Meals

In the food car, you can book a table to ensure that you have seating reserved for all meals. If you’re traveling with others, you can sit at a private table. Or you can allow the staff to sit you with others on board so you can socialize.

Hang Out in the Bar Car

There’s also a bar car on most trains that offers comfortable seating and refreshments to help make your trip more enjoyable.

Head to the Quiet Car to Work

Or if you’re looking to really focus and get some work done in transit, check to see if your train has a quiet car where you can go to work without having to worry about loud distractions around you.

Prepare for Varied Temperatures

No matter where you’re traveling, it’s a good idea to pack some layers in your carry-on bag so you can be prepared for any temperature, since train cars don’t necessarily go along with the outside temperatures.

Take Breaks at Rest Stops

As your train makes its way to your destination, it’s going to make several stops. But not all of them are actually rest stops. Some are just stops where the train is picking up more passengers and then immediately departing. So check the schedule so you can know where it’s safe to get off and stretch your legs a bit.

Map the Trip from Station to Hotel

Many train stations are located in downtown areas. So you can potentially make it to your hotel or meeting spot quickly. But it’s still a good idea to map it out before you get there so you know if it’s possible to walk or if you need a taxi or public transportation.

NJ Transit service changes after train gets stuck in tunnel near Penn Station

From AM New York (via California Rail News)

Northeast Corridor train #3850 from Trenton came to a stop in the south tube of the Hudson Tunnel around 3:30 p.m., NJ Transit and Amtrak officials said. Amtrak said the passenger count was 400, but a NJ Transit spokeswoman disputed that number.
Brian Scheckner, who claimed to be on the disabled train, said he and fellow passengers were stuck for nearly three hours. Without power for air conditioning, the temperature had steadily risen and passengers got antsy, he said…
Amtrak, which is responsible for the maintenance of the tracks and equipment in and around Penn Station, said the train was disabled due to an overhead power problem.

 

Cities Embrace “Transit Hubs” To Boost Business, Jobs

Curbed Feb 27, 2017

Are transit hubs the new malls? Several major nerve centers of U.S. transportation—like Union Station in Washington, D.C., and Penn Station in New York City—are planning major overhauls that would transform them from pass-through structures into glittering corridors of restaurants, retail, and event spaces. Meanwhile, expanding local rail systems around the country are also sparking the development of new transit hubs, trying to take advantage of built-in foot traffic to boost business and job markets.

“[Transit hubs are] a way to [achieve] balance and attract people during off hours and use the structures that exist, which are an attraction in themselves,” real estate attorney B.A. Spignardo of Shapiro Lifschitz & Schram in Washington, DC tells Construction Dive.
The Santiago Calatrava-designed Oculus hub in lower Manhattan is a prime example of this next-gen transit center trend. The striking architecture just might entice travelers to stick around and peruse its 75,000 square feet of retail—unlike the cramped, underground labyrinth of Penn Station. But Penn Station has its own ambitious renovation in the works, including the integration of the more architecturally impressive Farley Post Office along with 112,000 square feet of retail.

Hoosier State Train Dies But AMTRAK Adds “Amenties” To Replacement

February 28 was the last day of service for Iowa Pacific Holdings on the Hoosier State train. Beginning March 1, Amtrak takes over full operation of the line.

For many, the appeal of the Hoosier State train is the amenities it offers. Although the cars now will be Amtrak’s equipment, the company plans to retain many of the amenities Iowa Pacific provided.

The train will have a cafe car with public and private dining options. Food and drinks, including alcoholic beverages, may be purchased in the cafe car. The train will also be equipped with wifi.

Amtrak will continue to offer business class seating in a private, curtained car. This includes large, leather seats with extensive legroom, as well as complimentary tea and coffee.

Three cars in all will be utilized for the service, two coach cars with 68 seats each and a combination business class car with 14 seats, and the cafe car. The dome car, a windowed observation car owned by Amtrak, also will be on loan to the line for March.

“This is similar to the St.Louis-Kansas City service we operate under contract with the Missouri Department of Transportation,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said.

For March, Amtrak is offering a special promotion for riders. Tickets will be buy one, get one free.

Lafayette-to-Chicago ticket prices range from $17 to $30. There will be no change in the train’s schedule.

INDOT Train Bites the Dust

Amtrak is taking over the Hoosier State train starting March 1.

On Monday, the Indiana Department of Transportation announced its contract with Iowa Pacific Holdings, which has operated the Hoosier State train since July 2015, would only remain in effect until the end of February.

INDOT said Iowa Pacific wanted more money than was agreed upon in its contract.

“They were looking for a minimum monthly subsidy that was outside the budget we had,” INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield said. “Even under the existing contracts, their needs were beyond what we had budgeted.”

To date, INDOT has paid $500,000 to Iowa Pacific to provide on-board service, marketing and equipment for the Hoosier State and $3.9 million to Amtrak to run the actual train. It agreed to pay Iowa Pacific an additional $300,000 to operate the train through the end of February.

“It should be said we signed contracts in good faith with Iowa Pacific that was through the end of June, and then they came to us and said they we’re unable to continue under those contracts,” Wingfield said.

INDOT didn’t indicate what would happen to the Hoosier State if it’s unable to find a long-term replacement for Amtrak.

In a reply to a customer’s question on Facebook, Iowa Pacific wrote that it was “unable to continue providing passenger train equipment and on-board services under the terms of its existing contract for the Hoosier State.”

In a separate Facebook post, Iowa Pacific President Ed Ellis said INDOT was transitioning to “a different service model.”

INDOT’s two-year contract with Iowa Pacific was supposed to run until June 30. The contract included the option of a four-year extension.

Iowa Pacific introduced a host of amenities to the Hoosier State — including an on-board chef, wifi and dome-car seating — that led to increased ridership on the line.

While Ellis said Iowa Pacific demonstrated “that service enhancements can drive improvements in customer satisfaction, revenue and ridership,” the train’s on-time performance was lacking. On numerous occasions, the train made it to its destination hours late, and sometimes not at all.

INDOT said it’s working on a plan to ensure amenities including wifi and business-class seating are retained on the Hoosier State.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said a major change is that Amtrak’s equipment will run on the Hoosier State line, not Iowa Pacific’s.

“We want it to be seamless, and we don’t want any disruptions in operations,” he said.

The Hoosier State runs four days per week between Indianapolis and Chicago, with stops in Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer. The other three days per week, Amtrak’s long-distance Cardinal train makes those stops.

The Hoosier State is funded by INDOT, Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, Crawfordsville and Rensselaer.

Maybe Indiana had better start thinking of hopping on board the planned Louisville to Chicago HYPERLOOP? It will run right thru Indianapolis  to Gary  where passengers will change to the South Shore Railroad.

Shoreline Officials Want To Hit The Brakes On Federal Railroad Proposal

A  federal proposal to run tracks for Amtrak high-speed trains through a new route in affluent Fairfield County drew fire Thursday from the mayor of the region’s second-biggest city.

Mayor David Martin said Thursday he likes the plan to expand capacity at Stamford’s busy train station. But he’s against building new track routes to Greenwich and to Westport that might eat into his city’s neighborhoods or commercial base.

“This plan looks more like fantasy than fact, and we’re going to fight it,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal told reporters.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s proposal to overhaul sections of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor route in Connecticut has already hit heavy resistance in southeastern Connecticut, where the agency wants a new 30-mile inland segment to bypass the curving, twisting tracks between Old Saybrook and Kenyon, R.I.

Martin is the first Fairfield County leader to raise concerns about how it would affect the southwestern region, but Blumenthal predicted that opposition will keep growing.

“The feeling in Stamford is similar to southeastern Connecticut: People want safe, reliable and fast trains, but the devil is in the details,” Blumenthal said.

The FRA met stiff opposition in Connecticut last week when it released a massive report documenting how it wants to modernize Amtrak’s heavily used but badly deteriorating 456-mile Northeast Corridor route from Washington, D.C. to Boston.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Sen. Chris Murphy, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney and Blumenthal all slammed the proposal for Connecticut, where Amtrak’s Acela and Northeast Regional trains run along the shoreline from Greenwich to Stonington.

The Old Saybrook bypass would “eviscerate neighborhoods, historic landmarks and real estate values,” they said in a joint statement condemning the idea.

The FRA maps also suggest new tracks between eastern Greenwich and Stamford’s train station, and another – far longer – new segment from east of the station to Westport.

The FRA hasn’t specified precisely where it would build new tracks; its report refers to constructing “aerial structures” above I-95 and possibly using the highway’s embankments, but FRA staffers emphasize that exact routings would be have to be worked out with local officials. The report and maps are at http://www.necfuture.com/flipbook/feis_highlights/default.html#4/z.

Opponents and the FRA both acknowledge that there’s currently no funding source, and Blumenthal has said the potential $10 billion to $30 billion cost of a mile-long tunnel beneath Old Lyme is simply unaffordable.

On Thursday, about 100 southeastern Connecticut residents gathered at town hall to discuss a strategy for blocking the Old Saybrook bypass. SECoast, a regional organization leading the fight, warned of a lawsuit if the plan advances.

The FRA wants a plan to rebuild the Northeast Corridor to accommodate a much more frequent schedule of next-generation Acela trains as well as more Northeast Regional service. The corridor links Boston, New York, Trenton, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., a congested mega-hub of people and jobs that’s expected to grow over the next three decades.

The agency wants to clear chokepoints and slow zones, allowing for faster runs and far more trains as the schedule expands over the next several decades.

In Connecticut, that means shaving 20 percent off the travel time of Acela’s Boston to New York City run by building modern tracks on straight alignments and free of grade crossings.

“Rather than spending billions to save 25 minutes on travel time, why not invest millions to save five minutes on parking, five minutes on ticketing, five minutes on reliability, five minutes on connectivity?,” said Gregory Stroud, head of SECoast.

“For many travelers the 25 extra minutes spent in a comfortable seat, writing email, is the least of their worries. Let’s invest first in longer trains, in safer closer-spaced trains through positive train control. With limited dollars let’s invest in the New Haven to Springfield corridor, which will nurture Connecticut communities, not destroy them,” he said.

The FRA has emphasized that without state support, the proposal won’t move forward.

Everything you need to know about Amtrak’s high-speed trains arriving in 2021

Amtrak is giving its trains an upgrade.

In 2021, Amtrak will start rolling out 28 high-speed trains for its Acela Express service along the Northeast corridor.

Here’s everything you need to know about them:

Amtrak is releasing the high-speed trains as part of its $2.45 billion investment in the Northeast Corridor.

 

The majority of that federal loan ($2 billion to be exact) will go toward the new trains, while the rest will fund improvements to the tracks and train stations along the route.

 

Amtrak is contracting with Alstom — the creator of France’s high-speed rail, the TGV — to create the high-speed trains. The TGV operates at 200 mph.

 

The new trains will be 30% lighter, cutting down on energy consumption by 20%, Amtrak said.

 

They will initially operate at 160 mph, but have the ability to reach 186 mph, Amtrak said. However, your overall trip time isn’t bound to improve.

 

Without major improvements to the physical railroad tracks, the trains won’t be able to reach their high-speed potential, Mark Yachmetz, senior vice president for Amtrak’s fleet and rail initiatives, told Business Insider.

That’s because the Northeast Corridor, first built in 1976 and given minor improvements over time, can only accommodate speeds under 100 mph in most areas. Some areas of the track can’t accommodate speeds above 25 mph.

As a result, trip times will remain largely the same.

Still, the project will improve the Amtrak travel experience in some ways. Releasing 28 more trains will allow for half-hourly service between Washington, DC, and New York during peak hours, and hourly service between New York and Boston.

 

The trains will also increase passenger capacity by 35%.

 

And the interiors are getting an upgrade, too. Updated features include improved Wi-Fi, adjustable reading lights, more USB ports, more outlets, and better food service.

 

The prototype of the high-speed train will be ready in 2019, with some rolling out for service in 2021. By 2022, all 28 trains will be operating.