News Brief

Saco4Stay up-to-date on service interruptions during this period of track improvements by going to their alert page: http://amtrakdowneaster.com/service-alerts

 

Construction Begins at Brunswick Layover Facility As NNEPRA Puts Bad Year Behind Them

Brunswick Layover Facility:

BLFNewsIt took nearly four years, but the construction equipment is now working at the layover property in Brunswick.

The facility will house three train sets and reduce emissions and noise while enabling light maintenance year round. A particular benefit to maintenance crews is the ability to do their work out of the elements, particularly during winter months.

27th Annual TrainRiders/NE Meeting Hears from Amtrak, NNEPRA and State Rail Leaders

TrainRiders/NE welcomed three important passenger rail leaders to our 27th Annual Meeting at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland. 

Galloway2Amtrak Briefing: The Keynote speaker was Drew Galloway, Amtrak's Deputy Chief of NEC Planning & Performance. His grasp of the Northeast Corridor's growth and challenges was impressive to all who attended.

NNEPRA's Annual Meeting Reports 'Modest Growth' for FY2014

AM2014Executive Director Patricia Quinn and her staff reported details of FY2014 to a packed meeting room of interested parties. Here are selected items from the Annual Report:

Performance Statistics:

    • 4% increase in Ridership - 536,524 total
    • 6.2% increase in Revenue - $8.6 total
    • 58% On Time Performance 

On Time Performance

MBTA work on the Shawsheen River Bridges required weekend track outages and forced 12 Downeaster trains to be cancelled. The severe winter created severe track conditions in the spring, resulting in the cancellation of 24 additional trains and the estimated loss of 4,000 riders and $64,000 in revenue.

Passenger Profile

Passengers chose to ride the Downeaster for a variety of reasons:

    • 45% - Leisure
    • 28% - Visit friends and family
    • 17% - Business
    • 2% - Medical
    • 2% - College
    • 6% - Other

During FY2014

    • 57% - Traveled to or from Maine (66% of revenue)
    • 30% - Traveled between NH and Boston (25% of revenue)
    • 25% - Traveled on passes (16% of revenue)

Customer Satisfaction

Throughout the year of challenges, passsengers continually ranked the Downeaster the highest among Amtrak trains for customer service with an overall satisfaction rating of 93%.

FY2015

NNEPRA projects a 3% drop in ridership due mainly to tie replacement & bridge projects.

Annual Meeting: Direct Downeaster Service to NYC Proposed & Revealing Video of the BLF Site

Ross--Wayne-2014Our 26th Annual Meeting was held on Oct. 16th at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland. Our keynote speaker was Ross Capon, Transportation Consultant and President Emeritus of the National Association of Railroad Passengers. Ross has testified countless times before Congress on behalf of railroad passengers. He is a member of the Federal Railroad Administration's Railroad Safety Advisory Committee along other federal and rail transportation boards. Ross shared his extensive knowledge of Amtrak's struggles to find congressional funding over the years. He is a long-time friend of TrainRiders/Northeast can be seen on the Downeaster as he vacations in Maine.

Patricia Quinn, NNEPRA Executive Director, displayed her 'numbers game' which was an easily digestible story of the Downeaster's successes and challenges. 

Wayne announced an intiative to expand Downeaster service to New York City - it would be a direct route, bypassing the North and South Station bottlenecks. Video: http://youtu.be/YTJI5DJuc8E

MPBN report: http://news.mpbn.net/post/rail-riders-seek-better-connections-between-maine-and-new-york

PPH article on drone video of BLF site: http://www.pressherald.com/2014/10/23/drone-deployed-in-brunswick-battle-over-rail-facility/

In addition, an eye-riveting video of the Brunswick Layover Facility site was unveiled, analyzed by Jeff Reynolds who lives in the West Brunswick neighborhood.

A fine and informative evening was enjoyed by all!

 

October, 2012 NNEPRA Board Meeting

oct12pr

The atmosphere couldn't have been more upbeat as NNEPRA Executive Director Patricia Quinn reported on September's performance statistics and commented on the much anticipated Inaugural Run to Freeport and Brunswick on November 1st. Of the performance states, Ms. Quinn characterized them as "phenomenal."

Her analysis stated: "The first quarter of FY2013 was record setting for the Downeaster. All-time high monthly ridership of 53,740 in July was surpassed in August when ridership soared to 57,853. Fiscal year to date, the Downeaster has transported 159,984 passengers, the equivalent of 13.3 million passenger miles, generating $2.3 million in revenue. This represents a 9% ridership increase and a 15.8% revenue increase over the first quarter of FY 2012."

Press Herald Portrays the Man Behind the Downeaster - Wayne Davis

wedavis1When it comes to superlatives, our chairman - Wayne Davis - finds it hard to find that horn to toot regarding his accomplishments. Fortunately, there are others who know of his extraordinary vision and are willing and able to 'blow that horn' over how he transformed public transportation along the Brunswick-Boston corridor (That 'corridor' will be expanded by another 30 miles to Brunswick on November 1st).

Tom Bell's excellent article, quoting past and present public officials, is a fitting tribute to Wayne who delivered the Downeaster to a public yearning to use Amtrak as their second car. It can be read in the Portland Press Herald. {jcomments on}

Amtrak, Downeaster & Vermont Railroads Set New Ridership Records

Each time Amtrak and our New England state-supported railroads report passenger data, new records are set.

Amtrak Report:

amtraklogoAmtrak's nationwide system carried 31,240,565 passengers in the fiscal year that ended September 30th. When Amtrak includes the Downeaster numbers in their fiscal year report, the Maine-based passenger service grew to a new record of more than 541,000 passengers, up 4.3% (Keep in mind, that NNEPRA's fiscal year is July-June and Amtrak's is October-September). NNEPRA recently reported that in their recent fiscal year they carried 528,000 passengers. Whichever report you use, the numbers are strong and getting stronger. You can view the full Amtrak press release here.

eTicketing and Amtrak Wi-Fi To Arrive on the Downeaster

downeaster20

Amtrak and the Downeaster are launching a pilot program called eTicketing. It promises to be a major step forward in issuing and processing tickets.

Here's a summary:

  • Starting at 8 a.m. on November 1st you can print your eTicket at home (it's a PDF file) and bring it to the train - no need to process it through the Quik-Trak machine
  • If you lose it, you can print it again
  • The Quik-Trak machines can stil be used - they will print out an eTicket at the end of their transactions
  • Amtrak.com transactions will email you an eTicket - print it out and bring it to the train
  • All these tickets are scanned by the conductors once you're on the train - that includes scanning the eTicket bar code as displayed on a smart phone!

More specifics regarding the ticketing improvement can be viewed here. This is only happening on the Downeaster route - once the kinks are ironed out, it will be rolled out nationwide. Once again the Downeaster leads the nation.

Amtrak Wi-Fi

wifiAmtrak has installed a 'more robust' free Wi-Fi system on the Downeaster and it will begin operation on Monday, October 31st.

Like the current system, it still uses the cell towers along the route and there are specific limitations in order to maximize access:

  • Streaming media will be blocked
  • Downloading of files larger than 10 MB will be blocked
  • VPN will not be supported
  • Inappropriate content will be blocked

The Train Hosts will be looking for passenger feedback on both these improvements.{jcomments on}

Streaming media will be blocked.
Downloading of files larger than 10MB will be blocked.
VPN (virtual private networks) will not be supported on any trains except Acela Express.
§Inappropriate content will be blocked.
§

NNEPRA Board Approves Fare Increase at October Meeting

nnepra

The NNEPRA Board, after discussing emailed objections from nearly a dozen NH riders, approved a new fare schedule.

Several Exeter riders were concerned that their monthly pass to Boston would rise from $259 to $279, or $20. In 2005, the pass cost $188. Since then it has risen $91 in several steps or a 48% increase over six years. Executive Director Patricia Quinn noted that higher fuel costs were but one of the factors in the equation (Downeaster fuel has risen 150% since 2005). One board member suggested that Downeaster funding contributions from Concord and Boston could eventually moderate such increases. The new fare structure can be viewed here.

First Quarter FY 2012 Performance

  • Ridership: 146,519 vs. 136,837 in Q1 FY11
  • Revenue:  $2,060,452 vs. $2,008,857 in Q1 FY11
  • Rider Miles: 12,151,588 vs. 11,216,364 in Q1 FY11
  • On Time Perfomance: 58% vs. 67% in Q1 FY11

The poor OTP was due in part to the N. Berwick accident and subsequent rail/crossing rehab. Other slow orders along the PanAm portion in Plaistow and Old Orchard Beach are expected to be cleared up within the next month. MBTA slow orders are of a longer duration due to extensive construction. 

Pam Am continues to make good progress on the Portland to Brunswick rehab. The Brunswick platform work is slightly behind schedule - awaiting some custom concrete materials - but the Freeport platform is ahead of schedule and will likely be completed by December 1st. Look for crew qualification runs along the line this spring!

Downeaster & Other State Railroads Spared in 2012 Transportation Funding as President Signs Bill

UPDATE #3 - Nov. 21, 2011: TRN Chair Wayne Davis and board member Bob Hall comment on positive congressional action regarding the Downeaster. Go to Seacoastonline.com.


LATE UPDATE #2 - Nov, 14, 2011: The Senate/House Conference Committee has reported out a reconciled bill that preserves the Downeaster, as well as 14 other state-operated railroads, and continues Amtrak funding but at a lower level. All High Speed Rail monies were eliminated.

The original House bill would have eliminated the state-operated railroads and reduced Amtrak funding to 'draconian' levels. The Senate bill has essentially prevailed.

Now both houses of congress must approved the compromise bill and send it to the president for his signature.

The Press Herald has the story with quotes from Sen. Collins, TRN Chair Wayne Davis and NNEPRA Executive Director Patricia Quinn. Go here. NARP has a more detailed report on their blog.

US Senate to Take Up Amtrak/State Spending Bill

The ying and the yang of the Amtrak story is never more evident than in the following two items:

  • Amtrak ridership exceeds 30 milllion! Amtrak press release.
  • The National Association of Railroad Passengers requests members contact their US senators to ensure continued national and state Amtrak funding. NARP statement.

These are the best of times and potentially the worst of times as record ridership on Amtrak nationally - 30.2 million - and a record year for the Downeaster - 500,000+ - must at the same time confront congressional efforts by some to gut or kill both. We recommend that you use the NARP link to easily send an email to your US senator. Decades of accomplishment are at risk during the coming year.{jcomments on}

Downeaster Fare Increase Proposal

NNEPRA has issued a notice for public comment regarding proposed Downeaster fare increases.

In summary, from the NNEPRA notice:

  • One-Way Peak fares between most city pairs will increase by $1.00
  • Monthly Commuter Passes will increase 0%-7% based on city pairs.
  • 10-Ride Passes will increase 0%-5% based on city pairs.

Adjusting fares to meet rising costs allows NNEPRA to stay within budget and reduce the impact on taxpayer contributions.

October is set aside for public comment with a board vote in November. The full schedule of changes is contained in NNEPRA's 2012 Fare Proposal.

Exeter Residents Plan for Downeaster Station Area Growth

The Town of Exeter, NH, takes community involvement in economic development seriously. Two open forums were held this past week to solicit ideas from the citizens on how best to develop the area around the Downeaster train station.

Bob Hall, president of the Exeter Train Station Committee and a board member of TrainRiders/NE, has been one of several town leaders pushing for a development plan that is responsive to Exeter's future needs.

The full article can be viewed at SeaCoastOnline.

NNEPRA Board Meeting - October, 2010

In the midst of tough economic times, the Downeaster continues to shine with ridership and revenue numbers looking very good.

Executive Director Patricia Quinn provided the following report on the first three months of FY 2011 (July, Aug, Sept):

  • Ridership: 136,837 passengers - 3% increase over the same period last year.
  • Revenue: $2,008,857 million - 3% increase over the same period last year.
  • Passenger Miles: 11,216,364 - 3.1% increase over the same period last year
  • On Time Performance: 67% (still low but improving - Sept was 76%)
  • Busiest train: #685 averaging 294 passengers per day, followed by #680 with 250/day and 682 with 234/day.
  • Overall Customer Satisfaction: 94% (Amtrak = 80%)

The FRA announced a $600 thousand planning grant to NNEPRA that will focus on how best to improve travel time and frequency between Portland and Boston as well as examing the issue of a new intown station for Portland.

Maine Agrees to Buy Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway

mmaThe Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, a freight railroad that serves northern Maine, will be purchased by the state in an agreement reached between the railroad and the Department of Transportation. The purchase will prevent the abandonement of 233 miles of track and preserve, according to the MDOT press release, up to 1,000 jobs. An additional $10.5 million from the USDOT will be allocated to upgrading tracks and signals.

TrainRiders/Northeast has encouraged the acquisition of the rail line so that northern Maine businesses remain connected to the national rail network.

The full press release is available here.

Amtrak Posts Record Stats - Let's Celebrate!!!

amtraklogoAmtrak says it set a new ridership record for its 2010 fiscal year, carrying 28.7 million passengers and collecting $1.74 billion in ticket revenue.

Ridership overall was up 5.7 percent from last year.

Amtrak says gains were especially strong on the Vermonter, where ridership increased 16.5 percent to 86,245.

The full story can been seen here.

NNEPRA Proposes Fare Increase

The October NNEPRA Board Meeting discussed a fare increase for certain Downeaster tickets.

The rationale is as follows:

This fare plan presents the proposed fare structure for one-way Downeaster tickets, 10-ride passes and monthly commuter passes.

Sept., '08 Performance Continues Growth

The September Performance Report offers the following good news:

  • Ridership of 43,955 made September 2008 another record breaker for the Downeaster, with an increase of 20.7% over last year.
  • With an average of 1,465 riders per day, the Downeaster generated $592,862 in ticket revenue for the month, an increase of 17.2% over last year.
  • September marked the completion of the first quarter of FY2009. Downeaster ridership is pacing about 30% ahead of last year and about 14% better than projected for the first quarter of FY09.

Downeaster September '08 Report

The September Performance Report offers the following good news:

Ridership of 43,955 made September 2008 another record
breaker for the Downeaster, with an increase of 20.7%
over last year.

With an average of 1,465 riders per day,
the Downeaster generated $592,862 in ticket revenue for
the month, an increase of 17.2% over last year.

September marked the completion of the first quarter of
FY2009. Downeaster ridership is pacing about 30% ahead
of last year and about 14% better than projected for the
first quarter of FY09.

Amtrak Reauthorization Signed by President

On September 12th in Los Angeles, a head-on collision between a commuter train and a freight train killed 25 people. As a result, a rail safety bill was introduced in the congress to require "positive train control" technology on all passenger lines by 2015.

Brunswick Station Groundbreaking Ceremony

(Tuesday, Oct. 14, '08) The groundbreaking ceremony for the new Brunswick Downeaster Station was held in an empty lot that will now be transformed into a commercial development featuring space for Downeaster passengers.

Durham 'Old' is Now Durham 'New'

The historic Durham train station was rededicated yesterday after a year-long refurbishing effort which preserved the existing structure and expanded the food area. The rejuvenated Dairy Bar, redesigned and much improved, now offers a wholesome upgraded menu as well as that old standby - ice cream.
 

Durham, NH Downeaster Station Rededicated at UNH

Durham, NH Historic Train Station Rededicated at UNH

The historic Durham train station was rededicated yesterday after a year-long refurbishing effort which preserved the existing structure and expanded the food area. The rejuvenated Dairy Bar, redesigned and much improved, now offers a wholesome upgraded menu as well as that old standby - ice cream.


 
Chairman Wayne Davis of TrainRiders/Northeast joined Patricia Quinn of NNEPRA and the president of UNH at ceremonies marking the occasion. The Maine contingent arrived at the university's new intermodal facility on train #682. The UNH Pep Band added their enthusiasm to the celebratory mood.
 
Congratulations to Steve Pesci, UNH Special Projects Manager and TR/NE board member, for all his hard work on behalf of the Downeaster.
 
For those who weren't there, a video is available but there's no way to share electronically the delicious coffee cake we enjoyed. You'll just have to make your own train trip to the Dairy Bar.

August, 2008 - Strong Downeaster Month

DowneasterWe sent an earlier email about the strong August ridership figures - up 34.3% over August of last year.

At today's NNEPRA Board Meeting, Executive Director Patricia Quinn added context to that headline.

  • August, 2008 was the first ever 50,000+ ridership month - 50,854 - making it the busiest month in Downeaster history.
  • August, 2008 had the highest monthly revenue ever recorded - $771,936 - exceeding August of '07 by 38.2%.

August, 2008 Downeaster Performance Report

We sent an earlier email about the strong August ridership figures - up 34.3% over August of last year. At today's NNEPRA Board Meeting, Executive Director Patricia Quinn added context to that headline.

August, 2008 was the first ever 50,000+ ridership month - 50,854 - making it the busiest month in Downeaster history.

August, 2008 had the highest monthly revenue ever recorded - $771,936 - exceeding August of '07 by 38.2%.

$500,000 to NNEPRA for Track Upgrades

Some $500,000 of federal money has been awarded NNEPRA in order to upgrade tracks in the Portland Terminal area. From the US DOT announcement:

Maine: Portland Area Track Improvements, $500,000 Description: The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) proposes to undertake a state-of-good-repair track improvement project on rail lines owned by Pan Am Railways in the Portland, ME area.Read more...

These include tracks extending from the Portland station to the layover facility, including a wye. The only passenger service using these tracks is the state-supported Downeaster service, which currently operates at five frequencies per day. A portion of the track to be improved is not currently used for revenue operations, and the wye is now out of service for turning of passenger train consists.

Benefits: The quantified anticipated benefits relate primarily to the renewed ability to turn locomotives and trainsets on the wye, a procedure which the applicant regards as necessary when locomotives are bad-ordered. The applicant also asserts that the current inability to do this requires that a protect locomotive be held in reserve in Portland, and that the net present value of the cost of the protect locomotive over the 15-year life of the proposed improvements would be $6.5 million. Prior to submitting the application, however, the applicant told the FRA that the long-term intent of the project would be to accommodate an extension of Downeaster service to Brunswick, which would use the improved track for revenue movements.

White House Likely to Sign $13 Billion Rail Passenger Bill

The White House will likely sign a major Amtrak funding bill that passed both houses of congress with veto-proof margins. The funding is part of rail safety legislation that followed the tragic California commuter train crash that claimed 25 lives in September.