Quick Note: Train Host Program

signalTrainRiders/NE Train Hosts serve as goodwill ambassadors onboard the Downeaster to assist passengers with information; assist train crews in duties as requested by them; and promote rail safety.

As a volunteer, you'll travel between Maine and Boston conversing with passengers along the way.

Click on "Host Program" in the above menu for more information.

eTicketing and Amtrak Wi-Fi To Arrive on the Downeaster

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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

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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.