June, 2016 NNEPRA Board Meeting

The NNEPRA Board Meeting was held on Monday, June 27th.

Ridership: Executive Director Patricia Quinn reported on the latest performance numbers. The May, 2106 ridership was 38,754 as compared to 22,722 in May of 2015 (Need we mention that May, 2015 was a disastrous 30 days due to a tie-replacement project gone awry). However, the actuals missed the projected ridership by a considerable degree.

Revenue: May, 2016 revenue came in at $663, 377 as compared to $393,556 in May of 2015. Still, this past month's revenue fell 11% below target.

OTP: On Time Performance was 81% as opposed to 0% (!) in May of 2015.

CSI: The overall Customer Satisfaction Index for the Downeaster was 91 - Amtrak checked in at 88.

Brunswick Layover Facility: Special Projects Manager Jim Russell reported, "It's on schedule and on budget with 75% of the track work completed."

Royal Junction Siding: Funding has been acquired. This siding will ultimately allow all Downeaster trains to start and end in Brunswick.

NNEPRA May Board Meeting

The NNEPRA board met Monday, May 23rd, to review the latest Downeaster performance numbers.

Ridership: Now that the roadbed is in tip-top shape, ridership shows continued growth since October of last year, save for January, 2016. A similar trend for revenue was reported.

On Time Performance: 89%

Overall Customer Satisfaction:  March Downeaster: 91, Amtrak: 85

Brunswick Layover Facility: Special Projects Manager Jim Russell reported on the continued progress at the BLF, "We are on schedule for a September opening." The NNEPRA Board was then treated to a video tour of the facility when Trainriders/Northeast board members were escorted around the site. 

 Thank you, Jim. You answered our many questions with expertise and patience.

New Spring, 2016 Schedule

Here's the new Downeaster Spring, 2016 schedule, effective Monday, May 23rd.

Spring2016

NNEPRA Reports on Downeaster Performance

NNEPRA held is regular monthly meeting on Monday. TrainRiders/NE's Legal Councilor F. Bruce Sleeper provided the following summary:

  • Executive Director Patricia Quinn said that April ridership is now about 1800 passengers more than last year, so the Downeaster continues to do well on that front, although a bit below the targets NNEPRA set even in January and March.  They are also below targets on revenues, again even in January and March.  

Downeaster Performance Moves Forward

NNEPRA's Year-to-Date Performance Report shows a return to normal conditions. For example, March's On Time Performance averaged 93%! As a volunteer at the Saco Train Station, I can attest to those numbers as #685 frequently coasts in a minute to two early. From NNEPRA's Brian Beeler II (as of March 10th), "Out of 210 trains operated this month to date – 87 of them arrived early to their final station!" 

Important Winter Newsletter Now Available

TrainRiders/NE took on an important responsibility last year as we joined NNEPRA in their battle against the NIMFYs (Not in My Freight Yard). Their toxic opposition threatened to sabotage the much-needed Brunswick Layover Facility.

NARP New England Meeting on Saturday, March 12, 2016 in New London, CT

NarpNE15NARP New England members will be meeting at The New London Holiday Inn, 35 Governor Winthrop Blouevard in New London. It a chance to catch up on passenger rail progress and challenges here in the Northeast. Go here for your reservation - time is running out.

January, 2016 NNEPRA Board Meeting

1-16-Performance-StatsIncluded in this article is the performance section of today's NNEPRA Board Meeting. It details the return to more normal operations during the first half of FY2016.

Wayne Davis Provides the 'Real Story' Behind the Brunswick West 'BLF Open House' Complaints

When Consigli Construction Company offered a public tour of the Brunswick Layover Facility last week, one Brunswick West attendee threw a fit and left...and that's just the beginning of the story. The 'rest of the story' is from Chairman Wayne Davis, who was one of the invited guests. Here is his letter to the Times Record.

"TrainRiders/Northeast has, with mounting exasperation, read diatribes (many of them based on inaccurate assumptions and information) in this newspaper against the Brunswick Layover Facility and passenger rail in general. More recently (Private MLF Meeting Hijacked, 12/17/2015), these spurious attacks started to target TrainRiders itself. In that letter, Sandy Buckles indicates that she organized a tour of the layover site with Consigli Construction and intended it to be a private event attended only by certain select neighbors, and not by the public in general.

Durham-UNH Sets New Records!

A Christmas gift from Durham-UNH

The Amtrak Downeaster is celebrating its 15th year of service this month. Major corridor track reconstruction over the past 18 months (now finished) resulted in train cancellations and delays affecting ridership growth. UNH-Durham ridership for FY 15 fell to just under 54,000 but that still represents an average annual growth rate of 15%.

Fall 2015 ridership is bouncing back quickly - October of this year was a record with almost 8,000 (7,941) Downeaster trips to/from Durham-UNH. Since the start of Downeaster service over 655,000 passengers have boarded or disembarked in Durham. UNH station represents approximately 12% of overall Downeaster ridership (over 5.7 million since December 2001). Durham-UNH is now the second largest ridership station in NH – (surpassing Dover in recent months ridership trends)

Stephen Pesci
UNH Campus Planning

Environmental Board Rejects Opponents Appeal - DEP Permit Affirmed!

The Board of Environmental Projection voted unanimously today to accept the recommendations of their staff by endorsing the Storm Water Management permit granted by the DEP to the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority. By rejecting the appeal of the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition, the Brunswick Layover Facility has surmounted its last regulartory hurdle.

The coalition, NNEPRA, and Trainriders/Northeast presented their views to the board during a 3 1/2 hour session. 

The coalition, led by Charles Wallace, complained about the process and the science by which the permit was been granted.

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.

28th Annual TrainRiders/NE Meeting Reservation Form

Future

 

There are two ways to reserve your dinner seat and select your mean. You can download the registration flyer (printed before our change in the keynote address), print it out, fill it in and mail it to Trainriders/NE at PO Box 4869, Portland, ME 04112. This flyer also contains full details of the meeting. Click here to download.

Or you can register for the meeting online by selecting your meal below and the clicking on the Pay Pal button. We will receive your name, email and meal selection automatically through Pay Pal. Please enter your email address as we communicate frequently via email.

Either way, reserving now will guarantee you a seat. If you're registering for more than one seat online, please reuse the electronic form, changing the name each time so that we will have the person's ID badge ready when they arrive.

Here's the PayPal option:

Dinner Selection
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NNEPRA plans to begin construction of the BLF in September after "painful period." Ridership and revenue rebound.

NNEPRA8-15UPDATE: NNEPRA plans to begin construction of the Brunswick Layover Facility in September now that all necessary permits have been issued. Chairman Wayne Davis made this comment: 

The BEP Will Hear Opposition's Appeal of the Approved Storm Water Permit


BLFAerialThe Board of Environmental Protection has decided to hear the opposition's appeal of the storm water permit granted by the DEP to NNEPRA.

Books test

Maine Residents (Shipping & Tax)

Another Delaying Tactic by the Brunswick West Opposition Rejected by DEP

DEP-logoThe Maine DEP Commissioner has 'spiked' another delaying tactic by the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition. The opposition group had requested a stay of the approved storm water permit, pending their appeal to the Board of the DEP. Both NNEPRA and TrainRiders/NE argued against putting the permit on hold.

Full Service Resumes August 1st

downeasterlogoA new beginning! Full service resumes on August 1st, all trains, all stations!

This passenger rail nightmare is now comiing to end. 

Lessons have been learned and will need to be applied so that regular maintenance will keep the Downeaster on track in the future.

Legislative Alert!

A special request to all members and friends of TrainRiders/Northeast - Immediate action requested!

capitol-domeAs you read this notice, Congress is contemplating the future of not only Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and what is left of the national rail system (long distance trains), but our most popular Downeaster service is also in the line of fire.

Press articles this past month have already commented on the U.S.House of Representatives vote on the National Transportation Bill - which includes highways as well as train service.  Unfortunately, the train portion of the House bill seeks to separate the Northeast Corridor service from the rest of the National System rather than continuing to share revenue throughout the entire system.  In addition, there are other sections of the house bill that would increase the cost of state-supported services and ultimately eliminate continued federal support for operations. The House bill also leads to the elimination of food service on all Amtrak trains.

NNEPRA Board Approves BLF Construction Contract

NNEPRA BM 6-15

At 1:10 p.m. today the NNEPRA Board aproved the construction contract for the Brunswick Layover Facility. Cost not to exceed $13,717,459.

At 2:09 p.m. the opposition petitioned the DEP to stay the storm water permit pending their appeal. The appeal would be heard by the Board of the DEP.

The Board adopted various resolutions giving authority to Executive Director Patricia Quinn to negotiate any an all details with Consigli Construction of Portland - the Board Chairman or Vice Chairman would have final approval. 

Maine DOT's Passenger Rail Advisory Council Hears TrainRiders/NE's Proposal for Direct Service from Maine to NYC

WaynePRACChairman Wayne Davis and Vice Chair Andy Hyland briefed the DOT's Passenger Rail Advisory Council yesterday in Augusta on TRN's vision of direct service from Maine to New York City. The Downeaster would go as far as Worcester - connecting passengers to existing Amtrak service there. The proposal would require the upgrade of existing tracks from Lowell to Worcester. From Worcester, passengers would continue on to Springfield, Hartford, New Haven and then NYC.

June NNEPRA Board Meeting

"There's light at the end of the tunnel!"

nnepra logoToday's NNEPRA Board meeting still reported dismal ridership numbers for May, ridership was down some 15,000 and 147 trains were cancelled. That having been said, some 22,000 ties have been replaced with another 3,300 needed to finish the job. The surfacing crews are beyond Dover on their way to Wells. Next week, Amtrak hopes to be able to schedule mid-day trains between Wells and Boston, using a shuttle bus between Portland and Wells.

Next step on the Brunswick Layover Facility now that the DEP Commissioner has said "yes" to construction? NNEPRA needs to re-examine the costs with the construction company since the figures are two years old. The front-end plugin power equipment should be ready to go at the Brunswick layover property by August 1st. This will help to reduce engine idling.

DEP Commissioner Grants Permit to Allow NNEPRA to Proceed with Brunswick Layover Facility!!!

delayoverCommissioner Patricia Aho signed the approval letter to NNEPRA today which grants the rail authority its much sought after and frequently delayed Storm Water Runoff permit. There is, as expected, a list of "Special Conditions" that must be met. None seems to be excessively burdensome.

DEP Gives Tentative Approval to Construction of the Brunswick Layover Facility

Good news from the DEP. The storm water runoff application requested by NNEPRA has been tentatively approved, thus going a long way toward eliminating the last environmental obstacle to the construction of the Brunswick Layover Facility. While there are more than a dozen conditions attached to the draft decision, not one appears to be a 'deal breaker' for NNEPRA. The final decision is expected to be announced on June 17th.  More in the Forecaster: 
http://www.theforecaster.net/news/print/2015/06/04/dep-tentatively-oks-permit-brunswick-train-layover/235135

May, 2015 - NNEPRA Board Meeting

Patricia Quinn, Executive Director of NNEPRA, summarized the current Downeaster service this way: "It's pretty much a mess."

Track Work:

By the end of this month, some 276 trains will have been cancelled in FY2015 due to track work. The work to replace some 22,000 ties on the PanAm line has seen 8,750 replaced and another 13,600 remaining. So far, ties have been replaced on 22 miles of track but only three of those miles have been tamped properly for normal speeds. Tamping equipment has been the Achilles heel of this ongoing project. PanAm had sent one of their machines out for rehab in anticipation of a May 1st start - unfortunately, it came back three weeks late! Amtrak has now joined the battle and is supplying a tamper. It had been delayed due to the Philadelphia train wreck.

Performance Report:

PRMar15FY2015 to date has been the Downeaster's "most challenging year yet," said Ms. Quinn. Ridership declined as travelers made other transportation plans and as a result, revenue decreased.

One encouraging statistic comes from the customer satisfaction survey conducted on the Downeaster. Under the cirumstances, the Customer Service Index remains high. The Downeaster rated an 85 overall as compared to Amtrak's 83. Patricia attributed the high score to the quality of the crews and the willingness of most passengers to understand the reality of the current difficult situation. July promises a return to normalcy.

Brunswick Layover Facility

Ms. Quinn briefed the board on the latest BLF maneuverings. She reported that the Brunswick Town Council, after extensive debate, took no stand on where the Auxiliary Power Unit should be installed nor the addition of compressed air. The following day, the Joint Transportation Committee in Augusta defeated Sen Gerzofsky's idling bill. The committee did recommend that compressed air be added to the front-end power installation. That unit would cost approximately $70-$80 thousand additional dollars and would have to be funded by the DOT. She reported to the board that the order for the APU had been placed and should be available to reduce engine idling by late July. The board reaffirmed their earlier decision to place the APU at the Church Road end of the proposed layover facility property.

The DEP decision on the Storm Water Runoff Permit is expected around mid-June.

Brunswick Passes on Taking a Position on Downeaster Plug-in Issue

The Brunswick Town Council met Monday night to discuss how best to address the idling of Amtrak trains in their community. This was the result of a bill, sponsored by Sen Gerzofsky of Brunswick, that would restrict idling of passenger train engines to 30 minutes. The Legislature's Transportation Committee had tabled that bill requesting that NNEPRA move forward with idling-reduction technology and work with Brunswick on where it would be located. 

NNEPRA Executive Director Patricia Quinn told the council that an APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) or plug-in unit had been ordered that very day and would likely take eight to ten weeks for delivery. She also noted that the Maine DOT had budgeted $70 thousand for the unit and its installation. She explained that the APU would not halt all idling as the GE engines monitor themselves and restart when the onboard computer deems it necessary. It would, however, help reduce idling time at temperatures above 45 degrees. 

Ms. Quinn told the council that the preferred location for the APU would be on NNEPRA's property near Church Road. Two other possible locations, Cedar Street and the Brunswick Station, would interfere with other train traffic and therefore would not be operationally sound.

After considerable debate, the council defeated a resolution that would have encouraged NNEPRA to do what it had already done. Several council members expressed the opinion that NNEPRA and Amtrak were best qualified to make such technical decisions. Ms. Quinn added that they were investigating the acquisition of an air compressor to maintain the train's brake pressure and that she would be willing to come back to the council and provide a progress report.

A second proposal on the town council agenda would have recommended that the APU be installed at the train station. Considering that Ms. Quinn had already addressed the operational problems associated with such a suggestion (blocking other train traffic and inspection difficulties), the item was not proposed and the session ended with one moton defeated and the second agenda item not pursued.

April NNEPRA Board Meeting & Brunswick Town Council Session

NNEPRA4-15Downeaster Performance:

It was a busy day for NNERPA Executive Director Patricia Quinn as she dealt with declining ridership and on time performance numbers amid growing train cancellations due to track work and extensive slow orders.

March, 2015 ridership numbers declined from 44,215 last year to 37,318 this year. February saw ridership decline by 6,797 passengers and February OTP was...4.7%. FY2015 has seen some 157 trains cancelled - hard to carry riders when the trains aren't running.

Track Maintenance:

Starting May 4th and lasting for six weeks, mid-day trains on Mondays-Fridays will be cancelled to allow PanAm to complete the installation of some 22,000 ties. Six trains will be running during that period: #680, #682, #685, #687, #688 & #689 - delays are expected. All weekend trains will run as scheduled.  

Brunswick Idling:

Responding to requests from the state Joint Transportation Committee and the Town Council of Brunswick to reduce idling time in Brunswick, NNEPRA is proposing that a temporary 480-volt track-side power unit be installed at the Church Road end of their layover property. It was pointed out that the electrical connection would not halt all idling, as the GE engines regularly monitor themselves and, if necessary, take corrective action - for example, restarting the engine when temperatures go below 45 degrees. The board supported the staff recommendation, but before approving the estimated $60-$80 thousand expenditure, asked for feedback from the Brunswick Town Council.

Patricia Quinn to Appear Monday Evening Before Brunswick Town Council

Notice from All Aboard Brunswick:

Hello, All Aboard Brunswick friends—

We have an update on the layover facility for the Downeaster.

Patricia Quinn, executive director of NNEPRA, will be at the Brunswick Town Council meeting on Monday, April 27, at 7:00 p.m., to present an update on the Downeaster and progress toward constructing the layover facility. We believe her primary topic will be a plug-in power facility in Brunswick that was proposed during the Transportation Committee’s deliberations on L.D. 439, “An Act To Prohibit Excessive Idling of Passenger Trains.”

 

This temporary solution will not prevent idling in the winter to keep engine fluids at operating temperature or periodic idling year-round to deliver compressed air to the brakes. It also will not cure the problem of overnight idling in Portland by the Downeaster train sets, and it will not enable NNEPRA to increase the number of round-trips between Brunswick and Boston.

It is important for as many AAB supporters as possible to attend the Town Council meeting to show support for the BLF, the Downeaster, and NNEPRA. We understand that members of the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition, who oppose the layover facility, will attend as well. If you can join us, that would be great. We’ll have All Aboard Brunswick stickers available if you choose to identify yourself as a supporter of the Downeaster and the Brunswick Layover Facility.

Patricia’s report is early on the agenda, so it won’t be a long night.

On April 24, the court reporter delivered the transcript of the March 25 DEP public hearing. Closing briefs for all interested parties are due on Wednesday, May 6, and we expect a ruling 45 working days after that, or around July 8.

If you are a resident of Brunswick and you can’t make it to the April 27 Town Council meeting, please consider sending a brief email to your Town Councilor expressing your support for the Brunswick Layover Facility, the Downeaster, and NNEPRA. You can find a listing of Brunswick councilors and their addresses at http://www.brunswickme.org/departments/town-council. Be sure to include your street address below your “signature."

Thank you very much,

Emily Boochever
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Trainsportation Committee Tables Anti-Passenger Rail Idling Bill

 

GerzofskyThe Joint Committee on Transportation in Augusta heard testimony yesterday relating to SP 168 - An Act To Prohibit Excessive Idling of Passenger Trains. It was introduced by Sen. Stan Gerzofsky of Brunswick, who is known as an aggressive opponent of the train and NNEPRA's Executive Director Patricia Quinn. The bill was 'tabled' but could be resuscitated. If passed, it would severely hamper or shut down Amtrak's Downeaster service (as well as Maine Eastern's excursion trains). It reads: 

Marathon DEP Hearing on NNEPRA's Storm Water Runoff Permit

It was an all-day event as the DEP held extensive sessions on NNEPRA's Storm Water Runoff Permit request. The permit is required for the construction of the Downeaster's Brunswick Layover Facility. It began at 9:00 a.m. and ended at 8:00 p.m. (with some lunch/dinner breaks). This was the first such public hearing the DEP has ever organized for this type of permit. 

The evening public session, held at the Brunswick Golf Club, brought out nearly two hundred advocates - against and for the permit. Those against feared disruption of their neighborhood due to alleged pollution and flooding and those in favor disputed their fears and emphasized the economic benefits of the expansion.

The Portland Press Herald has a full article on the hearing as well as background information on what has become an intense political dispute. Go here.

February Report, Oversight Committee Audit & McEvoy Resignation

TrainschedulePerformance Report: Amtrak failed to get complete numbers to NNEPRA in time for a full report. Exec. Dir. Patricia Quinn did state that February was a "bad month."  Available February numbers showed 29,317 riders, down 23% from the same period last year - 38 trains were cancelled in February due to bad weather. Remarkably, revenue is down but 1% year-to-date, due in large part to lower fuel prices and lower payments to PanAm because of cancellations.

NNEPRA Modifies Downeaster Schedule

DE ConductorNNEPRA has decided to modify the Downeaster's schedule, beginning on March 30th, in an effort to, among other things, improve the service's on-time performance.

Freeport and Brunswick are expected to benefit by the change as the time between daytime arrivals and early evening departures is cut nearly in half.

The second evening train out of Boston (#687) will depart at 6:05 p.m. instead of 5:40 p.m. Overall, good moves. http://www.pressherald.com/2015/03/16/amtrak-tweaks-downeastser-schedule-to-give-more-time/

Legislature's Oversight Committee Will Investigate NNEPRA

GerzofskyIt's now official. The Legislature's Oversight Committee will investigate NNEPRA's management of the Downeaster. But that opening sentence fails to capture the animosity that has now gone public thanks to Senator Stan Gerzofsky. He vehemently opposes the Rail Authority and Executive Director Patricia Quinn; the siting of the proposed Brunswick Layover Facility in a freight yard next to complaining neighbors; and the idling of Amtrak engines.

Chairman Wayne Davis of TrainRiders/Northeast suggests the senator's actions are more personal than previously revealed.

More from MPBN:http://news.mpbn.net/post/legislative-watch-dog-panel-probe-agency-oversees-amtrak-downeaster-service

 

 

Portland Press Herald editorial calls on Augusta not to turn the investigation into a "witch hunt": http://www.pressherald.com/2015/03/19/our-view-impartial-leadership-key-to-rail-audits-integrity/

Sen. Gerzofsky Takes Aim at NNEPRA...Again and Again!

Senator Stan Gerzofsky (D-Brunswick) is at it again - asking the Legislature's Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability to conduct a full audit of NNEPRA operations - he did this two years ago but it went nowhere. He has also reintroduced a bill restricting passenger trains to 30 minutes of idling time (keep in mind that diesel engines need to idle during cold weather in order to prevent freezeups). The Bangor Daily News reports on his latest effort to investigate the Downeaster and its Executive Director, Patricia Quinn.

http://bangordailynews.com/2015/03/12/politics/
brunswick-senator-seeks-probe-of-downeaster-railroad-operations/

 

NARP New England Membership Meeting at UNH on March 14th

NarpNE15The National Association of Railroad Passengers is holding its New England Membership Meeting on Saturday, March 14th from 10:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. at Holloway Commons-UNH, 75 Main Street,  in Durham, NH.

NNEPRA Board Meeting Concentrates on the "Really Tough Winter"

The extensive tie replacement work done by Pan Am during the first six months of FY2015 (July through December of 2014), took a signifcant toll on Downeaster performance with 143 trains cancelled. 

Then came the blizzards of 2015! In January, Downeaster ridership of 34,931 was down by 3% as compared to last January - 16 trains were cancelled. February to date has seen 36 trains cancelled and those that did complete their roundtrips, experienced signifcant delays. Ridership this year-to-date is down approximately 6,000 passengers.

Ms. Quinn explained to the board, using pictures from the outdoor Portland Layover Facility, why the indoor Brunswick Layover Facility is a necessity. Following the meeting, Patricia sat down with TrainRiders/NE to emphasize the "tough winter" conditions that maintenance and train crews must deal with on a daily basis.

But it's not just the Downeaster that has suffered. Rail systems, freight and passenger, have fallen victim to Mother Nature's fury from New York to Maine.

PanAmSnow

The Portland Press Herald details the damage: http://www.pressherald.com/2015/02/28/freight-slows-as-snow-cold-pummel-trains/ 

 

DEP Sets Time & Location for March 25th Public Hearing

The Maine DEP will hold it's Public Hearing on NNEPRA's Storm Water Runoff Permit application for the Brunswick Layover Facility on Wednesday, March 25th at 9:00 a.m. & 6:00 p.m. at the Brunswick Golf Club, 165 River Road, Brunswick, Maine. While the morning hearing is open to the public, testimony will be restricted to the parties involved (DEP, NNEPRA, TrainRiders/NE and the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition). No public testimony will be heard at the 9:00 a.m. session.

The evening hearing, at the same location and starting at 6:00 p.m., will be "devoted to taking testimony from the general public." The DEP points out that "testimony will be given under oath and is subject to cross examination by the parties and questions from the presiding officer."

Testimony at both sessions will be limited to issues involving stormwater standards. Comments on other topics will not be permitted.

The full public announcement can be read here.

DEP Visits the Brunswick Layover Facility Site

 

plansDEP Hearing Officer Laura Welles, along with environmental and engineering experts from Augusta, led a site inspection of the proposed Brunswick Layover Facility today in 10-degree weather. 

This inspection was in preparation for the Public Hearing scheduled for March 25th in Brunswick (the site has yet to be identified due to the number of interested parties who are expected to attend). The hearing will take testimony on NNEPRA's request for a Storm Water Runoff Permit - the last regulatory hurdle before construction can begin.

Joint Transportation Committee Briefed by NNEPRA on Special Train

There was a Special Train on the tracks between Brunswick and Portland on Tuesday. NNEPRA hosted members of the Maine Joint Transportation Committee. It was an onboard briefing by NNEPRA Executive Director Patricia Quinn - addressing the Brunswick Layover Facility, the upcoming DEP hearing, passing sidings at Royal Junction and an up-close look at the maintenance problems the train faces when they are left outside during the winter. We invite you to come along via our video.

NNEPRA Board Meeting - January, 2015

Performance Report:

fy15nov

The numbers speak for themselves - a downer for the Downeaster. The Downeaster transported fewer passengers in November of 2014 than in November of 2013. 

FYTD 2015 is running behind in ridership when compared to FYTD 2014, but revenue is up slightly (Wayne Davis told the board that on one recent weekend evening, there were 45 passengers waiting to get on the southbound train in Brunswick!).

Public Hearing on BLF Permit Scheduled

The Maine DEP has scheduled a public hearing on the Storm Water Runoff Permit for the evening of March 25th in Brunswick (location TBA). That permit is required by NNEPRA in order to proceed with construction of the Brunswick Layover Facility.

TrainRiders/NE is an 'intervenor' in the process which grants us the right to present expert evidence as well as cross-examine others who testify. All testimony is given under oath. The Brunswick neighborhood group is also an 'intervenor'. The Town of Brunswick is an 'interested municipal agency'.

A 'hearing officer' will moderate the session and file an assessment with the Commissioner of the DEP, Patricia Aho, who will make the final decision.

Year End Review from Wayne Davis

waynespirotitleAs we approach the last day of this year, we look back to what’s taken place during 2014. It was a busy year, on both offense and defense. We set new travel goals and continued to defend NNEPRA's Brunwick Layover Facility proposal which is the key to more service which will lead to increased ridership. 

In a time of special need, we received funds and moral support from many of you – and we sincerely thank you for that. We nevertheless continued to support passenger rail service throughout the region.

Brunswick Town Engineer Sees No Problems with Brunswick Layover Facility's Water Runoff

The Brunswick town engineer said at last night's Town Council meeting that the runoff from the Brunswick Layover Facility site would not connect to the town's storm water system - thus reducing the town's concern. In addition, he said that after reading reports on the DEP's website, the runoff before and after construction would appear to be unchanged. It was generally a positive assessment from the town engineer. 

In addition, the council voted last night to become a 'Municipal Observer' which will allow them to receive DEP updates on the Storm Water Runoff Permit issue while maintaining the right to intervene in the process if required in the future.

December 17th was to have been the 'drop dead' date for the DEP to issue their decision. Unfortunately, by calling for a public hearing on the permit, the clock has stopped. The town lawyer speculated that the hearing would focus only on the water runoff issue.

NNEPRA Board Meeting Hears Charges of 'Conflict of Interest' Against Board Member Robert McEvoy

Conflict of Interest Discussion during Public Comments (Updates at the bottom of this report)

NNEPA11-14It was a packed board room that heard serious charges brought against Robert McEvoy, the first openly hostile NNEPRA board member to be appointed by the administration.

Historic Kennebunk Station to welcome the Downeaster in 2015

The Town of Kennebunk plans to become the 7th stop in Maine for the Downeaster. Negotiations between the Town of Kennebunk and the building's owner, Dietz Association, are focused on providing a waiting room complete with QuikTrak machine and restrooms along with passenger parking by 2015. Meet Tim Dietz, the current owner as he provides an inside look at this Historic station.

Historic Kennebunk Station Will Host Downeaster from Maine HDTV on Vimeo.

 

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!

 

26th Annual Meeting - Oct 16 - Portland

Ross-Capon2We have a great lineup of guests!

Our keynote speaker is 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 is a long-time friend of TrainRiders/Northeast can be seen on the Downeaster as he vacations in Maine.

PatriciaQPatricia Quinn, Executive Director of NNEPRA, will bring us up-to-date on the Downeaster's performance and outline the opportunities and challenges ahead. Since assuming NNEPRA's reins in September 2005, Patricia has seen yearly ridership increases since taking the administrative throttle. FY 2014 marked a milestone for the Downeaster, as the 5 million passenger mark was met and exceeded ...thanks, in part, to the successful expansion to Freeport and Brunswick. The year itself was successful with record-breaking ridership exceeding 536,000, which is a 4.6% increase over the previous fiscal year. Increases in ticket revenue were even more significant, exceeding $8.6 million, surpassing the previous year by 6.2%. Customer satisfaction for FY2014 was 93 as compared to Amtrak's overall CS of 86."

David Bernhardt, Maine Commissioner of Transportation will join us along with David Fink, President of PanAm Rail and Joseph McHugh, Amtrak Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.

Time to register and reserve your meal now!

2014-Hellofatrain

There are two ways to reserve your dinner seat and select your meal. You can download the registration flyer, print it out, fill it in and mail it to TrainRiders at PO Box 4869, Portland, ME 04112. This flyer also contains full details of the meeting. Click here to download.

Or you can register now online by selecting your meal below and then click on the Pay Pal button. Please enter your email address as well since we communicate frequently via email. We will receive your name and meal selection automatically through Pay Pal. 

Either way - reserving now will guarantee you a seat. If you're registering for more than one seat, please reuse the form, changing the name each time so that we will have that person's ID tag ready when they arrive.

Here's the PayPal option: 

Dinner Selection



Welcome aboad!

------------------       -------------------       ------------------       ----------------

TRN Chairman Wayne Davis Comments on Continuing Brunswick Layover Facility Controversy - PPH Questions LePage Administration Motives - DEP Pledges 'By the Book' Review

waynespirotitleTRN Chairman Wayne Davis has spoken out on the continuing dispute over the Brunswick Layover Facility. In a Press Herald article, he concludes that Gov. LePage is "tinkering with the most successful train in the nation.” There's more from Wayne, NNEPRA's Patricia Quinn, the DEP commissioner, the BWNC and other interested parties. 

The Press Herald article.

---------

UPDATE: The Press Herald's Editorial Board has just published a commentary on the LePage administration's renewed involvement in the Brunswick Layover Facility decision. Referring to the governor's opposition and the last-minute involvement of the DEP commissioner, they wrote:

"The state’s involvement in a proposal over which it has no final say is a splashy and entirely symbolic move, and nobody should count on the heightened environmental concern on the part of the governor and his allies to outlast this fall’s election."

The full editorial is well worth reading. Go here.

UPDATE: Bangor Daily News publishes additional details on DEP's involvement in Brunswich Layover Facility. The review (actually, re-review) of the BLF's Storm Drainage Permit will be "by the book." Read here.

MeDEP Commissioner Creates New Obstacles to NNEPRA's Renewed Storm Water Runoff Application

Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water, Commissioner Patricia Aho of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection said, in effect, "Not yet! I have 21 more questions."

drip

NNERPA's renewed application for a storm water runoff permit for the Brunswick Layover Facility was quickly labeled unacceptable and incomplete as new questions were added to the process.

The initial permit has been approved by the DEP. The DEP had even given NNEPRA guidance as to who was an 'abutter.' That permit was ultimately thrown out by a judge who said more 'abutters' needed to be notified. So NNEPRA notified the additional interested parties and refiled the application. NNEPRA then met with the DEP for 2 1/2 hours and discussed the application in detail and answered several of the concerns that the DEP had raised. Then, out of the blue, the DEP struck back after they had assured NNEPRA that they didn't foresee any significant problems. And let's not forget, the Federal Railroad Administration, which has jurisdiction over railroad matters, found 'No Significant Environmental Impact' to the construction of the BLF.

NNEPRA Executive Director Patricia Quinn is quoted in the Bangor News article that she is eager to provide any answers the state requests.  The water torture continues.

Go here for the article.

Join our Facebook page to comment.

NNEPRA Exec. Dir. Patricia Quinn Concludes, "We're ready to go" with the BLF Once Storm Water Permit is Approved

Brunswick Items

Ms. Patricia Quinn, NNEPRA Executive Director, briefed the board on various items, including the Downeaster Brunswick Layover Facility. She reported that she had a 2 1/2 hour meeting with the Maine DEP addressing in particular the storm water permitting process. As a result, the permit has been resubmitted and notification of the abutters has been expanded. This is a 45-day process that allows for public input. The meeting with the DEP addressed several other issues: the water table, air quality and storage of lubricants on the property. None of those issues was considered a problem.

Ms. Quinn met personally with two legislators and talked with a third on the phone regarding their letter suggesting that the layover facility be built in South Portland. She characterized the conversations as productive.

On the issue of idling at the Brunswick Station, Ms. Quinn stated that she was examining a way to reduce the idling time by shifting the current 12:30p arrival to 3:00p. Also, #687 would be shifted to a 6:05p departure from North Station (currently 5:40p) and become the evening train to Brunswick. We were reminded the the BLF is the solution to multiple issues, including this one.

Performance Report - Fiscal Year 2014

From the NNEPRA report: "FY 2014 marked a milestone for the Downeaster, as the 5 million passenger mark was met and exceeded. The year itself was successful with record-breaking ridership exceeding 536,000, which is a 4.6% increase over the previous fiscal year. Increases in ticket revenue were even more significant, exceeding $8.6 million, surpassing the previous year by 6.2%. Customer satisfaction for FY2014 was 93 as compared to Amtrak's overall CS of 86."

Action Alert!

ACTION ALERT!  ACTION ALERT!  ACTION ALERT!

downeaster20It’s time to add your voice as a Downeaster supporter.

Phone calls are still preferred – [Governor Paul LePage – 207-287-3531 or toll free 1-855-721-5203] and simply identify yourself and your town and say that you are calling to have your name added to the list supporting the position of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) to construct the Downeaster Layover Facility in Brunswick on the site authorized by the Federal Rail Administration (FRA).

You can leave the same message for the Commissioner of Transportation, David Bernhardt at 207-624-3003 or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Thanks for whatever you can do.

Wayne Davis, Chairman 
TrainRiders NorthEast

ALERT FOLLOWUP:

One of our board members just dialed the governor's office and reports the following: 

"Talked with a very polite woman in the governor's office who passed me on to the 'Governor's Hotline.' Left a recorded message supporting NNEPRA's Brunswick Layover Plans. Keep in mind that the layover facility affects all Downeaster riders regardless of state since the BLF will result in more trains and passengers between Brunswick and Boston. It will also protect the trainsets and maintenance crews from wintry weather. You don't need to be a Mainer to call in and leave your opinion."

Freeport Chamber Sends Letter to Governor in Support of NNEPRA's Brunswick Plans

The Freeport Chamber of Commerce has sent a letter to the governor in support of NNEPRA's Brunswick plans concluding that... 

"The Freeport Chamber of Commerce is concerned  that the delay of Downeaster service improvements – like the Brunswick layover facility – will harm our local businesses and will have a negative economic impact on the entire region.  We, therefore, urge your support of NNEPRA’s planned Brunswick facility, which will allow increased ridership and services throughout the region."

===Full letter below===

August 19, 2014

 

The Honorable Paul LePage
Governor, State of Maine
#1 State House Station
Augusta, Maine 04333-0001 

Dear Governor LePage:

The Greater Freeport Chamber of Commerce, representing more than 200 local businesses, fully supports the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority in their efforts to maintain and increase passenger rail service to Freeport and Brunswick.  Business owners in town regularly comment on the positive economic impact that the Downeaster train riders have brought to Freeport.

In 2013, over 16,000 passengers arrived and departed in Freeport.  Additionally, over 10,000 inquiries of local businesses have been made at the Train and Visitor Information Center located adjacent to the train platform.  The passenger train service has been critically important to the success of the many restaurants, shops, and lodging properties in the area.  Freeport is very supportive of the planned layover facility in Brunswick.  Having trains overnight and be serviced in Brunswick will allow for the scheduling of more round trips to and from Boston that stop in town.

FreeportUSA Sends Letter to the Governor Supporting NNEPRA's Brunswick Plans

FreeportUSA has sent a letter to Governor LePage regarding the continuing opposition of the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition to the location of the Downeaster Layover Facility. FreeportUSA concludes: "It is vital to our community that Amtrak be able to continue providing our only public transportation service.  Our organization is certain that any delay or disruption to service would be harmful to our local businesses, the Town of Freeport and our entire region." The full letter is below.

===FreeportUSA Letter===

August 19, 2014

Dear Governor LePage, 

I am writing today on behalf of FreeportUSA, a non-profit destination marketing association that represents more than 155 Freeport businesses.  We wish to express our enthusiastic support of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.  The Amtrak Downeaster has had a positive impact on our community, and we encourage you to continue your support of this service that benefits our residents and guests, alike.

Freeport had been without a public transportation option for more than 10 years prior to November 2012.  As a favorite Maine destination to more than 3 million annual visitors, our office fielded thousands of calls from not only Boston and New York (where it’s not practical to have a car) but from international visitors who wished to make the trip once they landed.   Upon hearing that we could not offer any public transportation options, reactions were always filled with frustration and disbelief.  Shortly after Amtrak began service to Freeport, we stopped getting these calls.  

The Amtrak Downeaster has helped increase tourism through marketing campaigns that create compelling media about Freeport as a destination. Additionally, the Downeaster supports tourism by leveraging their marketing funds in support of regional and local efforts.  The response to the Downeaster service to Freeport has been positive, exceeding daily average ridership projections by 50%.

The Downeaster service is an asset to FreeportUSA and important to the future growth of both our organization and community. Last year, they supported Freeport’s Sparkle Celebration by providing two Polar Express-themed train excursions, which FreeportUSA used as a fundraising opportunity and an anchor event in attracting people to Freeport during the holiday shopping season. Special trips were created for Black Friday/Moonlight Madness, resulting in more than 100 shoppers arriving in Freeport between 10 p.m. and 2:30 a.m.

FreeportUSA offices are located at the Freeport Train & Information Center, so we are able to learn firsthand the appreciation that riders have for this service.  Residents and guests enjoy the safety, comfort, convenience and economic benefit of train travel.  Many Freeport residents regularly use the Amtrak Downeaster as their preferred method to commute/travel to Boston.  We frequently hear that the trains heading south to Boston are sold out, and that some travelers have learned it’s always important to purchase their tickets ahead of time.  Within our community, Amtrak has helped to alleviate traffic jams and parking shortages.

It is vital to our community that Amtrak be able to continue providing our only public transportation service. Our organization is certain that any delay or disruption to service would be harmful to our local businesses, the Town of Freeport and our entire region.  It is our hope that with your support, the Amtrak Downeaster will not only continue its service uninterrupted, but will be able to expand its schedule to meet the growing demand.

Sincerely, 

 

Kelly E. Edwards
Executive Director
FreeportUSA
PO Box 452, 23 Depot St.
Freeport, ME 04032

(207) 865-1212

www.freeportusa.com 

 

c.c.      U.S. Senator Angus King

            U.S. Senator Susan Collins

            U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree

            The Honorable Olympia Snow

            State Senator Stan Gersofsky, Senate District #10

            State Representative Peter Kent, House District #63

            State Representative Charles Priest, House District #65

            State Representative Mattie Daughtry, House District #66

            State Representative Sara Gideon, House District 106

            Commissioner David Bernhardt, Department of Transportation

            Carolann Ouellette, Director Maine Office of Tourism

            Chief of Staff John McGough

            Patricia Quinn, Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority

Patricia Quinn of NNEPRA Sets the Record Straight Regarding False Statements Attacking the Brunswick Layover Facility

From Wayne Davis:

The letter below was sent to the editors of the multiple newspapers that printed "Downeaster does not merit $16M investment" by Bob Morrison - a member of the small but noisy group of citizens who live adjacent to a large piece of state-owned property that has been used as a "railyard" since the 1860's.  Anyone who has been following this issue for the past two years should find the response of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority's Executive Director, Patricia Quinn informative and refreshing after all of the misinformation  and "noise" that's been circulated since the FRA issued its "Finding of No Significant Impact" and directed the Rail Authority to proceed with the process.

Wayne Davis

====Letter from Patricia Quinn of NNEPRA below===

Aug. 15 — To the Editor:

The Letter to the Editor published on seacoastonline.com on Aug. 11 titled, "Downeaster does not merit $16M investment" uses distorted data and inaccurate assumptions to challenge not only the construction of a train layover facility in Brunswick, but the merit of Downeaster service and the credibility of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority that manages it. The author, Bob Morrison, lives in the neighborhood adjacent to the railroad in Brunswick, and is chairman of the group opposing the construction of a train layover facility planned to be built in the former rail yard site located across the tracks. As the executive director of NNEPRA, I believe it is important that information regarding the layover project, the Downeaster service and NNEPRA is presented accurately and in proper context.

Contrary to Mr. Morrison's accusations, the basic rules of business are at the forefront of every decision made by NNEPRA, including the decision to construct a $12.7 million facility (not a $16 million facility as reported in the editorial) on a site zoned mixed use, industrial railroad corridor, in Brunswick. The Brunswick layover will improve the operational efficiency, cost effectiveness and economic impact of the Amtrak Downeaster service by converting the two non-revenue equipment moves that currently operate between Portland and Brunswick each day to revenue trips between Brunswick and Boston. It will also enhance the safety and efficiency of the layover operation and improve the reliability of the entire service.

The Downeaster service is one of the most highly regarded in the Amtrak system, based on ridership and revenue growth and customer satisfaction. Currently, 10 Downeaster trains run daily between Portland and Boston, with only four of those trips extending to Freeport and Brunswick. Despite the constraint of limited service, ridership to Freeport and Brunswick is strong, exceeding projections by nearly 50 percent. When the layover is built and equipment moves can be converted to revenue trips, passengers will have more travel options, ridership and revenue will grow, and Mr. Morrison's observation that the schedule needs to be more convenient will be addressed.

Brunswick Downtown Association Supports NNEPRA in Letter to Governor

August 6, 2014

 

Dear Governor LePage,

 

The Brunswick Downtown Association, representing nearly 300 local businesses and individuals, fully supports the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority in their efforts to maintain, improve, and increase the number of trips and passengers to Brunswick.  Downtown Brunswick has witnessed a very positive economic impact from train riders to our community. Business owners repeatedly comment about their increased sales as a result of visitors using the Downeaster.  

 

Last year, the Brunswick Visitor Center hosted over 53,000 visitors to our community – many arriving from and departing on the Downeaster.  The Brunswick Downtown Association manages the Visitor Center and as such, receives first hand comments about the Amtrak Downeaster.   Passengers enjoy the safety, the comfort, and the convenience of train travel.  One complaint we do contend with is from people who have not purchased advanced tickets as often the trips are sold out. The train cars may not be full leaving Brunswick Station, but they are filled to capacity as they approach Boston.   Even with the widely reported outages last month, the Brunswick July ridership exceeded that of July 2013, marking the trend for continued growth in its utilization.

 

Having the Downeaster serve Brunswick is important for bringing visitors to our community from the state, from the region, from the country, from across the globe.  These folks bring much needed capital to our area.  Ensuring easy access to one of the most beautiful areas of the country should be a top priority for the Maine Office of Tourism as these tourism dollars funnel throughout the state. 

 

An ever-growing number of people are using the Downeaster as their preferred method of transportation both to and from Brunswick, whether for business or for pleasure.  Parents of Bowdoin College students are very grateful for this transportation option, knowing that their sons and daughters are able to travel safely and economically.   We are fast becoming the transportation hub of the Southern Midcoast Region, serving many surrounding communities.  Continuation and expansion of passenger train service to Brunswick is a vital component of our economy and our culture, not just for our community, but for the entire region. 

 

The Brunswick Downtown Association believes that further delay and disruption in improvements to NNEPRA services is harmful to local businesses, the Town of Brunswick and the region.

Sincerely,

 

Deirdra Perry, Board of Directors Chair

Brunswick Downtown Association

 

c.c.       U.S. Senator Angus King

            U.S. Senator Susan Collins

            U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree

            The Honorable Olympia Snow

            State Senator Stan Gersofsky, Senate District #10

            State Representative Peter Kent, House District #63

            State Representative Charles Priest, House District #65

            State Representative Mattie Daughtry, House District #66

            Commissioner David Bernhardt, Department of Transportation

            Carolann Ouellette, Director Maine Office of Tourism

            Chief of Staff John McGough

            Patricia Quinn, Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority

            

 

Debora King

Executive Director

Brunswick Downtown Association - Main Street Community

85 Maine Street / PO Box 15

Brunswick, ME  04011

NNEPRA Board Renames and Broadens Advisory Board Mission

Following last week's refusal of the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition leaders to engage in constructive discussion on agenda items and their disrespectful antics as detailed in our previous article, Executive Director Patricia Quinn concluded that the relationship with Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition had become unproductive and was a waste of NNEPRA staff time. She then asked the board to provide guidance as to how best to continue its work with the Brunswick community.

Board members noted that it was important to continue a dialogue with Brunswick citizens, but as NNEPRA moves on to the construction phase, the base of the advisory group needs to be to be broadened and to that end, the following motion was proposed by chairman Martin Eisenstein and unanimously approved.

NNEPRA board of directors redefines the mission of the Brunswick Layover Building Advisory Group and renames the group as follows:

The Brunswick Layover Building Advisory Group is renamed the Brunswick Layover Advisory Group and its mission is as follows:

The purpose is to facilitate information exchanges between NNEPRA and the Brunswick community.

The constitution of the group with be decided by the chair of the board after input from other board members and the Brunswick community at large.

Board members went on to explain that they are moving from a planning stage to a construction phase, therefore, the issues are different than before and that different levels of public participation are needed. 

Robert Morrison of the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition said his group would have to decide whether or not they would continue in the new group. Chairman Eisenstein responded that the committee was not set up to determine the location of the facility. "Members of your group will be invited to participate in the broadened advisory group, with the understanding that we are not debating the location of the site," he concluded.

Execcutive Director Patricia Quinn announced that NNEPRA would shortly reapply for the storm run off permit that was invalidated by a Superior Court judge.

What Really Happend When the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition Met with NNEPRA Last Week

The Layover Advisory Board, created by NNEPRA to work with the opponents of the Brunswick Layover Facility, met last week to discuss the color and lighting of the proposed Downeaster facility. The local paper somehow failed to provide the disturbing specifics of the NIMBY's opposition to the agenda. Here is a letter, sent to the Town Council, by one of the pro-layover West Brunswick residents detailing the rude and disturbing antics employed by the opposition.

July 26, 2014

To:  Brunswick Town Councilor Benet Pols

From:  Jeff Reynolds 

RE:  Dysfunction of the Layover Advisory Committee 

Dear Councilor Pols, 

On July 24, 2014, the Layover Advisory Committee met at Council chambers in Brunswick.  I attended—and will never forget what I, along with others, witnessed.

Among the members of the Committee are three citizens who live near the site of the soon-to-be built Downeaster layover and maintenance facility.  These citizens also happen to belong to and occupy leadership roles in the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition (BWNC).  Their names:  Dan Sullivan, Chris Casey, Robert Morrison. 

In decades of attending and participating in meetings of various sorts I have never seen behavior such as that exhibited by the aforementioned citizens.  They were uniformly rude, insinuating and insulting, insistent on having it their way or no way or at all.  It was nothing short of outrageous.[1]

One brief example will suffice.  An engineer for the firm that will build the layover facility gave a PowerPoint presentation on the lighting plan for the site and structure.  Images were displayed on the west wall of the Council chamber.  This was information of vital import to me as a resident of the neighborhood near the site, and it had been deemed important enough to the BWNC to merit frequent mention in public forums, letters, their website, and more.

Throughout the presentation all three BWNC members faced the east wall, their backs to the speaking podium.  Dan Sullivan kept his eyes shut tightly the entire time.  Chris Casey and Robert Morrison carried on a conversation so loudly that those of us in the audience had difficulty hearing what the consultant was saying.  When the Committee chair asked if the citizen members had any questions or comments pertaining to the lighting plan, Robert Morrison ignored the invitation and instead read a prepared two-page BWNC “position paper” that had nothing, nothing whatsoever to do with lighting or any other agenda item.

Amplify this kind of juvenile meanness for the duration of the meeting and you get an inkling of what occurred.  The worst part, however, and the part I want you to keep in mind as you consider future action, occurred when the ostensive purpose of the meeting—to select a color for the building—came up.

The BWNC members refused to participate, and this after they, like me, had been sent ahead of time by mail, professional, color illustrations of various color schemes and instructions on how to make preferences known through an on-line service.  I participated on-line.  As a neighborhood resident I looked forward to engaging further in the selection process.

Here’s my point.  By refusing to participate in this activity, and through their relentlessly “obstructionary” behavior throughout the meeting, the three members of the BWNC have abrogated their right to represent the residents who live near the Church-Stanwood site.  All three must be released from their places on the Committee and replacements found who will participate constructively.

Furthermore, since this facility is of great interest across Brunswick, new appointees ought to be welcomed from all parts of the area, up to and including Freeport.

Lastly, members of all Town committees represent Brunswick.  They are our public face.  In light of their reprehensible behavior at the July 24 meeting, all three citizen members of the Layover Advisory Committee ought to apologize formally, in public, to the other members of that Committee and to Brunswick as a whole. 

Sincerely,

Jeff Reynolds

36 Redwood Lane

Brunswick, ME  04011  

Cc:  Town Councilor John Perreault

     Town Councilor John Richardson

     Ms. Patricia Quinn

[1]. . . and in contrast, the other Committee members were helpful, courteous, and patient beyond the capacities of most of us. 

------

Here is the orgininal Forecaster article which failed to mentioned the coalition's disruptive tactics. 

 



 

A Small Group of Augusta Politicians Question Plans to Build the Layover Facility in Brunwick

On the heels of a finding by the Federal Railroad Administration that the proposed Brunswick Layover Facility would have no significant environmental impact on the West Brunswick neighborhood and after a Maine judge invalidated a rain runoff permit, forces aligned against the construction have taken a new approach by lining up several Augusta legislators, inclulding an Amtrak conductor, to propose that the layover facility now be constructed at PanAm's Rigby Yard in South Portland. Everybody has an opinion about where best to site the much-needed structure as there have been more than a half dozen suggestions, from the Governor to politicians pushing their favorite service plans to NIMBYs (Not In My Backyard [more properly called NIMFY - Not In My Freightyard]).

NNEPRA, under Executive Director Patricia Quinn, has examined all with the help of outside consultants. The freight yard in West Brunswick was best for the efficient operation of the service. Ms. Quinn stands behind the decision to move forward with the selected site and has asked to meet with the aforementioned legislators to explain how the decision was reached and what the consequences are likely to be if opposition further delays the facility.

Here are two recent articles:

https://bangordailynews.com/2014/07/10/business/lawmakers-question-plan-to-build-downeaster-layover-facility-in-brunswick-suggest-south-portland/

http://www.mainebiz.biz/article/20140714/NEWS0101/140719982

UPDATE

A recent Investor's Business Daily editorial has sections which definitely apply to the current Brunswick Layover Facility controversy. Read it and weep:

"In the mid-1930s, workers spent a mere 400 days building the Empire State Building. It took more than 3,600 days to wade through the red tape and politics and complete the replacement for the Twin Towers.

The country built the 47,000-mile Interstate Highway System in 35 years. But 34 years after Maryland decided to build a 19-mile Intercounty Connector, that stretch of highway is still under construction.

The problem is that a massive army of NIMBY and "public interest" groups, environmentalists and regulators has grown up in recent decades — a force with the singular mission of saying "no" to anything and everything anyone tries to do.

From an engineering perspective, anyone could build a Hoover Dam today — or an oil pipeline for that matter — but who'd be dumb enough to propose such a thing, knowing the ferocious public attacks, exhaustive "environmental reviews" and endless lawsuits they'd face?

Environmentalists these days even block "clean energy" windmill farms and solar power plants because of the damage they'll allegedly cause to local ecosystems."

The full editorial is below, but the above is enough to understand the bind America is in, from Brunswick to Maryland.The full editorial: http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/071814-709541-apollo-45-moon-landing-anniversary-and-cant-do-spirit-in-america.htm#ixzz387gfN0NS

Maine Judge Says 'No' to NNEPRA's Storm Drainage Plan for the Brunswick Layover Facility

Just last month, the FRA gave the go-ahead for the construction of the Downeaster's Brunswick Layover Facility. However, this week a Maine Superior Court judge invalidated NNEPRA's storm drainage plan. The judge found that all the 'abutters' were not properly notified. The dispute revolves around the definition of 'abutters.' NNEPRA sources report that it was following the Maine DEP maps and guidelines regarding just who was an abutter. 

While some say a wider group of newly defined 'abutters' will be notified and a public hearing scheduled. others wonder if the federal government pre-empts such local legal maneuvers. 

More details in The Forecaster.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Today's NNEPRA Board Meeting

The Downeaster has had more than a decade of uninterrupted, successful growth. However, these past few months have reminded NNEPRA that setbacks come with heavy-handed results. Let's get the 'ugly' out of the way first.

The Ugly

The recent spate of slow orders, the PanAm right-of-way rehabilitation of a road-bed that was pummeled by the harsh winter AND the ongoing construction of the Haverhill bridge finally showed up in the numbers this month. April's On Time Performance registered 35.6% with no train making it into the 80% category. May's OTP was 8%!

The FRA Gives NNEPRA a Green Light to Proceed with the Brunswick Layover Facility

BLFThe Federal Railroad Agency, which has jurisdiction over U.S. railroad activities, issued its long-awaited review of the Brunswick Layover Facility's Environmental Assessment provided to the agency by NNEPRA. The FRA issued a FONSI (A Finding of No Significant Impact) which clears the way for construction to begin on the BLF. It will house three train sets just 0.6 miles from the Brunswick Station.

TrainRiders/Northeast May Newsletter

Our May newsletter was recently sent to our membership.

TrainRider

It features the latest Downeaster FY 2014 data, a tribute to Benjamin Kirkland (one of TRN's original and deeply dedicated supporters), a column on the delaying tactics of the West Brunswick Neighborhood Coalition over the proposed Downeaster Layover Facility, and recommendations from Chairman Wayne Davis how best to improve and grow the Downeaster service. Go here for these stories and more

In addition to the newsletter, the TrainRiders/NE Board sent a special request letter to all of our many supporters. We share this with you hoping it will encourage your further support.

Happy New Year 2014!!!

In 1960, as he watched New England’s passenger rail system gradually disappear, Maine’s E.B. White wrote in his publication The Railroad, that “A state without rail service is a state that is coming apart at the seams, and when a train stops at a village depot anywhere in America and a passenger steps off, I think that village is in an enviable condition”.

waynespirocucrAs the 2013 holiday season comes to an end, in our little corner of America, the public is exulting in Downeaster travel with impressive numbers to prove it. For the FY 2013, ridership exceeded 556,000 passengers, an increase of 5% over FY 2012. Ticket revenue was well over $7M, an increase of 9% over FY 2012. E.B. White should be pleased with the growing number of “villages” in an “enviable condition” (think Brunswick & Freeport). We’d also like to think that he’s cheering us onward in our quest to promote rail extensions in addition to improvements to the Boston-Portland service.

NNEPRA Reports Growth in 1st Qtr of FY2014

fy2014fqAnother fiscal year begins and Patricia Quinn, Executive Director of NNEPRA, reported ridership during the 1st quarter of Fiscal Year 2014. The report states that "the Downeaster transported a record-setting 163,614 passengers generating $2.48 million in revenue."

"An all-time monthly ridership of 60,044 passengers was matched by all-time monthly revenue of $929,299 in August. A service interruption associated with the rehab of the Shawsheen River Bridges is estimated to have displaced approximately 1,000 riders in September" (dates when the Downeaster could not service Boston).

Urgent Public Meeting Tonight at Brunswick Town Council Chambers

To all friends of Amtrak's Downeaster service.

waynespirocucrPLEASE COME TO THE PUBLIC HEARING REGARDING THE BRUNSWICK LAYOVER FACILITY on THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2013 FROM 5:30 TO 7:30pm BEING HELD ON THE 2ND FLOOR OF THE BRUNSWICK STATION, IN THE BRUNSWICK TOWN COUNCIL CHAMBERS. 

The nimby's will be out in force so your presence and this opportunity to speak briefly should not be missed.  Simply say that you support the site chosen by NNEPRA and currently approved by the FRA.  NNEPRA completed the Environmental Assessment (EA) in full accordance with federal and state laws and the EA should be upheld. 
All persons using the Downeaster service in all three states, Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts are allowed to speak and comment because what happens here in Maine could "stop the Downeaster in its tracks" as stated recently by NNEPRA's Executive Director.

While personal presence is most desirable, written comment will be accepted if sent by US Mail to NNEPRA, 75 West Commercial St., Suite 104, Portland, ME 04101 or electronically to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Come on everyone, it took 12 years to get the Downeaster -  don't let this opportunity to save "America's Favorite Train" slip away.
--
Wayne Davis, Chairman
PO Box 4869
Portland, ME 04112
Office: 207 879-7245
Cell: 207 272-2877

25th Anniversary Annual Meeting 2013 - An Inspiration to Behold!

trn-pin-final2TrainRiders/NE's Annual Meeting is always special - for our members and invited guests. However, this year's event celebrated not just the 25 years of our organization's effort to 'change the way New England travels," but the continued growth of the Downeaster and the relationships developed over the years with our public and private partners. Add to that mix the inspired message delivered by keynote speaker John Robert Smith and a new level of excited commitment to economic development through a growing and dependable national rail system was achieved.

FRA Approves Period of Public Comment for the Brunswick Layover Facility

{jcomments on}downeasterlogoThe proposed Brunswick Layover Facilty is one step closer as the FRA has reviewed NNEPRA's  Environmental Assessment report and given the 'ok' for a period of public comment and an open hearing.

A period of public comment, underway now and concluding on October 13th, will include an open hearing at the Brunswick Council Chambers from 5:30p - 7:30p on September 26, 2013.

This is a significant milestone. TrainRiders encourages its members and friends to attend this important hearing on the 26th so that supporters of the facility can have their voices heard. Those unable to attend can provide written comments to NNEPRA.

The full announcement and the entire Environmental Assessment report is available on NNEPRA's website.

Fiscal Year 2013 - A Significant Accomplishment!

fy2013 sumExecutive Director Patricia Quinn reported that FY 2013 was "the best ridership year ever. Ridership again broke records, exceeding 556,000 riders, which was a 5% increase over last year's record of 528,000." She continued, "Increases in ticket revenue were even more significant, exceeding $8.1 million, and surpassing the FY12 record of $7.4 million by 9%."

NNEPRA July 22nd Board Meeting - Downeaster Surpasses Previous Year's Record

Executive Director Patricia Quinn of NNEPRA released the good news: June Performance Statistics propelled the Downeaster to record ridership and revenue numbers for FY 2013.

In June of 2013, 47,566 riders took the Downeaster while in June of 2012, the number reported by Amtrak was 46,605. June, 2013 revenue was $37,755 ahead of last June. FY 2013 ridership and revenue growth again were both plus items in NNEPRA's spreadsheet. An End-of-the-Fiscal-Year report will be issued once the data of this "very successful year" is fully analyzed.

TRN's Wayne Davis Comments on Continued Downeaster Layover Facility Controversy

The Portland Press Herald reported Friday that Senator Angus King (I-ME), who lives in Brunswick, recently sent a letter to FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo requesting that the federal agency “conduct a full, fair and transparent” environmental assessment of the proposed Downeaster layover facility in West Brunswick.

NNEPRA Board Meeting - July 1st - Downeaster Moves Toward Record Fiscal Year

Performance Report:

may13aperformExecutive Director Patricia Quinn released the May statistics which showed continued growth with every expectation that the Downeaster service would set a new passenger/revenue record for fiscal year 2013.  May, 2013 ridership exceeded the previous year by 6.92%, revenue increased over that same period by 4.26%.

On Time Performance was 80.50% and overall Customer Satisfaction Index was 94.

Expansion Stations:

May, 2013 ridership on the Boston-Brunswick route was 1,909, and Freeport's ridership was 838. Together (2,747), they exceeded Boston-Durham (2,582) and Boston-Haverhill (2,564) and approached the numbers for Boston-Saco (2,885). Ms. Quinn was very pleased with these initial May numbers for the expansion towns.

May NNEPRA Board Meeting - Bridge Reconstruction Outages and Boston Marathon Bombings Reduce April Ridership/Revenue

As NNERPA Executive Director Patricia Quinn put it, "Aprl was not a good month."

apr13peform

First, there were two weekend Shawsheen River Bridge reconstruction outages, meaning that the Downeaster could not bring passengers to or from Boston, and then the Boston Marathon bombings closed North Station to all train traffic - frustrating NNEPRA, Amtrak and passengers alike.

The numbers on ridership and revenue reflect those unusual events. However, the Downeaster will be 'back on track' for the month of May as ridership, according to Ms. Quinn, is already ahead of last May by 2,400.

National Train Day at Brunswick Station

'Build it and they will come' goes the saying - it was never more true than on Saturday, May 11th,  when Brunswick Station was the site of Amtrak's celebration of National Train Day along the Downeaster route.

Five dollar fares along with free tours of the train itself brought hundreds of admirers to the attractive facility. First stop aboard the six-car trainset was the Cafe Car where free samples of Maine food products were eagerly consumed.

Parents had their children in tow as the 'real train' outside competed for attention with the model trains inside.

Amtrak's theme for the nationwide celebration was 'Trains Matter,' and on this day, who could argue?

National Train Day Celebration at Brunswick Station

National Train Day - Saturday, May 11th

ntdayAmtrak has selected Brunswick as the station along the Downeaster route to celebrate 'Trains Matter.'

A Downeaster train will be at the station and open for tours (including Cafe Car samples) from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., along with travel ideas, kids features and NNEPRA, Operation Lifesaver and TrainRiders/NE booths.

Meet those who: BROUGHT you the train (Wayne Davis and TrainRiders' board members), MANAGE the service (Patricia Quinn & staff), RUN the trains (Amtrak crews) and EMPHASIZE SAFETY (Maine Coordinator Fred Hirsh of Operation Lifesaver - safety exhibit plus two model train layouts). And...Saturday is a $5/ticket day between Exeter and Brunswick (and all stations in between).{jcomments on}

Downeaster's FY2013 Performance to Date Maintains Performance Growth

FY 2013 to Date:

perform3rd13

What happens to year-to-date Downeaster ridership and revenue figures when, in the third quarter, 18 trains are cancelled due to February storms and bridge reconstruction in Massachusetts results in 20 trains being cancelled and 28 more prohibited from getting to Boston? The answer is that FY2013 to date still delivers a 6% ridership increase and revenue growth of 12% (over the first three quarters of FY 2012)! The NNEPRA report goes on to note that ridership during the February school vacation week was 7% higher than last year as larger school groups ride the train.

Nine Month to Date Statistics

Average daily ridership: 1,605

  • Average Passenger Fair: $14.72
  • Average Miles per Passenger: 83
  • 57% travelled to or from a Maine station generating 68% of ticket revenue.
  • 31% travelled between NH stations and Boston generating 25% of revenue.

Boston to Freeport & Brunswick, Finally!

Work closely with NNERPA, rally the members, maintain contact with the local, state & federal officials - and, voila, the expansion to Freeport and Brunswick finally enters the 'accomplished' column!

Of course, it's quite that quite that easy. It took 23 years to bring it to fruition after our organization set Boston-Brunswick as our original goal back in 1989. The celebration at Brunswick is not to be forgotten.

President's Proposed Budget Allocates $40 Billion to Passenger Rail Over 5 Years

From Ross Capon, President and CEO of the National Associaton of Railroad Passengers:

President Pushes Bold Plan for Passenger Rail

defreeport

The Obama Administration released its budget request for Fiscal Year 2014 today, and the President has once again put forth a bold plan for transforming and expanding train service in the United States, with $40 billion in passenger rail investment over the next five years.

The Administration’s budget allocates $6.6 billion to the Federal Rail Administration for fiscal 2014, with increasing amounts each subsequent year through 2019, then decreasing amounts to 2023. The request will be a boost for Amtrak, coming a day before the House Committee on Transportation holds a hearing on the railroad’s FY 2014 budget. 

TrainRiders/NE Hosts Regional NARP Meeting

There are 'successful' meetings, and there are 'SUCCESSFUL' meetings - the Saturday meeting of the NARP New England Region was of the capital-letter variety.

TrainRiders/NE hosted the gathering which began with a luncheon and then moved to the business at hand. NARP Representatives from the five New England states, including our chairman Wayne Davis, brought the attendees up-to-date of their passenger rail successes and challenges.

Malcolm Kenton, NARP's Outreach and Engagement Director, outlined Amtrak's national vision as well as its budget issues; NNEPRA Executive Director Patricia Quinn briefed on the Downeaster's growth and its expansion to Freeport and Brunswick; while Wayne Davis spoke of the Downeaster's potential beyond it current route and the neighborhood opposition to the Brunswick Layover Facility.  David J Carol, Market Leader for Parsons Brinkerhoff's High Speed Rail programs brought us up to date on various high speed rail programs around the country.

The session ended by mid-afternoon so that many of the delegates could head south on #696. There was a general consensus that the meeting was well-organized by Steven Musen, RI Representative and Wayne Davis, Maine's Representative.  Also thanks to TRN board members Valarie Lamont, Bruce Sleeper Esq. and Bill Lord.  Val and Bruce handled the registration efforts with Steve Musen and Bill, our Webmaster, handled the technical aspects of the computerized power point and DVD presentation. The event was certainly well-attended with close to 80 attendees and well worth the time. Sounds like the definition of a 'SUCCESSFUL' meeting!

A TrainRiders/NE Editorial: Brunswick Facts Outweigh Misleading Statements

A Response to Senator Gerzovsky's
Letter of Complaint to NNEPRA
by Wayne Davis, TrainRiders/NE Chairman
(Editor's Note: Sen.Gerzovksy's letter can be read here.)

Maine Senator Stan Gerzovsky’s letter to NNEPRA strongly opposing the siting of the Brunswick layover facility just south of the current Brunswick station clearly reflects the concerns of some of his constituents who have chosen to live beside the train yard at which the facility will be located.

Currently, no indoor layover facility exists in Brunswick, which means that, the Downeaster diesel engines must be kept running to prevent the diesel fuel from congealing and becoming unusable when the temperature is below 40 degrees. Given the Downeaster’s current schedule, at least one Downeaster locomotive must remain idling several hours a day in Brunswick. Idling would not be required if the locomotive could be indoors. The Senator and some of his constituents, however, feel that one of two other proposed sites would be preferable if for no other reason than that they are not located in their backyards.

Facts Outweigh Misleading Statements - A TrainRiders/NE Editorial

waynespirotitleA Response to Senator Gerzovsky's
Letter of Complaint to NNEPRA
by Wayne Davis, TrainRiders/NE Chairman
(Editor's Note: Sen.Gerzovksy's letter can be read here.)

Maine Senator Stan Gerzovsky’s letter to NNEPRA strongly opposing the siting of the Brunswick layover facility just south of the current Brunswick station clearly reflects the concerns of some of his constituents who have chosen to live beside the train yard at which the facility will be located. Currently, no indoor layover facility exists in Brunswick, which means that, the Downeaster diesel engines must be kept running to prevent the diesel fuel from congealing and becoming unusable when the temperature is below 40 degrees. Given the Downeaster’s current schedule, at least one Downeaster locomotive must remain idling several hours a day in Brunswick. Idling would not be required if the locomotive could be indoors. The Senator and some of his constituents, however, feel that one of two other proposed sites would be preferable if for no other reason than that they are not located in their backyards. In doing so, the Senator and his constituents both ignore the disadvantage of these other sites and misstate many facts, which include the following:

1.         The letter states that the facility will be built near tracks that were “never used-nor ever intended to be used-for this purpose”.

           WRONG! The proposed site has been used as a train yard since the mid to late 1800’s. As recently as the 1970’s, the site consisted of numerous rail sidings with a capacity of up to 95 cars and also included a railroad office, a crew quarters, and equipment storage buildings. brunswick-feight-yardMore importantly, the site has been, and continues to be, zoned for rail and commercial use by the Town of Brunswick, and location of a rail layover facility at this site is consistent not only with applicable zoning requirements, but also with the Town’s comprehensive plan for development. The site has been, and continues to be, a site for interchange of freight trains between the Rockland rail branch operated by the Maine Eastern Railroad, and PanAm Railway’s rail line going south from Brunswick to Portland. A larger version of the postcard from the 1920’s is available online.  As one can see, this train yard has historically been very busy. Even today, the site contains numerous active tracks. Those tracks, plus the ongoing activity in the yard and the available uses under applicable zoning requirements, should have shown even very unobservant potential purchasers of nearby residences that the yard was being used, and would continue to be used, for railroad purposes.

2.     The letter indicates that the “proposal is to put an industrial-use facility in a residential neighborhood”.

            WRONG! For well over a century, the yard has been utilized for rail purposes. The real question is why a residential neighborhood was expanded near what has, for over 100 years, always been an industrial site.

3.       The letter indicates that choosing this site for the layover facility is “an irresponsible use of taxpayer money, especially when several alternate sites were proposed that would’ve had a far lesser impact on residents.”

            WRONG! Choosing either of the two other sites proposed for the layover facility in Brunswick would itself have been irresponsible. Using the alternate site, located in the Brunswick Industrial Park, would have required filling what is now essentially a huge hole in the ground in an area which included wetlands. The cost of preparing that alternate site would have made the project unaffordable.

Using the second alternate site, located in the Cook’s Corner area north of downtown Brunswick, would have been inconsistent with Brunswick’s zoning requirements and its Comprehensive Plan. Perhaps more importantly, however, this site is located on non-signaled track which would have required over half an hour of additional travel time for each train between Brunswick station and the layover facility, resulting in several hours’ worth of additional fuel, equipment use, and crew time each day. This, plus other operational shortfalls, would have translated into another unaffordable project. In addition, if this site had been chosen, it would have resulted in added motor vehicle idling time as trains crossed one of the busiest high-volume highway crossings in the state. To have chosen either of the alternative sites would have increased taxpayer costs in significant and adverse ways. Clearly, in choosing the proposed site NNEPRA acted responsibly to minimize taxpayer cost and ensure the survivability of the Downeaster service.

4.          The letter indicates that noise and air pollution resulting from idling of trains for upwards of five hours a day will result in decreased property values and increased health risks.

            WRONG! Construction of the layover building will eliminate the need for long-term idling of trains since they will be housed indoors at that facility. A study performed for NNEPRA (available at NNEPRA's website, www.amtrakdowneaster.com/projects/brunswick-layover-facility) estimated that even after the service is increased to six roundtrips per day (only two such trips occur now), utilization of the layover building would result in no more than 30 minutes of total idling time each day, and that this idling time would be inside the facility. That same study concluded that health risks and air pollution associated with the service would be insignificant.

5.          The letter intimates that NNEPRA’s choice of the proposed site somehow undermines the credibility of government and exacerbates the erosion of faith in how government agencies function.

            WRONG! After becoming aware of local opposition to the chosen site, NNEPRA reached out to the community and held three separate public meetings in Brunswick to discuss the potential sites. NNEPRA’s Board of Directors then held a later public meeting at which it accepted the recommendation from its consultants and staff to move forward with the development of the layover facility at the Brunswick rail yard. NNEPRA then formed an advisory group which included several Brunswick residents, representatives from the Town’s government, and others to discuss the facility. NNEPRA went above and beyond both its legal obligations and normal practice to ensure that the positions of all parties were presented and considered. That NNEPRA, its consultants, and its staff did not finally agree with those who opposed the chosen site does not constitute a failure of government or in any way; instead, it only means that NNEPRA, after due consideration of all the facts, disagreed with Senator Gerzovsky and those of his constituents who objected to having the layover facility cited in what they considered to be their back yards.

NNEPRA took several years, and invested much time, money, and energy, in carefully choosing the rail yard site for the layover facility. To disagree with that choice is certainly the right and privilege of every citizen, be they elected officials or merely interested parties. To base that opposition upon misstatements, however, serves no one and did not and cannot aid anyone in making an appropriate decision. The misstatements contained in the Senator’s letter are so significant and numerous that it adds nothing relevant or appropriate to the discussions about this facility. Instead, it would appear that NNEPRA’s careful consideration of the matter has resulted in a choice which, on balance, is beneficial not only to Mainers, but also to all others who use or will otherwise benefit from Downeaster service to Brunswick, including those constituents of Senator Gerzovsky who live near the chosen site. Introduction of the misstatements contained in the Senator’s letter seems to be the product of Not-In-My-Back-Yardism at its worst.

waynesig{jcomments on}

NNEPRA Board Approves Moving Forward with Phase 1 of the Brunswick Layover Facility Project

The NNEPRA Board voted to move forward today with Phase 1 of the Brunswick Layover Facility expected to cost $12 million. The board...

  1. Approved a cooperative agreement with MDOT to fund the construction - Commissioner David Bernhardt, a member of the NNEPRA board, has identified federal funds available for this project.
  2. Authorized NNEPRA to proceed with Phase 1 - preliminary engineering work for the development of a $12 million indoor train layover facility in Brunswick, with the award of the design-build contract to Consigli Construction Company of Portland.

This followed an extensive discussion with two members of the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition who once again requested that other sites be considered, based on noise and pollution concerns, and that public input would be part of the BLF process as it continues. The board and Executive Director Patricia Quinn assured them that there would be ample opportunity for public comment.

NNEPRA Board Meeting Details First Half of FY 2013

peformancehalffy2013The numbers continue to grow as NNEPRA reported the results of the first half of FY2013.

The chart shows ridership increased 10% over the same period of FY2012 - revenue increased 17% and On Time Performance was at 82% in the first half of FY2013, as opposed to 74% in FY2012.

Rider Profile:

  • 59% of riders travelled to or from a Maine station generating 69% of ticket revenue.
  • 30% of riders travelled between NH stations and Boston generating 24% of revenue.
  • 30% of total riders travelled using multi-ride passes, generating 15% of total revenue.

These statistics reflect the expansion of service to Freeport and Brunswick.

TrainRiders/NE to Co-host NARP's Annual New England Regional Meeting

narptrnPassenger rail advocates are invited to the NARP Annual New England Meeting to be held on Saturday, April 6th, at the Clarion Hotel, which is right next to the Downeaster stop at the Portland Transportation Center. Registration is at 11:30, the meeting begins at noon and will conclude by 3:30.

TrainRiders/NE is co-hosting the event which will focus on New England rails issues. Among the guest speakers are Patricia Quinn, Executive Director of NNEPRA and Malcolm Kenton, Director of Outreach and Engagement for NARP.

LD 28 Loses Co-sponsor

Good news on the anti-rail bill in the Maine Legislature. L.D. 28, “An Act to Reduce Air Pollution from Trains,” was introduced by Brunswick senator Gerzofsky at the beginning of the new legislative session. If adopted, the bill which attempt to limit diesel locomotive idling will do signficant damage to Maine's growing railroad industry which includes the Downeaster, Pan Am and Maine Eastern.

One of the co-sponsors, newly-elected Senator Sen. Dutremble of York County, told me in a phone call that he has withdrawn his support of the bill after learning more about the issue from rail officials and employees. Public input to our legislators in one way to reduce harmful over-regulation.

President Obama on High Speed Rail in State of the Union

The US Consitution states that the president "shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

obama-hsr1President Obama considered High Speed Rail as one of the 'necessities' of our national infrastructure. 

Keep the Main Line Open

Member John Graback passed along the following article regarding the PANAM plows and their 'pipeline on the rails.' Enjoy!

====

Here are links to a nice digital photo and an HD video of a pair of Pan Am Railway's big Russell plows clearing the tracks north of Portland after this weekend's big storm:

http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=3370916

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzqRQr8tQPQ

NH Executive Council Says 'Yes' to Concord-Boston Passenger Rail Study

nhEleven months ago, the NH Exec. Council said 'No' to using a federal grant that would have examined the feasibility of a Concord to Boston commuter rail link. What a difference an election makes.

The newly elected council voted 4-1 in favor of studying the 78-mile New Hampshire Capitol Corridor project. It is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

The full story from the Concord Monitor.{jcomments on}

Legislative Alert : L.D. 28 - A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

legislatureJust when things are going so well for our greatest accomplishment, Amtrak’s Downeaster service; along comes L.D. 28, “An Act to Reduce Air Pollution from Trains”. This whacky bill has just been introduced into the Maine Legislature. No matter what metaphor you may use, wolf in sheep’s clothing, or Trojan horse, this bill is dangerous and misleading.

January, 2013 NNEPRA Board Meeting

statsnov12

The performance statistics continue to pile up and today's board meeting heard more evidence of the impressive sustained growth of the Downeaster - double-digit growth in ridership and revenue for the month of November.

Winter is Here but Riders on the Downeaster Don't Worry

It's inevitable - the snow will fly and the roads will freeze up!

We know, as more and more travelers in Northern New England are discovering, that the Downeaster pretty much barrels through that white stuff and it's passengers relax and snack in warm comfort.

It is a matter of pride and performance. The crews are particularly attentive during such 'challenges' that put cars and buses at a major disadvantage on our highways.(Click on More for a classic video of the Downeaster in the winter.)

Wayne Davis' Memories of the Inaugural Train to Freeport & Brunswick

November 1st 2012 was a day to rival the original start of our Downeaster on December 14, 2001. Invited guests and dignitaries had to choose between getting up way before sunup to take the southbound train to Boston to return on the Inaugural train or going down to Boston the night before and staying in a hotel. Yours truly opted for the Boston hotel. It was that or I’d have been a zombie on the Inaugural train.

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.

NNEPRA Board Meeting - September, 2012

Downeaster Performance Continues to Amaze!

aug2012 performThe new fiscal year (2013) which began on July 1st, is already posting impressive ridership and revenue growth. Patricia Quinn, Executive Director of NNEPRA, spoke of "amazingly significant growth" in her report to the board.

OTP
Overall on time performance in August, 2012 stood at 80% with trains 680, 681, 682 & 689 turning in 90-99% OTP.

CSI
Overall customer satisfaction in July was 93% for the Downeaster as compared to 85% for Amtrak.

TrainRiders/NE's Annual Meeting Celebrates Nov 1st Start of Expanded Service to Freeport & Brunswick

24th Annual Meeting Applauds the Scheduled Expanded Service

guests12September 13th was a grand day for a celebration. Some 125 TRN members and friends gathered at the Harraseeket Inn in Freeport to celebrate the Nov 1st launch date of the expanded Downeaster service to Freeport & Brunswick.

Chairman Wayne Davis hosted an impressive list of speakers who addressed issues pertaining to passenger rail service in Maine, New England and the nation.

Senator Olympia Snowe, Maine's senior senator, lauded TRN chairman Wayne Davis' vision that initiated a long process that ultimately resulted in the successful launch of Downeaster service in 2001. (Since the US Senate was in session, she appeared electronically)

NNEPRA Reports FY 2012 Sets All-time Record!

nnepra-ameeting12


The public acceptance and use of the Downeaster continues to push ridership to new highs and continues to increase the value of this Amtrak service to the passengers and businesses along the route in Maine, NH & the Boston area. The efficient and enthusiastic management of the state's rail authority, led by Patricia Quinn at NNEPRA, was on display as they presented, in the Maine State Room at Portland City Hall, their Year End Report.

Ridership exceeded 528,000 passengers in FY 2012, 4% above last year and revenue hit $7.4 million for the twelve-month period. The details of NNEPRA's Year End Report are fascinating and validate the early vision of TRN in persuading the public and the legislature that a return of passenger rail service to Maine made sense. Build it and they will come! Freeport and Brunswick join the route in November.

Transportation Bill Compromise Maintains US Support for the Downeaster Thanks to Effort of Senator Snowe

Train riders from Portland to Boston can exhale a sigh of relief as the 27-month compromise transportation bill has gone to the president for his signature. Successful last minute efforts by Senator Olympia Snowe sealed the deal keeping federal funds flowing to the Downeaster. Here is a portion of Sen. Snowe's press release:

Provision to Preserve Downeaster Funding
Included in Final Highway Bill
Legislation also includes Snowe measure regarding veterans’ commercial drivers licenses


snoweWASHINGTON, D.C. –
A modified version of a measure introduced by U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) to preserve funding for operation of the Downeaster rail service today passed the Senate as part of the final compromise Highway Bill package.

Compromise Transportation Bill Leaves NARP Disappointed

narplogoThe House & Senate agreed Wednesday night on a compromise 27-month extension of the Surface Transportation Bill. NARP's analysis concluded: "...for train passengers, this unveiling will undoubtedly leave them with a resounding sense of disappointment."

The full report is available on the NARP site.

NNEPRA Board Meeting - June, 2012

The NNEPRA Board met this week in Portland where Executive Director Patricia Quinn reported continued growth in Downeaster ridership and revenue for May and the fiscal year to date:

destatsmay12

NARP Amtrak Alert!

 House to vote on anti-passenger rail amendments today!

June 27, 201

Last chance to speak up for trains!

Votes on amendments to the transportation/housing appropriations bill could come as early as today at 4:00 PM Eastern. In an unusual move, the House is operating under an “open rule,” which makes it very hard to know for sure what amendments will be offered.  However, NARP has identified two distinct possibilities passengers should should be concerned about:

Elimination of $500 million from Amtrak capital—As reported in yesterday's email, it appears there will be an amendment that would eliminate a $500 million bridge and tunnel grant within the Amtrak capital program.  That money is vital—not only for capital, but for the potential to flex $80 million of it over to Amtrak operations.

Rep. Jeff Flake Targets Amtrak's Food Service—NARP just learned this morning about a “no-money-for-food-service” amendment from Representative Flake (R-AZ).

This issue was already address by Amtrak’s Bill Crosbie in his June 9, 2005, prepared testimony before the Railroads Subcommittee: “Amtrak’s food and beverage service is a fundamental part of the service that we offer on the majority of the trains that we operate on a daily basis. Its primary purpose is to enhance ticket sales and ridership, not serve as a profit center.”  Translation: it's hard to make money on food when your clientele is limited to people on a single train, but no food service would mean huge loss in ridership.

With so little time left, it's important that they hear from America's passengers.  So call your Representative now, and tell them to "vote against amendments that would reduce Amtrak funding or limit its ability to provide food service" (if a the staff person is not available to speak to you, please leave a concise message, since the vote likely will come before your call is returned).

Senate and House negotiators close to deal on surface transportation bill

It appears that a deal has been reached between House and Senate conferees on a multi-year transportation reauthorization.  While details are still fuzzy, if the rail provisions are anything like what was contained in the Senate version, this is good news for trains.  An extended authorization will clear the way for investment in transportation infrastructure, putting Americans back to work in time for the summer construction season.

NARP will keep you updated as events unfold.


 

NARP Recounts TrainRiders/NE's 12 Year Marathon to Bring Amtrak Downeaster to Maine

narpwayneThe June edition of the NARP Newsletter details the extraordinary 12-year-effort of Wayne Davis and his TrainRiders organization to bring Amtrak passenger service to Maine. NARP states that chairman and founder Wayne Davis "set a gold standard for effective citizen action."

The article details how untiring work in communities along the line and in Augusta resulted in a nickname for the Downeaster that continues to be proudly used today:  "America's Favorite Train."

The full article can be viewed here.

FRA Highlights Downeaster's Expanding Economic Impact

szaboFederal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo recently analyzed the economic benefits of the Downeaster's continued growth - an estimated $7.2 billion in economic activity through 2030.

Citing an independent analysis, Mr. Szabo said the new construction along the corridor in Maine, particuarly from Portland to Freeport and Brunswick, can create 18,000 new jobs. More on this upbeat assessment at the NARP website.

NNEPRA Board Meeting - May, 2012

nnepra

The NNEPRA Board Meeting took place on May 21st at their offices in Portland.

First on the agenda was the third quarter FY2012 report. NNEPRA Executive Director noted that the Downeaster continues to show "solid growth." (Click on 'More' to view spreadsheet and news.)

Freeport & Brunswick Platforms Dedicated

In July of 2010, the FRA released some $35 million in federal funds to NNEPRA for the expansion of Downeaster passenger service to Freeport and Brunswick. On Monday, the platforms at both stations were dedicated as rehabilitation work on the 28 miles of PanAm Railways' right-of-way approaches its conclusion this fall.

It was another important milestone for officials, managers and particularly for TrainRiders/Northeast which had identified Boston to Brunswick service as a primary goal back in 1989! 

The excitement is captured in our video coverage:

NNEPRA Board Meeting - March, 2012

Downeaster Performance Numbers, both ridership and revenue, showed very strong growth during the first two months of 2012. Executive Director Patricia Quinn reported January ridership increased by 8.7% over January of 2011 and February ridership was up 11.7% over the same period of last year!

march12

President Signs 3-Month Extension of Transportation Bill

UPDATE:

The president has signed a three-month extension of the transportation bill. The Republican-led House refused to hold a vote on the Senate version (detailed below). Funding for the Downeaster, Amtrak and other transportation projects remains intact until June 30th. More information at Politico.com.

EARLIER:

The US Senate, by a bi-partisan vote of 74-22 in mid-March, passed a two-year $109 billion surface transportation authorization bill which maintains the ability of Maine to continue to use CMAQ funds (around $6 million) to support a large portion of the Downeaster's operating budget.

snoweSenator Olympia Snowe succeeded in adding an amendment to the bill which authorized the continued use of those funds for state-operated railroads. She was justifiably proud of her accomplishment:

A Tale of Two New Hampshires

NH Executive Committee Says 'No' to Federal Rail Grant: The NH Executive Council, which has the power to approve/disapprove most state contracts, frustrated an act of the state legislature and undercut the governor's leadership by killing, by a 3-2 vote, a federally-funded (USDOT) study of the passenger rail potential of the Boston-Nashua-Manchester-Concord corridor. This rail initiative had survived the legislative process - no easy accomplishment - and was supported by the governor.

Here's an article from the Concord Monitor on the session and the issues.

What's next?

NNEPRA Responds to Questions from Layover Facility Opponents at Brunswick Town Council Meeting

The Brunswick Town Council devoted much of its evening meeting this week to the Downeaster Layover Facility that will be constructed in a rail yard along the tracks in West Brunswick.

pquinnbwickNNEPRA Executive Director Patricia Quinn presented a detailed explanation of the facility and the efforts to mitigate noise, pollution and vibration concerns which the Brunswick West Neighborhood Group continues to raise. Many of the group's members spoke in opposition to facility or the data presented.

Maine Senate & House US Delegations Push Downeaster Legislation

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and Senator Olympia Snow are introducing legislation to preserve some $6 million in federal funding for the Downeaster.

This comes on the heels of House legislation that would eliminate CMAQ funding for state-operated railroads. The Downeaster has benefited from that policy for the last 10 years.

Latest report from the Kennebec Journal.{jcomments on}

NH State Rail Plan Open for Public Input

The NHDOT has informed the public of a series of hearings leading to an updated rail plan for the state. The public forums will address both freight and passenger rail service.

This is of particular interest to those who have pursued passenger rail service for residents in the interior of the state. The near-coastal cities of Dover, Durham and Exeter are currently served by the Maine-operated Downeaster.

Full details at Fosters.com.{jcomments on}

US House Transportation Bill Targets Downeaster Federal Funding

Here we go again - TNEMembers and Friends:

The House version of the Transportation Bill (HR 7) does NOT continue an important exemption on the use of Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funding which currently provides about 80% or $6M of the Downeaster's annual operating costs. 

Boston Business Organization Passes Resolution Supporting the Downeaster

waynebostonThe Boston Downtown North Association, part of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, passed on Tuesday a TrainRiders/NE resolution supporting the Amtrak Downeaster.

Wayne Davis, Chairman of TrainRiders/NE, presented the resolution to the board for discussion and approval.

Bob O'Brien, Executive Director of the Board, congratulated Wayne on his consistent, deliberate and effective advocacy for passenger rail in New England and the Downeaster service in particular.

This Boston business group joins municipal organizations from Freeport, Portland, Saco, Wells, Dover, Durham and Exeter in support of continued Amtrak/Downeaster funding in the face of political opposition in Washington. Approval by Brunswick and Haverhill organizations are pending.The resolutions are then sent to their respective Washington delegations.{jcomments on}

NNEPRA Board Meeting - January, 2012

The January Board Meeting reported on the first two quarters of Fiscal Year 2012 - Executive Director Patricia Quinn characterized the service as "healthy & strong."

chart

Year End Letter from Wayne Davis

In 1960, as he watched New England’s passenger rail system gradually disappear, Maine’s E.B. White wrote in his publication The Railroad, that “A state without rail service is a state that is coming apart at the seams, and when a train stops at a village depot anywhere in America and a passenger steps off, I think that village is in an enviable condition”.

Downeaster 10th Anniversary December 15th

 On December 15, 2001, the first Downeaster train for the general public left the Portland Terminal for Boston. Ten years later, some 3.5 million riders have been transported between Portland and Boston and tens of millions of dollars have been invested in the economies along the line.

A cross section of state & local officials, administrators, NNEPRA & Amtrak employees along with rail advocates gathered at the Transportation Center to celebrate this extraordinary accomplishment.

Governor Lynch of New Hampshire declared the 15th 'Downeaster Day' in the Ganite State. (Read it here). Our DC delegation all sent letters of congratulations. NNEPRA Executive Director Patricia Quinn received an award from Amtrak. And TRN Chairman Wayne Davis was given the prestigious George J. Mitchell Award for Public Service. (See video by clicking on Read More)

Wayne Davis Responds to letter attacking the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority

(Webmaster comment: Recently Associate Professor Patrick Rael of Bowdoin wrote a letter to the Forecaster accusing NNPERA of failing to listen to local objections, not working with town authorities and other objections with regards to the construction of the Downeaster Maintenance Facility in Brunswick. TRN Chairman Wayne Davis, in order to set the record straight, responded with the following Letter to the Editor.)

Patrick Rael’s letter attacking the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, its board of directors and its capable executive director is filled with misinformation.

Higher Cost Delays Start of Downeaster Maintenance Facility Construction

NNEPRA will need to seek additional federal funds in order to move forward with the construction of the Brunswick mainetance facility.

With expanded service due to begin late next fall, the lack of that facility will reduce the number of Downeaster round trips between Brunswick and Portland from three to two.

Read the article in the The Forecaster{jcomments on}

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.

Update from N. Berwick Police

nberwickUPDATE: The North Berwick Police Department releases details of their final report.

More at Foster.com

     =====

EARLIER:"The North Berwick Police Department has released more information on the cause of the July 11th grade crossing collision between a truck and Downeaster train #681. The firey crash claimed the life of the truck driver, destroyed the engine, disabled the train and caused minor injuries to crew members who successfully evacuated the passengers from the coaches.

The primary reason for the accident was failure to observe grade crossing signals and gates. But authorities wanted to know why the truck driver failed to heed these warnings. The conclusion: excessive speed - 20 mph over the posted limit - and possible cell phone distraction.

Amtrak informed the NBPD that the train was traveling "at approximately 75 mph" at the time of the accident instead of 70 mph as previously reported. The speed limit changes at the crossing from 75 to 70 mph.

More details at Foster.com.{jcomments on}

Downeaster Ridership Continues Its Upward Climb!

NNEPRA Board Meeting - Downeaster Performance Report

  • Actual August, 2011 - 50,825
  • Actual August, 2010 - 48,841
  • FY2012 Year to date - 101,904
  • FY2011 Year to date -   96,014

August 2011 City Pair Ridership

  • Portland-Boston 16,459 or 32% of total
  • Exeter- Boston 7,016 or 14% of total
  • Durham-Boston 2,457 or 5% of total
  • Wells-Boston 5,583 or 11% of total
  • Saco-Boston 3,576 or 7% of total
  • Dover-Boston 3,859 or 8% of total
  • Haverhill-Boston 1,975 or 4% of total
  • Boston-OOBeach 2,607 or 5% of total

ME Business/Community Leaders High on Idea of Possible Portland to Montreal Passenger Rail Service

When business community leaders and rail advocates met earlier this week to discuss future passenger rail expansion, the topic of Portland-Lewiston/Auburn-Bethel-Montreal service brought out an enthusiastic group of interested parties.

The full story is available at Free Press Online.

Senate Appropriations Amendment Firms-up High Speed Rail Funding

UPDATE: As many of you may already know, the Senate transportation appropriations bill was marked up in Subcommittee yesterday.  Unfortunately, the bill eliminated funding for High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail.  In response, Senators Durbin, Lautenberg, Feinstein & Landrieu offered an amendment in full committee to provide $100 million for HSIPR. The amendment was approved by a voice vote. 

 

The Committee then voted 28 to 2 to report the amended bill favorably to the Senate floor.

Assuming the amended bill remains intact and passes the Senate, it sets up a showdown with the House, whose bill zeroes out the HSIPR program, in the conference committee that will iron out the differences between the two chambers’ versions (Thanks to NARP for late update).{jcomments on}

FRA Releases $20.8 Million to NNEPRA for Mass. Rail Improvement

fraU.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today the release of $82.7 million dollars to improve high-speed and intercity passenger rail in Rhode Island, Maine, Connecticut and Vermont.  The money will provide needed upgrades to the Northeast Corridor, Connecticut's New Haven-Springfield line, Maine's Downeaster route and the Vermonter service.

Secretary LaHood wrote "These are the kinds of investments that will improve reliability and on-time performance and attract more passengers.  We are creating jobs throughout New England, building our rails with American-made materials and growing the New England economy."

For Maine, $20.8 million will alleviate congestion and reduce delays on segments of Amtrak's Downeaster service.  The project will provide critically needed double track, as well as signal and highway-rail grade crossing improvements between Wilmington and Ballardville, MA.  Aging rail will be replaced with new, continuously-welded rail between Lawrence and Bradford, MA  The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) operates commuter trains on this line, and on-time performance for the Downeaster has deteriorated due to bottlenecks within this area.  Currently, the Downeaster operates from Boston to Portland, ME, and is expanding to Brunswick, ME thanks to previous federal grants totaling $38 million.

Exeter Riders Oppose Parking Fees at Downeaster Station

exeter

The Town of Exeter is proposing that the free parking spaces at the Downeaster Train Station be metered so as to increase town revenue.

The cost would be 50 cents an hour or up to $5.00 per day - costing those using public tranportation - the Downeaster - up to $100 more a month.

If adopted, Exeter would join Boston, Woburn, Haverhill, Durham (UNH property) and Portland as pay-to-park facilities. Old Orchard Beach has no separate parking facility for the Downeaster so all parking space are metered. Parking remains free at Woburn, Dover, Wells & Saco.

A public hearing was held on Thursday, September 8th. There was uniform opposition from Downeaster riders. An article on the hearing can be viewed on the Seacoast Online website.

House Republican Budget Plan Eliminates State Supported Rail Service and Cuts Out High Speed Rail Funds

From Amtrak:

amtraklogoDespite record-breaking Amtrak ridership and strong support for intercity passeger rail by 15 states, the House Republican transportation budget plan will effectively eliminate all state-supported Amtrak service across the country for the fiscal year beginning October 1.

This would include the Downeaster.

TrainRiders/Northeast will provide passengers with "A Call to Action" on Tuesday's peak trains - Wayne Davis, Bob Rodman and Bill Lord will hand out the following TRN Flyer.{jcomments on}

===== ===== =====

From NARP:

narplogoThe National Association of Railroad Passengers reports that the House Transportation Subcommittee has proposed cutting Amtrak's budget by some $358 million dollars, down to $1.1 billion, imperiling the passenger rail service and eliminating all Hi-Speel Rail funds. NARP calls this a "shutdown budget for Amtrak." Go to NARP for further details and a Take Action link.

Vermont Rail Lines Severely Damaged by Irene

vermontdamage2TrainRiders/NE Board Member Christopher Parker reports that "Irene" dealt Vermont's rail lines a heavy blow. The people, towns and infrastructure of the Green Mountain state haven't see this amount of destruction since 1927.

Christopher adds that every rail line in the state suffered damage that interrupted service and now requires extensive repairs (picture from Vermont Rail Action website).

More here.

BRUNSWICK DOWNEASTER LAYOVER FACILITY SELECTED

nnepraThe Board of Directors of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority voted unanimously on Monday to build their $4 million dollar passenger train maintenance facility on an 8-acre parcel near Bouchard Drive in Brunswick.  The consulting group hired by the Authority to evaluate 3 potential sites made their recommendations late last week, suggesting the Bouchard Drive property as their first choice because of its previous use as a rail yard for many years, its proximity to Maine Street Station and its cost effectiveness.

Patricia Quinn, Executive Director of the Rail Authority told reporters that she plans to create an advisory group to guide the design of the facility that would include the Consultants, NNEPRA staff, the Brunswick municipal planner and a member of the Board of Selectmen and several property owners living adjacent to the proposed facility.

The proposed 60,000 square-foot building will allow Amtrak to perform indoor maintenance and refueling work on the three train sets that operate the daily service.  The trains are expected to begin operating between Brunswick, Portland and Boston next autumn.

The Forecaster.com has a summary article on the process - go here.{jcomments on}

AMTRAK'S 40TH ANNIVERSARY EXHIBIT TRAIN SHINES IN FREEPORT!

museumtrain

The exhibit train arrived in Freeport Friday afternoon the 12th in preparation for public viewing of the train on Saturday and Sunday, August 13-14.  The train, coupled with two PanAm business cars and an F40 PanAm locomotive, was painted in PanAm's stunning cobalt blue livery.

The very shiny and freshly painted Amtrak sections included a P-40 diesel-electric locomotive and a non-powered-control unit to allow push-pull operation.  Those units are arrayed in an historic Amtrak paint scheme.  The air conditioned Exhibit Train also includes three baggage cars that have been renovated and transformed into exhibition space through the addition of display cases.  The major events and achievements of Amtrak's four decades are conveyed through advertising materials, photographs, and other items.

Maine's 'Track Star'

patriciaWhen #682 arrived in Saco this morning, few knew that Maine's 'Track Star' was on board heading for another transportation meeting, this time in New Hampshire.

NNEPRA's Executive Director, Patricia Quinn, was appropriately labeled 'Maine's Track Star' in an article in MaineBiz.

Respected throughout New England and the entire Amtrak system, Ms. Quinn has accomplished much on behalf of the State of Maine, the Downeaster, its station communities and the passengers.

Read more in MaineBiz.{jcomments on}

Towns Along Downeaster Expansion Route to Brunswick Examine 'No Whistle' Zones

With Downeaster expansion to Freeport and Brunswick scheduled to begin in late 2012, municipalities along the route are examining how to maintain and expand grade crossing 'quiet zones.'

The Federal Railroad Administration, working from guidelines established by the US Congress, has a set of criteria for such exemptions to the safety whistle requirement. It can be read here.

NNERPA Executive Director Patricia Quinn is quoted in a Press Herald article.{jcomments on}

Amtrak Exhibit Train to Stop in Freeport

40thThe Amtrak Exhibit Train, celebrating 40 years of passenger rail service in the US, will be open to the public on August 13 and 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The train will be parked near the Community Center at Depot Street in Freeport.

The train contains historical memorabilia and exhibits, including a look at the future of High Speed Rail in America.

Representatives from TrainRiders/NE will be among those present to assist visitors with information about our organization and the successful growth of the Amtrak Downeaster. Come meet us and representatives from NNEPA, PanAm Railways, Maine Eastern Railroad, Amtrak and Operation Lifesaver.

Once this train departs, the next Amtrak train to arrive in Freeport and Brunswick will be the Downeaster in late 2012 as expanded service along the coast is inaugurated!

More here.{jcomments on}

Brunswick Decision Likely in August and NNEPRA Celebrates 509,986 - What a Number!!!

boardjuly11

At this month's NNEPRA Board Meeting, there was extensive discussion between the board and members of the Brunswick Neighborhood Group. The group remains opposed on environmental grounds (emissions, noise, light and possible impact on property values) to locating the Downeaster Maintenance Facility between Church and Stanwood Streets. Board Chairman Martin Eisenstein announced that NNEPRA would hold a public meeting in Brunswick on August 18th to hear and discuss the final recommendation of the consulting firm that has been evaluating the three remaining sites. The board will then vote on the recommendation at its regularly scheduled meeting on August 22nd.

UPDATE: Brunswick Layover Sites Down to Three

lettersUPDATE:

Two recent letters in The Times Record encapsulate the dispute regarding the location of the Downeaster Maintenance Facility in Brunswick. Will MDOT and NNEPRA decide in favor or the Church/Standwood site or will an alternative be selected? A decision is on the horizon.

The letters:

For the Church/Standwood site

For an alternative site

=======

EARLIER:

Some 100 Brunswick residents attended a public forum on July 14th to continue discussions about the location of the Downeaster maintenance facility. MDOT & NNEPRA officials presented a list of three locations for the site, after eliminating two other locations as unsuitable. Many of those in attendance remain opposed to the original selection, between Church and Stanwood Streets, due to environmental and noise issues. That initial location is one of the three remaining options.

The 40,000 square foot shed will house the Downeaster trainsets overnight where light maintenance will be perrformed.

The Portland Press Herald has a full report. 

UPDATE: House Passes Bill That Rescinds $20.8 Million Grant to Improve MBTA/Downeaster Route in MA

The US House of Representatives passed on Friday afternoon HR 2354, the FY2012 Energy & Water Development Appropriations Bill.  This Bill contained language that rescinded unobligated balances of funding awarded by the High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program. It was passed by a vote of 219 to 196.  The legislation now moves to the Senate. At risk is NNEPRA's grant of $20,822,341 for Downeaster track improvements along the MBTA line in Massachusetts. Some 600 jobs are at risk.

UPDATE - Downeaster Resumes Schedule After Firey N. Berwick Collision at Grade Crossing

NNEPRA announced Tuesday morning that the Downeaster would resume full service following yesterday's collision in North Berwick with a tractor-trailer that claimed the life of the truck driver, injured several passengers and destroyed an Amtrak engine and severely damaged the lead coach.

Train #681 was carrying 112 passengers on its run from Boston to Portland. The injured, including two crew members, were transported to Goodall Hospital in Sanford, treated and released.

The Portland Press Herald has a comprehensive report:

http://www.pressherald.com/news/Report-Train-collides-with-truck-in-N-Berwick.html{jcomments on}

NNEPRA Board Meeting - June, 2011

nnepra

Great news!  As NNEPRA's fiscal year comes to an end later this month, the Downeaster is already celebrating record-breaking ridership and revenue!

From Executive Director, Patricia Quinn:

  • FY 2011 YTD - 464,287 riders vs. 429,839 in FY '10 YTD
  • FY 2011 YRD - $6,474,808 in revenue vs. $6,054,496 in FY '10 YTD
  • May, 2011 - 42,543 riders vs 38,025 in May of '10, an 11% increase
  • May, 2011 - On Time Performance at 91%

The Public Comment time was moved to the top of the agenda in deference to three citizens from Brunswick. They were representing residents who oppose the proposed location of the Downeaster Maintenance Facility in the vicinity of their neighborhood.

Brunswick Forum Hears Objections to Proposed Downeaster Maintenance Facility

The proposed location of the Downeaster maintenance facility in Brunswick was the subject of a public forum last night. The MDOT-sponsored session heard from residents who, though welcoming the arrival of Downeaster service next fall, expressed deep concerns about the location of the work area in their neighborhood. They cited expected noise, light and air pollution as primary concerns.

NNEPRA's Excecutive Director Patricia Quinn informed residents that other sites will be examined before a final decision is made.

The 40,000 square foot shed will house up to three trainsets when service to Freeport and Brunswick commences in the fall of 2012.

A full article at the Press Herald's website.

NH Members - Contact Your Senators in Concord

nhWe encourage TRN NH members to contact their Senators to sustain Gov. Lynch's veto of HB 218 which would derail (kill) the NH Rail Transit Authority.

Content suggestions from several of members include these points:

  • Sustaining the governor's veto of HB 218 demonstrates NH’s continued commitment to creative approaches to rail improvement
  • The NHRTA will be critical in working on bipartisan efforts at the national level to enhance public-private partnerships in rail
  • Our neighboring states have successful authorities
  • The success of the Downeaster is managed by Maine’s rail authority (NNEPRA)


You can go to the NH Senate's website for postal/email addresses along with phone numbers.

Privatize Amtrak? CEO Boardman Responds

boardmancnbcCEO Joseph Boardman appeared on CNBC’s "Keeping America Great with Brian Mooar" this past week. Mooar gave him the usual grilling about losing money (though he said he’s a frequent Acela rider), but Boardman was very cordial and stood his ground, calmly pointing out where Mooar had his facts wrong. You can watch the 6-minute video, and read a transcript, at http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000028117 {jcomments on}

Updated NH Rail Plan Draft

nhrpg

The NH DOT released an update to its comprehensive rail plan. As Steve Pesci noted in a comment, it is still in draft form.

It addresses both freight and passenger rail needs. The Lynch administration has a forward-looking vision of how rail can spur economic development for businesses and ease commuter and visitor travel in the state..

The latest draft is available here.

Gov. Lynch's Veto Message

Governor Lynch's Veto Message Regarding HB 218

By the authority vested in me, pursuant to part II, Article 44 of the New Hampshire Constitution, on June 15, 2011, I vetoed HB 218, relative to the New Hampshire rail transit authority.

I am vetoing this legislation because business leaders, particularly in Nashua and Manchester, has clearly said that this bill will hurt their efforts to grow their businesses, to create jobs and to attract new companies to New Hampshire.

The New Hampshire business community has made a clear statement that it sees rail, in the words of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, as "a proven economic catalyst that will spur economic development and create jobs." Several major companies have made clear that they believe rail will improve their ability to attract workers, access their markets, attract additional customers and grow their businesses in New Hampshire. In addition, the Manchester and Nashua chambers of commerce both believe that developing the state's rail infrastructure will assist their efforts to attract new businesses and jobs to the state. That is one reason both chambers have asked me to veto this legislation. The Merrimack Town Council, the Bedford Town Council, and the Nashua Board of Aldermen have also passed resolutions expressing support for expanded rail service and the benefits it would bring to their communities.

The support of the business community is validated by an independent study that concluded that the development of rail in the capital corridor could result in more than $2.4 billion in new business sales and nearly 1,000 new jobs created and sustained in New Hampshire in the first twenty years of operation.

HB 218 makes substantial changes to New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority that will reduce its ability to fully consider all transit options for the state. New Hampshire businesses banded together to raise $120,000 to fund the Rail Authority's grant application without any state funds because they believe a full consideration of rail is important to New Hampshire's economic future. Going back on our commitment to the businesses who contributed funds to pay for grant applications sends the wrong signal to the private sector about state government's willingness to stand by its commitments. We should see the study through to its conclusion with a fully functioning Rail Authority so that we can make informed policy choices about the best way forward for our state.

Concerns about specific provisions in the Rail Authority statute could have been addressed through much more narrowly drafted language that would leave intact important functions of the rail authority. As currently written, this legislation takes away the rail authority's ability to enter into contracts with partner organizations, to accept gifts and to work with the private sector on economic development projects adjacent to potential rail sites.

Given the strong concerns among New Hampshire business leaders that this legislation will jeopardize their efforts to grow their businesses and create new jobs, I am vetoing House Bill 218.

Gov Lynch Vetos Bill to Eliminate NH Transit Authority

lynchThe governor of NH, John Lynch, has vetoed a bill that would have shut down the NH Transit Authority. Although both houses of the state legislature approved the bill, a "No" from the governor stopped this effort in its tracks.

The NH Transit Authority cost the state nothing and was an all-volunteer organization. New Hampshire had received a federal grant to study passenger rail between Boston and Concord serving Nashua, Merrimack, Manchester and Concord.

TrainRiders/NE opposed the legislation as had many public interest groups in New Hampshire. Article from the Boston Globe.

Gov. Lynch's Veto Message

NARP Action Alert

From NARP:

The appropriations process determines how much money federal programs will get in Fiscal 2012, which starts October 1, 2011. Although the first step in the formal House appropriations process is not expected until mid-July, it seems certain that the subcommittee will impose a crushing funding reduction on Amtrak, possibly zeroing out the national network and limiting capital funding to the bare minimum needed to avoid bankruptcy.

Go here to take action on their alert.

Construction Begins on Brunswick Platform

The expansion to Freeport and Brunswick continues apace with crews beginning the construction of the Brunswick platform (Freeport's will follow upon the completion of the Brunswick project). Both concrete platforms will be 400 feet long and cost a total $1.57 million, the cost of which is part of the overall FRA grant to NNEPRA for the Brunswick expansion.

The full story can be read at the Times Record website.

NNEPRA Board Meeting - May, 2011

NNEPRA's Executive Director, Patricia Quinn, passed on the "fantastic" news regarding the Downeaster's ridership and revenue performance:

  • Ridership - April, 11 was 12% above April of 2010 (48,101 vs 42,786)
  • Revenue - April, '11 was 13% above April of 2010 ($5,898,955 vs $5,517,830).

City Pair Ridership:

  • Portland-Boston 17,526
  • Exeter-Boston 7,109
  • Durham-Boston 3,405
  • Wells-Boston 3,400
  • Saco-Boston 3,776
  • Dover-Boston 4,208
  • Haverhill-Boston 2,154

On Time Performance averaged 81% in April of 2011

May promises to be another month of growth when the numbers are completed.

The Public Comment portion of the meeting saw two Brunswick citizens raise concerns about the proposed Overnight Maintenance Facility that would be built a short distance from the Brunswick Station. Nicole Vinal and Steve Fortier raised questions about the environmental impact on the abutting homes, including noise and diesel pollution.

bwickconcerns

Mr Fortier, seen in this picture, is showing board members a town map of the area. Both said they are not against the expansion of the Downeaster to Brunswick, but wondered if the proposed site was the right solution.

Both Patricia Quinn and Board Chairman Marty Eisenstein said they were open to further discussions with the citizens group in an attempt to answer their concerns.

NNEPRA Awarded $20.8 Million for Downeaster Track Improvement

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced today the award of some $20.8 million to NNEPRA for upgrading MBTA tracks in Massachusetts used by the Downeaster. Nearly 65% of the delay minutes experienced by the Downeaster are on the MBTA line and this work should alleviate many of these delays.

NNEPRA Board Meeting - April, 2011

nnepra

The NNEPRA board heard an exceptional Performance Report from Executive Director Patricia Quinn today.

  • March, 2011 Ridership: Up 14.6% from March of 2010! (42,826 vs. 37,358)
  • March, 2011 Revenue: Up 16% from March of 2010! ($581,869 vs. $501,679)
  • On Time Performance: 84.84%
  • Overall Downeaster Customer Satisfaction: 87%  Amtrak: 82%

Annual Meeting Tonight!

agendaThere are two ways to reserve your dinner seat and select your meal. You can download the registration flyer, print it out, fill it in and mail it to TrainRiders at PO Box 4869, Portland, ME 04112. This flyer also contains full details on the meeting.

Or you can register online by selecting your meal below and then click on the Pay Pal button (there are member and non-member prices). We will receive your name and meal selection automically through Pay Pal.

 

Select Meal

We also encourage you to renew your annual membership by going here.

NH Governor Will Veto Any Bill Calling for Transit Authority Elimination

nhThe NH Senate is taking up a bill, passed by the House, that would eliminate the state's Transit Authority. Gov. Lynch has now promised to veto such a bill if it passes the senate, thus making the demise of the volunteer authority less likely.

TrainRiders/NE has supported the authority and its initial goal of studying the passenger rail needs of the Boston, Nashua, Concord corridor. The authority has in hand a $4.1 million federal grant to conduct the study at no cost to the state. A story on the governor's veto threat is published in the Nashua Telegraph.

NARP Reports Major HSR Cuts in Current Budget Agreement & No HSR Money in 2011 Budget

narplogoFrom NARP Bulletin: "Congress will be eliminating all high-speed rail investment from the 2011 budget, and will actually take back $400 million in FY2010 high-speed money.  That adds up to a total of $2.9 billion in cuts to the popular program.  The hits don’t stop there—Congress will chop $128 million from Amtrak’s budget for capital improvements and debt service, and $502 million from New Starts transit funding (as compared to last year’s budget).

This is a big setback for the American public, who stood to benefit greatly from this investment in modernized train service. The high-speed rail program had found itself caught-up in political gamesmanship, culminating in the newly-elected governor of Florida rejecting high-speed rail money. However, last week 24 states (along with the District of Columbia and Amtrak) submitted 98 passenger train projects totaling almost $10 billion. That’s half of the United States, representing a vast majority of its population. Applicants included 12 Republican governors—including Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who had previously turned down high-speed rail funds—signaling a truly bipartisan enthusiasm for this important, jobs-creating program. The public is also eager for more trains, having driven Amtrak to a 17th straight month of growth in ridership and putting the passenger carrier on track for yet another annual ridership record.

We cannot let this setback dissuade us from fighting for what we know to be right.

The budget battle for 2012 begins now. By pushing for adoption of the President’s 6 year, $53 billion plan for high- and higher-speed intercity trains, we can remove the year-to-year budgetary seesaw that has hindered Amtrak’s growth for so many decades. If America is going to deal with steadily-rising gas prices, a stagnant manufacturing and construction industry, and a rapidly growing population, we will need to invest in passenger trains.

Thank you for your continued work in this important struggle. Together we can bring about a modern train network that provides a travel choice Americans want.

Sean Jeans-Gail
Vice President
NARP"{jcomments on}

$600,000 US Grant to NNEPRA

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced on Friday more than $300 million in obligated grants that will enable the expansion of high-speed intercity passenger rail corridors from coast-to-coast. NNEPRA was one of those grant recipients. From the announcement:

 

"Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority – $600,000 will provide for a study to examine the feasibility of expanding the Downeaster line with increased service frequency, higher speeds, and reduced travel times. The study will also examine expanding the proposed service extension to Brunswick, ME, as well as Auburn, ME."

NNEPRA Requests $59 Million in FRA Grants to Improve Downeaster Service

nnepra

NNEPRA has filed two funding application grants with the Federal Railroad Administration totaling $59 million in rejected Florida rail improvement money.

The following detail was supplied by NNEPRA:

Downeaster Pan Am Track Improvement Project: This Project would make improvements on the portion of the Downeaster Corridor owned by Pan Am Railways between Portland, ME and Plaistow, NH.  The Pan Am Track Improvement Project proposes to add double track or sidings, and make curve, grade crossing and signal modifications.  These improvements will  result in a 10 minute reduction in the Downeaster’s scheduled travel time – making the Downeaster’s Portland to Boston run 2 hours and 15 minutes, will improve reliability  and will provide enough capacity to eventually add a 6th Downeaster round trip in the future.  As a result, Downeaster ridership is projected to increase by 53,000 passengers per year, and farebox revenues are projected to increase $750,000 annually.   The total Project cost is $39,035,597.  Pan Am and NNEPRA were able to provide a match of $702,800.  The FRA grant request is for $38,332,797.

NNEPRA Board Meeting - March, 2011

A review of February performance numbers demonstrated continued upward growth. Executive Director Patricia Quinn reported:

  • downeasterlogoFeb, 2011 ridership was 35,927 or nearly 6% above Feb of 2010.
  • Feb, 2011 revenue was $493,674 or 4% above Feb of 2010.
  • March ridership is expected to exceed 40,000.
  • On Time Performance was 72.66% (slow but steady improvement as the weather moderates). March to date is in the 80s.
  • Overall Customer Satisfaction Score was 94% - Amtrak's was 82%.

The board approved the purchase of 8.15 acres of land in Brunswick owned by Pan Am Rail for $265,000. The property will be the site of the Downeaster's all-weather maintenance building. For the past nine years, the Downeaster trains have remained outdoors 24 hours a day making maintenance particularly difficult in the winter.

Ms. Quinn annouced that NNEPRA is applying for two federal grants totaling $59 million which would be used to add passing sidings along the Pan Am route and lay double track between Wilmington Junction and Lowell Junction on the MBTA line. This will allow for reduced travel time and help facilitate better Downeaster service.

Old Orchard Beach service will begin On April 18th.

MDOT Discusses Study for Amtrak Service to Lewiston-Auburn and Beyond

The Maine DOT has been studying the cost of extending Amtrak Downeaster service from Portland to Lewiston-Auburn, Bethel, South Paris and eventually on to Montreal. A report on the study can be viewed at Mainebiz.com. The actual DOT study is expected to be released in April.{jcomments on}

Commuting Cost Comparison - Auto vs.Train

From Steve Piper in Dover. The cost/mile figures are from the IRS which reflect the real cost of driving to work.

If Dover is 65 miles from Boston, here's the monthly calculation.

By car:  130 miles (roundtrip) x $0.51/mile (IRS reimbursement rate - includes fuel, wear & tear on vehicle & ownership costs) x 20 work days = $1,326.00 + Tolls of $77.20 ($3.86 x 20) = $1,403.20 + Parking = $350 (low estimate) = $1,753.20 per month to commute to Boston.

Monthly Downeaster unlimited use pass:  $299.00!!!

    

The above video was produced for the Downeaster in March of 2009 as gas prices approached $4/gallon. While the pump prices are now worse, the commute by car remains the same - frustrating, tension-filled and to be avoided at all costs!{jcomments on}

Exeter Voters Agree to Fund Amtrak Downeaster Station Building

bobhallEarlier this week, Exeter citizens voted on 35 funding issues - only one was approved - a $71,000 appropriation for the acquisition of the baggage section at the old train station. Led my TRN board member and Exeter Station Committe President Bob Hall, Article 25 won approval by a vote of 1,127 to 657. Bob called the result, "exciting, big news." The town money will now unlock a federal grant of $280,000. The building will be the first enclosed structure for Exeter passengers since Downeaster service began on December 15, 2001.

Mad Men Plot Ad Campaign for Trains in 1965!

Can trains sell themselves? Rich Sommer of TV's Mad Men is confident that they can, and that "our leaders always make the right investment." Unfortunately, in today's political environment, we can take nothing for granted. Watch this video, sponsored by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, then call both of your U.S. Senators today.

{jcomments on}

2011 Annual Meeting

am11-1

Our 23rd Annual Meeting was, like the Downeaster's nearly 10 years of service, a great success!

Held at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland, members, friends and invited guests celebrated the continued growth of the Downeaster and Amtrak.

Our keynote speaker was Joseph McHugh, Amtrak’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, who brought us up to date on the Obama Administration’s plans for Amtrak including new locomotives/passenger cars and the nationwide Museum Train Tour to celebrate Amtrak’s 40th Anniversary - it will stop in Freeport.

NNEPRA Executive Director, Patricia Quinn, detailed the Downeaster's positive numbers - ridership, revenue, passenger miles traveled and the countdown to expanded service to Freeport and Brunswick.

Press Herald Says "Rail Over Trail" on Mountain Division

Sections of the old Mountain Division rail line have been used by walkers, joggers and bicyclists in recent years as the no-longer-used tracks awaited resuscitation.

The line runs from Portland to Fryeburg and MDOT is about to lay down new rail along portions of the line so that it can eventually be used for freight and possible passenger service. Trail advocates have opposed these improvements - coexistence with train traffic in some locations along the trail is both dangerous and impractical.

The Portland Press Herald, in an editorial, examined the issue and determined that rail should be the priority. Read it here.

NNEPRA Board Meeting - February, 2011

dotcom
Patricia Quinn (NNEPRA) - David Bernhardt (MDOT)

NNEPRA welcomed a new member to its board today as strong performance numbers from December and January were presented. David Bernhardt, the new MDOT Commissioner, joined the deliberations occupying the seat of the previous commissioner.

The Downeaster operating statistics were characterized as "robust" by Executive Director Patricia Quinn.

NARP NE Meeting - March 26 in Boston

narplogoReminder: The Annual Meeting for the New England Region, National Association of Railroad Passengers, is being held this year on Saturday, March 26, 2011 at the John Hancock Conference Center in Boston - $35.00 Early Bird Registration if received by March 4th.  Get registration form. See You There!!!

US House Defeats Anti-Amtrak Amendment

From Ross Capon, Exec. Dir. of the National Association of Railroad Passengers:


narplogo
Watch NARP Exec. Dir. Ross Capon take on passenger rail opponent as seen on MSNBC

An amendment to reduce Amtrak's 2011 capital grant by $446 million (Amendment No. 43, offered by Rep. Pete Sessions) failed in a House vote, with 176 "ayes" and 250 "nays."  The nays included 60 Republicans, among them Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), chairman of the House T&I Railroads Subcommittee.

TRN, Downeaster & Haverhill Team Up for Successful Operations Meeting

eagle-tribuneThe bi-monthly Downeaster Operations Meeting doesn't normally make headlines, but yesterday's session in Haverhill resulted in an article in the local paper that reflected the enthusiasm of the Chamber of Commerce for the economic development that the Downeaster can bring to a supportive community. This article, in the Eagle-Tribune, is a classic example of that synergy.

Vice President Biden Cites Downeaster Expansion to B'wick as National Example

bidenThis news from the White House: "Vice President Joe Biden today announced a comprehensive plan that will help the nation reach President Obama’s goal of giving 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years, as outlined in his State of the Union address." The cost of the nationwide plan is estimated at $53 billion over six years.

Of particular interest to us, is the following mention of the Downeaster's expansion to Brunswick:

UNH Survey Says "Yes" to Rail Investment While NH House Committee Says "No"

nhUPDATE #3: New poll by the University of New Hampshire shows strong support statewide for rail investment. The big question: will the legislature listen? The UNH press release can be seen here.

Additional resource: High Speed Rail Monies Allocated to New England in 2010

 


 

UPDATE #2: One NH legislator introduced a bill last month to eliminate the State Transit Authority which has been examing how to bring commuter rail service from Concord, Manchester and Nashua to Boston. After holding a hearing on the proposal, the House Transportation Committee has recommended by an 11-5 party-line vote that the full House approve the bill. The latest from the Nashua Telegraph.

Additional articles:
Bedford Journal

Nashua Telegraph

Snow Storm Mangles Downeaster Schedule

Snow in the winter is to be expected, but five Wednesdays in a row?

downeasterlogoThe Downeaster struggled valiantly to maintain some semblance of service between Portland and Boston. Thanks to the crews, passengers were able to make their destinations but with serious delays.

A morning train from Portland was seen in Saco heading north at 5:50 p.m! Was this the train that was down for a long time because its horn failed and needed replacement? Train #687, which had absorbed #685's passengers, was running 35 minutes late (not bad considering the conditions) as it passed through Saco - frozen doors were a constant challenge to the crews. Not easy to exit through a half-opened door.

From Bob Hall in New Hampshire:

A real tough day for the Downeaster Service.  It is more than just the snow that fell today.  Our equipment is getting tired, real tired of Winter.  I compliment the crews who take it day after day first with equipment that is frozen works sometimes and passengers that are frustrated from long waits and crazy schedules.

Effort to Repeal the New Hampshire Transit Authority

The following URGENT message from TRN board member Bob Hall in Exeter concerns us all. To our NH members: Please attend this hearing, if at all possible.

Tuesday (tomorrow) at 1 PM a bill will be heard at the Legislative Office Building in Concord to Repeal the New Hampshire Transit Authority. This is another attempt to place passenger rail on the back burner in New Hampshire.  

New Hampshire was fortunate enough to receive a federal grant to study passenger rail between Boston and Concord serving Nashua, Merrimack, Manchester and Concord.  Now this is an attempt to end the agency that would continue to push to see rail passenger service return to the Merrimack Valley.

Trainriders/Northeast stands firmly behind the efforts of New Hampshire Transit Authority. We support those in New Hampshire that want to see rail passenger service available across New Hampshire not just along the Downeaster line and Claremont.  Please turn out and support the New Hampshire Transit Authority and keep rail passenger service in New Hampshire's future.

Bob Hall - Board Member, Trainriders/Northeast
Member, New Hampshire Transit Authority
Chair, Exeter Station Committee

Exeter Meeting Provides Economic Development Overview for Train Station Area

Interested citizens met Wednesday night in Exeter to examine conceptual plans leading to the development of the Downeaster station neighborhood.

From TRN board member Don Briselden, "It was a well-attended, positive meeting with good continuing support expressed. Lot's of enthusiasm.

It was also an opportunity for Bob Hall (also on the TRN board) and I to highlight the station improvements which will be up for voter's approval in March."

The full story can be read here.

Proposed GOP Spending Cuts Would Essentially Eliminate Amtrak

Federal transportation funding would take a hit under the "Spending Reduction Act" being proposed Thursday afternoon by some conservative House Republicans.
The legislation calls for eliminating the $1.5 billion annual subsidy for Amtrak, which is tantamount to shutting down the national passenger rail service, and $2.5 billion in high-speed rail grants.
The plan from the Republican Study Committee, which represents 165 members, would cut $2.5 trillion from the federal budget over the next 10 years. According to the Washington Post, that would be achieved primarily by cutting non-defense spending to 2006 levels and firing 15 percent of federal workers.
Below is a graph which shows how little the federal government has invested in intercity passenger rail over the years. The green area is hard to find.
federal-transportation-spen
{jcomments on}

NNEPRA Board Meeting - January, 2011

The NNEPRA Board Meeting heard continuing positive reports on Downeaster performance as presented by Patricia Quinn, Executive Director.

Peformance Statistics:

  • nnepra111Ridership for Nov, 2010 - 40,434 as compared to 37,379 in Nov, 2009
  • Ridership for Dec, 2010 - 40,906 as compared to 35,201 in Dec, 2009
  • Ridership for last six months of 2010 - 260,068 which exceeds the total ridership of 2004!
  • Ridership FYTD is 6% ahead of previous FY.
  • On Time Performance for Nov, 2010 = 85.14%
  • Overall Customer Satisfaction for Oct, 2010 = 93%, Amtrak system-wide = 81%

Brunswick Expansion:

  • nutLayover facility being explored for Brunswick, instead of Portland, which would improve frequency and reliability.
  • Work on Brunswick extension continues, weather permitting - 22 miles of CWR in place with 5 miles remaining
  • Total FRA contribution to extension will be $38.3 million (includes additional $3.3 million granted in December from the FRA)
  • FRA approved the waiver for use of foreign-produced joiner nuts

Will the Downeaster Continue to Prosper Under a Republican Governor/Legislature?

downeasterlogoThe Sun Journal has published a thorough article on the Downeaster with extensive quotes from Chairman Wayne Davis of TrainRiders/Northeast and Patricia Quinn of NNEPRA.

The fundamental question posed is whether a new administration and legislature in Augusta will continue to encourage federal funding and smaller state support for the successful Amtrak service.

The full article can be read here.{jcomments on}

Holiday Greetings!

de-snow2010 has been a remarkable year when you stop and think about it.  We've watched the long proposed extension of Amtrak's Downeaster to Brunswick develop from the groundbreaking for Brunswick's Maine Street Station, the construction of the building and finally the opening of the new Brunswick Visitors Center and train waiting room.  We've also watched the new continuously welded rail and new rock ballast being installed between Portland and Brunswick a bit ahead of schedule thanks to PanAm Railways' diligence.

 

We've celebrated with the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority the additional federal grant of a surprise $3.3M towards the expansion.  We've also continued to monitor and participate in the considerable activity related to the proposed extension of Amtrak service to Lewiston/Auburn.

Throughout the year, we continued to watch with great pleasure the modest monthly increases in the ridership of the core service between Portland and  Boston and even observed a cameo appearence of the Downeaster train equipment in the movie The Town.
We enjoy your support and encouragement and we hope you'll continue to work with us as we strive to complete our Goals and Objectives first set out in 1989. 

All of us at TrainRiders/Northeast wish you and your families the best of everything during this holiday season.{jcomments on}

The Downeaster Becomes the "Polar Express"

Every Christmas time, the Downeaster transports children from selected cities along the route to Portland and return, so they can experience two wonderful things: riding the Downeaster ("We're going to take the train!") and giving presents to those who might not have a Merry Christmas ("Helping others is the best part."). This is all part of the annual Marine Corps's "Toys for Tots" campaign in cooperation the Downeaster. Marines greet the children and their gifts at the Portland Transportation Center.

saco-kids

Excited groups from Saco and Dover took the trip this year (that's the Saco group in the photo from NNEPRA). Fosters.com reports on the New Hampshire experience.{jcomments on}

Maine & Vermont to Receive More High-Speed Rail Money

Good news from the US DOT - some of the funds rejected by Wisconsin and Ohio will now be redirected to Maine and Vermont.

This means that the Downeaster expansion to Brunswick will receive an addttional $3.3 million from the federal government.

The Vermonter line will receive an additional $2.7 million for rail improvments from Vernon to St. Albans. More here.

Maine DOT Explores Passenger Rail Expansion to L-A & Montreal

{jcomments on}mainedotAt a hearing in Auburn Monday night, the Maine DOT discussed a feasibility study on expanding passenger rail service to Lewiston-Auburn and Montreal.

A Los Angeles consulting firm briefed the public on various options that will be examined further in the months ahead. 

The full story can be read here.

Construction reaches Washington at Riverside

{jcomments on}The rail is being laid in Portland.  The construction crew crossed Washington Street today and is heading south toward the Allen Ave crossing.  A four engine freight sat the day on the siding waiting for the crossing to be cleared.  The seven work "trucks" each accomplish a specific task.  Removing the old rail and cleats the first truck rides on one rail. 

NNERPA Board Meeting - Nov, 2010

downeasterlogoA pre-Thanksgiving board meeting was held at the NNEPRA offices in Portland. The following positive Downeaster operating statistics for October, 2010 were presented:

Ridership & Revenue:
Oct, 2010 - 41,891 passengers as compared to 41,072 in Oct, 2009 = a 2% increase
FY2011 YTD - $2,590,951 as compared to $2,517,369 in FY2010 YTD = a 2% increase

TrainRiders/NE Moves to Downtown Portland

TrainRiders/NE expanded its outreach and presence in Portland on Saturday by moving its offices to new space at 415 Congress Street.

trnmoveA combination of willing hands, from Downeaster crew members to TRN members and board officials, pitched in to make the move as smooth as possible.

NARP Analyzes Results of November Elections

{jcomments on}narplogoThe National Association of Railroad Passengers reports that the "results of Tuesday’s elections may significantly alter the prospects for progress on many passenger train projects around."

They go on to note that considerable education is required to bring the newly elected public officials up-to-speed on the importance of passenger rail in America.

NARP's full report can be seen here.

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.

$50 Million Grant for Vermont Rail Improvements

vermonter

The Secretary of Transportation, Ray LeHood, announced today a $50 million grant to the State of Vermont to "begin construction to improve 190 miles of track between St. Albans and Vernon on Amtrak’s Vermonter line. The improvements will result in increased speeds, reduced travel time and greater reliability."

Work Continues on Brunswick Expansion

The replacement of old rail with new continuous welded rail continues between Brunswick and Freeport. The Downeaster website, thanks to Natalie Allen, provides regular updates. The latest can be seen at: http://www.amtrakdowneaster.com/expansion-project/project-update-friday-september-3-2010

The Brunswick Station area will see track replacement activity as soon as the Maine Eastern train completes its fall schedule of Brunswick-Rockland excursion service. Local observers in Brunswick are delighted to see passengers boarding the train at their new station.

NNEPRA's request for the square nut waiver (see other article) is still pending before the FRA.

Exteter Train Station Area to Redevelop

We know that Exexter is in the process of acquiring and converting the baggage room of the old station into a new station building. Now, there's a new initiative to redevelop the area around the station. Town residents will have the opportunity to hear about the plans for 'WestEx' at a public briefing to be held in October. More on this story at SeaCoastOnline.com

NNEPRA Board Meeting - August, 2010

July ridership/revenue figures were essentially flat when compared to July of 2009:

  • Ridership: July, 2010 = 47,173 as compared to 47,441 for July of 2009 - down .2%
  • Revenue: July, 2010 = $713,855 as compared to $715,317 for July of 2009 - down .6%
  • On Time Performance still came in at a sub-par 62%

NNEPRA Requests FRA Waiver for Joint Bar Square Nuts on B'wick Construction Project

This article has been updated with new information.

nuts

A potentially serious problem has arisen with the expansion project to Brunswick. In particular, Executive Director Patricia Quinn detailed an unanticipated construction issue at the August NNEPRA board meeting.

The welded rail, now being layed along the Pan Am tracks, requires temporary joint bars held in place by nuts and bolts. The FRA grant states that all materials must be manufactured in America.

Vermont Submits Application for Western Corridor Upgrade

From Vermont Rail Action Committee

vermontResponding to support and advocacy from local political and business leaders and the Vermont Rail Action Network, the Vermont Agency of Transportation again submitted an application for federal funds to upgrade the "Western Corridor" between Rutland and Burlington and extend the Ethan Allen through Middlebury to Union Station in downtown Burlington.

The state had the benefit of feedback from the Federal Railroad Administration, which is responsible for awarding the funds.  Because of this feedback, the application includes money to improve highway grade crossings the length of the route.

The route was recognized by the legislature as the priority rail route in Vermont for investment.

"This is as strong an application as we could make and the local match shows the state's commitment," said Christopher Parker, Vermont Rail Action Network Executive Director.  "We appreciate the work of the rail program and the entire Agency of Transportation.  There is strong political support for this project and it is important for the state." (Christopher Parker is a member of the TRN Board.)

Read more at Vermont Rail Action Network's website.

Grass Roots Effort Increases 'Vermonter' Ridership

From This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
TRN Board Member
Executive Director, Vermont Rail Action Network

A committed group of Essex Junction citizens has been active and has
made a big difference in the station area.

vermont
Train-related grassroots efforts which have been implemented in Essex
Junction over the past year include the following, according to Susana
Olson:

Aggressive Neighborhood Watch, the picking up of litter in the downtown
vicinity of the train tracks, the weeding, planting and watering of
flowers near the Amtrak station, the promotion of the Amtrak Vermonter's
special $12 fare online, in print, and via Seven Days' Stuck in VT vlog,
the creation and implementation of the first annual holiday Train Hop,
train-related programs at the Brownell Library, the creation of a very
successful weekly farmer's market immediately across the street from the
Amtrak station, a new event series on Railroad Avenue, and the leading
of special train day trips on the Vermonter including day trips to
Brattleboro as well as a "Train to the Game" event in Windsor.

Brunswick Kick-off Ceremony Begins $35 Million Downeaster Expansion to B'wick

 (August 2, Brunswick, ME) It was an enthusiastic gathering of federal, state, local and rail officials and advocates that celebrated the kick-off of the $35 million Downeaster expansion project to Freeport and Brunswick. Administrator Joseph Szabo of the Federal Railroad Administration congratulated the State of Maine and NNEPRA for becoming the first recipient of American Recovery & Reinvestment Act funds. He said, "Maine sets the example for the other states. You're going to be the very first of our rail projects to put rail into the ground."

Chairman Wayne Davis of TrainRiders/Northeast was congratulated by Marty Eisenstein, chairman of the NNEPRA board, as "an instrumental player in getting the train operating" back in 2001. TrainRiders began circulating petitions for passenger rail service back in 1989. It certainly didn't happen overnight...but it has happened.

NARP President Visits Maine on the Downeaster

narpRoss Capon, President and CEO of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) came to Maine for a brief visit this month accompanied by his three sons, Tom, Phillip and William.  TNE Chairman, NARP Delegate and former long-time Vice-President, joined the Capons at Saco to ride with them  to Portland.

Unfortunately, they were two years too early to enjoy Amtrak Downeaster expanded service direct to Brunswick to connect with the existing Maine Eastern Railroad's luxury service to Wiscasset - the jumping off place for visiting their relatives on Westport Island.  They rented a car in Portland.

Nevertheless, escaping from the 100+ degree temperatures in Washington to enjoy  Maine's cooling sea breezes at Westport made the trip worthwhile.

Downeaster Celebrates Record Year!

downeasterlogoPatricia Quinn, Executive Director of NNEPRA, announed to the monthly board meeting that the Downeaster had a record-breaking year.

She listed the performance highlights for fiscal year 2010 noting that the Downeaster transported 474,058 passengers (1% over FY 2009) a total of 37.6 million passenger miles and generated $6.66 million in ticket revenue."

Other FY 2010 items:

  • Average daily ridership: 1,299
  • Average passenger fare: $14.05
  • Average miles per passsenger: 80
  • Total cost recovery: 52%
  • Rider profile:
    45% travelled between Maine stations and Boston generating 58% of total revenue.
    36% travelled between NH stations and Boston generating 28% of total revenue.
    34% of total riders travelled using multi-ride passes, generating 17% of total revenue.

FRA Releases $35 Million for Downeaster Expansion to Freeport & Brunswick

TRAINRIDERS NORTHEAST APPLAUDS GRANT AGREEMENT TO EXPAND
DOWNEASTER SERVICE NORTH FROM PORTLAND TO BRUNSWICK

Trainriders Northeast, a grass-roots citizens organization formed in 1989 to educate the public and public officials as to the benefits of passenger rail service in the Northeast, applauds the finalization of a grant agreement between Maine’s Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) which will provide $35 million in federal funds to expand the Downeaster passenger rail service north from Portland, through Freeport to Brunswick.

Today, it was announced that this agreement would allow work on the track between these points to begin as soon as the end of this week, with construction to be completed, and the extended service to be operating before the end of 2012.

NNEPRA Board Meeting - June, 2010

I was unable to attend the June 28th NNEPRA board meeting due to the Host Appreciation Luncheon which took place at the same time. The following is from the NNEPRA May statistics sheet.

  1. Ridership was up 9% from May of last year (38,879 vs. 35,445)
  2. Revenue increase 7% from May of last year ($552,507 vs $512,410)
  3. On Time Performance was only 60.65% in May, 2010. Train #699 had 100% OTP and #680 had 92-95% OTP. {jcomments on}

A Maine Community Chorus Journeys Through Russia by Train

"Alleluia Junction: A Community Choir Journeys From Maine to Russia"
Documentary Film - Free Public Screening at the Strand Theatre in Rockland - Saturday, July 3 at 1:30 p.m.

medocu

A midcoast community choir, comprised of the Down East Singers and the Bowdoin Chorus, journeys the length of Siberia to the Russian Far East, including the Trans-Siberian Railway, in time to celebrate the 4th of July with warm hosts and a new understanding of what it means to be an American and a citizen of the world.

Train Host Appreciation Day

Host Appreciation DaySome 35 active Train Hosts gathered at DiMillo's Restaurant in Portland to celebrate Train Host Appreciation Day. Hosts from as far away as Boston were in attendance.

The gathering heard from chairman Wayne Davis about the successes of the program and the continued goal of lending an informative, helping hand to Downeaster riders.

"Train to Maine Day" and New Passenger Video

nataliettme

Wednesday was "Train to Maine Day" at North Station. Natalie & Brian from NNEPRA led a group (including our own board member Bob Rodman) that engaged the folks at the station - passing out beach balls, t-shirts, timetables and other baubles to let folks know Maine was just a Downeaster ride away. NNEPRA has an impressive ad campaign underway in our 'southern' station cities.

NNEPRA also debuted a new video entitled, "I ride the Amtrak Downeaster." It was produced by this site's webmaster. Enjoy it by going here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6EiE-dP8QU

Exeter Receives Grant to Construct Transportaton Center

exeterIt's a big step forward for Exeter - the only Downeaster stop in New Hampshire without a station building.

The Exeter Station Committee, headed by TrainRiders/NE board member Bob Hall, worked with the state DOT and received a $282,240 grant to convert the old baggage building into a new transportation center.

Congratulations to Bob, the committee and the NHDOT! More in Seacoastonline.

Transportation Bond Issue Passes

Maine voters approved Question 3, the Transportation Bond Issue, by a 58-42 margin. This is good news for maintaining freight rail service and its jobs in Northern Maine. The issue read as follows:

"Do you favor a $47,800,000 bond issue to create jobs in Maine through improvements to highways, railroads and marine facilities, including port and harbor structures, and specifying the allocation of $4,000,000 of the transportation bond approved by voters in November 2009 to be used for capital rail purposes?"

More details at the Portland Press Herald website.

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2010 Annual Meeting Hears Good Amtrak Ridership News

The TrainRiders/Northeast annual meeting was held on Wednesday, May 19th, 2010, at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland. This well-attended gathering featured two guest speakers - Joe McHugh, Vice President of Governmental Affairs of Amtrak, and Patricia Quinn, Executive Director of NNEPRA. (More photos of our guests and award winners can be seen here.)

trnam2010

NNEPRA Board Meeting - May, 2010

The NNEPRA Board met and heard the following encouraging news from Executive Director Patricia Quinn:

  • April ridership (42,786) was up 4.2% over the same period last year
  • Revenue was up 1.5% over the same period last year
  • On Time Performance was a dismal 63% - a host of issues including upgrading the wye at the Portland Transportation Center
  • The $35 million FRA grant to expand service to Freeport and Brunswick has been "entered into system" and awaits the signature of the FRA administrator. Assuming the funds are transferred within the next few weeks, construction by PanAm crews could begin by the first of August (45-day ordering cycle on rail and other equipment).
  • Meetings were held with emergency management officials from Maine and NH with the goal of preventing lengthy power outages along the line when winter storms assault the region.{jcomments on}

More Annual Meeting 2010 Photos

annual-mtg-2010Lots of photos were snapped and thanks to our photographers, we have good coverage of our guest speakers and the awards.

The photos on this page are by TRN board member Steve Piper. Natalie Allen of NNEPRA supplied to photos of Patricia Quinn and Joe McHugh on our homepage.

In rotation on the right are:

  • Amtrak VP Joe McHugh delivering his remarks
  • Amtrak VP Joe McHugh receiving Downeaster print
  • NNEPRA's Natalie Allen receiving an award
  • NNEPRA's Teri Diffin receiving an award
  • TRN Board Member Bob Hall receiving an award
  • Maine Rail Group President Jack Sutton receiving an award

National Train Day

TrainRiders/NE participated in National Train Day at the Saco Amtrak Station. Joined by Operation Lifesaver (stay off the tracks when the lights are flashing!), and the Trolley Museum, Wayne Davis met rail enthusiasts and members of the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Three Downeaster trains went by during that period and each train was met by an enthusiastic group of well-wishers.

Downeaster Service in Saco Attracts New Business

A new high-tech business will soon be operating out of one of the old mill buildings in Saco, thanks in part to the Amtrak Downeaster service which serves Saco with 10 trains daily.

More on this good economic news in MaineBiz.

April Downeaster Operations Meeting

Patricia spoke positively about the service.  April vacation in Maine this year had about 500 more passengers. New Hampshire is on vacation this week.
 
Steve Gillingham said that the cafe did well in all departments in April.  A lot had to due with vacation week and the Boston Sports teams.
 
Natalie said that NNEPRA was going to, once again, promote heavily in Boston for "The train to Maine"  This year added emphasis will be added to Haverhill.
 
Paul Eastwood said that service was now back to normal after the weather related slow orders.
 
Wayne talked briefly about TraiRriders annual meeting.  Mentioned about TrainRiders wonderful web site..
 
Mary Field of YCCAC said that the trolely service will be running full steam starting on June 26th.
 
We then had the station reports.  Some discussion about a "Rail-Cat" initiative at UNH (See the attached comment).
 
Next OPS meeting to be held in June.  Date and location TBD.  August OPS meeting will be held in OOB.

NNEPA Board Meeting - April, 2010

Executive Director Patricia Quinn reported on the first three quarters of the Downeaster's performance. From her report:

349,028 passengers generated $4,928.705 in ticket revenue during the first 9 months of FY 2010.

  • Average Daily Ridership: 1,274
  • Average Passenger Fare: $14.12
  • Average Revenue per Passenger: $15.69
  • Average Miles per Passenger: 80
  • Cost Recovery: 55%

Approximately 35% of all riders traveled using a multi-ride pass at an average fare of $7.01 and representing 17% of total revenue.

Maine Legislature Approves Compromise Bond Package

(April 12, 2010) The Maine Senate approved by a vote of 31-4 a compromise bond proposal that now totals $57.8 million instead of $85 million. Several hours later, the House concurred by a vote of 102-44.

As amended, the rail related elements are as follows: $14 million is allocated for the purchase by the state of 240 miles of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic right-of-way, the Lewiston-Auburn rail improvement program will receive $5 million; and the Mountain Division allocation is $4 million instead of $5 million. Bridges and highways are allocated $24.8 million. There are other items in the bond proposal including the Portland Mega-Berth ($6.5 million), Ocean Wind ($5 million) and the York County Dental Clinic ($5 million).

Federal & State Efforts to Save N. Me. Freight Line Underway

While the legislature continues to grapple with a bond issue, designed in part, to save the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic rail line in northern Maine, Gov. Baldacci, Sen. Collins, MM&A officials and shippers met in Bangor with Joe Szabo, administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration. The MM&A is scheduled to abandon the tracks in the near future because of heavy financial losses. Still, some 20 business and up to 1700 jobs depend on the line for the transport of goods.

TrainRiders/NE Urges Passage of Rail Related Bond Issue

(April 9, 2010) At a meeting held on April 8, 2010, the Board of Directors of Trainriders Northeast voted unanimously to strongly support passage of legislation now pending before the Maine legislature which includes $27 million to support passenger and freight rail in Maine. 

Trainriders’ Chairman, Wayne Davis, said “This legislation includes $17 million for the State’s purchase of the former Bangor & Aroostook rail line between Millinocket and Madawaska, which is the only line connecting the northern third of Maine to rail service outside of that region.  If this bill is not passed, that freight line will be abandoned and the track removed.

Old Orchard Beach Prepares for Possible Year-Round Service

The Downeaster begins stopping at OOB on April 19th. It is currently a spring through fall station.

Old Orchard, a well-known summer community, has grown in recent years with the construction of new condos. This economic development has created a new type of Downeaster passenger - the commuter (though they seem not to bring shovels, pails and umbrellas with them). The town is now taking steps to make OOB a year-round stop.

Read more in the Journal-Tribune.

Legislative Alert Update - Bond Issue

The Maine House approved last night an $85 million bond issue that will, among other things, allocate $27 million to purchase the about-to-be-abandoned Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway tracks in northern Maine.

The bill has been returned to the Maine Senate for approval where, as in the House, it requires a 2/3rds majority to place the bond issue on the public ballot. That senate vote is likely to occur on Monday.

Calls to your state senators are vital since on an earlier vote, the tally in the Senate fell short of the 2/3rds requirement. Click on our "Elected Officials" menu button to identify your county's state senators.

Legislative Alert - Bond Issue

This just in from our partners at the Maine Better Transportation Association - Please contact your Maine legislator now - today - before the Legislature adjourns tomorrow.  Your support is needed for the $85Million Jobs Bond package to be sent to the voters in June.

From their annoucement:

  • "Support this bond because it contains $27 Million for passenger and freight rail in Maine.   It will allow the state to acquire 233 miles of the Montreal Maine & Atlantic (former Bangor and Aroostook RR), thus preventing cutting northern Maine off from freight rail connections to the rest of the national rail system."  "Lack of freight rail connections would discourage any potential big business development in Maine"
  • "The $5Million for the Lewiston/Auburn area allows for improved and much more efficient freight rail connections at Danville Jct. - while hastening the opportunity for more immediate future extensions of passenger rail service from Portland to Lewiston and beyond.". 
  • "The $5Million for the Mountain Division  will preserve this important corridor for future freight and passenger service through lower western Maine to NH, VT and beyond."

All of these are priceless links for our future mobility...

Wayne Davis, Chairman, TrainRiders/Northeast

Exeter Requests Federal Funding to Expand Station

The Exeter Planning Board has requested of the NH DOT CMAQ funding to  purchase the Exeter train station's former baggage building in order to construct a transportation center for Downeaster and bus service. Currently, Exeter has only a platform to handle the large number of daily Downester passengers.

Train Committee Chairman Bob Hall, long-time TrainRiders/Northeast board member, notes the the federal funding would pay 70% of the anticipated $400,000 cost.

More details at: Seacoastonline.

Exeter Voters Approve Capital Fund for Train Station Improvements

Exeter voters said 'yes' to the establishment of a reserve fund that would install a parking payment system, acquire additional land and make capital improvements to a train station building  (Exeter lacks a station building for Downeaster passengers).

The Train Station Committee is led by long-time TrainRiders/Northeast board member Bob Hall. Don Briselden, a new member on our board, noted, ""There is a real economic opportunity here on the rail corridor."

A full article is available at Seacoastonline.

Brunswick - a Town in Transition to Welcome the Downeaster

Earlier this week, NNEPRA's Patricia Quinn spoke to a group of civic leaders in Brunswick where the new station is awaiting the Downeaster's eventual arrival.  Federally-funded track improvements are expected to begin in June. Those upgrades will allow for Amtrak passenger rail service between Portland, Freeport and Brunswick thus connecting the mid-coast with Boston. More on this from the Portland Press Herald.

NNEPRA Board Meeting Hears Encouraging News

The NNEPRA board heard encouraging news from Executive Director Patricia Quinn. 

  • February ridership was up 5% over February of last year and that was in spite of the fact that a hateful late February storm wiped out service on what was to have been a fully-booked weekend. Overall ridership is down 3% so far in FY 2010 as compared to FY '09, but at one point is was down 5%...slow and hopefully steady improvement.
  • Ms. Quinn reported that she is talking with Maine and NH officials to establish the Downeaster on a priority list for the resumption of power following destructive storms. 
  • Ridership, revenue and passenger miles increased from January, 2010.

Maine DOT Ponders Bus or Rail?

Maine DOT is in the process of determining how best to extend mass transit to cities and towns beyond Portland, according to an article in the Portland Press Herald. The Downeaster currently serves communities in MA and {jcomments on}NH along with Maine stops in Wells, Saco, Old Orchard and Portland. Downeaster expansion to Freeport and Brunswick has been approved and funded by a federal grant. 

One bus proposal is to dedicate the breakdown lane on I-295 to narrower tram-like bus traffic. Go here for the full article.

Surface Transportation Board to Hold Hearing on N. Me. Rail Abandonement

The STB announced that it would schedule a hearing in Maine before the end of May to address the application by the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway to abandon 233 miles of rail line in Aroostook and Penobscot counties.

Senator Collins had requested of DOT Sec. LaHood last week that his department examine how, working with the state, it could prevent the loss of this important freight transportation link. (See earlier article on this website).

The date and location have yet to be identified. Here's the press release.

LaHood's Advice to Airline Industry: Don't Fight Hi-Speed Rail

The US Sec. of Transportation, Ray LaHood, offered a bit of  advice to an FAA meeting in Washington this past week: "Don't be against hi-speed rail." His reasons are contained in an article in Trains Magazine. Go here.

NARP Meeting in Boston Highlights NE Passenger Rail Successes

The National Association of Railroad Passengers held its annual northeast meeting in Boston on Saturday with NNEPRA Executive Director Patricia Quinn delivering the keynote address. Ms. Quinn praised the public/private/government partnerships which have enabled the Downeaster to thrive. Various reports from northeast rail organizations were presented throughout the day.

TRN board member Christoper Parker of the Vermont Rail Action Network informed the 100-person gathering how community action saved the Amtrak Ethan Allen from elimination. His organization's accomplishment was warmly applauded. TRN Chairman Wayne Davis emphasized how building a consensus among various constituencies was the primary function of any effective grassroots organization.

Exeter to Vote on Establishing a Train Station Fund

Longtime TRN Board member Bob Hall has had the Exeter Downeaster riders in mind for many years. First, he worked tirelessly to help TrainRiders establish passenger rail service in Exeter, now his Train Station Committee is one step away from establishing a capital fund that will help acquire the current variety story (Exeter's original station) as its new station.

A new article is in Seacoastonline. Go here.

Sen. Collins Secures Commitment from US Transportation Secretary to Help Save Northern Maine Freight Rail Line

U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, today secured a commitment from U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to work with her, state, and local officials in an effort to keep the important Maine, Montreal & Atlantic (the former Bangor and Aroostook Railroad) Railway operating in Northern Maine. Secretary LaHood pledged to send the Federal Railroad Administrator to Maine to work on a plan to keep the railway operating.

The hearing video is available on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPVlw3Y8nFM&feature=email

Downeaster Back on Schedule

The Downeaster is now back on schedule after four days of service disruption due to right-of-way power losses in NH. An early check on #680's progress Tuesday morning showed, thanks to 'Julie', that it was running 8 minutes early into North Station.

Our thanks to the many folks in Maine and NH who worked tirelessly to bring the service back. 

Downeaster Service Resumes

The Downeaster resumed service from Portland to Boston on March 1, with #688/689.

The recent heavy weather in New Hampshire brought all train traffic through that state to a standstill. Passenger service began to collapse late Thursday evening at the height of the storm.

Memo from Wayne Davis of TrainRiders/Northeast

{jcomments off}Here we are in the same situation we experienced in 2008 during the "big" storm - tracks cleared of fallen trees and wires - almost all power restored to the line in Maine and Massachusetts with only New Hampshire segments without power.  At that time we contacted Maine's Governor Baldacci to ask that he contact Governor Lynch and the Emergency Management folks in NH about getting electricity to the switches, gates, bells and lights, etc. For whatever reason - service was restored very shortly after that call.

Winter, 2010 Newsletter

Our newsletter is now available for download. It contains additional details on the $35 million federal grant to expand to Freeport & Brunswick. You'll also learn of other projects that NNEPRA is pursuing to increase travel speed and thus reduce travel time and protect the trainsets from winter weather while being maintained in Portland. Go here for the newsletter.

NNEPRA Projects Ridership for Freeport/Brunswick Expansion

An article in SeaCoastOnline features a family that frequently takes the Downeaster between Wells and Boston. 

Halfway into the story, you'll find Patricia Quinn (NNEPRA's Executive Director) discussing ridership expectations once the extension to Freeport & Brunswick is completed.

Go here.

Patricia Quinn Reviews the Stimulus Award to NNEPRA

With the award of a federal $35 million grant to expand Downeaster service to Freeport and Brunswick, new questions have come to the fore: When will the Downeaster service to Freeport and Brunswick begin; what about expansion to Lewiston-Auburn; what about improvements to the Portland-Boston route?

Executive Director of NNEPRA, Patricia Quinn, provides an overview as to how the award was granted and what lies ahead. Go here.

Stimulus Money Bypasses New Hampshire - Why?

{jcomments on}New Hampshire’s request for $1.4 million to jump start a Concord-Nashua-Boston commuter rail system was not approved by the White House.

An article on the decision is in the Nashua Telegraph.

Federal Money Granted to Extend Service to Brunswick

The White House has announced that the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority will be receiving $35 million in stimulus funding for the extension to Brunswick.

Excerpt from the White House press release: "Boston – Portland – Brunswick: Over 30 miles of track will be restored, including 36 grade crossings, to extend new passenger rail service from Portland to Brunswick, ME."

TrainRiders/Northeast, NNEPRA and federal, state and local officials celebrated the grant at the new Brunswick train station.

NNEPRA Board Meeting - January, '10

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Portland Meeting

Ms. Patricia Quinn, NNEPRA's Executive Director, delivered the Downeaster's Performance Report for the first half of FY2010. 

Downeaster's 8th Anniversary Praised in NH's Union Leader Article

{jcomments on}Eight years and counting and by any measurement the Downeaster remains an unparalleled success story.

The Union Leader article features NNEPRA's Executive Director Patricia Quinn who provides ridership statistics, regional and state rail officials who confirm the value of the service to the NH communities along the line and riders who help keep the seats filled and the highways less crowded.

Chairman Wayne Davis added this comment: "Our Downeaster has proven that population density isn't the only measure - frequent service and a travel market are critical. Today, 5 RT's up to 80MPH - tomorrow 8 RT's up to 110MPH. TNE continues to push for more passenger rail in ME, NH & VT."

Check out the Union Leader's story on "America's Favorite Train."

Go: Happy Birthday, Downeaster.

Exeter Celebrates Downeaster's 8th and Their 500,000th Rider

{jcomments on}Who would have thought - a half million passengers through the Exeter station in the eight years of Downeaster service!

And the Exeter Station Committee, under the leadership of long-time TrainRiders/NE board member Bob Hall, has filed an application with the state to acquire the old baggage section of the former passenger building (now a variety store) as their new station building.

Seacoastonline.com has a thorough article on Exeter's success and its expansion plans. Go here.

New Portland Station in State Rail Plan?

The first draft of the Maine State Rail Plan included a surprise recommendation that Portland search for an alternative downtown station/platform location for commuter trains coming from other parts of the state.

The MeDOT found that the Portland Transportation Center at Thompson's Point works well for the Downeaster service to Boston.

More details in The Forecaster.

Downeaster Awaits Stimulus Money Decision from DC

{jcomments on}The AP filed a story that is bouncing around the world, from Malaysia to Miami to Portland. It's great to see our passenger train service garner worldwide attention. 

The headline reads: "Amtrak's Downeaster hopes to tap stimulus money."

In the article, Chairman Wayne Davis of TrainRiders/Northeast, praises the Obama administration for being the first in many years to say "passenger rail" out loud. 

Go here for the article

Brunswick Station is Waiting for the Downeaster

{jcomments on}It’s looking good – the station, that is.

NNEPRA is still awaiting a Washington decision to provide some $35 million in track & signal improvement money to expand the Downeaster service to Freeport and Brunswick.

Word has it that the Federal Railroad Administration will start deciding whose applications get funded after the first of the year.  Meanwhile, the station is waiting.

 

NNEPRA Board Meeting - November, 2009

{jcomments on}Patricia Quinn, NNEPRA Executive Director, reported the following performance statistics:

  • October, 09 ridership was down 7% from October of last year. She reminded us that last year saw high fuel prices and exceptional ridership. This October was 14% ahead of October of 2007.
  • October, 09 revenue was down but .5% when compared to October of last year and was 19% ahead of October of 2007.
  • On Time Performance was 92%!
  • Customer Satisfaction Index was 90% (September)

December State Rail Plan Meetings

Dear Maine State Rail Plan Interested Party:

Earlier in the fall, MaineDOT hosted four meetings around the state to get the public's feedback about setting state rail priorities in order to develop a State Rail Plan. The thoughts and comments collected during that process have contributed to a set of draft recommendations for state rail investment that will be presented at meetings this December. The meeting schedule is:

  • Portland: Monday, December 7th, 6-8 pm at the South Portland Community Center, 21 Nelson Road
  • Bangor: Tuesday, December 8th, 6-8 pm, at the Bangor Motor Inn, Hogan Road
  • Auburn: Monday, December 14th, 6-8 pm, at the Martindale Country Club, 527 Beech Road
  • Presque Isle: Tuesday, December 15th, 6-8 pm, at the University of Presque Isle

We look forward to sharing findings and recommendations with as many folks as possible in order to get final feedback on the Rail Plan, scheduled to be completed in January.

For those who are interested, we have been posting p

ublic feedback on the MaineDOT Rail Plan website. You can read public meeting reports as well as see the comments received via email. You can access the site at http://www.maine.gov/mdot/railplan/

Thanks very much for your interest.

Carol Morris
Maine State Rail Plan Outreach
207-329-6502

Fed subsidized transport OK 'til Dec 18th

Once again, the nation's federally subsidized transportation systems (including the Downeaster) are operating as the result of a congressional continuing resolution. The new deadline is December 18th of this year, when in all likelihood, a new CR will be necessary.

A full story is available at the National League of Cities website. Go
here.

NNEPRA Discusses Limited Express Trains

{jcomments on}The NNEPRA Board Meeting was held today and out of the session came the following news:

NNEPRA is beginning to examine an express/local schedule on its route. Trains 685 and 682 would become express service thus reducing passenger time between Portland and Boston by 15 minutes. The express stops would be Portland, Saco, Wells and Exeter, NH. All other trains would stop at all stations (minus OOB in the winter).  Evening commuters from Boston would either take #685 to the designated express stops or wait 40 minutes for #687 which would stop at all stations. This is in the discussion stage with Amtrak, MBTA, PanAm and will likely be refined in coming months so that it could be put out for public comment.

 

New TrainRiders/Northeast website

We are on a roll - just like the Downeaster!

In February of 2010, this website will be more active and of greater use to our members, friends and Downeaster riders. You'll be able to:

Join TRN using PayPal

  • Comment on articles for TRN members
  • Take interactive polls
  • Easier signup for Train Hosts
  • Read Amtrak news feed

Without our organization, there would be no Downeaster. Join now and keep the Downeaster on track and moving forward toward Freeport and Brunswick.

House & Senate Approve $787.1 Billion Stimulus Bill

The stimulus bill, which now heads to the White House for the president's signature, has good news for Amtrak and passenger rail supporters:

From the Washington Post:
“In a victory for rail advocates, the bill includes $9.3 billion to develop high-speed trains and to improve Amtrak.”

Downeaster Crew Shares Thanksgiving

There was a Thanksgiving treat on the Downeaster this past Thursday.

A Downeaster crew said

Conductor Jim Nawrocki, his wife Ruth, engineer Gina and cafe attendant Marilyn set up a small complimentary buffet in the Cafe Car for the passengers.

As Jim said, “The passengers thought it was a wonderful gesture. What little chump change revenue we ‘lost’ for the Cafe Car, we more than made up for it in goodwill.”

Jim adds that they’ll likely repeat the ‘gift’ on Christmas.

Thanks to all for making the Downeaster America’s Favorite Train.

New Amtrak Interim President Named

Joseph BoardmanWASHINGTON – The National Railroad Passenger Corporation Board of Directors announced that it has chosen Joseph Boardman, a nationally recognized transportation industry professional, to become president and chief executive officer of the company, effective November 26. He replaces CEO Alex Kummant who resigned recently.

Boardman offers nearly 34 years of experience in the surface transportation industry at city, county, state, and federal government levels; most recently as the administrator at the Federal Railroad Administration.

NNEPRA November Board Meeting

The NNERPA Board met on November 24th. Here are the highlights:

  • Oct 08 ridership was 44,429, a 22.9% increase over Oct 07

  • Oct 08 ticket revenue was $562,277, a 19.4% increase over Oct 07

  • The Customer Satisfaction Index was 90% (3 month average)

  • Oct 08 On Time Performance was 58%

Amtrak CEO Resigns

(Nov 14, 2008) Amtrak announced the resignation of its President and CEO, Alex Kummant.

Kummant with Wayne Davis at TrainRiders/NE April 2007 Annual Meeting

Mr. Kummant, seen here with Wayne Davis, was the keynote speaker at the 2007 Annual Meeting of TrainRiders/NE.

Mr. Kummant reflected that he was “proud of what the management team at Amtrak had accomplished over the last two plus years and that he believed Amtrak had a strong operational and financial base to get through the coming turbulent times.”

Downeaster Conductor Rides Election to Augusta

Congratulations Mike!

Amtrak conductor Mike Shaw has been elected to the Maine House of Representatives. Shaw, 36 works as conductor on Amtrak’s Downeaster.

Democrat Shaw ran unopposed in State House District 102, which covers Standish. His former opponent, Republican incumbent Gary Moore, withdrew from the race in September.

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.