April 27, 2020 – The WisARP General Meeting scheduled Saturday, March 28 in LaCrosse was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns. But Passenger Rail issues continue to progress in the State of Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Department of Transportation Passenger Rail Manager Arun Rao spent some time with me earlier this month discussing the updates WisDOT has been working on since our last meeting in October 2019. It has been recorded in a video format. It is available on the WisARP YouTube Channel.
The WisARP Spring Meeting in LaCrosse on Saturday March 28th 2020 is cancelled due to the Corona Virus. Besides the logical reasons to stay safe, our venue has fallen under the quarantine rules. Those who registered will be refunded.
The board will be posting content here with hopes to make up for the lack of said meeting. Plans are being made for our Fall meeting.
On March 11, 2020 Amtrak sent out an e-mail to all customers with registered e-mail accounts about its current safety measures regarding COVID-19, the Coronavirus. If you did not receive this e-mail, the message contained is below.
YOUR SAFETY IS OUR TOP PRIORITY
The safety of our customers and employees is Amtrak’s top priority. We are closely monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and are taking action based on guidance from public health experts. In order to maintain a safe environment and address customer concerns, we are taking measures including:
Enhanced cleaning protocols. We have increased the frequency of cleaning service on our trains and at our stations.
Additional antibacterial products. We have increased the quantity of sanitizers and disinfectant wipes available for customers and employees throughout our trains and stations.
No change fees on bookings made through April 30, 2020. We are waiving change fees so you can book travel on Amtrak® with confidence, knowing you have the flexibility to change your plans.
We have temporarily suspended three trains that operate between New York and Washington (Trains 2401, 2402, 2403) due to lower demand and additional changes to our schedule are under consideration. Amtrak continues to operate 300 daily trains, including more than 100 daily trains on the Northeast Corridor and continues to serve all of our stations. If schedules are modified for any existing reservation, we will contact you to provide an update.
We will continue to respond to the latest on COVID‑19 with customer and employee safety top of mind. Please visit this page for further information on our efforts, which we will continually update. For additional information about the Coronavirus, visit the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) website . As always, we will strive to create a safe and enjoyable experience for your Amtrak journey. Thank you for being an Amtrak customer.
January 28, 2020 – To complete my 2019 project of reporting on-time Empire Builder trains, here is my first installment.
Refreshing my parameters for the chart and footnotes: This chart uses Columbus, WI. as a point of reference for on-time, not Chicago. I use Amtrak’s protocol for this train: It can be up to 30 minutes late and would still be considered on-time. The data used for my chart comes from < Juckins.net >. Juckins is not an official Amtrak website, and my chart is not an official Amtrak on-time document. I am solely responsible for the analysis of this data.
Updating the November blog- chart, #8 was on-time 65 percent of the time in December 2019. It averaged 48 minutes late for the month. Compared to some of the data earlier in the year, this is a considerable improvement. But I note the Empire Builder had better than average performance last winter until the weather turned what I’ll call Winter-Ugly at the end of January 2019. Summertime when Amtrak consistently has its highest ridership, the performance of the Empire Builder was at its poorest performance.
For fiscal year 2019 Amtrak still registered a one percent rise in ridership on the Empire Builder. The passenger numbers for the five stops west of Milwaukee for the Empire Builder were up two percent for FY2019. All of these positive numbers came from a train that was on-time only 38 percent for the calendar year. Imagine what the ridership numbers might be if the EB could be on-time 50 to 65 percent all year?
For those of you that attended the WisARP Membership meeting in Madison on Saturday, October 26, you saw my presentation debuted an On-Time chart for the Empire Builder #7 westbound. This chart was created to demonstrate expectations for the TCMC train running just between Chicago and St. Paul (MSP).
The Empire Builder #8 eastbound has its own issues with scheduling, which easily distracts us trying to gauge the 400 miles between St. Paul (MSP) and Chicago. The #7 chart should more clearly demonstrate how well Canadian Pacific is likely to take care of the TCMC train. CP with Metra would be the dispatchers for the TCMC train.
For the month of November 2019, the Empire Builder #7 running to St. Paul had another very good month. A route of over 400 miles with 83 percent of the trains on time, and an average of just 10 minutes late. Very Nice!! Use the link above to see the full chart for 2019.
In a statement from the Amtrak post, “For almost five decades, Amtrak trains have taken us where we need and want to go. Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Flynn discusses the importance of intercity passenger rail and provides a heartfelt appreciation to our frontline team members, who have worked so tirelessly to provide our service to the people who need it most.:”
On August 5, 2019 Peter Fletcher began as Director as the LaCrosse/ LaCrescent Metropolitan Planning Organization. Fletcher replaces Tom Faella who retired December 31, 2018.
LaCrosse is an important stop for Amtrak and the State of Wisconsin with over 25,000 on/offs for Fiscal Year 2018, the last year data is available. LaCrosse County and the MPO also contributed $30,000 in the early stages of the TCMC Environmental Impact Studies, declaring their vote for another train.
Fletcher brings to the LaCrosse area a strong resume. His Master’s Degree in Urban Planning from University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee in 1993 is just a start. He was the Planning Director for Trempealeau County (WI) from 1993-97 and the Senior Planner for the Mississippi River Regional Planning Commission from 2004-2019.
WisARP will be inviting Fletcher to speak at a future General Membership Meeting.
The two attachments on this post include: A one page PDF file brief explaining the LaCrosse/ LaCrescent Urbanized Area, and a picture of Left, Terry Brown, WisARP Vice-President Public Relations and Right, Peter Fletcher, Director of the LaCrosse MPO, taken August 22, 2019.
December 12, 2019 – For those of you that attended the WisARP Membership meeting in Madison on Saturday, October 26, you saw my On-Time charts for the Empire Builder, both the #7 westbound and #8 eastbound. For the #8 Builder, the days of heavy freight interference from high numbers of oil trains is over, but late running Amtrak trains isn’t over.
For the month of November 2019, overall the chart looks very good! There were still a half-dozen days of seriously late trains, which I guess is apt to happen. When you consider a 2200 mile trip through the mountains with little or no pressure to maintain performance, aging equipment with maintenance needs; it is likely to produce late trains without any other interference.
As discussed at the meeting, for Amtrak riders needing to get to Chicago to make a connection to another Amtrak train leaving late afternoon/ early evening, the TCMC as it is currently scheduled will not be a solution. The only viable solution right now is writing your lawmakers in Washington D.C. to re-enact some teeth in Amtrak’s On-Time performance standards for the host freight railroads.
Check out the YouTube link below from a recent House subcommittee meeting on Freight trains. The exchange between Rep. DeFazio and AAR President Jefferies that’s roughly in the middle of the clip offers some hope. Happy Holidays to all!!
9:00 a.m. Social Hour, Coffee, Juice and Rolls
10:00 a.m. – Noon, 1:00 – 2:30 Speakers
Speakers will include
Arun Rao, Passenger Rail Implementation Manager, WisDOT
Status of passenger rail projects in Wisconsin
Al Schmitt, WisARP Board Member
John Parkyn, WisARP President
2:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Elections
3:00 p.m. Adjournment
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