News Brief

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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!" 

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: 

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!

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. 

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.

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