News Brief

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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

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.

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}

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 - 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.

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.