Passenger Rail Briefs: LIRR, Amtrak, MBTA, MARTAWritten by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) announces additional Grand Central Madison virtual public meetings. Also, service on Amtrak’s Silver Meteor, Crescent and City of New Orleans is postponed; Brockton Area Transit (BAT) and City of Brockton join the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Youth Pass Program; and Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) station soccer expands to Kensington Station.
The LIRR announced on July 17 two additional virtual public meetings for the Grand Central Madison project so senior LIRR leaders can receive feedback about the proposed schedules. Members of the public will have the ability to offer public comments on the new timetables, which will be livestreamed on YouTube and Zoom.
“Our service planners used the opening of Grand Central Madison as an opportunity to take a completely fresh look at the schedules, something that has not been done in more than 30 years,” said LIRR Interim President and Metro-North Railroad (MNR) President Catherine Rinaldi. “Because this will be such a major change, we wanted the public to be able to see the draft timetables months ahead of time and offer input before the timetables are finalized.”
The additional meetings, which will be limited to 250 per meeting, are scheduled to take place on Thursday, Aug. 4 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Thursday, Aug. 11 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Once service on the Grand Central Madison project, which is slated for completion by December 2022, gets under way, LIRR says it plans to use its circa-1980s M-3 cars while it waits for its order of the upgraded M-9 cars from Kawasaki Rail. According to MTA officials, 132 M-9s, part of a $734 million contract between LIRR and Kawasaki, have been delivered, but the remaining 70 are not scheduled to arrive until September 2023.
According to Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) officials, labor shortages and mismanagement at Kawasaki’s Nebraska plant are the causes behind the delay. Kawasaki officials countered the MTA’s comments in June, stating that they “currently have sufficient manpower for all projects” and “continue to hire personnel as production rate increases.”
Daily operation of Amtrak’s Silver Meteor, Crescent and City of New Orleans trains is being pushed back from the week of Sept. 11 to early October, according to an article published in Trains on July 18.
Daily operation on the New York-Miami Silver Meteor, which was suspended entirely in mid-January, will commence in both directions beginning Monday, Oct. 3; service on the New York-New Orleans Crescent will commence on Tuesday, Oct. 4; and service on the Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans will commence on Saturday, Oct. 8. Service on both New Orleans trains were cut down to five days a week. The cutbacks, which affected all daily long-distance service except Auto Train, the Palmetto and Silver Star, were attributed to “COVID-related absences” and a “skilled workforce shortage.” According to Trains, Amtrak’s reservation system no longer shows previously listed service through Oct. 2, meaning passengers who booked reservations between Sept. 11 and Oct. 2 on the Silver Meteor or on the two days a week when the Crescent and City of New Orleans had not been running, will need to change their travel plans.
In early March, Amtrak announced that the Coast Starlight, Capitol Limited and Texas Eagle would revert to daily operation on March 28. And, beginning the week of May 23, five other trains (Lake Shore Limited, Southwest Chief, California Zephyr and Empire Builder) were added to the daily-service plan. But the status of the two New Orleans trains and the Silver Meteor would remain unchanged until Sept. 11.
The MBTA, BAT and the City of Brockton announced on July 18 that Brockton and the communities served by BAT, including Abington, Avon, Bridgewater, Brockton, East Bridgewater, Easton, Hanson, Stoughton, Rockland, West Bridgewater and Whitman have joined the MBTA’s Youth Pass program, which helps provide affordable transit access for young people with low-income.
The Youth Pass is a card that can be used by eligible young adults with low incomes to purchase roughly 50% reduced one-way fares and/or $10 7-Day LinkPasses or $30 monthly LinkPasses for the bus, subway and Commuter Rail Zone 1A stations at MBTA Fare Vending Machines, the CharlieCard Store, fare boxes on buses and trolleys at street-level stops, or at retail sales locations. Youth Pass cards can also be used to purchase half-priced one-way fares and monthly passes for Commuter Rail, Express Bus and ferry.
“We’re incredibly pleased that Brockton and our partners at BAT have helped facilitate access to the Youth Pass, increasing our growing list of participating municipal partners in providing the Youth Pass’s benefits to so many eligible young people,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “The Youth Pass provides discounted fares to eligible young people, including half-priced one-way fares and monthly passes on the Commuter Rail. Better access to transit is a critical component in increasing broad access to jobs and educational opportunities, and we’re so glad to see this option now provided to young adults in the Abington, Avon, Bridgewater, Brockton, East Bridgewater, Easton, Hanson, Stoughton, Rockland, West Bridgewater and Whitman communities.”
“The pass is designed to not only help young people get to school, jobs and around the city, but also to create future transit riders,” said BAT Administrator Michael Lambert. “A robust transportation network is key to supporting the current and future economic investment in Greater Brockton that will, in turn, benefit our customers, small businesses, and major employers. BAT is pleased to be able to manage this program on behalf of all its member communities.”
The City of Brockton and the communities within BAT’s service area will be joining a growing list of municipalities and community partners already participating in the Youth Pass program, including Arlington, Attleboro, Boston, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Framingham, Lexington, Malden, Medford, Melrose, Newton, The North Shore, Quincy, Reading, Revere, Somerville, Wakefield, Watertown and Worcester.
“The Youth Pass program is a winner for the City of Champions, and I am very proud to partner with the MBTA and BAT to deliver these reduced rates to our young residents,” said City of Brockton Mayor Robert F. Sullivan. “Improving public transit, making it more affordable and accessible for all, and boosting ridership are all top priorities as we seek to create jobs, better connect our communities, and reduce congestion to help in the climate change fight. With three commuter rail stations and regional bus service in Brockton, cutting these fares in half is a game changer for our young residents who rely on public transportation to get to work, visit family, go to restaurants, shops, hospitals, and travel.”
In order to qualify for the Youth Pass, a young person must live in a participating city or town and either:
- Be between 18 and 25 years old and enrolled in at least one of the following Youth Pass partner programs (college and university students may be eligible for Semester Passes):
- State or federal benefit program (e.g., MassHealth, SNAP, fuel assistance);
- Alternative education program (e.g., high school equivalency degree programs);
- Job training or professional development program (e.g., Year Up, Roca);
- Be between 12 and 17 years old and not enrolled in middle or high school (students enrolled in middle or high school may receive a Student CharlieCard through their school).
MARTA and Soccer in the Streets, along with the Atlanta United Foundation, announced on July 18 the expansion of StationSoccer, a citywide project to create a network of soccer fields connected by MARTA, to Kensington Station in DeKalb County.
The goal of StationSoccer, which was launched at Five Points Station in 2016 resulting in the first soccer field in the world to be built inside a transit station, is to eventually form a ten-station league that’s affordable and easily accessible by transit. Since its inception, StationSoccer has expanded to West End, East Point and Lindbergh Center Stations.
“We are excited to partner with Soccer in the Streets, the Atlanta United Foundation, DeKalb County and others to bring the popular StationSoccer program to Kensington Station on the East/West Line in DeKalb,” said MARTA Interim General Manager and CEO Collie Greenwood. “MARTA remains a proud, committed partner in developing transit-accessible opportunity and enriching the communities we serve.”
“Soccer in the Streets is excited to open this new location and expand our vision to grow the game across the transit network,” said Brian O’Neill, Chairman of Soccer in the Streets. “As StationSoccer grows, we will continue to provide much needed access to the game of soccer and also provide youth with new ways to thrive both on and off the field.”
StationSoccer – Kensington features two soccer pitches and will house community gardens and showcase a mural by Kevin Bongang, commissioned by MARTA’s public art program Artbound, and painted in partnership with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Art In The Paint. It is the fifth StationSoccer location, MARTA says, with plans for fields at Doraville, East Lake, Bankhead, H.E. Holmes and Civic Center rail stations, completing the “League of Stations.”