Transit Briefs: WMATA, GVT, NJ Transit, Amtrak (UPDATED)Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is making plans to bring back automatic train operation in 2023. Also, Genesee Valley Transportation Co. (GVT) purchases 74-year-old locomotive in hopes of restoring it and returning it to the rails in Scranton for potential passenger excursions; NJ Transit introduces new cash payment option within its mobile app; and Amtrak Downeaster passengers can continue to purchase alcohol as the train passes through New Hampshire on an interim basis.
During a board meeting scheduled for this week, WMATA will make a case for switching trains back to a computer-controlled automatic mode, according to a News4 report.
According to the report, the agency plans to have the Red Line switch to automatic train operation (ATO), which the agency hasn’t used since a Red Line train crashed in 2009, killing nine people, by summer 2023 and the entire system by the end of the year.
Currently, WMATA train operators control the movement themselves, but according to the News4 report, the agency was “designed to operate in automatic mode—and is currently among only a handful of large transit systems that aren’t automated.”
According to the report, WMATA says ATO “should improve everything from on-time performance to wear and tear on trains and even energy consumption because it will ensure a much smoother ride.”
The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission (WMSC) says its members are “waiting for additional information requested from Metrorail and intensive work is needed to ensure the transit agency is prepared to roll out ATO,” according to the News4 report.
GVT, the parent company of the Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad in Scranton, has purchased an old diesel locomotive nicknamed “Nickel Plate 190,” which was last used more than four decades ago, from a railway preservationist for an undisclosed sum and plans to return it to Scranton for restoration and potential passenger excursions, according to a Yahoo! report.
According to the report, the 74-year-old locomotive is currently as a museum in Oregon but will be transported by rail in coming weeks to Delaware-Lackawanna’s Von Storch Locomotive Shops, an engine house in Green Ridge, where mechanics will determine what’s needed to return the locomotive to service.
Meanwhile, according to the Yahoo! report, a plan to restore passenger rail service between Scranton and New York City through the Poconos and New Jersey “chugs along at the federal and state levels.”
Additionally, Reading & Northern Railroad recently announced summer weekend passenger excursions from Pittston to Jim Thorpe, having already sold more than 600 tickets for the inaugural ride set for May 27.
NJ Transit announced March 7 that it has introduced a new cash payment option within its Mobile App.
The agency’s new Cash in App feature allows customers to utilize more than 1,000 participating retailers in New Jersey to convert cash directly to digital balances in NJ Transit’s Mobile App, which can then be used to purchase electronic NJ Transit tickets and passes.
“This Cash in App payment expansion allows for more customers, including those without bank accounts or credit cards, to use the NJ Transit Mobile App and help reduce the handling of cash on board buses and trains,” said New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Commissioner and NJ Transit Board Chair Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti. “NJ Transit remains committed to maximizing access to convenient public transportation for all New Jerseyans.”
“This mobile app upgrade represents a significant leap forward in NJ TRANSIT’s fare modernization program, leveraging technology to add yet another option for customers to purchase tickets and passes,” added NJ Transit President & CEO Kevin S. Corbett. “It also promises to further reduce cash and paper-based tickets and takes advantage of a statewide retail network to expand access to transit, particularly for the unbanked.”
According to the agency, the first 2,000 customers who utilize participating retailers to load cash into their My Transit Wallets will receive a $5 credit towards NJ Transit tickets and passes within 30 days.
According to an initial Portland Press Herald report, passengers traveling on Amtrak’s Downeaster, which runs between Brunswick, Maine, and Boston, Mass., would no longer be able to purchase alcoholic beverages in the train’s café car while the train passes through New Hampshire, effective March 20.
However, the New Hampshire Liquor Commission announced March 7 that it will allow Mansfield, Mass.-based NexDine Hospitality, the company that provides food and beverage service on the train operated by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA), to continue selling alcoholic drinks on the train’s cafe car on an interim basis, while the vendor sorts through a licensing issue, according to a WBUR report.
The crackdown on serving beer, wine and mixed drinks while the train passes through 25 miles of the Granite State, The Portland Press Herald reported, is based on a New Hampshire law that bans serving alcohol that has not been purchased in the state. NexDine buys its alcoholic drinks for the 145-mile run in Maine.
According to The Portland Press Herald report, the New Hampshire Liquor Commission “only recently discovered the train was violating the state’s liquor laws.”
NNEPRA Executive Director was told the Commission did a routine audit this year to determine who was and wasn’t following the purchasing rule—and that audit turned up the Downeaster, which has been operating since 2001, according to The Portland Press Herald report.
According to the WBUR report, the Commission has granted NexDine permission to continue selling alcohol “while the parties look for a solution.”