Thursday, December 18, 2008

Budget Cuts Threaten 'Adirondack'

Amtrak's New York - Montreal Adirondack is threatened with elimination or frequency reduction thanks to New York State's budgetary woes. The Albany Times-Union reports Gov. David Paterson wants to halve the train's annual $5 million state subsidy.

The move comes at a time when Amtrak is looking for New York State to step up its support for intercity passenger rail. New York does not subsidize the Empire Corridor, which offers up to 13 roundtrips per day between New York and Albany-Rensselaer. The situation finds Amtrak's new CEO, Joseph Boardman, taking the opposite position from when he was New York's transportation chief under former Gov. George Pataki.

Ending the Adirondack would leave no rail service between New York and Montreal. Amtrak's overnight train, the Montrealer, which originated in Washington, was discontinued in 1995. The Adirondack is considered one of the world's most scenic trains because of its long stretches of running alongside Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.

The moves comes at a time when Vermont is threatening to end support for the Ethan Allen Express, a daily run between Rutland and New York. If both trains are discontinued, the beautiful new station in Saratoga Springs will be put out of business.


  1. Although I've never ridden The Adirondack, I certainly agree that the route is scenic. It was indeed a pleasure to watch the D&H RS-3's lean into the curves along Lake Champlain from the comforts of the Parlor-Obs on The Laurentian.

    Since there now seems to be "Feddybanks, feddyinsurance, and as of today feddycars", why not have another "feddytrain"? This could be a move on the part of Gov. Paterson or designates to get The Adirondack 100% Federally funded. Problem is of course that other states, particularly those with large passenger train initiatives such as California and Pennsylvania, could well try to blackmail the Federal government, with its ostensibly "pro-rail" incoming Administration, as well - and so goes adios the Bush initiative to have services funded at local levels.

    But if the Adirondack is to hang up the Adios drumhead, what has been lost? I'll concede a scenic excursion, but has a reliable service that is time competitive with highway travel serving meaningful population centers been lost?, I don't think so.

    Finally, let us consider that The Adirondack is confronted with reliability issues owing to border formalities. There is simply not enough passenger train volume to have inspectors from both countries riding trains such as they did during 1956 when I first visited Canada. Additionally, I once learned that because Canadian National did not join Amtrak (even if several of its US subsidiaries did) and hence were not party to provisions of the May 1, 1971 Agreement with regards to access, they wanted and got "an arm and a leg' for such over their rails. This of course, if still prevalent, raises the cost of operating The Adirondack - and no doubt was factor in having The Vermonter terminate at St Albans.

  2. Patterson may be trying to get Amtrak to pick up the entire tab, but I think Amtrak is looking to send the relationship in the other way, i.e. subsidize its in-state operations.

    The Empire Corridor is a fluke within the Amtrak system. It is the only intrastate line that doesn't receive state support under the 403-b provision. This is because it was one of the routes designated in the original network on May 1, 1971.

    As to Canadian National opting out, that begs the question: If it didn't join Amtrak in 1971, how was it able to discontinue its service over the Grand Trunk Western from Chicago to Detroit and Toronto? At the time the three GTW trains were CN's only passenger operations in the U.S. The trains over the Central Vermont were already discontinued.