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Capital Region News

Advocates, Schenectady Officials Push For Restoration Of Empire Corridor Amtrak Service

Transportation advocates and elected officials are calling on New York state to restore Amtrak passenger rail service to pre-COVID levels. 

The Empire State Passengers Association says if the state does not act soon, Amtrak won't have time to restore trains during the busy summer travel season. ESPA President Gary Prophet spoke at  10 a.m. Monday at the nearly-deserted Schenectady station.

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"There's no trains going to Buffalo in this station, there's no trains going to New York City in the station until 12:15. There used to be a train from New York City to Albany to here that would continue on and one that would come from Niagara Falls to here and then continue on and allow you to get to New York City around midday. Due to the COVID schedule, when nobody was traveling, those trains were temporarily taken off. Now it's time to bring those trains back. A lot of trains along the Empire corridor are selling out and we need those trains restored so that people can visit upstate New York, and so people from upstate New York can visit New York City."

Democratic Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy:

"We need the trains that were there restored. And I believe we also need to look at additional service earlier in the day and later at night, to make sure that, again, the needs are being met of the business community, the traveling community, and just the opportunities that exist not only within Schenectady, but within the Capital District."

The Empire State Passengers Association, the Saratoga Chamber and the Schenectady Business Community asked the state Department of Transportation to work with Amtrak to extend existing Empire Service daily roundtrips between Albany and New York City to Schenectady and Saratoga in 2022.

"So the residents in the northern portion of the Capital District would have a new commuting option to Albany and stops to the south. Additionally, this extension will provide both Schenectady and Saratoga with additional daily round trips to the Hudson Valley and New York City."

ESPA argues that adding additional Empire Corridor rail service could help the state reduce carbon emissions from transportation and comply with the requirements of the New York State Climate Act.

The group says train ridership has risen dramatically and "every single train across the state" was completely sold out Memorial Day weekend.

The Empire State Passengers Association, the Saratoga Chamber and the Schenectady Business Community asked the state Department of Transportation to work with Amtrak to extend existing Empire Service daily roundtrips between Albany and New York City to Schenectady and Saratoga in 2022.

Democratic state Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara says the trains need to be restored to get the business community up and running.

"We need to pick up where we left off. That curve was on the rise, and it's going to be on the rise again. But we need to put the pieces back in place. The suspension service of services in my district alone 111th, six trains in Schenectady and two in the city of the daily trains in the city of Amsterdam. That's a big impact. It's time to get those trains back online."

Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams tells WAMC the railroad is working with New York State DOT to ensure the safety of passengers and employees as service is restored to state-supported trains throughout New York. Abrams notes that several states won’t restore trains to full service until the fall.

DOT’s Glenn Blain says the restoration process began in late May with a return to 100 percent seating capacity on all currently operating trains — doubling the number of passengers that can be accommodated daily. In addition, scheduled service along a portion of the Adirondack corridor (the Ethan Allen) will resume July 19th.

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