More trains: Amtrak plans to dailify the Cardinal

news-amtrak-passengersAmtrak wants the Cardinal–- shown here at Union Station–- to leap from 6 to 14 visits per week.

Just a year after helping to launch a wildly popular twice-daily passenger rail service, Amtrak plans to more than double the frequency of its Cardinal train, a run that currently connects Charlottesville to Chicago or New York less than once a day. Under a new proposal just released the quasi-public passenger rail company, the Cardinal would leap from 6 passes through Charlottesville each week to 14.

"People don't even know about the Cardinal because it's just three days a week," says local rail promoter Meredith Richards. "To have a seven day a week afternoon train for Charlottesville is really big."

Under the proposed schedule, Charlottesville passengers would board the northbound train at 2:47pm and get to D.C. around 5:30pm with the final stop in New York's Penn Station at 9:36pm. Southbound, the train would originate at Penn Station at 6:45am and pull into Charlottesville at 1:55pm.

Westbound, Chicago awaits, but it's 22 hours (and hopefully a good night's sleep) away. More likely, Charlottesville passengers might wish to try their luck at the new casino three hours away at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs. The train makes beverage-lubricated travel safer than taking a car, and the station lies practically on the premises of the renowned resort.

news-amtrak-cardinal-routeThe Cardinal leaves Charlottesville at 1:55pm and arrives at the Greenbrier at 5pm.

In July, the Greenbrier unveiled its "Club Casino" with a star-studded event featuring actresses Brooke Shields and Jennifer Garner, golf legend Jack Nicklaus, and a singing performance by Lionel Ritchie. The state of West Virginia did its part by legalizing gambling.

The current price of a round-trip train ticket to the Greenbrier is $38, and $10 additional if reservations are made less than two weeks before traveling. For Washington and back, the fares are $58/$78; for New York, they're $160/$218.

For Amtrak, a bolstered Cardinal stems from a federal mandate to get some of its worst-performing long-distance lines in order, and the Cardinal has certainly earned its place on the "five worst" list by recovering just 35 percent of its costs and achieving just a 31 percent on-time rating in 2008. (More recently, the Cardinal's cost-recovery has fallen to 27 percent, but its on-time performance has leapt to 62 percent.)

In its Cardinal report, Amtrak even admits to a problem–- no joke!–- with coal dust getting tracked into the cabins from some of the West Virginia stations. So the rail company is promising to power-wash the passenger platforms at three of that state's stations.

Amtrak also notes that it's working with the host railroads–- including the Buckingham Branch, which provides the Cardinal's path between Clifton Forge and Orange–- to offer better timeliness. As for service, the revamped Cardinal plans to institute a new food menu with more regional and affordable selections.

Amtrak estimates that the twice-daily schedule will cause ridership to soar 96 percent, from 140,000 to 275,000 annually at an incremental cost of $2.1 million annually. The train will continue to offer a sleeper car, a diner car, and three coaches.

The federal mandate spurring the change is the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 2008, and railfan Richards believes that Amtrak will follow through on its own recommendation, which calls for launching the additional runs in late 2011.

Last October, a state subsidy helped Amtrak bring one of its Northeast Regional trains though Charlottesville and as far south as Lynchburg. By March, the service had topped its annual passenger goals. By July, the train had doubled both its Virginia passenger and revenue goals, with $5.2 million in revenue from 103,351 passengers. The annual goal was $2.6 million from 51,000 passengers, and there are still months of first-year data yet to be reported.

The extended Northeast Regional service did, however, seem to play a role in a five percent drop for Virginia passengers riding the Cardinal as well as the whopping 50 percent drop for Virginians using the Crescent. On the plus side, however, Virginia's total use of Amtrak spiked 18 percent, and that tends to support Richards argument–- voiced in a recent article for UVA's Weldon Cooper Center–- that each new route contributes as a "feeder."

And even though she concedes that the new service might poach a little bit from the new Northeast Regional service, Richards believes an augmented Cardinal will pay off.

"We have an untapped market that's just going to continue to grow," says Richards.

–last updated 4:10pm Monday, October 4

Read more on: amtrakmeredith richards


Late deparure from chicago is to allow passengers arriving from the west coast via amtrak make connections with service to the east coast services.

The Cardinal will get more use if it runs every day. 3 times a week
is not enough to get regular use. The track on the Buckingham Branch
needs to be improved.
I think this will help the Greenbrier Resort. I think 7 days a week will make this train a good train

When are Hawes and the Hook going to sponsor a "party train" excursion from C'ville to the Greenbrier? Restaurant Week is great, but we should really be supporting the West Virginia economy and its gaming industry.

This is news? I've been dailifying my train since I was about 8 years old.

Are there really that many long-haul passengers boarding the Cardinal at Chicago as opposed to Midwestern regional riders? Let them take the Capitol Limited to DC then.

Dailify is perfectly good grammaring. --George Bush

I added a cute little map showing the Greenbrier as well as some updated on-time information and a quirkly little detail about the housekeeping perils of running a train through coal-laden West Virginia. (Oh, and thanks for caring about my neologism: "dailify." It rocks, doesn't it?)--hawes spencer

About 10 years ago I took Amtrak from DC to Philadelphia. It was the scrungiest thing I was ever on. And did not even want to sit down, even if I could have. But the most unpleasant was the track right of way. On either dide , for the entire routs, it looked like a garbage dump. I don't think it had ever been policed up. Absolutely filthy. Refrigerators, bottles cans, cars (yes, abandoned cars), mattresses - you name it. Never again.

It's really to sad the routes aren't reversed in their times. Either way gets me there late at night for early meetings (this requires a hotel stay) and leaving early means a overnight stay when I could have come later at night.

It's a huge improvement but throw in an unnessary hotel stay and it's going to cost $300 to $400 more than airfare before we look at the fare prices. Of course for New Yorkers doing business in Cville it will be perfect.

ââ?¬Å?Increase the frequency to daily” is how you say it in English.
No, "Amtrak plans to make the Cardinal a daily train" is how most people would say it in English. "Train" could be replaced by "route" or dropped altogether for a catchier headline.

And you obviously understood the meaning sufficiently to restate the headline, even if you did it somewhat verbosely.

This is a wonderful achievement and Albemarle residents should be proud to have such a civic-minded Progressive as Meredith Richards looking after their interests.

o(u)sama is just upset because the people of Charlottesville weren't terribly impressed by the tabloid website and amateurist antics of Blink and her wannabe Keystone Kops.

There's been a string of muggings on- and off-campus at the University of Maryland in College Park in the last few weeks, o(u)sama. I guess that you don't care about that because there isn't an attractive dead girl's photo available to plaster on the website.

logan ... you make some really great points. why start using logic and ration in your great state now, just because someone of intelligence comes along to challenge you outside of your comfort zone. i guess that is what Virginia is all about ... blocking those of dissenting opinion. keep up the great work, Logan and Yes and please stop your whining : ) it is really unattractive.

@usama/yes: Thanks for the insight.
I swear, you make such a persuasive argument how can i not just agree with you. No need for logic when you have irrational fear right?

ha - grasshopper - this is really funny : If usama has a real point, it has escaped me and I daresay the bulk of the rest of the Hook’s readership so far.

what HASN'T ESCAPED you and your fine readership?
rapists and murders are at the top of the list of what escapes you and your readership.

usama wins.

usama (formerly osama) is associated with the Blink on Crime website, , which presents poorly researched and even more poorly written rumors about crimes attracting attention on programs such as "The Nancy Grace Show." Blink has posted various things about the Morgan Harrington and Yeardley Love cases (for example, claiming that the Harrington and Vanessa Pham murder cases were linked, even though the police have repeatedly deny this) and generally criticizes U.Va. and Charlottesville police (some of which is certainly justified). Osama generally criticizes everything about Charlottesville and Central Virginia because his is antisocial.

More trains for us, but elections threaten high-speed rail throughout country.

It is NOT a word!

Frankly I didn't and still have no idea what your original comment was about. Seemed like generic wining to me. Was that your way of saying that you oppose subsidies going to trains? Do you feel that criminals are trains main clientele and we should therefor not subsidize them? Does it have something to do with trains going through DC?

I am all about having a conversation or even a disagreement. I enjoy talking to people who disagree with my point of view and can make a coherent argument about why more then people who always agree.

Come again? Who is Blink, what antics do you speak of, and how are mugging in College Park related to an article about expanded train service from Chicago through Cville to NYC? What am i missing?

I am always eager to learn something new, so by all means inform us.

I must admit that my original post was a bit of a reaction to the pervasiveness of general complaining. Stop talking about how bad things are or are going to be and start telling me how you intend to or think we can make them better.

Logan, usama's post is an off-topic reference to the Morgan Harrington case. He is a regular on a crime fetish site that you can easily find if you use Google and what yes has given you.

If usama has a real point, it has escaped me and I daresay the bulk of the rest of the Hook's readership so far. Good luck finding a coherent argument or even the slightest effort to make things better from that particular poster.

Having taken this train to NYC a few times, I now prefer to drive a car. Never once found someone working on the train that did not need to be fired. It was late every time. Food prices made airport choices seem like a good deal.

But really, the workers were the worst. Must be a Union, and they make as good an argument for non-unionizing that can be made...

Hooray! More time options to DC and NYC. I love taking the train. So convenient and relaxing. Someone else is driving, too. Pass right by those slow-moving parking lots on 66 and the 95. Hopefully, more options will be available soon.

@Max Brando - I mean, c'mon, you only spend like 10 minutes going through Baltimore!

Dailify?? Journalists should be trying to save the language, not sink it further into pop culture.

I just ride my goat. Plenty of grass along the way for her, plenty of milk for me.

The writing is a bit confusing.

LOL Baltimore!! Slogan: "Not as bad as Newark"

Let me get this straight - the railyards of the Northeast Corridor are not picturesque? Shocking! Everyone knows that you have to get to at least Connecticut before things open up, but the ride on a train such as the Vermonter through western Massachusetts and up the Vermont/New Hampshire border is gorgeous.

My only problem with this schedule is that it still pulls into Cincinnati at 1 am - isn't there some kind of plan in Ohio to try to increase rail ridership? Of course, you probably need the riders from the Northeast Corridor, so you have to start in NYC instead of in DC at 6:45 am.

Oh, and I really don't understand the eastbound schedule. They should move up the departure in Chicago from 6 pm to 2 pm. That way, the train would reach Indianapolis at 7 pm, Cinci at 11 pm, and Charlottesville and DC around noon.

Can't o(u)sama be blocked?

"Dailify" is not a word. The editors should hang their heads in shame. "Increase the frequency to daily" is how you say it in English.

great way for your criminals to get about. nice work.

Today, I added some fare information in the story as well as a link to an article on Virginia's rail situation by Meredith Richards.--hawes spencer

I love the idea of trains, but they cost more then flying and don't save much time if any over driving.

Thanks, Amtrak, but no thanks. I took the Cardinal one time from DC to the Greenbrier, and I have never been with such a lousy, dirty bunch of fellow humans in my life, the train literally stank. Coming abck it was delayed 9 hours and we had to rent a car at $300 one-way back to Charlottesville. Unless you can afford a compartment or this new "Greenbrier Car" becomes a reality, I wouldn't step foot on the train. To the employee comments above, we had a wonderful conductoress (?) but generally Amtrak staff is rude and stupid and should be/would be fired if it weren't for their union.

Yes, The schedules are designed to allow tourists to see the New River Gorge during daylight hours. That results in the after-midnight stops in Ohio. Amtrak apparently believes that more people want to look at West Virginia's mountain scenery than want to look at Cincinnati. Go figure.

The Cardinal Train of 2010, which Amtrak considers its 2nd worst long distance train in the Nation, a train that my work mates called "The Train from Hell!" will NOT be the the Cardinal of Late 2011:

1. Daily Service
2. Better On-Time Performance
3. Baggage Service at every staffed station
4. Better Food
5. Better Promotion
6. Perhaps 1 or 2 Domed Cars

With some of the best scenery on the East Coast and connecting 7 major cities (NYC, Philly, Baltimore, DC, Charleston, Indianapolis, and Chicago)with many rural town with this single mode of public transit, the Cardinal will be a beautiful success!

This "Corridor" needs daily service. Right now the "Cardinal" is run 3 days aweek (3 days of income) and has 7 days of expenses! I live west of Chicago and Use the "California Zephyr" to connect to the "Cardinal". The last time I tryied to use #50 it was completely SOLD OUT! I was forced to get a seat on the "Capitol Limited" to Toledo and then rented a car and drove thru all that awful traffic south to Cincy. One traffic jam I was in, I sat for a hour and a half, having to use the bathroom too. It was hell! They need a fleet of Tilt Trains on this route. Tilt Trains can take those old 1860 and 1870 curves at double the speed. Without expensive improvements in tracks. Washington State has them, and Wisconsin is buying them. Times of travel could be cut in half!!! Also they need a new whole fleet of sleeping cars! The older ones must be kept for high demand periods, which at Amtrak seems to be ALL the time now.

Dan, it's time for NEW dome cars, that Tilt, be built! Putting back the connections would help too, Remember at Ashland, KY the train used to break up three ways! Cincy-Indy-Chicago. Then Columbus-Marion-Toledo-Detroit. And of course Lexington-Frankfort-Louisville. If the tracks missing here and there, PUT IT BACK! What would the road and air lobby do? And of course don't forget all these cities had connections and thru service from Newport News!

deleted by moderator

I love the idea of rail but am discouraged by talk of "tilt trains" (i.e. ones that can use existing track), more service on existing corridors, etc. It is high time that America got serious about high-speed rail infrastructure the way they have in Europe and Asia. We should be looking at trains that go 200 mph+, not ones that can do less than half that on a good day (i.e. when everything works perfect...which is never). As of today I can buy CHO--LGA round trip on U.S. Air for $231 and be in NYC in 2:50 minutes. So for around the same price as the train I can fly. Last year I drove to Richmond and flew a commuter to LGA for $131 and a 50 min flight. I can drive my car to DC ($3/gallon, 120 miles each way) for $36 (vs. $58 on the train). Again, I would love to trake the train but these statistics highlight how uncompetitive rail is right now. In France I can take the TGV and cross the country for a very modest price and that train will MOVE! (I really can barely fly across France much faster when you add in all the hassles of airports).

Right now there are about 7 major regional coalitions investiaging high speed rail and the variance in plans and thinking is frightening. The midwest would propose a true high speed system while our regional coalition in the mid atlantic would propose gussied up existing tracks (think tilt trains, and billions in taxpayer investment for trains that are uncompetitive, delayed, and have to slow down at every intersection, etc).

I imagine I will hear about the pleasures and convenience of train, the need to shift airline subsidies to rail, that it "could" be competitive, and so forth, but right now the above stats paint the grim reality of rail.

It is something worth getting right. Hawes, there is a story in that somewhere for you.


Now is the time to make this investment in our rail system. The following article shows that trains are catching on. All we need now is leadership from our elected officials to make this happen.


Amtrak reaches new ridership high in FY2010
Yesterday, Amtrak announced it set a ridership record in fiscal-year 2010 at 28.7 million passengers, up 5.7 percent, or 1.55 million passengers, compared with FY2009. Ticket revenue for the fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, rose 9 percent to $1.74 billion.

All Amtrak lines posted ridership growth. Ridership on long-distance routes rose 6.6 percent; state-supported and other short-distance routes, 6.5 percent; and the Northeast Corridor, 4.3 percent.

The national intercity passenger railroad attributes the ridership spike to a moderately improved economy that helped increase business travel along the Northeast Corridor, the increased popularity of rail travel, effective marketing campaigns, the introduction of Wi-Fi on Acela Express trains and high gasoline prices.

In the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak now has a 65 percent share of the air-rail market between Washington, D.C., and New York City, and a 52 percent share of the air-rail market between New York City and Boston, according to the railroad.

Since FY2000, Amtrak ridership has spiked nearly 37 percent. To help continue the trend, Amtrak is pursuing several initiatives, such as partnering with states to expand existing services and establish new routes, buying 130 new single-level long-distance passenger cars to modernize its fleet, and beginning the process to expand capacity along the Northeast Corridor. The railroad also is promoting its vision for a next-generation high-speed rail service that could reach speeds of 220 mph.

I've looked into taking the train from Richmond to Chiacgo and if they made this train into a seven day a week train I would love to take it in that I wouldn't get stuck at a train state for two or three days and run the risk of the train getting filled up. What is nice about trains is that you can easly add more passanger cars to it unlike airlines. Having the trains run seven days a week would be very good for travelers.

What they should do though is extend the Pennsyvinia Railroad type catenary south from Washingtion DC to Richmond VA and Lyncburg so that people wouldn't have to wait the 40 minutes to a hour to change from eletric to oil powered trains when they go south of Washington DC.

JB says that the future of passenger rail is grim and that the rail advocates need to get their facts straight.

He states, as facts, that his 240 mile roundtrip Charlottesville to DC trip cost him only $36 in gas = $0.15/mi ($36/240 mi) versus the train price of $59 = $0.25/mi ($59/240 mi).

However, the two week, advance purchase price for the NE Regional Train, which anyone can verify at, is only $44 (not $59), bringing the cost of the train to: $0.18/mi ($44/240 mi), which is very competitive to the car (gas only) cost of $ 0.15/ mi.

GB should have included the total cost (including maintenance and depreciation) in his cost calculations, not just the cost of gas. The IRS now allows businesses to deduct car travel at about $.50 mile. Anyone can verify this fact on the IRS website. So, the real cost driving a car roundtrip from Charlottesville to DC would not be $36, but $120 (240 mi x $.50 mi).

So, in conclusion, the verifiable facts are that, if one thinks 2 weeks in advance and takes the NE Regional train, the comparative cost of the trip is:

Car = $120 NE Regional Train = $44 (37% of Car Cost)

So, if the major concern is cost and the facts, I look forward to seeing JB on the train to DC next time.

While dailify is not a word, I'm happy to read that Amtrak will offer daily service on the Cardinal. It's true that the food choices are overpriced and awful, but most of the staff on the train are actually quite nice and helpful. Not a lot can be done about some of the shabby scenery on the trainline, at least not by Amtrak, although the ride through the Shenandoah Mountains in VA and the New River area of WVA is gorgeous. The complainers on here really should complain about something useful instead of blaming things on "unions" etc - there's a lot wrong with this country but believe me, unions are the least of our problems (two wars we can't afford, teabaggers, crooked banks and Wall Street, just for starters)