Opinion/Letter: Amtrak needs its whole building back in Charlottesville, Virginia

October 3, 2015

Note: The current Charlottesville, Virginia Amtrak station was opened in February of 1999 in the former 1915-constructed baggage area of Charlottesville Union Station. The baggage area was added to the original 1885-construction of Union Station. The station was built for a predecessor of the Southern Railway, now Norfolk Southern Railway, and the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, now part of CSX Transportation. Norfolk Southern mainline tracks run on the north side of the station, and CSX/Buckingham Branch Railroad tracks run on the south side of the station.Website Insert 5000 New Seats copy

Prior to Amtrak, two stations served Charlottesville. Union Station was served by both Southern Railway and C&O passenger trains. But, in 1905, the C&O built a separate, C&O-only full service, colonial brick station closer to the core of downtown Charlottesville, just city blocks away from Union Station. C&O passenger trains stopped at both locations. When Amtrak started service in May of 1971, both stations remained in the system, but the C&O station was eventually closed, and all train service reverted to the original Union Station. Today, the C&O station is majestically restored as law offices.

Union Station deteriorated to a point of barely serving as shelter until the 1999 opening of the new station in the former baggage area. Both inside and outside, the building had seriously deteriorated and was nearly inhabitable. Once Amtrak moved in the new facility, the old Union Station was gutted, restored, and rebuilt as a popular restaurant.

The 1999 opening of the new Amtrak station in the former baggage area was a major event in Charlottesville for city residents and students and faculty of Mr. Jefferson’s university, the University of Virginia. Opening day ceremonies, which included a Superliner trainset equipment display along with a VIP luncheon in the dining car, drew over 1,000 visitors to the morning dedication ceremonies.

In 1999, Charlottesville was served by the daily New Orleans-Atlanta-Washington-New York City Crescent and the tri-weekly Chicago-Indianapolis-Cincinnati-Washington Cardinal, both popular with Charlottesville riders going into Washington, D.C. and the northeast. Since the addition of the extension of a Northeast Regional Amtrak train through Charlottesville and south to Lynchburg, Virginia, ridership has boomed with the second daily frequency. Charlottesville also has Amtrak Thruway bus service to Richmond, Virginia.

Plans now call for the Lynchburg train to be extended westward to Roanoke, Virginia soon, and ridership is expected to continue to rise. – CCRail.com Editor

Opinion/Letter: Amtrak needs its whole building back

Charlottesville needs to return Amtrak to its former location, now a privately owned restaurant, for these reasons:

» Larger capacity. From 2009, when the Lynchburg train was added, to 2014, ridership numbers increased 2.5 times (152 percent) — 52,546 to 132,410.Website Insert New Passenger Train Service copy

 

The current station, a tiny former freight depot, might hold 75 passengers if they were packed like sardines. The former station could easily handle current peak demand (up to 350 passengers per boarding) and future capacity: a second Lynchburg train and daily Cardinal service.

» Greater comfort. The current station allows rushes of outside air to alter the inside temperature wildly and quickly: 70 degrees Fahrenheit to 100 degrees Fahrenheit in July, and 70 F to 20 F in January. Such problems would not exist at the former station.

Read the full letter in The Daily Progress in Charlottesville by clicking here.

 

 

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