After years of Congressional pressure and the occasional serious accident, Amtrak announced last week that it’s completed deployment of Positive Train Control (PTC) on all track sections and locomotives that it owns.

Cascades PTC work was complete in March 2019. The Coast Starlight and Empire Builder don’t use any Amtrak-owned track, though they do use their locomotives.

Amtrak only owns about 623 miles of track, most notably parts of the Northeast Corridor but also bits of Michigan and Southern California. 86% of all Amtrak route miles are now subject to PTC.

In unrelated news, the Amtrak app and website will now tell you, at booking time, how full a train is relative to its (Covid-reduced) seating capacity (see image above). This is intended to help people make their own health decisions, though it would be a useful feature to keep beyond that. This feature is not operational on the Pacific Surfliner or Capitol Corridor, both in California.

7 Replies to “Amtrak completes PTC”

  1. “website will now tell you, at booking time, how full a train is relative to its (Covid-reduced) seating capacity”

    I hope that they have plans to distribute passengers evenly throughout the train. “40% full” could be very misleading if it ends up meaning two full cars and three empty ones.

    1. They do and they are Petco I’d guidelines. Been doing it awhile now. That’s something actionable since early on.

      1. I hate my phone trying to check what I was typing.

        ‘ they have been per Covid guidelines’

  2. Some “Rebop-Removal” please. Not that PTC’s absence was any excuse for those three counts of negligent homicide at Dupont three years ago.

    But yes or no, like Kamala Harris would say, if this morning another engineer loses track of where his train is…is Positive Train Control now operative between Tacoma and Olympia?

    Or if anybody I care about has a ticket for today’s date, had I better call JBLM and request they have some troops standing by to help out like they did last time?

    Mark Dublin

  3. Well, thanks to all commenters for bearing with me, because my explanation of why, let alone ST and BN, the United States is still even here has now been a hundred percent confirmed.

    While she could not tell me who owned either the tracks of the locomotive, a very nice young woman at King Street Station confirmed a minute or so ago that, indeed, the Cascadians are now equipped with Automatic Train Control.

    Also quite a relief to know my safety and service quality alternatives are not limited to Greyhound, Bolt Bus, hitch-hiking, and the region’s every driver including me. At least ’til I find out how a semi can blow out sixteen tires at once.

    Mark Dublin

  4. For a little more PTC research, drove out to Lacey to maybe take a quick round trip via Cascadian Train 505 to Centralia, and Coast Starlight Train 14 back. Maybe talk to the conductor.

    Problem being that, having damaged the account of the passenger using it ahead of me, the ticketing cash machine turned itself off. The citizen volunteers on duty not only take no cash, but are discouraged from even discussing it.

    The conductor on Train 505 also looked at onboard ticket sales, cash or card, as revived retro train robbery and said I’d have to go online and get a reservation. But while we didn’t get into track or locomotive ownership, he did verify he’d had Positive Train Control for about a year.

    Current consist of red, white, and blue passenger cars have windows formerly classed as “slits.” But my assessment still holds true. With those volunteers as an example, the worse systems, programs, and agencies screw up, the harder well-meaning ordinary people try to help set things right.

    Not good news, though, that PTC is and its software are, uh, programs. Would honestly feel safer with my life in the hands of a worker-owned cooperative using the technology of 1953. Whose conductors, in addition to gracefully imposing total order and answering every conceivable passenger question, took cash.

    Mark Dublin


    Well, reading this, I can see the reason why this posting breaks STB’s every record for something nobody wants to talk about.

    Had the train been fully PTC-equipped on the morning of December 18, 2017- where’s my proof that whoever programmed, installed, or maintained it was not in the same condition of morale and training as pertained in the cab of Amtrak 501 when it hit that curve and flipped?

    My idea of “RTP” meaning Real Train Protection? An engineer at the throttle who’s the train’s legitimate part-owner and knows it. Because politics aside and be damned, world-wide and widely varied, a worker-owned cooperative is the definition of “Conservative.”

    Amtrak, BN, ST, and whatever union….you owe it to those passengers and their survivors to just do it.

    Mark Dublin

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