"Travel with Stephanie Abrams!" Radio Show - June 07, 2015
Amtrak.  All Aboard!

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Hour 1

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Benjamin Franklin, Interpreter, Ben Franklin Printer, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Arlington, Virginia, USA.
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Benjamin Franklin, Interpreter, Ben Franklin Printer, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Arlington, Virginia, USA.
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Hour 2

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Sheila Moffatt, Founder, Moffatt School of Irish Dancing, County Mayo, Ireland.
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Derek Warfield, Founder, Leader and Frontman of the Legendary Wolfe Tones for 38 Years, Now Founder, Leader and Frontman, The Young Wolfe Tones, Dublin, Ireland.
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Guests Include:

Sheila Moffatt, Founder, Moffatt School of Irish Dancing, County Mayo, Ireland.
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Derek Warfield, Founder, Leader and Frontman of the Legendary Wolfe Tones for 38 Years, Now Founder, Leader and Frontman, The Young Wolfe Tones, Dublin, Ireland.
www.derekwarfield.com

Hour 3

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Click here to listen to Bill Hollister, Principal Officer of Government Affairs, Amtrak Northeast interviewed by Stephanie Abrams without commercials.

Bill Hollister, Principal Officer of Government Affairs, Amtrak Northeast, Albany-Rensselaer Rail Station, 525 East Street, Rensselaer, New York, USA.
www.amtrak.com
www.voicesofthecapitalregion.org
www.newyorkbyrail.com

All Aboard Amtrak's New York State Empire Service Line

Travel Expert and Radio Show Host Stephanie Abrams talks about train travel this hour with special Guest Bill Hollister who is Amtrak’s Principal Officer of Government Affairs for their North East region. Stephanie tells her audience that if they’ve listened more than once to the radio program, then they probably know how much she loves trains and goes on to describe the mode of transportation as a civilized and relaxed way to travel. She say that when you step on board an Amtrak train travelers will have a wonderful and relaxing trip, but also that its sure to be an exciting adventure as you watch America go by through the window!

Stephanie Abrams suggests that travelers bring a laptop or portable DVD player on the train and enjoy the trip while watching a movie like Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest or the 1976 Arthur Hiller movie Silver streak starring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. She says the last time she was on an Amtrak train was for the launch date and debut of the fall foliage train where she boarded at the Albany/Rensselaer station and viewed the foliage from Amtrak’s special Dome car.

Bill Hollister says that as of June 5, 2015 he has been with Amtrak for 31 years in a variety of different positions. He says he started with Amtrak "swinging a hammer" and pounding spikes doing track repair, a position called a Trackman, performing maintenance on the lines between Albany and Stuyvesant New York. He says he was young at the time and physically he could do the work, but he’s not sure he would be physically up to it now. Bill says he was just out of college at the time and knew a Division Engineer with Amtrak, which is a different role than the Engineer that operates the a train. It transpired that Bill was asked by the Division engineer to come and work for him for a summer. At the end of the summer Bill would have been laid off during the winter since the type of maintenance work he was doing was seasonal and weather related. Luckily he was interviewed for a position in Station Operations for areas throughout the Empire service and stations throughout New York and got the job and stayed in the position for about five (5) years. After that he says he took a Supervisory position and eventually a position at Albany/Rensselaer where he oversaw station operations for about 15 years. Later he transitioned to a position in marketing including overseeing state contracts for the Northeast which he says allowed him to roll into his current job in government affairs.

Bill Hollister, Principal Officer of Government Affairs for Amtrak's North East region, says his current job has him doing a variety of different things in the Northeast region which extends from Maryland through Maine. He says some of his responsibility includes dealing with local government, mayoral offices, local towns and cities and local elected officials when they have inquiries about Amtrak service. He is also involved in working with several different Amtrak departments including the marketing department and internal operations departments. Bill says essentially he does a lot of community outreach throughout the north east to support state partners throughout the region.

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams says that there is nothing lovelier than getting on the train and extols the virtues of bypassing the commute to and from an airport to a major metropolitan area since trains often depart and arrive within the heart of major cities. Instead of spending hours getting to an airport, having to arrive hours early in many cases, and then spending hours more time getting from the arrival airport to the city center, she says travelers can bypass all of that wasted time by taking a train! Also, Stephanie stresses the comforts of travel by train. She says that most times an Amtrak standard coach seat will be more comfortable and spacious that the seats found in most domestic USA first class seating. Stephanie goes on to discuss some of the ease of access and accessibility options to help Amtrak customers getting to, from and around Amtrak stations including car rental options, a level of service called Red Cap service, and more.

Stephanie specifically mentions Enterprise Rental Car as a service that can provide a car to meet you at an Amtrak station. She suggests one possible travel itinerary from downtown NYC to Albany where travelers can pick up a rental car and then continue to explore the region, including nearby Berkshire County in Massachusetts, thus bypassing all of the traffic in New York City, but still giving explorers the option of discovering upstate NY by car.

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams says that she has a long personal history with train travel beginning with family summer trips with her grandfather. She says her grandfather would travel to Florida every year for the month of January, leaving from Baltimore’s Penn Station and arriving in Miami, Florida. She remembers disembarking the train in Miami with her winter coat draped over her arms and her summer clothes packed in her suitcase ready for the warmer weather. The trains they would take included the Silver Star, the Silver Meteor and the East Coast Champion. Stephanie says to her listeners that if they have children, they should take them on the train. It’s not the same experience as being in a car with your kids. You can get up and walk around, go to the dining car, visit the observation car and enjoy the space and ability to move about a bit during the trip, perhaps playing a board game in a lounge car.

Bill Hollister specifically wants to discuss Amtrak’s Empire service area which covers all of the service throughout New York State, plus includes service to Montreal, Canada, up into Rutland, Vermont and now into Toronto, Canada as well. He says that he feels the same way Stephanie does about train travel being more than a mode of transportation, but part of what makes the journey special including the experience of seeing the scenery of New York roll by and seeing the history of the state. He says he just took a trip a couple of weeks ago escorting a group traveling from the south in New York City up to Albany for the New York State Tourism Conference. He says they had a tour provided to them by the Trails and Rails program as part of Amtrak’s partnership with the National Parks Service where guides come on the train and give a guided tour of New York State’s history as the train wends its way through the region. Plus, he adds, they got to see Bald Eagles nesting along the way! Bill says it’s a great way to travel and a relaxing way to travel with a lot of other benefits.

Bill mentions that Amtrak just released its 12th annual New York by Rail magazine and that if listeners want to get more information about what to do, see and explore within New York they should pick up a copy of the publication. He says you can get the magazine in any of the stations, in the seat backs of the trains operating within the Empire service region and that the magazine is fully online at www.newyorkbyrail.com.

Referencing something Stephanie Abrams said earlier in this interview, Bill Hollister says that quite a few customers use connecting services to get from Albany into the Berkshires of Massachusetts and elsewhere in the region. He says that in the "New York by Rail" magazine there is a feature ad for Enterprise Rental Car and they will come out to any of the upstate New York stations, throughout western New York all the way up to the Canadian border and meet passengers with a car. Stephanie Abrams says that she has personally used Enterprise in various states including Hawaii, California and New York and that she finds their pricing better than most and that they are known for bringing the car to the passenger.

Bill Hollister is based at the Albany/Rensselaer Amtrak station which Stephanie describes as a lovely station with a Colonial American look to it with oversized Palladian windows which provide a wonderful atmosphere to the station regardless or the weather being sunny or overcast. Stephanie says one of the nice things about the station is that if passengers have mobility challenges they aren't likely to have any special difficulties at the station which has escalators and elevators to bring passengers from the entrance to the main level and arrivals/departure area.

Many travelers, not just those with special physical challenges, can appreciate the benefits of traveling with Amtrak and the special care they have taken to comply with US Federal regulations with regards to equal access including parents traveling with young children, or perhaps a stroller, those with large, multiple or over sized luggage, and those in a wheel chair or other assisted mobility device.

Bill Hollister says that Amtrak has undertaken a great nationwide effort to comply with federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rules and that effort continues. Stephanie mentions a service called "Red Cap" service which she has heard of. Bill says that at certain stations there are dedicated Red Cap employees who can provide special assistance service where they will meet the trains and provide luggage assistance, wheelchair assistance or if needed arm assistance for blind passengers with seeing eye dogs. He says that at any of the stations, when customers make a reservation they can make a "special service request" which can be anything from luggage to wheelchair assistance. Bill says that special requests can also include things like at-seat dining service for those with a difficulty in visiting the dining car. Passengers can use the number 1.800.USA.RAIL to make these requests.

Stephanie re-iterates that one of the things she loves about train travel is the level of comfort especially as compared with travel by plane. She says that as a tall woman with a husband who is well over 6 feet tall, they both face severe comfort issues with regards to lack of leg and hip room and limits to mobility and possible health concerns due to insufficient space between seats. While, she says, some airlines have started charging extra for slightly larger seats with more legroom, they still don't compare to the comfort afforded by standard Amtrak seating. That being said, she says when it is an option she loves to splurge for the upgrade and reserve an Executive Club car. Bill Hollister says that there are a couple of types of service that certain upgrade options are available on and mentions the Acela high speed rail service between Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C.

Bill Hollister says the highest speeds the Acela reaches are about 150 MPH and there are projects underway to upgrade various stretches along the line to maintain that high speed for longer intervals. He says that for the major commuter routes on the east coast such as between Washington, D.C. and New York City, when Acela service was first introduced it served about 30% of the traffic between those cities, but now Amtrak carries over 80% of the traffic for these routes. Stephanie says these are the smart travelers, because they are avoiding the commute from D.C. to the airport and then from whichever NYC region airport to downtown NYC. The trains leave from downtown and arrive into downtown, a huge time savings.

Stephanie mentions that Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the city that Studio 35 is located in, actually has an Amtrak station "just a hop and a jump" from the downtown Pittsfield Berkshire Crowne Plaza Hotel which houses Studio 35. Stephanie says that if you go outside the main entrance to the hotel you can actually see the Amtrak station just down the street. Bill Hollister says that station is on the long distance Lakeshore Limited service line that runs between Boston and Chicago and stops at Pittsfield before it stops at Albany/Rensselaer where it joins with additional cars and goes onward to Chicago. Bill says that route is beautiful and goes right through Glacier National Park and the Cascades area.

Stephanie says that there is a New York by Rail Day on May 20th at Penn Station in New York City. Bill Hollister describes the event as a participation of over thirty (30) advertisers who will meet and greet travelers in the big round rotunda and have magazines available as well as many of the venders serving the area available to talk about the places to visit and things to do using Amtrak as a launching point. He says they are also combining that day with what they are calling Amtrak Train Day. He says there are a series of Amtrak Train Days taking place around the country throughout the year. Stephanie says she actually participated on one of the Amtrak Train Days several years ago and had a great time.

Radio Show Host Stephanie Abrams also reminds listeners about Amtrak's current promotion "See New York and Save 15%". Bill Hollister says the program is coming up May 30th and that passengers can purchase travel starting May 26th and the discount applies to travel between any two New York State Amtrak stations, as well as travel between any New York State station and Montreal, Canada. He says it’s a partnership between I Love NY and Amtrak and New York By Rail Magazine and the discount Is available at amtrak.com and it’s a great way to save some money while seeing upstate New York.

Bill Hollister ends this interview by discussing an Amtrak initiative for the Empire Service region called Rails to Recovery which is a program in partnership with the New York State Department of Transportation (NYDOT) and an agency called Voices of Hope which is a committee of major 501C3 non-profit organizations including the American Heart Association, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and others. Visit voicesofthecapitolregion.org for a complete listing of member organizations. Bill says that there are a number of people who have to travel in order to receive treatment for life threatening illnesses. He says that once patients register with the program they can qualify for a buy 1 get 1 free discount on travel via Amtrak to help them better afford the costs of transportation.

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Travelers411 Directory:
Click here for the Amtrak Northeast Directory listing where you'll find links to all interviews with Amtrak Northeast in one place.

Click here for more info and links to all interviews featuring Bill Hollister.

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
https://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=19171

For more information visit www.amtrak.com and www.voicesofthecapitalregion.org and www.newyorkbyrail.com


Guests Include:

Bill Hollister, Principal Officer of Government Affairs, Amtrak Northeast, Albany-Rensselaer Rail Station, 525 East Street, Rensselaer, New York, USA.
www.amtrak.com
www.voicesofthecapitalregion.org
www.newyorkbyrail.com

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