If you’ve taken the Amtrak recently, you might have no idea that the United States used to have the largest and wealthiest rail system in the world. How did the US go from having luxurious, widely used passenger trains to the Amtrak system we have today?
Video producer Dean Peterson makes a 72-hour journey on Amtrak from LA to NYC to show its current state of operation. From getting kicked in the head by his sleeping seatmate to taking in sweeping views of the desert at sunset, Dean shows the highs and lows of being stuck on Amtrak for days on end.
Along the way, he explains the history of passenger rail in the US — starting in the problematic robber baron era to the US government’s takeover of passenger rail. Will the United States ever catch up to the rest of the world when it comes to train travel, or are Americans stuck with an underfunded, inefficient rail network forever? Join Dean on his journey as he sets out to find the answers to these questions and more.
For the first time in more than two years, Amtrak is resuming service on one of its most scenic routes: The Amtrak Cascades route, which runs from Oregon to Vancouver and weaves through some of the Pacific Northwest’s most beautiful natural formations along the way.
The Cascade route was first paused in spring 2020, as travel between the U.S. and Canadian borders shut down due to the pandemic. Now, tickets are on sale again for the route’s relaunch on September 26. When the route first resumes, Amtrak will operate one daily roundtrip between Seattle and Vancouver, stopping at five cities in Washington state along the way: Edmonds, Everett, Stanwood, Mount Vernon, and Bellingham. (Normally the full route runs from Eugene, Oregon, up to Vancouver.)
Two years ago, Amtrak was facing a “near-death” experience, Stephen Gardner, CEO of the national passenger rail service, said at a briefing last week with the Association for a Better New York. Both business and travel leisure rapidly grinded to a halt, causing ticket sales to drop 97 percent in a matter of weeks.
Now, the agency is seeing an unprecedented demand for Amtrak seats and rapidly moving to add service to new cities across the nation.
Ridership on the Northeast Corridor is only down 15 percent from 2019 levels, with some routes surpassing pre-pandemic levels. “It’s really very positive that even though the world has changed so much in Covid, we see really strong interest in passenger rail and a whole new generation of riders coming into the network,” Gardner said.
By Carl Nolte, June 18, 2022, Updated: June 18, 2022 10:40 a.m.
The long vacation trip to Europe fell through. Too complicated. So now this season’s vacation plan calls for something different: short getaway trips around the West.
And the best so far has been a quick trip to Santa Barbara by train. Something different.
It was the Sailor Girl’s idea. She’s my companion and the navigator on small adventures. “We’ll go first class,” she said, “in one of those little rooms. It’ll be fun.” She didn’t have to say it twice. I’m a believer in the gospel according to Edna St. Vincent Millay: “There isn’t a train I wouldn’t take, no matter where it’s going.”
We rode Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, down to Santa Barbara on Friday and back again on Sunday. The Starlight is a long-distance train and runs 1,377 miles every day down the West Coast from Seattle to Los Angeles. So we just did a portion of the run, enough to get a good feel. It’s not our first time on the Starlight, and every trip is a bit different.
Spring has officially started, and if that makes you want to get out and explore, you’re not alone.
But with gas prices continuing to soar, a road trip may not be the most cost-effective way of doing that right now.
But from now through Tuesday, March 29th, you can snag a USA Rail Pass from Amtrak—which gets you 30 days of train travel—for $399. Here’s what to know.
How Amtrak’s USA Rail Pass works
So what do you get for $399 (other than $100 off the usual price)?
The USA Rail Pass is good for 10 train rides (officially known as “segments”) over a 30-day period, allowing you to travel between more than 500 Amtrak destinations. But there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
Editor’s Note: Read more, see link below for original item…
Rail is on a roll, thanks to a new emphasis in Washington on infrastructure and the environment. These efforts are boosting not just Amtrak’s fortunes, but those of private sector high-speed rail projects across the U.S.
But will American travelers reap the benefits—as in, better and more reliable trains? Train journeys have long been viewed as more sophisticated than traveling by either road or air, but train travel in the U.S. has long lagged behind Europe and Asia, where intercity trains are both high speed and high quality experiences. In contrast, Amtrak has been plagued by aging rolling stock (some of its rail cars date back almost to its inception 50 years ago) and sagging on-time performance. That’s because the quasi-public company has spent much of its history battling congressional critics who’ve periodically voted to slash the line’s federal funding, arguing it’s a waste of taxpayer money.
But sophisticated travelers are voting—with their wallets, at least—in favor of rail, and they’ve been doing so in greater numbers since the pandemic struck, experts say. A recent poll by Virtuoso travel agency consortium found that 69 percent of respondents prefer to travel closer to home. That sentiment is fueling interest in high-end train travel in the U.S., says Misty Belles, Virtuoso’s vice president of global public relations. “[Train travel is] a way to enjoy the beauty of the U.S. and its diverse landscapes without having to drive,” she says. “More spacious seating and ability to roam appeal to those looking to avoid chaotic airports, crowded flights, or cramped cars.”