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…
The throwback to a golden era of train travel will only be available for certain routes.
By Melissa Locker, Updated October 22, 2021
Good news for people who like eating while in motion: Amtrak may be bringing back the beloved dining car.
That’s right, eating your Whataburger honey butter biscuit behind the wheel is no longer the most glamorous way to eat-on-the-go.
Back in the fall of 2019, Amtrak announced that it was getting rid of the classic dining car —the ones with china and flatware on a white tablecloth—in favor of pre-packaged options. This was before the pandemic, so they couldn’t use health and safety as an excuse to stave off the inevitable firestorm of criticism.
While Amtrak executives may have been looking to cut costs, people really love the romantic notion of dining off of fine china while rolling through the night. Cutting the full dining car experience transformed train travel from something elegant and nostalgic to utilitarian.
Luckily, Amtrak has realized the error of its ways. The Washington Post reports that six long-distance routes, including the Texas Eagle, on the leg that connects Los Angeles to San Antonio, and the Sunset Limited, which runs between New Orleans and Los Angeles will once again offer dining options for sleeper car customers “that harken back to the golden age of rail travel.” Sadly, folks traveling routes on the eastern side of the Mississippi will be stuck with decidedly unromantic ready-made meals served on plastic trays.
Written by Kevin Smith, Editor-in-Chief, International Railway Journal September 14, 2021
Biden has been a vocal supporter of the federally owned passenger operator for almost the entirety of its existence: from his days as a U.S senator when he would regularly ride the train from Wilmington, Del., to Washington D.C.; to his time as the U.S. Vice President, when he presented the Obama Administration’s plans for several short-lived high-speed passenger projects as part of a 2009 economic stimulus package.
Now as the 46th President, Biden has made rebuilding and reviving the country’s infrastructure, including its passenger rail operator, the signature policy of his first term. The American Jobs Plan was announced by Biden on March 31 and has since moved to Congress for debate and negotiation.
The Administration hopes the legislation that emerges will satisfy Biden’s objectives so he can sign it into law this autumn. Inevitably, given the variety of views on the scale and ambition of the proposal on both sides of the political spectrum, there have been several compromises.
From a $2.3 trillion plan when Biden presented it, the Senate scaled it back to a $1 trillion initiative, including $550 billion of new spending.
However, the legislation took a significant step forward on Aug.10 when 19 Republican senators joined with their 50 Democratic colleagues to pass a bi-partisan Infrastructure bill, a move praised by Biden.
As it stands, the bill includes $66 billion for intercity passenger rail, with $22 billion of this figure set to go directly to Amtrak. This includes $6 billion for the Northeast Corridor, and $16 billion for the national network, including state-supported services.
As part of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill that is edging ever closer to passage, Congress is set to give Amtrak $30 billion for the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston, part of a $66 billion grant for the network nationwide.
To some, this may seem like a good step toward realizing a future of American train travel that’s more in line with the high-speed, low(er)-cost systems in countries like Japan and France. Alon Levy, a mathematician who works on the Transit Costs Project at New York University, estimates that somewhere between $15 billion and $20 billion would be needed to implement a high-speed, fairly affordable, and frequently running train system between Boston and Washington.
But Amtrak seems to have less ambitious plans for the “greatest investment in Amtrak’s 50-year history.” Rather than using the funds to build an efficient, high-speed rail in the Northeast, Amtrak has allotted $30 billion for one single project: Gateway. Gateway would restore the aging tracks that bring commuters from New Jersey to New York City, rebuild an existing tunnel, construct a second tunnel, and expand Penn Station.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill that seems likely to pass the Senate contains $66 billion for intercity rail, which is pretty damn close to the $80 billion President Joe Biden asked for in April. The White House calls it “the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak 50 years ago.”
The deal includes $22 billion in “grants” for Amtrak, another $24 billion specifically for the Northeast Corridor, and another $20 billion for intercity service, safety grants, and grade crossing improvements. (What’s the difference between the first chunk of grants and the last? The White House hasn’t detailed that yet.)
That will mean better Amtrak service on existing high-traffic routes (relatively speaking) like Portland–Seattle, Richmond–D.C., and Chicago–Milwaukee. It might mean new service in fast-growing regions, like between Charlotte and Atlanta or Atlanta and Nashville.